The Road to Machu P: Santa Maria

I discussed the plans for getting to Machu Pichu with Yoyo and many of his SERVAS guests had gone this route. He was quite enthusiastic. The first stop on the route to Machu Pichu was Santa Maria. From there I would need to catch a connecting combi to Santa Teresa. Everyone I asked, meaning everyone at the bus stop told me there was a lot of transport between the two towns. The only person who disagreed was Yoyo. “Fine, take the early bus.” He chided, “You will either wait here or in the cold in Santa Maria. I was updated on the blog and had nothing else to do, and it was in keeping with my First Principles of Travelling: I took the early bus.

On long distance Peruvian buses you have assigned seating. I was assigned next to a young man about my age. He was wearing a very old sports jacket and smelled terrible. He said nothing to me the entire trip. The other passengers were in a hurry. Every time we stopped to drop someone off or pick someone up the bus would yell “vamos! vamos!” until the driver took off again. The trip was a journey into another world. Immediately we began to ascend. In the fading daylight I looked out over the yellow scrub, an ancient landscape. Two pigs chased eachother for what seemed like miles in a valley below the bus. As we ascended into and past the clouds the air becomes thin, dry, rarified and my nose began to feel funny. I thought of the term “nosebleed seats” and, probably due to the lack of oxygen, laughed quietly to myself. There are people who live in these clouds. They are completely bundled up. We pass a few men in a field; one is giving a soccerball a halfhearted kick.

Then came the dark and, for a few hours, nothing but me and my thoughts. And the smell of my companion. As we approached Santa Maria locals got on and off, using the bus to travel short distances, pueblo to pueblo. Indian families would pile on with their children, sit in the aisle, and pile off at some remote roadside location 20 minutes later. When we arrived in Santa Maria it was about 10pm and, Yoyo was right, there was no transport to Santa Teresa till 3am.

To my surprise, there were a few other tourists who also were following the same route. The ones who stood out most were 3 Americans who piled off the bus at the same time as I did. These Americans were of a certain breed of traveller. I have a certain aversion to travellers who “do” places rather than visit them. “Have you done Bolivia yet?” they would ask, as if Boliva was the villiage tramp, putting out for everyone. But unlike the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed trekkers, these Americans were of the “do-everything-as-cheap-as-possible-because-we-are-incredibly-poor” variety. I thought they might go for the $1.30 3 course meal or the $2 room (including shower and a 2:30am wakeup call). They couldn’t be bothered. They would sleep outside and eat their stale bread and cheese. It seems odd to me for a law school student or a phone company executive to pay $500 or more to travel to another country for three weeks only to live like a hobo. Admittedly, it’s fun to live like a hobo, but these people had brought $200 sleeping bags, $50 pants, $80 cook stoves to do it. They could have eaten out every day and not had to carry any of that stuff and still saved money. Having time to kill and no one to share a cup of tea with (the Americans went nuts: “30 cents for tea! It’s 15 cents everywhere else!”) I decided to wander the town.

The town was almost completely dark, the only place open being the ubiquitous internet cafe. There were a group of boys all huddled around a single screen playing the latest network game. They seemed surprised at my appearance but the boy in charge, if there was one, asked me if I wanted a machine. I asked how much and he told me it was about $1 an hour, three times the price of anywhere else. I asked him why it was different. Seeing as there was a Telefonica monopoly, they should charge everyone the same exhorbatant price. They told me that Telefonica did not serve this location. Instead, a satelite company did. Needless to say it was not Peruvian. They thought it was Arabic, or maybe Chilean. Peruvians really hate the Chileans.

I walked about the town for a bit more in the dark then returned to my hostal, read some of Inca Cola, and went to bed.

As I write this there is a young man next to me looking at pornography on the internet. There is a very beautiful girl on the other side of him and she keeps giving him mean looks that he does not notice.

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