The bus trip from Pucallpa to Huanuco was, of course, eventful. All the overnight bus trips I take seem to leave at 9pm and take 8hrs. This puts me at some lame part of time at about 5am and to befuddled to be grouchy. So I generally hope for eventfulness on the journey so we can get delayed for an hour. I should but I do. I’m glad that I still enjoy the eventfulness of travel in Peru because it happens so frequently. The folks who gotta be at work at 5am (most of ’em) probably don’t appreciate it so much though.
The bus left on time but just as we left it began to rain. It rained for about 20 minutes. In the jungle it only rains for about 20 minutes but in quantity it’s worth about a year of Seattle rain. To cut a long story short we reached a muddy stretch of the road and there were about 30 trucks stopped in the mud all over the road. Here there is no policy of “hey it’s raining, let’s all wait till the mud is dry”, there’s the the “let’s dump some of the load we’re carrying on the road and then put our foot on the gas” policy. The result as that we ended up going on foot in the pitch black night from truck to truck, waking up the drivers and then arguing with them for about 15 minutes till they moved their truck 10 feet so the bus could get past.
We couldn’t get too far ahead of our bus because it was dark and we were in the Jungle and, as one fellow passenger put it: there are 20 foot anacondas in the jungle. “Are you really worried about anacondas?” I asked this fellow, who lives in the area. “No,” he replied, “I’m going to stay here.” If the reader wishes to try his hand at this kind of puzzle, I suggest Rushhour, which happily avoids the six inches of mud, the mosquitos, and the “human element” which is a mob of 30 irritated passengers screaming obscenities at an equally irritated truck driver who wants to sleep rather than move his truck who inevitibly claimed that his truck was stuck in the mud and couldn’t move till morning. Sometimes the driver was right and his truck really WAS stuck and 30 irritated passengers would push a fully loaded truck the requisite distance for us to get by.
This also reminded me of a different ill fated bus ride from Chachapoyas to Tarapoto (5 hours: ha!). So on mountain roads buses careen around steep one lane mountain roads. As we climbed the hill an overly eager bus driver decided to remove our side mirror. I think he wanted more but we had a stingy bus driver. Needless to say buses around here don’t carry third party insurance. The police showed up in record time and quickly came up with the solution. The offending driver must pay out of pocket 50 soles (about $15) for the ruined headlight. “A slap on the wrist!!!” I thought. Not so: needless to say the driver lacked said money in a serious way and we waited for 2 hours while he somehow obtained it and we could move on.
On the plus side my journey from Pucallpa to Huanuco made me plenty of friends on the bus. On of the men was a travelling salesman. Here there’s a fiesta in every city every couple months and lots of people selling junk travel from town to town cashing in on the buying fever. He had enough money for one night in Huanuco and we split cab fare to the economic choice for hostals in town. It’s nice travelling with Peruvians, you don’t have to pay Gringo Tax.