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Day 3 – On A Steel Horse I Ride (Squirrel!)

October 13, 2010

Location: Transit from Lima to Cuzco (via Nazca), Peru

Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I wonder what it’s like to be a jet setter. I’m pretty sure you get a jet. I don’t think you get a bus.

Part of traveling long term is spending only for what’s important. For me, I’m willing to pay for food, experiences, and time. One thing I’m not willing to pay for is a jet.

This is why I’m on a 20-hour bus from Lima to Cuzco (via Nazca). Thanks to a company called Cruz del Sur, I don’t have to suffer through the 30-hour bus ride via the more southern route through Arequipa. Reportedly, the route I’m taking used to be too dangerous to travel because of unsafe roads and marauding bandits. Over the past five years the roads have been sealed and the bandits vaporized. All that’s left now are marauding llama farmers.

I could have flown, but I’ve exchanged the one-hour flight for a 2 p.m. bus departure with 10 a.m. next day arrival in Cuzco. That takes time, but it saves me money on a night’s accommodations. It also means I’ll come into Cuzco more like the Spanish conquistadors. Unlike those gentlemen, however, the steel that accompanies me won’t be weaponized, it’ll be contained on the steel horse I ride.

Back in the day, the journey from Lima to Cuzco would have taken weeks, most often by traveling far south before heading inland so as to avoid the brunt of the Andes Mountains.

Me, well, I get to kick back in style aboard a double-decker bus, lulled to sleep by skip prone DVD’s of Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkness and Pixar’s Up. Jew-hater or not, Spanish speaking Mel (with English subtitles) is a decent Spanish teacher.

The bus is the nicest coach I’ve ever traveled. The seats are luxury recliners, wrapped in leather, and almost able to reach a full recline. It sure beats bouncing around on a horse for 3 weeks.

Looking out at the stretches of sand, I didn’t think about the Spaniards riding to the Inca capital dreaming of gold. I thought about a time years later, when the motley band of Spaniards first heard that Cuzco was under siege by somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 native warriors (there were relatively few Incas in the Incan empire; most warriors were conscripted from conquered peasants). At the time, there would have been less than 200 Spaniards trying to defend Cuzco.

What would that have been like to be part of the relief force; trekking over these dunes wondering what you’d find when you got to the Incan capital? Everyone knows how it turned out in the end (hint: everyone here speaks Spanish), but in those early days, before the telegraph or even the Pony Express, getting news would have taken an excruciating amount of time. And regardless of the Spanish desire to conquer and make that gold, that relief force must have been scared.

Shoot, I’m a bit apprehensive and that’s only because I’ve never been to Cuzco. Nestled beneath a warm blanket, under the warm glow of Russell and Dug the talking dog (“Squirrel!”), it’s a luxury I’m more than happy to indulge. Jet setter or not, it’s good to be a traveler.

GALLERY: No bonus pictures today. Really, the journey hasn’t even begun.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sally permalink
    October 15, 2010 9:54 am

    I don’t think it would have occurred to me to take a bus instead of an aeroplane.

  2. Doris permalink
    October 16, 2010 7:56 pm

    Cuzco is amazing, you will love it. Be sure to drink lots of mate de coca (yes, coca tea) to help you acclimate.

    • October 20, 2010 8:09 am

      I’m loving Cuzco. My remedy to getting over altitude sickness: walk from the bus station to the hostel with my pack, drink lots of water, then walk up to Saqsaywaman the next day.

      I should have probably just drank the tea.

  3. Allen permalink
    October 19, 2010 12:25 pm

    I’m envying those seats as my short legs are aching from a 5 hour ride to DC in economy.

    • October 20, 2010 8:17 am

      America needs to get with the program on bus travel. Mobile wifi does not make up for leather seats that almost fully recline.

  4. Jefe permalink
    October 27, 2010 3:24 pm

    Reading about the Spanish conquistadors, etc…reminds me of a book I’m reading. You may want to pick it up. Its entitled “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles Mann.

    Just a thought.

    • October 27, 2010 11:12 pm

      I’ve added this to the list. I’ll check it out when I can. I appreciate the suggestion.

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