Since 2007, I’ve been involved in mitigating the effects on businesses due to transportation improvements around the Tucson region. During this time, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of having good transportation. In most cities and towns in the U.S., drivers are spoiled. We’re accustomed to getting to where we want to go in a timely and comfortable fashion. However, in places such as Puno, Peru, getting around can be quite a challenge.
In 2004, when Lisa and I were just starting Globetrotter Imports we took a trip to Peru in search of unique items to sell in our store. We visited Lima, Cuzco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, Puno, and other interesting locations. While we had interesting experiences in all of these places, I’ll focus this blog on Puno.
Puno is located in southeastern Peru on the shoreline of Lake Titicaca (at the eastern shoreline is Boliva). It lies 12,420 feet in elevation, has about 100,000 inhabitants, and is where the first Inca is said to have arisen from Lake Titicaca (see http://www.puno.com). Lisa and I decided to take a day trip to see the Sillustani Ruins (pre-Inca funeral towers for nobility) which were about 45 minutes from Puno. We decided to take a bus to experience the local culture and found one being boarded by Peruanos. We climbed aboard and took a seat in the rear.
As we waited for the bus to load, I noticed that the driver kept climbing a ladder with boxes, luggage, crates, bundles of stuff, you name it. He was securing these items on top of the bus. As he secured more and more items, more and more Peruanos boarded the bus. After about twenty minutes, all the seats were filled, including some flip down seats at the rear.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to sense how I was feeling. It was my first venture overseas, I didn’t speak the language (Lisa speaks Spanish, but many Peruanos blend Spanish with Quechua), there were no other Americans, and I was sitting elbow to elbow with people that in many cases don’t have hot running water to take a shower. It was as if we were in a movie… one were passengers bring their chickens on board for their evening dinner.
The ride to the ruins was interesting to say the least. However, we got there safely and met some young Peruanos that helped us understand what we were looking at (see photo). It was quite fascinating to learn about the Chullpas (funeral towers), the history of the Cullas (pre-Inca inhabitants) and see the alpacas grazing in the rolling hills around us. Unfortunately, time was running short. It was beginning to get dark and all the buses had left the parking area with only about 1/2 dozen or so taxis remaining.
On the way back to the lot, we decided to look at one more ruin. This was not a good decision because it delayed us enough that only one taxi remained. We hustled to the lot and asked the driver to take us back. The problem was that there were about 12 people needing a ride back. The taxi, a small Toyota station wagon, large enough to sit six people comfortably, was our only ride back. We all climbed in, some sitting in the rear cargo area and some sitting on other’s laps. There was so much weight in the car that its shocks strained under the load and the driver had a hard time keeping the car from swerving. While it took about 45 minutes to get to the ruins in the bus, it took well over an hour to get back. It was a scary ride as the driver swerved back and forth, never exceeding 40 mph under the heavy load.
After this experience I realized that Americans are indeed spoiled. Even with our traffic jams, pot holes, and seemingly endless road construction projects, we have it better than many people in other parts of the world. So next time you are delayed by traffic lights, congested traffic, accidents, etc., just remember that you could be sitting on someone’s lap or next to a clucking chicken.
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