Patience, the Autobus and adventure

Adventure is not something that always has obvious rewards.  It’s not always as Dr John coins in his song “Mos’ Scocious” – in fact I’ve never even known what that means.  But I am certain that he was not referring to experiences like my ride from Ayacucho to Andahuaylas on the auto bus yesterday.  As you have read if you saw my blog yesterday, I’ve been very sick in a hotel in Ayacucho being cared for by the kind staff there while my bike troupe has pedaled on.  The matron of the hotel had come to my room, got the passport copy I always carry with me, and purchased a ticket on the largest type of express bus here for my ride to catch up with everyone.  My first thought was dang, I’m sick, I have diarrhea and an off and on fever, I don’t want to be riding on a bus, I’ll take a taxi.  On second thought tho, it was a chance to experience another aspect of life here.  Most people don’t have cars and depend entirely on buses , cabs, collectivos and mototaxis.  I’m sure there is a lot of ride sharing as well since you see people piled into vehicles in towns as well as on high mountain roads.  I’ll get on the auto bus and enjoy the view.  The English speaking friend the hotel matron had brought in to see me indicated that my ride should be no more than 4-5 hours.  All paved roads he assured me    I took a look at my ticket – there was a departure time but no arrival time.  Not a good sign  but…..who knows how things work here.  Everything went well for me at the terminal.  I was able to find my departure point, there was a bus sitting there and a man standing there looking like he had something to do with it.  “Andahuaylas” I said to him.  “Andahuaylas” he mumbled back to me and indicated I should wait.   I was fortunate that the taxi driver followed me in to the terminal and showed me that I also needed to buy a ! sole stub that is called a boarding fee.  I wouldn’t have had a clue.  The buses themselves are nice, great viewable glass space and comfortable seating.  Bags are put overhead or in the compartment outside on the bottom of the bus.  I kept the pack with my computer between my legs and my other small pack went up above.  The morning was uneventful, I was nodding on and off to sleep – still far from healthy.  It took us over an hour just to clear the city limits of Ayacucho.  I could find a faster cycling route.  As we worked our way up the long winding and twisting switchbacks to higher elevations the baby sitting behind me sensed the change and started to cry; the other youngster three seats back joined in.  There is really nothing to be done, children respond with totally honesty and there is no fooling them that this is normal.  The music on the bus is relentless and constantly cycles playing what must be the most popular songs at this time.  It is loud.  The songs all seem to have the same beat  and melody.  Distracting.  I look at my watch – I still have western habits.  We have been riding for 3 1/2 hours now. I know that we are still far from our arrival city.  We pull into a small restaurant.  Lunch.  Yes, lunch, for an hour.  The idea of food still has no allure for me.  I wait in the bus along with two other guys who have also been sleeping.  The fog and mist is now clearing and the views have been fantastic.  Our bus has been running rough but they must have confidence as no one is looking at anything except lunch.  We will climb and descend several times during the day as we move through the mountains.  Things are green and lush in the valleys,  I see orchards of oranges and limes, vegetables and different fruits I can’t identify on the trees.  The steep sides and drops are much more pronounced while riding on the tall bus.  You can see over every edge.  Not a good place for anyone with a fear of heights.  A different perspective on the same single lane paved roads I have been describing on the cycle.  We travel about a half hour after lunch and the bus stalls.  This is not good.  The crew scurries here and there gathering tools and heading to the bowels of the the machine to get us back on the road.  No mechanic to call, you must be self sufficient.  After bleeding the fuel system for the sixth time and failing to keep it running, I was getting a little discouraged .  On the seventh my patience and that of everyone on the bus was rewarded.  Vroom.. chug chug…vroom…then a rumble and everyone sitting outside found their seats again and off we went.  The rest of the day we didn’t have a lot of speed but at least were moving.  At 2:45 our bus decided to sputter out again.  Out came the tools and back to work they went.  Everyone riding would move outside, find a place to sit down and patiently wait.  I followed suit.  On this second occasion however, one woman laid into the bus crew with a rain of consonants I couldn’t understand but it was obvious that she was breathing fire and they were getting burned.  Soon after we were back on the road again.  At this pace I decided that I wouldn’t arrive till about 8 pm.  That would make it a 12 hour bus ride.  Hmmm.   Started to enjoy the scenery again despite a rolling stomach that was warning me to be careful and an overall tiredness.  At 4 my spell was again broken.  The bus stopped again.  This time the crew was telling us to find rides, it was not fixable.  We all lined up along the roadside – collectivos and taxis passing occasionally.  A few stopped and grabbed luggage even tho they had no passenger room.  A taxi stopped and announced Andahuaylas.  I noticed that no one responded.  I believe the cost was too high for most of the fellow passengers.  I approached him and asked “Cuando Cuesta?”  He said 20 soles.  OK.  A young French guy I noticed drinking a beer and having a cigarette earlier also hopped aboard.  It was then 430.  The driver says 1 1/2 hours to Adahuaylas.  Yes.  The music is loud in the taxi.  Loud.  Incessant.  The same songs I was hearing on the bus.  There had been two passengers in the car when we joined, one of which seemed to be in pain sitting in the backseat with the young Frenchman and myself.  We were careful not to lean into him as we were rolled from one tight corner to the next.  The cab driver seems to be in a much bigger hurry than we are.  We both shake our heads at many of his macho moves.  The young man is traveling by bus through Peru and Bolivia.  He is next heading to the Colca canyon area he describes as being larger than the Grand Canyon and the largest in Peru.  I mention  that the man sharing our seat seems to be in considerable pain.  My new friend confers with him in Spanish and discovers that he has just had an operation.  He asks the driver to pull over and goes to the trunk to his bag to fetch painkillers for the older man.  He gives him his whole supply.  I have a new-found respect for my new young friend.  We arrive in Andahuaylas and am greeted warmly by many of my biking friends.  I have an auto bus adventure to share with you. Nine and a half hours.  First I must sleep.


10 thoughts on “Patience, the Autobus and adventure

    1. Hey Bob, it was a long day – the taxi was a relief to see. Patience is becoming a part of the lifestyle tho. I will be missing the fall colors and that crispness in the air. Enjoy.

  1. You did good, Buck–no up-chuck and no soiled pants, but wait till you get to Bolivia (or Oblivia, as one of my daughters used to call it) where the taxistas can drive even faster than in Peru. Or better yet, be healthy enough to get back on your bike, because the Bolivian buses and cars are well-used and often not in such good condition! Let me tell you some time, when you are safely back home, about my run-in with a rabid dog, buying his head, and carrying the head on my lap in a colectivo down to Lima for diagnosis. My Peruvian friend in Lima offered to help me write a book titled “Las Aventuras de Don Tomas en el Peru..” Forge onwards!

    1. That sounds pretty wild, Tom. I would love to get together to hear stories sometime after I get home. I am hearing from Lucho, our Peruvian cyclist/mechanic, that Bolivia is very loud and sometimes more than a little bit drunk.

  2. Hi Buck Benson,

    A German cyclist wishes you well and quick recovery to go back to the saddel again!
    Enjoy very much reading your blog!
    Keep going! Your endurance will be surely rewarded!
    Best, Joe

    1. Hi Jeanne – I had part of a lunch today and followed up with a piece of chocolate cake from a pastry shop so that’s all good news. No fall colors here tho! Hope to be back on the bike tomorrow or the following.

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