The Bus to Lima (previously posted on facebook)

IMG_3952We opted for the daytime bus back to Lima with seats on the top deck right at the front which gave us a wonderful 180 deg view. At times we were seeing a bit too much when it seemed as if our driver was playing with our lives. Taking blind corners on the wrong side of the road at speed was his particular style. We left the scramble of Ayacucho and were soon in the wild grandeur of the Andes: rocky crags like saw teeth in the sky and light sandy coloured hills dotted with green. The proud eucalyptus, sometimes in clusters at other times standing sentinel in the hillside and cactus of many varieties in stupendous shapes rising stubbornly from the dry earth. In one particular variety, a cluster of sharp spikey leave-like forms with a strange tree like growth coming up from the centre, as if from a Doctor Zeus book. The fruit bearing cactus “Tuna” or “prickly pear” delicious and refreshing to taste, was also in abundance. Sometimes a small field with terraces would be carved out of the ridiculous steep mountainside, growing potatoes and alfalfa. We were zigzagging up and zigzagging down to small villages and towns and always in the rugged landscape a single or a group of figures in bright deep colours and black hats carrying enormous loads making their way here and there, sometimes with a donkey in toe, a group of grazing alpacas, goats, cows or a wandering dog. Finally, after six hours of this exhausting landscape and at the point when it was beginning to lose its allure, we settled down to the bank of a river with large swathes or fertile land: vineyards and orchards, olives and dates in an almost industrial scale. The river took us on to Pisco to the coasta (the great plain by the sea). With a welcome break from the aircon-less coach, and a stop for food and refreshment we found ourselves in a different world. All around was desert, smooth hills of clear sand where you would expect to see the odd camel caravan, all the way to the sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean. Now we were in dual carriageway and our driver had had his fun for the day and we continue the further three and half hours through this strange landscape to Lima. It has been such an awe inspiring journey; you wonder why you would ever choose to travel by night.

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Crawford Mackenzie

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