Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh the Stories I Have to Share!

I’ll pick up from where I left off on my last post. When we got back from the indigenous community on Saturday, we did some sightseeing in Cuenca. Then it was time for Brenda to catch her flight, and me to go buy a bus ticket to Quito. I had planned an overnight bus ride so I could save my daylight hours for sightseeing. You may not be able to sleep wonderfully on the bus, but you can at least nap on and off. I had an uneventful bus ride, even arriving early, and hopped into a(n) (always available) waiting taxi to go to the hostel that I’d chosen out of Lonely Planet’s Ecuador guide.

After a nap in a real bed and breakfast, I went out to explore a little of Quito and find internet access. Within a very short time, it started raining, so I don’t have many photos from Quito. I did get to walk through Parque La Alameda, which was very nice. There were pedal boats and various other things. I was really brilliant and left my rain jacket at the hostel when I began my exploration, so I was pretty wet by the time I found internet. The internet was REALLY slow, so I didn’t get a whole lot done on it.

I did manage to stumble across Museo del Banco Central, which was a fantastic museum with lots of artifacts from the various people groups, including, of course, the Incas. I really enjoyed wandering around the museum, but it was closing as I walked up. They let me in for a short period of time though. It was very cool.

I had KFC for dinner and finally made my way back to the hostel shortly after dark. I worked on the computer a little while and then got my two packs ready for the airport. I’d made a decision that when I got to Lima I would check my large backpack in to the luggage lockers, and just carry the small one. I was looking forward to not having to lug both of them around. I had to get up at 4 AM to get ready for the trip to the airport, and was grateful that another traveler was heading there as well. We shared a cab, so it only cost $6 each.

My flight was uneventful. I landed in Lima pretty early in the day. It was lunch time by the time I got through immigration, check my backpack, etc, and I still had to make my way to downtown Lima. The official taxis were S./55 (Peruvian soles), which is equivalent to $20.30. When I hit Peru, I only had $160 left. That had to last me for 4 days in Peru (bus, food, lodging, sightseeing, luggage storage, taxis, etc.) and my trip back to Roanoke from Dulles.

Needless to say, dropping $20 on a taxi didn’t sound like a desirable thing to me, so I walked past all of the taxi drivers and the airport security who were all telling me that I HAD to take one of the taxis. I firmly told them, “No dinero!” and ignored them as I made a beeline for the airport perimeter where the city buses were supposed to be. The challenge that I realized I was facing is that the buses there only stop when you flag them down. And you have to know which of the 100’s of buses going by is the one you need…Uh huh! Right! Fortunately the tourist police helped me to get an unofficial taxi that only charged me S./14 ($5.17), and I headed for Lima Central.

(A note about taxis in Peru: The official taxis are sanctioned and regulated by the government. The unofficial taxis are pretty much anybody who throws a taxi sign on their car to make a few extra bucks. You have to kind of play it by ear, and if you flag down one you don’t feel comfortable with, you don’t get in. You also check to make sure windows roll down and doors open from the inside, before you shut yourself in one. I’ve learned lots of things from other travelers and from the tourist police…)

After walking around Central Lima and visiting museums, I headed to the bus station to buy my ticket on the 12 hour all night bus to head toward Chiclayo and the archaeological sites that I wanted to visit (Sípan and Túcume). I bought the really nice seat on the way there as it was going to be my transportation, bed, and included 2 meals as well. I traveled via Cruz del Sur, which is a bus line that puts our Greyhound buses to shame in a heartbeat…too bad we can’t learn from them!

Anyway, I found out that my bus was leaving from Cruz del Sur’s OTHER terminal, so I had to flag down the RIGHT local bus to go across Lima to get there. With the help of instructions from the tourist office, I actually made it without incident. And the bus attendant made sure I knew when I was supposed to get off. (The attendant is the guy who hangs out the door shouting out the destination and who takes the money when someone gets on…the driver just drives, this guys does everything else.)

I got to the bus terminal without any problems, and at 8pm I headed off towards Chiclayo. I was in first class in a seat that was like a Lazy-Boy recliner, the bus attendant (on THESE buses they are the equivalent of a stewardess) brought me my dinner and beverage, and I settled in for the long ride. I’ve copied my handwritten journal to describe what happened next:

02:20 AM martes, 20 de mayo, 2008.

Boy, will I have stories to tell from this trip! I’m on a bus on my way from Lima to Chiclayo. I was asleep, so I’m not sure exactly what time, but 83km south of Casma we ran into a parking lot of cars on the Pan-American Highway. Apparently there is a strike…farmers somewhere, and it’s not safe to proceed. I’m really getting a taste for what non-English speaking travelers must go through in the USA…when I woke up enough to figure out that this wasn’t a “normal” stop, I had the challenge of finding an English-speaking person to tell me what is going on…yeah, in the middle of Peru, uh huh! Not easy!

One lady spoke a tiny bit of English, and managed to tell me about the strike and that we were stopped here where we were safe…and that we may go on to Chiclayo TOMORROW NIGHT! OK, so my American mind freaked out for about 10 minutes at that point. :D

Then my training from somewhere past kicked in. Oh yeah, Gabriel Call! I’d never imagined using Gabriel Call info on a bus in Peru, but I specifically remember Peter Daniels telling us that when we are facing trials in our business, to figure out what the worse thing was that could happen. Oh, and the author of the book The 4-Hour Work Week said the same thing…Hah! What a way to put teaching into practical use! LOL! Not ROL, not enough room on the bus!

OK, Worst Case Scenario:

1. We’ve been told we’re safe here and that we may go on to Chiclayo a day late…so I may get there, do an hour or so of sightseeing, and then have to head back to Lima the same day with the return ticket that I already paid for.
2. And worse, the return road could be closed again due to the strike & I miss my plane—I’ll eventually get back to Lima and board a plane and get home, somehow, some way!

It’s not the end of the world. Jesus isn’t sitting in heaven going, “Father, I didn’t see that coming. Did You?!” Also, I had a peace about getting on this bus, and I know that my steps are ordered by God…so I might as well buck up, enjoy the experience, and learn whatever I can from it.

OK, back to what I was thinking at first: “Why didn’t the bus company workers come and explain to me in English what was going on?” WELL, because I’m in Peru and it’s MY problem that I don’t speak the language, not theirs! We don’t expect one of our Greyhound bus drivers to explain things to his or her foreign passengers in their language if the bus breaks down or if the traffic is stopped for hours due to a wreck or something.

Like I said earlier, I have a greater appreciation for what non-English speaking people experience in the States. Well, I’m going to close for now, because I think my headlamp is annoying people…although I can’t be sure, as I can’t understand them!

At least we have the always present South American street vendors who came through earlier selling agua! I wish I had realized that we were stranded here for an indefinite period of time. I’d have bought more than one water. As far as a bathroom, I think the one on the bus is still functional. If not, I guess we just go by the side of the bus next to the multiple other vehicles that are parked on the highway…ah, the joys of South America!

I have the chorus of “Trust in Me” floating through my brain, and the sound of someone’s iPod
A few rows back playing American music… “oo ooo oooo, oh baby, please don’t go…” How ironic—they don’t speak it, but they play it. Hah!

Still having a great time! And my stuffed traveling companions, Frankie the ferret and LC the purple hippo, are here with me.

…The bus is moving! YAY! I think… We’re driving through a section of highway that’s lined with police officers in full riot gear on both side of the highway. They are guaranteeing our safe passage through the area of conflict. It’s a little surreal, like a scene out of a weird movie…not scary, just weird. “On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again…”

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Sandy, you are nothing short of amazing! Your experiences, your ability to calm and collect your thoughts, and look at what you received in return - a fantastic trip, beautiful pictures, and wonderfully fascinating stories to tell.

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs and thank you for sharing your stories with us. Welcome home!