If you’ve been following my posts about traveling in Peru, you’ll know that I am now planning to go to Bolivia after escaping the riots in Chala. You may be thinking to yourself, “Wow. Getting stuck in a Peruvian riot sounds terrible. Bolivia must have been a breeze!”
Ehh, not exactly.
Here’s a rough two day timeline of events that goes up and down the Seriously?! No, seriously?!—-Oh my god,this is so beautiful scale.
6:00 PM: Sit on a curb with riot defectors, Keren and Maurice, and wait for a bus to take us on a fourteen hour ride to Cusco.
6:15 PM: Bus is late. It’s okay ’cause this time there’s no reason, like impending riots or hijackings, delaying it. It’s just good old-fashioned late. I appreciate this.
6:45 PM: Yay! Bus arrives and we board. I grab a seat with Maurice.
7:30 PM: My stomach hurts and makes funny noises. That’s unusual. It must be due to the Spanish dubbed Slyvester Stallone movie we are forced to watch. I fall asleep.
10-11 PM: The pain from my stomach wakes me up. My mind flashes back to earlier in the afternoon when I washed an apple in a kitchen sink. It was one of those things I realized was a stupid thing to do while doing it, but I still went ahead and ate the apple.
I curl into a semi fetal position and hate myself. And apples.
11:30 PM: I try to convince myself that I’m not stomach sick but altitude sick. This is very unlikely. But we’re going higher into the Andes, where altitude sickness strikes the healthiest of people without warning, so maybe that’s why I feel funny. Yes. That must be it. All I need to do is to hang on through this bus ride and my body will acclimate. Right?
Side note: Even though I’ve decided that I’m suffering from altitude sickness, I vow not use the bathroom on the bus. Mind over Matter. Literally.
12AM-6AM: I can’t decide if I’m hot or cold so I sweat and shiver. My head hurts and I feel like I’m pregnant with a litter of angry gremlins. Maurice senses my displeasure and gestures for me to lie down across his lap. I do, grateful for his kind offer. Being able to stretch out on a cramped bus helps with the pain.
As I fall back asleep, he plays with my hair. Whatever.
10AM: Arrive in Cusco. I’m not feeling better but the search for Pepto Bismol and a hostel bed invigorates me. I find both and pick up another important item: A bus ticket to Copacabana, Bolivia, departing the next night at 10 PM.
11AM till bed time: Take a nap, sightsee, explore the nightlife, do all the things you’re supposed to do in Cusco.
Oh, and I am definitely stomach sick but drinking whiskey soothes my insides. Seriously. It really helps!
10:00 AM: Wait in the hostel lobby, ready to go to a boys orphanage in Oropesa, a village outside of Cusco. I know, whaaaat? Instead of going out on my second day in Cusco and spending my dwindling cash reserve, I decided to join a group of travelers who are going out to volunteer for the day. My inner Angelina Jolie has always wanted to do some sort of work with orphaned children abroad and I figure this is a great way to see how the reality compares to the dream.
10:30 AM: Arrive in Oropesa. The scenery is stunning. I’ve never seen a sky so blue in my life. Besides appearing dropped from the sky, Oropesa has a few bodegas, a pair of cobble stone streets and a town square built around a church. It’s a 25 minute walk from the town square down a dirt road to get the orphanage.
11:00 AM: The boys are at school so the couple who runs the orphanage tell us we can help them in the fields. We take a mix of basic farming tools: shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows and go to work pulling up hard clay to make way for the good soil underneath it. I am exhausted within the hour. Manual labor has never been my friend.
2:00 PM: The boys return! They surround us, tossing out English phrases they’ve been taught like “My name is…” and “How are you? I am 8 years old.” One of boys grabs my hand and pulls me into their study room. His name is Danny and he wants me to play with him for the day. Done.
8:00PM: Back at the hostel with my bags packed and ready to go to Copacabana. A couple of other people from Loki are going as well so we all split a taxi. I’m excited to be going to Bolivia even if it’s not the country I originally planned to travel through.
9:30 PM: I stare at the lady behind the ticket counter as I try to process the words, “I’m sorry, but your bus left last night.”
What? Impossible! I wouldn’t buy a ticket for last night. I got in yesterday! No, seriously. I know for sure I told them to book me for tonight. Whatever, that’s fine. Just put me on the bus leaving tonight.
9:35 PM: Try not to cry or panic. It’s hard to do. Mostly because THINGS WON’T STOP GOING WRONG ON THIS TRIP.
9:40 PM: Still trying not to cry or panic, I get in a taxi and go back to the hostel. My bank account is pretty low, almost too low to stay in Cusco for another week. That’s why I needed to go to Bolivia tonight, to give my finances a break. It’s okay, I tell myself. At least I can get a cheap room at Loki. I’ll figure out something in the morning.
9:50 PM: “We only have single rooms available tonight.” Translation: Only the most expensive room in the hostel for you.
9:51 PM: Make a general announcement to everyone in reception. “I’m going to cry now.” I sit down on the leather couch and cry. Hard. Don’t worry, people in the room. This is just as uncomfortable for me.
9:52: Suddenly, a bed in the girls dorm becomes available. I take it.
10:00 PM: I become the most overly dramatic traveler ever by flinging myself onto my bed and howling, “I’m supposed to be on a bus to Bolivia!” My fellow bunkmates look on, unsure of how to respond. They ask if I want to get a drink. I do, but first I need to think. What am I going to do?
10:00-11:00 PM: Come up with a truly ridiculous plan. Of course, I don’t think it’s ridiculous, I think it’s very logical and practical for my current situation. However, if I were to retell this idea to someone back home, they might say, “Hey, this sounds crazy. Maybe you should rethink.”
But I’m in Peru. And I’m so close to Machu Picchu. So I don’t care what anybody says, I’m going to see the ruins at sunrise.
Wait minute, you say. Isn’t that why people go to Peru? To see Machu Picchu? Why weren’t you already planning to going there?
Valid question. The floods that closed MP in February complicated everything. I wasn’t even sure the Picchu would be open when I was in Peru. So I didn’t buy a train ticket and when it was announced that yes, it would reopen, the tickets were already sold out. Hiking the Inca Trail was too expensive and I wasn’t sure if I was equipped to handle the 27 mile hike anyway. And apparently, the only way you can get to Machu Picchu is to hike or take the train. Recently a new way has popped up, going by shared car, but a few travelers told me the drivers could be shifty, sometimes leaving travelers behind at Aguas Calientes (the town where MP is located). Going by all this, it seemed getting to MP on a budget was impossible which is why I left it off my itinerary.
However, in re-reading my Lonely Planet Peru, I found a small section located on page 268 that tells of a DIY adventure trek into the jungle surrounding MP for “die-hard” travelers. It takes two days, two villages, a river crossing via pulley system in a steel box, some railroad tracks, and a hydroelectric plant. Hmmm, I could be up for that. LP goes on to advise checking with the locals to see if this route still runs, as it tends to get washed out by floods.
So I consulted my local friend, the internet. Yep, I could still take this route. It would be 30 dollars round trip. That fit my budget perfectly.
Relieved I finally had a plan that seemed somewhat stable, I joined my bunkmates in the bar for a drink. It would be my last drink for a while (2 days) as the next day I would be heading into the jungle, alone, for my adventure trek to Machu Picchu.