Day 2: Bus travel to Puno and Gorilla initiation

The first day of my epic Puno street party adventure started a little early for my liking on a Saturday. The little electronic bell alarm on my phone went off at 6AM, reminding me I still had to pack the minimal amount of clothing, toiletries (i.e. toilet paper. always travel with some toilet paper in Peru), and necessary travel documents (always travel with a copy of your passport; if you travel with the actual passport guard it with your life at all times). After one too many cups of supercharged coffee I was out the door, and feeling really grateful the San Luis bus would have a bathroom.
The bus wasn’t overwhelmingly nice, but it wasn’t a health hazard by any means. The seats on this bus provided more leg room than the average coach seat on a commercial flight these days, and just about the same recline range. And, at least at the beginning of the trip, the bathroom was clean – although there was no way to lock the door, leading to some creative maneuvering on my part during one of the 3 visits I had to make due to that high octane coffee.
Apparently, if you are willing to pay 20 – 30 soles more for the Cruz del Sur bus line you are treated to VIP terranean travel experience: seats that fully recline into beds, snacks and meals on long distance trips, movies that don’t skip, and perhaps a bathroom that doesn’t require ninja-like reflexes to maintain some privacy.
All in all the 7 hour trip was pleasant. From Cusco to Puno you travel through the kinds of diverse landscapes I’ve come to expect (but not take for granted) in Peru. We crossed over a 14,000ft mountain pass with up close views of a serrated, snow-covered mountain peak and descended into rolling green grasslands interrupted by layered canyons and carved rock towers. Imagine combining the high sage desert of eastern Washington with the canyonlands of Utah. And, to add a touch of the surreal: pink flamingos dotting the broad, flat river snaking along the road. September is the best month to see these carnation colored birds going about their business in the high plains of Peru, but the handful I saw in February was enough to make me believe that Peru really is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet.
When we arrived in Puno we had lunch with Ivan, a local guide who works with my friend, who immediately began his campaign to convince us to dance in the Candelaria instead of just watching. So, less than a couple of hours after arriving in Puno I was in a local costume shop trying on gorilla suits made out of something that closely resembled natty llama fur and weighed close to 20 pounds. As little sense as this made rationally, I have a serious problem turning down any experience that seems like it will only arise once in a lifetime…it’s similar to a lemming’s fondness for cliff jumping.
After picking out our gorilla costumes and bringing them to Ivan’s house for safe keeping we rounded out the evening/early morning by dancing to a 13 member salsa/ska band, and drinking too much beer at a local discotheque.
Day 2, mission accomplished.

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