The Eight Hour Bus Ride
The jet leg really hit me bad, I wake up at half past midnight and didn’t know what to do, crossing half the world is not fun for biological clock. I studied my booklet again and again, checking my backpack make sure nothing left behind. I stand, and then sit, and then lie and stand up again, repeating the flow. Nervous and anxious about the ride to the jungle. Josué told that I’m going to be alone on the bus trip. It at least two hundred kilometers into the Manú National Park, approximately eight to ten hours to get there. I need to be awake for the stop or else I will have to walk back to the reserve for as long as it could take and once I get there, I need to cross a river with a zip line, there’s no bridge. I forgot to jot down the name of the reserve and barely can pronounce it right, makes me more nervous. The fact that the only Spanish word I know right now is only Hola and Gracias makes me want to cancel all my trip and get back home before I realized what a stupid move that could be.
Ronald knock on the door at four in the morning, asking whether I’m ready to go or not. He call for taxi, soon after that we take the back door alley, almost feels like walking in a dungeon like in the caslte movie, it’s dark, lighten up only by his torch light, damp and humid before he pushes the wooden door, we come out on the other side of the building.
“See you in four weeks!” says Ronald.
“Gracias Ronald,” I say and shake his hand graciously before get into the taxi.
The taxi drop me in at the office where I will wait for a van that will take me to the bus station. Josué told that I can drop by at the office to left few belongings before when to the jungle so I shout for the security guard to open the gate but there’s no answer.
I slam the gate calling the sleeping guard.
DANG!!! DANG!!! DANG!!!
“SEÑOOOR!!!” I shout like Achilles calling out Hector. “SEÑOOOR!!!“
I give up, the guard must be in his dreamland right now. Guess that I’ve to bring along my dirty laundry to the jungle. It’s cold and dark, late night taxi and few pedestrians passes by, being paranoid, I hold my fist ready to strike Wing Chun move that I learned from National Geogprahic martial arts specials. Nothing bad happen and soon after that the guard come and open the gate. As soon as I return back to the entrance a very old and rustic Nissan Datsun that been famously used for drifting stop by.
“Are you waiting for the van?” the driver ask from his driving seat.
“Err…yes,” I answer cautiously.
“This is the ‘van’!” says the driver.
I get into the car and he introduce himself as Mitchel. Since it’s only me he decided that a car would be enough rather than a van. We just move but I urgently ask him to write down the name of the place where I should stop. We are in the middle of the road when he write it down before a car behind us come and he makes a sharp 180 degree turn immediately.
I will not be alone for this trip, there are other girl from other organization that will join the trip as well, what a huge relief knowing that I will be travel with partner. We stop in front of her hostel to pick up her up. Marie just finished her school and speak fluent Spanish. I tease her that she must be an ‘A’ student in her Spanish class the second after she had a conversation with Mitchel. On the day that I arrived in Cusco, the driver that pick me up at the airport told me that there will be a football match between Peru and Chile. With my none existing Spanish and less English from Mitchel, I ask Nancy’s help to ask Mitchel the result of the match. Peru won 1-0.
We stop in front of local grocery store where Mitchel load the car with supplies that already packed in a box to bring to the reserve. It doesn’t fit the car’s trunk and Mitchel tide it up with ropes to hold the hood down. We arrive at the bus station after a short ride listening to the morning radio in his car, apparently there is no station, the bus just parked beside the road. Mitchel give the instruction clearly to Marie in flowing Spanish about the supplies box before he leave Marie and I at the bus station.
Half past five, off we go.
As we left Cusco, we begin to descend to altitude that I familiar with. No more headache, no more cold, it just gone immediately. As the dawn pass and the sun rise, I can see the faces on the bus. Local Peruvians, with modern attire and with traditional attire. Half naked Jesus posters hanging on the door between the driver and passengers which locked with brown stripe cotton belt. Red and white brutally overused cushion chair, matches with the curtain’s color. Poor air circulation with Peruvian song comes from cheap hidden stereo. Marie and I see a family next to us change their baby’s diaper, we both smile. “That is what being a parents for,” I say.
From paved road we enter the gravel road and soon we stop for breakfast at Paucartambo, a small village lies on the eastern slopes of the Andes, about hundred kilometers or approximately three hours northeast of Cusco along a cliff hanging dirt road. Marie and I just hanging around inside the hall nearby, seeing the local runs their daily life. The women selling vegetables and food by the street, men having their breakfast, kids in school uniform that boarded in the same bus with us walk to their school. Both of us didn’t have the urge to having breakfast at this time. There were two gringos on the bus, Marie and I. Nancy tells that she glad that there I join the bus ride. “Don’t worry, to make you feel better, you are with local, but he don’t know how to speak Spanish,” I say.
We entering into the Manu National Park, the spectrum change from a beautiful grass with houses made from dirt to thick green dense jungle, we are in part of Amazon. The oxygen is fresh, over flow water from last night rain pouring down the hills runs over the gravel roads, it’s only one lane and the bus have to stop to allows vehicle on the opposite to pass through, few times the bus had to reversed. I lost counts how many times we stop as landslide blocked the road and wait for the heavy machine unblock it. The ride reminds me about televisions show where truckers drive through narrow road nearby cliff. A lot of communication between the drivers and his co-drivers about maneuvering it through, a lot of time they get off the bus to see obstacles. They change the driver as we enters tunnel, an L-shape tunnel through a rock. It’s dark, waters pouring down on the top of the bus, the bus grinds the tunnel wall makes a squeaky sounds. As soon we pass, there is another tunnel.
The bus stop again, but this time it’s our stop. We get off the bus and there is local guy waiting for us, he introduce himself as Julio Cesar before we even ask. And then comes Ramon and Herminia in green rain poncho.
It’s raining, it’s Monday, we made it, we arrive at Reserva Ecológica Chontachaka.