28 February 2011, Pariwana Backpacker – Cusco, Perú – 10:54am

Arriving into Arica, a surfing town on the border of Chile and Perú, after a 30 hour bus journey is a strange experience. Having spent so long looking out at a never ending unchanging landscape of rock and sand and dust, being in the crazy hustle and bustle of a South American bus station is strange place to be in. Luckily, I can avoid all the men offering me taxi rides and cheap hotels, as my hostel is literally across the road from the two main bus stations in town. I check into my bizarre small yellow single room, have a much needed shower and head into the town to get some food. The temperature is in the 30's and only the slight sea breeze brings some relief. I spend the evening chatting to the owner about the best way of getting to Cusco and the rest of the time, watching the RTÉ website to see the rather boring election results back in Ireland. And watching terrible reality US TV shows as it's the only channel they have in English.
view from the bus of the sunset over the Atacama desert

The next day I check out and meet a Chilean (called Orlando) and Canadian (don't remember his name, all I remember is he likes to drink and party) and we share a taxi for the hour long trip (Ch$3000/€4.58) across the border into Perú. The time zone goes back two hours so I have now, over 4 hours to wait for my bus to leave. The temperature in the bus station, by 11am in the morning, is 38ºC. So I nap, whilst clutching my bags, to stop thieves or more likely, dogs, from running away with them.

I then endure a 6 1/2 hour bus ride to Arequipe, an hour stopover followed by 10 hours on the bus from there to Cusco. (A note here for Peruvian parents, please don't bring your popcorn guzzling, elbow jabbing little children on long bus journeys) On the bus rides, I also get to watch terrible films, in Spanish, such as 13 going on 30. More interesting is the amazing landscape outside the windows. It really is like taking a bus trip over the surface of Mars. There is virtually no plant life, vast hills of rock and dust stretching into the distance, and very little traffic on these roads that are almost all, uphill.

So arriving in Cusco at 7am in the morning, I'm now at an altitude of 11,200ft above sea level. On the bus here, one girl, got really sick feeling and was given coca leaf tea, but the altitude (so far) hasn't had a huge affect on me. I did however take a walk down to the main street from my hostel (Pariwana Backpacker), to take out some money and noticed a bit more breathlessness that is normal, A couple of days of lying around will sort that out hopefully. But, when I go to withdraw money, I can't, And checking with my bank on my return I find that AIB has stopped all use of it's credit and debit cards in Perú due to recent fraudulent Peruvians using cloned Irish cards. Thankfully my backup card comes to the rescue and I'll be able to eat and drink and hike for the next couple of days.

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