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Buses, minivans, tuk-tuks and collectivos May 21, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in culture, Peru, South America.
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Everybody complains about public transport in England, but honestly, after travelling in South America for so long, I promise never to complain about the state of the London Underground again (OK, at least for seven days after I get back). 

The view back down towards Caraz in the valley below and the Negra Mountains behind

We had a ticket on the 6.30am bus from Huaraz to Vaqueria (with allocated seats and everything!).  It was a painfully early morning, but we arrived to get the bus amidst general chaos, and nobody who was forthcoming with any information aside from general shaking of heads.  Eventually, somebody grabbed our tickets and thrust the 30 soles fare back into our hands.  We figured the bus was cancelled.  I tried to ask a woman behind the counter what was going on.  She pointed randomly up the road and muttered something meaningless that sounded like “Reyes”, but then blanked out and couldn´t be drawn on the subject any further.  Dumbfounded, we plodded off in the direction of her finger, hoping this communication would become clearer in time. 

Lucky enough, someone else was heading in that direction with a big suitcase, so we followed closely behind and arrived at another company to find another bus going in the same direction.  They threw our backpacks into the luggage compartment and we boarded the bus only to find every available seat (and most of the floorspace) already taken.  Standing for 4.5 hours to Vaqueria didn´t really appeal so we hurriedly removed ourselves and our bags from the bus and went in search of an alternative.

We were trying to get to the start of the Santa Cruz trek, but knew we could get to somewhere near the other end of it by minivan, and could then do it in reverse.  At the minivan stand, everyone was touting for our business, and in no time at all our 50 pound backpacks were taken off us and strapped with a piece of string (that resembled a shoelace) to the roof of the minivan.  Let me point out here that this was not a roof ‘rack’, but simply a roof, and we could envision arriving at the other end with only a frayed piece of shoelace hanging from the roof. 

In no mood for this at this time of morning, Jason strongly urged them to remove our packs from their precarious position on the roof.  They eventually obliged and put them instead inside the minivan, but wanted to charge an extra two fares for this.  All this time, the minivan behind, was waiting patiently with a very sturdy roof rack.  After quite a lot of arguing, we eventually managed to extricate our packs and get them loaded onto this one.

Arriving in Caraz a few hours later we were ushered into a tuk-tuk (like a rickshaw with a smokey engine on it!) , a heated argument ensued between the tuk-tuk driver and a taxi driver also vying for our business, but then we were off at about 5km an hour with the exhaust whining in our ears, not quite sure exactly where we were going apart from that it was somehow closer to Cashabamba and was costing 2 soles.  We silently hoped he wasn´t going to try to take us the 30 odd km into the mountains to the start of the trail.  Happily, he delivered us to the collectivo stand and we jumped into a car headed to Cashabamba. 

Changing the tyre on the collectivo

Collectivos in South America are vehicles that ply a particular route, and wait until they are full before heading off, dropping off and picking up passengers as they go.  We thought the car full when there were five of us squeezed in, but oh no, there had to be space for two more in there somewhere. 

One flat tyre (replaced with a badly balding one) later and we were eventually delivered to the trailhead in Cashabamba. 

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