It’s Peru story time again! Don’t be shy, pull up some carpet and gather round the fireplace. Mr. Pattinson will be out with the apple cider and “biscuits” soon (I quotation marked biscuits because right before you got here Robbie and I were disputing the proper word for cookies. He loves to rename things. I don’t know why, it must some vampire cultural thing. Anyway, I let him win because he finally promised to sit for an oil pastel painting I’ve been begging to do of him.) Now, where were we when we last spoke about my Peruvian adventure?
Oh yes, my first Peruvian riot had ended and we were back on our way Arequipa. Yay!
Our bus continued traveling down the coast of Peru. It was easy to forget about the earlier delay when the ride featured great views of the Pacific ocean.
That is until we arrived in Chala. Chala, Peru is a small cluster of concrete shops and homes that sit along the beach.
As you can tell, I’m not on a bus taking this photo. You may be wondering why I’m on a beach seemingly far away from any vehicle that caters to international tourists. That’s because we hit another roadblock stranding us right in the epicenter of the rioting (that apparently was not over) where 6,000 miners were fighting with 200 policemen.
The highway was clogged with hundreds of stalled buses. We weren’t going anywhere for a while so I decided to take a walk and look for some ice cream. As I walked along the single dirt road looking for anything that resembled a food store, I recognized an Australian couple from my bus coming toward me.
“Hey there, you might want to turn around. The miners are placing dead bodies in the street up ahead. It’s starting to get heated.”
And so I turned around.
Time moves pretty slow when you’re stuck in the middle of the desert waiting for a riot to end. We had no access to any of our belongings because our attendant didn’t want to risk our bus being mobbed. Luckily, I packed my toothbrush and anti bacterial wipes in my purse. Smart move on my part. However, I was still wearing my bathing suit from when I was poolside in Huacachina so I couldn’t be too proud of myself. Guess I thought I’d keep the party going in Arequipa?
Food options were minimal. There was ice cream, water, inka cola (a Peruvian soda that tastes like bubble gum) and a small selection of stale bread and cookies at the bodega. The only meal I had was when someone from the bus found a woman from Chala who offered to cook a chicken for us. Six smelly but extremely grateful backpackers crammed into her kitchen as she prepared chicken and rice for us.
Later on, I sat on the curb by our bus and started to eat the best ice cream sandwich of my life. It was so good I barely noticed the mob of miners heading toward our bus. Our bus attendant started flagging people down. He looked legitimately concerned.
“Everyone! Now, please. Get on bus, pull the curtains shut and don’t look out. Hurry up.”
No one said much and did as instructed. I peeked through the gaps of the curtains and saw an endless pack of miners in blue safety hats marching through the street. They knocked on our bus a couple times but nothing serious happened. Later on, word floated down that other buses were not so lucky had their windows smashed out by rocks.
“Attention, Ladies and Gentle Men. We are moving for the night. We do not stay here because it is not safe. We will, uh be going to place, 10-15 minutes away.”
“Why don’t we turn this bus all the way around and go back to Nazca?” someone asked.
“Uh, not safe. We don’t know how long this we will be going on. Days maybe. Sorry I do not know. Please enjoy your afternoon movie, Aliens in the Attic.”
Have you seen Aliens in the Attic with Ashley Tisdale? It’s surprisingly good.
Anyway, we moved to an even more isolated area with only one dry foods store, a football field and a couple of shacks lining the beach. I was not a fan of this locale. It just felt creepy. As soon as it turned dark the streets emptied and the music shut off. There wasn’t anything to do so I went to sleep.
Around midnight I was abruptly woken with violent yells from outside the bus. It sounded like there were about 5 to 6 men surrounding the bus. They pounded their fists along the luggage panel as they laughed hysterically.
We were about to be hijacked.
Or so I thought. During these 3 minutes or so, I scrambled desperately to try and grab whatever I could out of my purse…my passport, my bank cards… and throw them somewhere else. However, my hands were shaking too much to even open my bag so I curled up in the fetal position and placed a blanket over my head. That’s right, when faced with an impending hijacking, I pretended to have an invisibility cloak.
A few tense moments passed and nothing happened. Even though I was paralyzed with fear, I could hear the other passengers shuffling around and talking to each other. After a few more minutes passed, I decided to take off my cloak and see what was happening.
Except for a lone dog barking, there was nothing. The streets were still empty and no one was around. What WAS that?! Where did the men go?!
Needless to say, it was impossible for me to sleep that night. After that happened my mind could not calm down. I had to get out of here. We were sitting ducks in this desert. Anyone, not just the miners, could come by and have their pick of buses to hijack. No thank you. I’m not staying here another day.
How I managed to get out is another story. TBC.