Emma Cook, GapBreak, Peru
A bus load of wonderful Peruvian stories that made for a fascinating gap year! I think my time in Peru could be compared to the crazy, outer world experience of taking the local Peruvian bus to school… so here goes!
So you make the decision to go. You’re waiting in line to get the special ‘Batman’ bus. Then others join the nonexistent line before they all get on the Zorro bus and leave you once again standing alone. I will admit this is when I thought maybe I should have ‘got on with my life’ , following my other friend’s decision to go to uni. But then more people come and the bus is in sight. I get carried onto the bus dazed, confused and getting lost in a buzz of Spanish words, big skirts and colours. The decision was made, all my documents were signed and my pack was all ready.
The bus then lurches into action and for the first few minutes all is chaos whilst locals and me alike race for a seat to spare my head banging on the roof. When the small ticket boy comes around to ask for money I am faced with another cultural shock… Spanish. However with the wonderful use of our hands, facial expressions, fellow passengers and us speaking louder and slower in our respective languages (it is a proven fact that this doesn’t make it any easier for a Peruvian person to understand english) the price was established. In here steps our wonderful Spanish teacher Liliana as well as our wonderful host families who did everything to make us feel happy and welcome. A few stops along a little boy sitting at the back of the bus needs to get off and yet again the bus is thrown into pandemonium. It is our first time at school meeting the beautiful children, teachers and community. Everyone gets up to give us their seats and we are made to feel so included that it feels like we have known everyone forever. For the next little while not too much happens on the ‘bus’ journey. We are getting to know our classes and teachers whilst planning lessons, we are talking with Jane and Arlich about what we want to build in the school and we are exploring the fantastic Cusco! The bus stops and the rest of the group jump on, we are now thankfully al together
A local leans over to chat with me and begins to tell me his life story. After many minutes of polite smiling and trying to converse in Spanish the bus groans climbing the hill making it impossible for any conversation. Our little bus slowly but surely made it up the hill near Sacsayhuaman (Sexy woman) passing many other ancient Inca ruins giving us glimpses into a past life.
Looking out the window of the bus I could see the valleys where we white water rafted, the town of Pisac where we went to the famous market, the volcanic mountain and canyons near Arequipa and the river which feeds into Lake Titicaca where we enjoyed relaxing on a boat and the tumbling waterfalls over which we zip-lined! In the distance I even think I eye spied the hazy hazardous Bolivian border and Manu jungle. What weekend adventures we had!!
Getting stopped by a local police check we all felt slightly culturally shocked… a few of us visited the horrible bathrooms after drinking Peruvian water, or eating salad from Govinda Lila’s wonderful vegetarian food and took a little side trip to one of the multiple pharmacies there are in Cusco. But we luckily clear the check unscathed and better off for having experienced it. More incredible stories to tell!
The last leg of our journey goes much quicker than expected, the bus rolls down hill with no vision of stopping. Suddenly the ticket boy is calling our school’s stop and I am left to fight my way to the door. The locals are making it difficult with their beautiful smiles and large baskets of chickens that have also made the journey but finally I jump out to breathe the cool, fresh, clean mountain air. I take a few moments to pull myself together and think about the unforgettable experiences I have had during my time in Peru, the great characters I have met, the wonderful friends I have shared it with and overall how mighty glad I am that I decided to board this bus and not the brand new clean super speedy one full of photographing older tourists that sped on ahead and braved the excitement of uni. For me that could wait till next year.