Tuesday June 11th (Cuzco – Puno)
Today we took the first class bus to Puno for $13. It took 8 hours and was supposedly faster then the train. When we got into the bus station I thought that we were closer to the town then we actually were because there were two bus stations on the map. So we started to walk and got outside the gates of the bus station and figured out we were wrong. There were a bunch of bicycle taxi’s with a little carriage up front so we took one of those and the guy definitely earned his money. When we got close to the central plaza the driver was tired out and just pushing us on the bike so we felt bad and got out there. I think he was used to pushing around little skinny Peruvians. We checked out the town and signed up for a tour of Lake Titicaca and the Isla Taquile for the next morning.
Wednesday June 12th (Puno – Araquipa)
We got up really early and got picked up at our hotel for the tour. We took the boat for 30 minutes or so out to the reed islands of the Uros Indians who live on Lake Titicaca. After visiting them for a while we headed off for a couple hour boat ride to the island of Isla Taquile. They have no modern connivances/hassles such as cars, electricity, etc on the island. It was quite a hike to the town from where the boat dropped us off, about 45 minutes. But going down to leave from the town was a much shorter hike, just lots steeper. On the boat ride back to Puno Thomas was talking to our tour guide, who was super cool, and learned that there was going to be a nation wide strike the following day. All the transportation services, many stores, and lots of other stuff were all going to be closed to protest the sale of some state run electrical companies to foreign businesses. We had been planning on taking the bus to Araquipa the next day. But after learning this we decided to try to get out of town that night.
So we were in the van of the tour company which was supposed to drop us off wherever we wanted. There was a girl who was coordinating things and the driver and the girl asked me where we wanted to go and I told her in Spanish that we wanted to go to the bus station. So we drove around for a while and dropped folks off at their hotels. Finally it got down to us and one other gringo couple who were going to try to go to Cuzco. All four of us wanted to go to the train station and then the driver told us that he didn’t want to go to the bus station. The other gringo that we were with started flipping out and hollering that transfer to wherever we wanted was included in the price of the tour and that this was poor service and all that. Meanwhile it was a traffic jam in town, so we were not moving anywhere very fast. So the van driver got out and paid for a taxi for the four of us to go to the bus station.
So we got to the bus station and we bought some bus tickets for a couple hours from then and then we went back to our hotel and got our packs, and unfortunately had to pay for that night anyways. I tried to negotiate a special deal and told them we were leaving but they would not have any of that. It was already late in the evening so I see there point. It was all pretty cheap anyways, so no big deal. We definitely wanted to get on our way we thought and not be stuck in Puno during a strike.
We got into Araquipa late at night and took a taxi to a hotel about a dozen or so blocks from the main plaza. It ended up being our home for the next few days.
Thursday June 13th (Araquipa)
We started off taking in the usual tourist sites of Araquipa. We walked over to the Plaza de Armas in the center of town and lounged around there for a while. Then we set up a walking tour of the city for the next morning. We ended up finding this really great Italian restaurant to eat at. It was some of the best food we had during our entire trip. The restaurant was extremely fancy, had great food, was moderately priced and they even had a old, blind accordion player!
Overall we just took it easy today and watched the peaceful demonstrations.
Friday June 14th (Araquipa)
We started off the morning with a hired guide who took us on a walking tour of the city. The lady was very informative and nice and we got to see all the main churches and a great tour of the nunnery in the town. We got done with the tour around noon, just about the time the people in the town square started to get a little rowdy. I guess that morning or late the night before the town mayor had announced that the decision had been made to sell the industries to foreign companies. This did not make the people in Araquipa happy one bit.
Right in front of our eyes people started digging up the streets (almost all of which were made of brick) and proceed to make little walls to prevent people from driving cars. Large bonfires fuelled mostly with tires were also started all over town. At this point things started to get pretty crazy. The police decided that they needed to start to control the situation so the started to launch tear gas into crowds of people to get them to disperse. We got in the middle of this twice. Definitely not much fun to breathe that stuff in. Oh yeah, and they didn’t seem to care much for gringos, as they shouted in Spanish “Yankees, go home!”
We started heading north of the main plaza and looped around and went to a museum where the frozen remains of the Ice Princess were kept. This was still in the early stages of the riot so lots of places were still open. After this we started to head back to our hotel. However we found ourselves going many, many blocks out of the way because we kept running into large groups of rioters. At one point we got kind of lost because we worked our way off of the downtown city map we had and a friendly police man pointed us in the right direction when we showed him the card of the hotel and we warned us to be very careful around the large crowds of people.
We made it back to the hotel and hung out in the lobby for a while because we were trying to decide what to do. We could either stay another night there and hope things got better or try to make it to the bus station or airport and get out of town. Meanwhile there were big mobs of people walking around chanting and throwing bricks (provided by the street) through buildings windows. For example, the post office had huge glass front windows, and they all got smashed out by angry Peruvians.
We decided to get out of town. So we took a taxi to the bus station but could only get about two blocks away because there were bricks and rocks all over the road. And there was a huge mob of people in front of the station working on a fire, so we went back to the hotel. We just hung out in the hotel room all night, not wanting to push our luck. The room was our first to have a tv in it. Good timing I guess because we were stuck in our room a lot. We got to watch Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back in Spanish and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in English. I just don’t think there is anything quite as funny as hearing Darth Vader speak Spanish.
Saturday June 15th (Araquipa)
Today we woke up at 6am and took a taxi to the bus station. It was calmed down but there was still garbage all over and wreckage. Entire phone booths had been uprooted and destroyed. There were some people waiting outside, so we waited for like 30 minutes but nothing was going on so we decided to go back to the hotel.
It was a disaster zone around. Hardly any cars were going anywhere and all the bossiness were closed up. A few stores were open but they would have the little doors open and their main garage door type things pulled down We couldn’t find a taxi back to the hotel as there were only a few and every time the mobs saw a taxi they would attack it with sticks and glass bottles. So we had a 50 min walk with our packs on to get back to the hotel. WE walked part of the way with a gringo who just got in on a bus that morning and he said it took three hours to make it to the bus station from the edge of town. We got kind of lost as the map we had was only for the center of town, but a friendly old lady pointed us in the right direction.
After we get back to the hotel we slept for a little bit more. We decided to check out and just hang out in the lobby just in case we could get of Araquipa that night. The guy at the hotel was super friendly and helpful and he called the bus station and said that it might reopen the next night. He also called around and found out that the train station was closed and the airport was open but it was 5 miles outside of town and the road was destroyed.
Most of the mob activity had died down. But the wreckage was still all over the place. In some places, like the Plaza de Armas there was still a big crowd. That was of course the center of all of the activity. We ventured out to a internet cafe and to buy some snacks, then we just hung out in the hotel all day and ate dinner in the little restaurant in the basement of the hotel. Warm Coca-Cola = Thirst Quenching!
Sunday June 16th (Araquipa and beyond)
We got up at 6am with the intention of going to the bus station, but our neighbors in the hotel had just gotten back from the bus station and told us it was closed, so we went back to bed. In the afternoon we braved the mean streets of Araquipa to go and eat lunch at the Italian restaurant. During our meal some protesters started walking down the street and the waiter closed up the garage doors on the front of the building.
People were still rioting for the forth day in the row. On our way back to the hotel from the Italian restaurant we got tear gassed again. It was not too back because it was just from several blocks away.
Thinking about our options for leaving Araquipa we figured we could either wait for the bus station to open or else try to take a taxi to the next town where we could catch a bus. We talked to the guy at the hotel and and he told us about a truck stop of sorts that was about fifty(?) kilometers out side of town to the west. From there busses coming from the east and the south both stopped on their way to Nazca and then on to Lima.
So we hired a taxi for $30 to take us to the truck stop. It was about an hour ride because of all the road blocks and destruction. Several times we had to back track on roads because of rubble blocking the way. A couple of times we got out and moved rocks so the car could get by. At one point a group of about ten little boys had created their own road block and charged cars to pass through.
When we got to the truck stop, it was basically a crossroads on the highway with a few gas stations and several small stores. There were quite a few people lining the roads waiting for people. The taxi driver kind of pointed us in the direction to wait for the bus. So we were waiting around with no idea of how long it would be. Meanwhile we were prime targets for several hustlers who told us that the bus stopped in a different spot two miles down the road and that they would drive us down there for a nominal fee. We of course did not believe him, but there is always that nagging feeling that you might “miss the buss.” It was not like there were any signs anywhere. So I attempted to ask a store keeper where to wait for the bus to Lima and he told me there were no busses to Lima. So we decided to tuff it out at the spot the taxi driver told us. Shortly thereafter a Peruvian woman showed up and she said that the bus was supposed to becoming shortly and that we were in the right spot.
About four o’clock the bus came and it was headed to Lima, making a stop at Nazca! So we pilled on and took our seats.
About half an hour of driving the bus stopped. There was a big line up along the road and we could see smoke ahead. We thought maybe it was a car wreck or something, as it was the main highway and no civilization around anywhere. So after waiting for like 45 minutes all the men started getting off the bus. We were the only gringos on the bus, but everyone was really friendly to us and the other men signaled to us to get off with them. So we walked up the road a little bit an saw that there was a little town there. There was a bridge through the middle that the highway passed on and upon the bridge the people had build a rock wall and a fire. And the whole town was out in the street. So all the people from the bus started arguing with the town people and finally they came to some sort of agreement, because the road got somewhat cleared and we started getting back in the buses and on our way.
We stopped a moment later after we crossed the bridge because there were more fires. Those got cleared away though and we all pilled back into the bus. So we went for about thirty more minutes on the bus and started getting into some hills. Our bus had taken the lead of a huge convoy of about forty to fifty buses, trucks and cars. We stopped shortly because there was a huge rock wall constructed on the road. So the men got out and we cleared off the road, it only took a few minutes and we were on our way again.
That was only the beginning however. On the next series of hills there were rock walls built coupled with giant landslides of rocks. So all the men from all the buses got out and started moving the rocks to make a pathway for the convoy. It was quite amazing how everyone worked together to clear the path. Some of these boulders were huge and took half a dozen men to even get them to move. The whole group of men continued to walk and move boulders for about an hour. We were closely followed by the convoy and used their headlights to see because it was dark out. There were probably like 50 men out there working, and Thomas and I were the only two Gringos. Finally about nine, five hours after we got on the bus, we finally were able to drive and make actual time.
Monday June 17th (Nazca)
We got into Nazca at 4am and there was a kid who called himself Elvis waiting at the bus stop who helped us find a hotel. We had to go around to two or three places before we found one with rooms. Elvis was trying to get us to sign up for an airplane flight over the Nazca ruins. Which we did end up doing after we got some serious shuteye. Although I do not remember if it was through his place or not. We paid $50 each for the hour long flight.
We got out to the airport in the morning and were told that it was too hazy out so we would have to wait. They showed us a short video that told about the lines. Then two Dutch guys showed up who had been there earlier and had come back so we were all waiting around together and so we played cards with them and swapped stories for about three hours before they decided that they were not going to be going that day and would have to come back the next morning.
Once back in town we walked around for a while and dined at a Chinese restaurant. We hit up a couple bars but there was not too much going on anywhere. We didn’t care because we were just happy to be out of Araquipa finally.
Tuesday June 18th (Nazca – Ica)
We got out to the airport a little after 7 am to go on the flight. Our pilot called himself Maverick, which was not too reassuring to me. I was hoping that he was not going to try any Top Gun maneuvers in our Cessna 172. We had a great view of the Nazca lines and I highly recommend splurging to see them by airplane. You can really get a sense of how impressive they are.
“Ica, Ica, Ica” was the call from the bus as it rolled up to us. We took a local bus to the town of Ica five hours to the north. It was a bit cheaper then the bus line and though it probably took a little longer it got us there earlier in the day and was quite a interesting ride.
We had initially planned on going to the Oasis outside of town. It had been recommended to us by the Dutch guys we met in Nazca and we had a card of a place to stay from a shop in Nazca. So right when we got to town we took a taxi a few miles outside of town to the garbage filled lake & dessert oasis. We walked around for a bit scouting it out and got a room in a run down old house that rented out rooms. We walked around in the and dunes for a little while and then looked around for something to eat but nothing looked very appetizing. After getting to our room I asked Thomas if he really wanted to stay there and he said he did not care so I said lets get the hell out of here. So we picked up and left (we had not paid or anything yet and were only there about an hour).
So we walked out the door and took a taxi to town. We found and interesting hotel right off the main plaza and walked around for a while looking for a good place to eat. Our flight home left the next night from Lima so we decided to take the bus the next afternoon to Lima and we would be there about 4pm, with our flight leaving around midnight. We had seen enough of Lima before and the only thing left to do in Lima was to eat at McDonald’s. So we went and bought bus tickets for the next day.
Wednesday June 19th (Ica – Lima – Portland)
We got to sleep in and headed off to the bus station in plenty of time. We got there and waited around for our bus. We were used to things not being on schedule, but after there was no sign of the bus for 15 minutes after we were supposed to leave I went and asked the guy at the bus station desk where it was. He showed me a note scribbled in English that said “The Pan-American Highway is closed. There are protest about and hour up the highway and buses are being sent back.” The guy said that there might be a bus tomorrow.
So I scanned through my guidebook quickly and looked at the alternatives. No train station, a small airport just for seeing the Nazca lines – but no commercial flights and traveling by bus was the only way in or out. I verifyed this information with a friendly old taxi driver. Meanwhile we had a guy offer to drive us to Lima in his car, but I told him I did not think that would work because the road was closed. The only other road to get to Lima from there involved backtracking a considerable distance and would involve about thirty hours of travel.
We figured that maybe the people at Lan Chilean would understand if we showed up the next night for our flight, due to the situations in the country. But after we got to the states we switched to Delta and had to go to L.A. and then to San Fransisco and then finally on to Portland. So we figured that it would be way to big of a hassle to try to change our airplane tickets. We had to get to Lima tongiht!
So I went back in to the bus station to get our money back for the bus tickets. It was only 30 sols each (about $9) but it was the principle of the thing. The guy at the desk told me there were no refunds and that I should just wait until the next day. I explained that I could not wait and that I needed a refund. The guy just ignored me. So I just stood there at his window and kept repeating my self. I said “May I please have a refund?” After a couple minutes a young couple from Israel tried to help me out and told the guy that I needed a refund. Finally after about fifteen minutes the guy gave me the money.
We took a taxi out to the airport thinking that maybe we could hire someone to fly us to Lima in a small airplane. We got there and found out that there was a fairly large Nazca Lines tour operation. At the time were were there there was a large group of Japanese tourists that had just arrived. They flew in from Lima on a plane that had eighty seats. Two on each side of the isle. So they flew from Lima, half of them got out to wait while the other half flew to see the lines. Then it came back and the other half of the tourists switched spots. This way everyone got a window seat.
I talked with a lady who worked there and told her our situation. I asked if there was anyway we could hire someone to fly us to Lima in small plane. She said she would find out and told us to wait. So we hung out for about and hour and finally she told us that they had three empty seats on the flight of Japanese tourists and that we could buy a ticket to go to Lima for $65 each. We quickly bought the tickets and let out a giant sigh of relief. We had to wait around another hour for the flight to leave and made it to Lima about 4pm, the same time that our bus would have arrived!
We stored our bags in a locker and took a taxi into town. We dined at McDonalds, which interestingly enough had delivery service. We walked around for several hours just killing time. We took a taxi back to the airport and got on our flight.
Thursday, June 20th (Homeward bound to Portland, Oregon)
We made it to L.A. and got on a earlier flight to San Fransisco, which meant a earlier flight home to Portland. And that concluded our trip.