So, we arrive in Chanaral on the 29 Aug. Ben is interested in some national park. Called Pan de Azucar. That’s sugarloaf. I saw Sugarloaf in Rio, and can’t imagine Chile having anything better than the cable car where Jaws went a little too fast chasing James Bond. But, I humour him. We spend some time in Chanaral recovering from the bus trip, and then eventually find somebody to drive us to this national park. Well – I negotiate with a hot-dog trailer woman about it, until Ben joins me; while Pen is talked to/at by the crazy drunk local guy. Drive for a while to this park. Park is closed. Turn around, and pay the price for a taxi ride there and back. Saw a nice-ish beach, and some (a lot of) cactus which looked like bags of onions, or horse-shit. Back to town, and we start looking for dinner. Spot crazy drunk local guy, before he spots us, and we use the old “hide behind a parked truck, and then start running along when the truck starts moving” trick. Millenium Tower on the hill – but we have our packs. Can’t be bothered climbing the stairs. Instead – some seafood for first dinner, then chinese for second dinner. Awful, awful chinese. Ben, of course, whinges more than anybody else. More gripping than Stephen King. Back to bus station, and back on a bus.
30 Aug, arrive in Arica. We have 8,650 chilean pesos, or something like that. Discover the trip over the border to Peru will cost us 9,000. But – the nice man says “no problemo”. So – no problemo. Get in a big old yank-tank with a couple of local girls, and we drive across the border. Remember at this point that we were meaning to check on rumours that the recent earthquake had made travel impossible. Ah well, we’ll find out. Chilean border – huge queues. Waiting for ages. Finally get through, then onto Peruvian migration. Not a soul. Get to Tacna in Peru, and search for an ATM. First one has a coin stuck in the card slot. Ben meets some nice chaps who give him a sip of their beer. Then, they start trying to sell us bus tickets. And drugs of various sorts. Eventually get rid of them – and manage to buy ourselves yet another nice relaxing bus trip. Short one this time, only 5 or so hours. So, we get to Arequipa late at night – completely buggered after not having slept in a bed since Rapa Nui. Long time ago. Taxi driver takes us to a hotel where he obviously gets a commission. Ben & Pen stay in taxi while I do the talking. Not much point – they could have offered me couch cushions on a floor in the basement – and I would have paid a fair bit for it. Then – dinner time. And, struggling to find anywhere else rather late at night – we splash out at a fairly pricey place. Guinea pig. One of the things both Ben & I had been looking forward to. And, it lived up to expectations. Presentation was beautiful. Good ol’ guinea pig. Yum.
31 Aug – we sleep in as much as I’ll let the two hindrances. Not sure what time checkout is, but don’t want to risk being asked to pay for another night. But, chap is pleasant enough, and we manage to leave in time for lunch. Which we call breakfast, and satisfy with a couple of hours at a juice bar, drinking a lot of juice, popping spirulina pills, and eating stuff. Then, admire the Arequipa central plaza once more (awesome plaza. Awesome at night, awesome at day. Well done Arequipa.) – and catch taxi to bus station. Next bus to Chivay.
Chivay – tiny village, dust streets, tuk-tuks. Nice. Very nice. Touts for hostels. One woman follows us to town, chatting whole way. Go through stages of interest, annoyed, very very annoyed, pity, very very annoyed. Opt for other tout who immediately stops spiel when I tell him I already have his brochure. Turns out to be a very nice spot. With annoying woman tout sitting on doorstep outside waiting for us. Creepy. But, we stay with our choice – and girl at counter gives us heaps of advice on getting to the main nearby attraction. Colca Canyon. Big canyon. Condors. Early morning start. As a big man once said, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. We have dinner in town, and discover irish bar. Empty. Walls covered in graffiti. Abnormal percentage of New Zealand representation. Including, once again, the first piece on the ceiling. Next bar – has music videos on the TV. Ben doesn’t like them, so we have to go home. That, and we think we have to get up at 4am. And Christopher Lloyd is sitting opposite us. However, when we get back to the hostel, a chap who speaks a little english explains that we actually have to be up at 3:30.
01 Sep, 3:30am. Not cool. But, we manage to get up. Worst thing about needing to get up early is the paranoia. So, I spent most of the night awake, checking the time constantly. We walk to the bus station, and hope we’ve got the right info. I start to get the idea that this type of thing would be an excellent local joke to play on tourists. But, turns out that it’s the real deal. We get to the station just in time to buy a couple of cups of takeaway coca teas, then get on the bus. Very, very bumpy ride for a few hours. Sitting on back seat, and we’re all airborne several times. 6am, arrive at the main viewpoint. Big canyon. Twice the size of the Grand Canyon? But I’m not sure what they mean by “size”. Big though. Go for a walk. See some hummingbirds. Try to take photos of hummingbirds. Much cursing ensues. Very fast moving bird, the hummingbird. After a couple of hours, we head back towards the main viewing platform. Hungry – and had seen local ladies setting themselves up to sell food. On the way, notice that the tour groups had started arriving. Muchos gringos. Then – condors. Cool. Hunger and toilet requirements are forgotten for quite some time, as we watch condors, and try to take photos. A photo of a condor is much easier to achieve than one of an ‘ummingbird – but still fairly frustrating. Condors can be rather large. And rather playful. After a while, we got our fill of nearly-photos, and a few successful photos. Then started on the silliness. The viewpoint is called Cruz del Condor. And there is a crucifix (cruz) on a rock. Lots of tourists getting photos next to it. So, I line up, help the previous girls climb down the rock, then pose ‘with’ the crucifix. Ben takes a few photos, then I jump down as quick as possible, ready to run for my life. But – no religious outcry. Sweet. By this time, not even noon, we’re all sunburnt and tired. Bus back to town. Then, buy ticket back to Arequipa, and have some food and drinks. Bus to Arequipa.
Arequipa – we figure there will be lots of buses to Cusco, at various times. There are lots of buses. All at the same time. 8pm – and it is 7:30 when we start researching this. But – a huge pat on the back when we find one at 8:30. Apparently very comfortable (I ask if it is “full cama” – the best class – and the lady shows us photos of the seats. Avoiding the question, I later realise), and much cheaper than usual. I watch her manually type in a price of 40 for each seat, over top of the default price of 90. Sweet. And – we can drop off our luggage now. Very pleased with ourselves, we drop our bags off, then find a food stall. Sit and chat with the owner. Lovely lady – rather taken by Kruse. Is willing to settle for Ben when I admit that the blonde with us is my girlfriend. At a stretch. We enjoy some food – buy some blue Powerade, and a slice of cake. 8:20 – head to the bus platform. Sit, wait. Platform is outside of the ticket office. 8:30, lights in ticket office go out. Not good. I run inside – and ticket office is closed. Where are our bags? Panic. Ask at the info office – somehow breathless bad spanish works. The girl asks a security guard to help us. He says something about the other bus terminal (which is next door). We grab our remaining stuff and run. Run past the barrier arm at other terminal – forcing security guard to chase us – as we see our bus just backing out. Manage to explain things (maybe), and all is good. Figure out the situation was: 8:30 was departure time from 2nd terminal. Bus left from OUR terminal at 8. So, at 8pm, our luggage was loaded while I was being chatted up by food stall lady. Anyway, we made it. Barely – unbelievable close to losing all our luggage. Then – the ticket office lady had randomly assigned seats to each of us from the three I’d specified. Usually, Pen & I would be together, with Ben stuck next to a snoring local. This time, I was the loner. And this time, the only free seat near a double seat was at the back. And next to the bus ‘attendant’. And apparently, the bus attendant needs far less legroom than the clients. And therefore the seat next to him inherits the same. And suddenly, what had seemed like the best bus IN THE WORLD only one hour previously, had – for Kruse – turned into the worst. And, when I try to recline my seat, realise there is a bag of something directly behind my seat. Can’t recline at all. While Ben is sitting opposite me, with decent legroom, and his arm around my girlfriend. Not happy. Awful food is then provided. I cheer up a little when Nick Nolte appears on the television. Unfortunately, not a great movie. Certainly not being a riot as a homeless man who insinuates himself into the household of a neurotic yuppie couple when they save him from drowning in their pool. But, it distracts me for a while, until I realise that the package has been moved from behind my seat – and I can recline. And try to sleep. Still not so good – waking up in Cusco with bruises all over my legs from insufficent room.
But anyway, I’m starting to sound like Ben. Next update – first night in Cusco is drunk. Very very drunk. And, by then, I will have been to Macchu Picchu. That update will be a little while off, as we have to walk for 4 days to get there. Starting at 5am tomorrow. t is now past midnight. I am still awake trying to finish my box of red wine (mixed with Inka Cola). Pen demanded that I go buy some medicine for her this evening. And Ben hired a porter to carry most of his stuff – that much of a senorita is he. (Has been teased by several locals already. Colby – you must remember to tell Ben to “Come on!” next time he tries to not order a beer.)