Mon, 31 Mar 2008 23:45:10 +0000
A lazy day Index Machu Picchu
Oh boy, that bus ride was the worst yet. I'd booked a slightly earlier one, 8:30 instead of 10:15, since I didn't like hanging around a bus station at night for the last bus. That meant people were less inclined to sleep. There was even a TV turned on, which I was directly below. Mercifully, the bus soon went outside of range of the transmitter and it fell silent.
When I boarded the bus and deduced which was my seat (most of the seat numbers were missing), I found it was already occupied by a wide-bodied indian woman with a massive collection of personal effects: bags, boxes, and dumped in my seat was the multi-coloured backpacks they invariably wear. I didn't much want to squeeze myself in amongst that lot, so I took the seat opposite, on the grounds that since there were no seat numbers, I couldn't know which was which. Unfortunately, that didn't work: at the first stop a lady got on and demanded her seat. So I had to shuffle over (in my sleeping bag) and do my best. Fortunately, the large lady had moved her backpack in the meantime, but she kept falling asleep and leaning over into my space. Not much fun.
With all the stops and people shuffling on and off, the TV, my neighbour and so on, I ended up not getting a wink of sleep all night. I tried, but by about 1:00 realised it wasn't going to work. I just caught up with the BBC news instead.
At 4:00 we arrived at the bus station. There wasn't much point making a move until 6:00, when the hostel reception opens, so I just waited it out. More news reading - although a woman did point out that flashing around my expensive computer equipment in the bus station at night was stupid. Fair point: I put it away.
Once I'd checked into the hostel (I'm in a big dorm this time, unfortunately), I was left with a pile of free time. I got some breakfast, which was nothing special, and then decided after all that sitting I needed some exercise. There are some really nice hills around Cuzco, so I thought a view over the city would be good. You're supposed to go to some ruins on a hill, but I heard they weren't that special, and rather touristy, so instead I decided to walk up to "Cristo Blanco", a statue of Christ on a hill nearby. It was a reasonably strenuous walk, up lots of steps through low-rent neighbourhoods. But eventually you emerge into some pretty worthwhile views, and I felt that I had got my money's worth.
But with the morning done, I had work to do: I had to book my ticket to Arica in Chile. Arica is right near the border with Peru, and I've decided that it will probably be easy to cross the border from the nearby Peruvian town of Tacna.
I thought I would walk to the bus station, which is right at the other end of town. I got almost the entire way before realising that my map doesn't go that far, so I took a taxi for the last stretch.
I had hoped to get an overnight bus, but in fact it takes sixteen and a half hours to get there. Unfortunately this has a knock-on effect. After studying possibilities for revisiting Pantanal in Brazil, I realise that there's no point trying to do it in just two days. The four day tour looks much more sensible, and now I don't have time for that. So I'm going to abandon Pantanal. I will certainly come back to South America at some point, and when I do I will have to take care to visit both the Pantanal and the Amazon. In the meantime, I can consider what I've done so far as worthwhile background research. I'll land in Campo Grande as a seasoned pro.
So then I did walk back up to the town, in search of some food, since my appetite seems to be coming back. For some reason I felt in the mood for some ordinary straightforward chicken and chips. And weirdly, I had some trouble finding a place downmarket enough for my tastes. I found a place doing barbeque ribs, which were the toughest meat I've ever eaten. I bought some cake from a grocer on the way back to the hostel, and that was really nice.
In the hostel, I met up with my American friend from earlier, and we compared notes on Machu Picchu. Wikitravel is rather unclear on how exactly it works: there are two train stations, and it's not clear which I'm supposed to use. It seems that the ticket office is at Aguas Calientes, which is not the one that most people use, since they go as part of tour groups. I'm going to assume that at some point someone will be glad to take my money.
Then I felt that I wasn't quite full enough of food, so I went to explore. I found a place that would do me a chicken drumstick and chips for a trivial sum, so I got my chicken and chips. Pretty awful chips though. Then I had another piece of cake, and this time felt properly stuffed. That's OK: should help me sleep. I plan to sleep from six to five tomorrow morning, so I have plenty of time to get to my train, which boards at 6:20.
A lazy day Index Machu Picchu