Wednesday 16 December 2009


Just before 4am, as I was starting to finally drift off, our bus stopped. The hostess said many things in Spanish which we did not understand at all, aside from some talk of hours and days and nearby villiages and a lack of busses. That's how it was for the next couple of hours.

When it started to become brighter outside we could see that our bus wasn't the only stationary vehicle, and we could see people, Peruvians and tourists alike, walking past us, down the road.

Ewelina, curious, wanted to go out and have a look around, but the bus staff wouldn't let her. But as soon as she had returned to her seat, they change their mind, opened the door and encouraged people to go for fresh air.

Eventually we found people whose English and Spanish were both good enough to tell us what was going on: a roadblock!

Local villiagers had blocked the road as a political protest. There were no police in sight, people said it might take days to get cleared up. The roadblock was supposedly 15 minutes walk away, and on the other side were busses that might give up and turn back - if we could get on one, we could continue onwards to Cusco.

So after some delays and debates and deliberations, we got our bags from the luggage compartment and started walking. It wasn't far, 5-10 minutes at most, to the roadblock: four large mounds of dirt and some large rocks strewn across the road, villiagers in colorful traditional dress sitting in the hills along the roadside and banners with their demands draped over the grass.

As far as we could make out, they wanted a road paved.

We did our touristic duty, taking photos and greeting the protestors. We found busses and trucks on the other side, but none seemed inclined to move. So we waited, chatting with other stranded travelers and pointing our camera at things.

Eventually police showed up, with shields and helmets and guns. But they weren't pointed at people, a negotiator spoke with the villiagers and eventually, the go-ahead was given to clear one lane. Tourists and bus-drivers and truckers proceeded to attack the mounds of earth with shovels, planks, plastic bottles and bare hands.

The first vehicle to cross was a bright yellow dump-truck, like a giant child's toy. It stopped after crossing the diminished pile of dirt, reversed and crossed again. It did this a few times before driving off, compacting the earth so less sturdy vehicles could follow.

And soon enough, we were on the road again.

Back on our luxurious bus, I mentioned to Ewelina that it was a good thing we skipped the canyons around Arequipa - this was much more fun! She laughed and agreed.

Cusco, here we come...

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The past!