Stop the Bus!!

Sadly things started to go downhill a bit.

We were warned by our travel agent that the bus from Lima to Cusco was notorious for being held-up by bandits, who stop the large tourist bus and force the tourists to hand over valuables. I cannot verify the truthfulness of that statement, but that is what we were told. So we decided to get a bus to Nazca instead – a small town famous for the “Nazca Lines”.

We took a “Cama bus” from Cusco. This is a bed bus, which has seats that recline until they are practically horizontal. We also went first class, which was a first (and a last!) for us, but we thought it was important to be comfortable for the journey. The bus was very comfortable, modern, and had a TV, so we were feeling very smug at first. However we failed to properly appreciate that it was a 15 hour bus journey. And the bus had to go over the Andes. These are big mountains, and involved pretty much continuous hair-pin bends. It was like being on a crazy fairground ride FOR 15 HOURS.

Part of the bus route. Photo property of Google Maps.

Quite quickly, my boyfriend felt sick. He spent the next 13 hours trying not to be. I was fine until hour 12, which was clearly when my body decided it had had enough, and I was promptly sick every 15 minutes for the next 3 hours.

The toilet on the bus was awful. At the start of the journey I went to check it out – it stank, was dirty, and had no toilet paper or soap. I returned saying “I’m not going in there again!”. Which was ironic considering that once I got sick I spent the remainder of the journey in the toilet. Which was basically like being locked in a small cell in the dark with the smell of shit, while the room moves around like you’re in a simulator. There was a tiny window and I tried to focus on looking at the moon (which obviously kept moving around as the bus went round the bends!).

In the middle of the night we stopped in the middle of nowhere as the previous bus on that route had broken down and there were families standing by the side of the road huddled in blankets. We took onto our bus as many as we could fit. I was desperate to get off our bus so I tried to convince my boyfriend that we should get our bags and leave the bus right there, in the middle of the desert. I am glad now that he refused, as that could have been a seriously bad decision, being as it was the middle of the night in a freezing desert, which may (or may not) have wild animals and/or bandits.

So we stayed on the bus and I vomited up my stomach lining. We ended up in Nazca at 5am the next day and I have never been more relieved to be on firm ground. It was a beautiful fresh sunny morning, even at 5am, and we walked into town and sat on a bench in the town square and reveled in our happiness and relief at being on solid earth.

Unfortunately my sickness stayed with me for a few weeks. I don’t think it was just motion sickness, as I felt queasy before we left Cusco. I suspect food poisoning, worsened by the bus. Either way, it left me unable to keep fluids down, and this caused me to be very anxious about where the nearest major hospital was (should matters deteriorate) and how we would possibly get there without setting foot on a bus again!

Not wanting to end on a horribly depressing note, I would offer this advice to people who are about to make this journey:-

  1. Don’t be put off by one bad experience. I am just one person and I know the Cama buses are very popular with locals and backpackers.
  2. Be prepared. Take toilet roll, alcohol handwash / wet wipes, and a sick bag just in case – if the toilet was not vacant I don’t know what I would have done.
  3. Plan to go to sleep immediately
  4. Consider whether to eat the on-board food. This actually tasted OK, but I do wonder if I would have coped better if my stomach was empty.
  5. And finally, if you know you are susceptible to motion sickness, consider other ways to get to Nazca. You could take a bus from Lima to Nazca – this is a similar distance but I believe that the roads are mostly flat. Also see my next blog about my journey out of Nazca, as we used a creative means of getting out of town…

Next blog: Nazca, Peru

Previous blog: The Most Amazing Coincidence Ever!

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