02.07.2009 - 02.07.2009 50 °F
WOW! Distance traveled about 350 miles.... But what a 350 miles it was. We got seats on the bottom of our overnight bus this time. We also would be gaining in elevation from near 6,000 feet at Arequipa to more than 9,500 at Cusco. We knew it would be cold and thankfully Queta gave Sara one of Fito's old coat and an alpaca jacket and scarf to keep warm! Gratitude again to our Arequipa family!!
well, I was sleeping fitfully around midnight. Sara had managed to fall asleep bundled in jackets and bus blankets. I awoke to notice the bus was stopped. I moved the curtain aside and scraped the ice off the window to see piles of snow, hazzard lights flashing, and heard horns blaring continuosly. Shadowed figures raced from vehicle to vehicle. After ten mysterious minutes passed the bus lurched and we were on the move again.
At about 1:30 am I awoke again to what sounded like a massive gunshot. The bus jumped as if it had hit a huge bump and kept rolling for a while. About twenty minutes later the bus stopped and the copilot got out and ran all around the bus checking with a flashlight. He got back on the bus and we rolled onward again.
Another half hour passed and I was thankful that our compartment of the bus seemed to be a little warmer. I snuggled in and dozed again before the bus screeched to a halt and we were greeted by screams from the bus attendant. "GET OFF THE BUS GET OFF THE BUS!!!" We scrambled off the bus into the freezing cold clear night air. There were about ten buildings lined the street. BLACK BLACK SMOKE was billowing out from under the rear of the bus and bright orange flames danced around the rear tires and bottom of the bus.
The crew tried to put out the fire with no initial success so they opened the hatch to the luggage directly over the fire and began tossing out luggage. A small group of us, myself included, helped catch the bags, darting into the smoke and fire to pull belongings into the clear. Most of the bags were out when one wild eyed woman started screaming, " HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!" At first, I thought she might be on fire or have lost a child, but she continued screaming and running around. Her hair and jewelry flashing in the orange glow..."I HAVE FIVE BOXES OF BAGGAGE AND I HAVEN't SEEN ANY OF THEM!!" So much for her emergency.
Well, after that the trip was a little boring. Another bus came and took away most of the passengers. They were going to have to pay a second fare to the new bus so we waited with our scorched bus with only one other couple. Luckily it turned out to be only a blow out where the steel belts had created fire via friction in the tires. We rolled on and got to enjoy the last few hours of scenery into Cusco in the day light. There were snow capped alpine peaks. Thermal springs and small andean villages. Finally, we arrived in the beautiful Inca city of Cusco.
Love to you all,
Mike and Sara.