Last night, on a rainy Andean evening under a leaky awning in front of the Tienda Ortiz in Huaraz, Peru, we said goodby to our firstborn and out first grandchild, and headed to the MovilTours bus depot to catch the night sleeper bus down to the coast and the capital and then onward to Ecuador.
Joe has been living in the highlands of Peru for four years now, after graduating from Cambridge Rindge and Latin and spending an interesting year first teaching preschoolers and then working as a security guard in a crack hotel in Atlanta. In that time he has taken a small plot of land the Dowbrigade bought almost 30 years ago alongside a roaring mountain river and built a kind of Andean fairyland, a world apart composed of whitewashed adobe cabins, garden, patios bridges and paths, all within a compound so private that one can imagine being absolutely alone with the magnificance of nature. The tranquility is positively staggering, and remarkably rejuvinating.
We took the sleeper bus down to the coast despite the additional cost ($17 as opposed to $14 for a seven hour ride) because it supposedly contained individual beds, flat we hoped, so that we could sleep on the trip down. The Dowbrigade has long been afflicted by an inability to sleep on our back, or in any inclined or sitting position. Innumerable sleepless and miserable nights in buses trains and planes have convinced us to travel during the day, whenever possible, and to reply on powerful pharmecuetical sleeping aids when nocturnal travel is possible.
Of course, the downside of drugged sleep on public transportation, at least in South America, is that one is likely to wake up without one’s carry-on luggage, important documents, wallet and even shoes. Thieves down here (everywhere?) know enough not to pick on an alert, red-blooded and marginally paraniod American like the Dowbrigade under normal circumstances, but a staggering, glassy-eyed gringo is considered easy pickings. So we hoped springing for one of the nine individual compartments on the lower level of this double-decker sleepbus would save a night’s hotel fee and allow us to get SOME sleep on the drive down.
Guess again. The seats were super-wide and confortable enough, but would only recline about 75 degrees, leaving a two foot height difference between head and feet, and making stomach-sleeping impossible. Furthermore, the seats were not private, but merely separated by small curtains, and there were no power outlets.
We were hoping for the power outlets so we could implement Plan B – if we couldn’t sleep, we were hoping for a quaduple feature on the old iBook. Just before departing the highlands, we purchased an example of the latest media distribution innovation to hit the third world – bootleg 4-title DVDs. For years now we have marvelled at the ability of the video bootleggers to get professional-looking copies of movies which were still in the first-run cinemas in the states onto streetcorners in isolated backwaters of the third world seemingly at the speed of light. At a cost of about $1 a movie, you could get decent copies of almost all of the popular current films.
Well, now the bootleggers have moved on to the DVD format, and are packaging four films on one disk for a paltry $1.60. Just before leaving Huaraz, we bought one disk with Aeon Flux, the new King Kong, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the Cronicas of Narnia! 40 cents a flick! No wonder the Motion Picture Association is going ape-shit.
Right now we are waiting for a flight to Tumbes, in extreme northern Peru, from where we will attempt to cross the border overland into Ecuador tomorrow. Then another bus to Guayaquil, and friday the last stage to Manta Beach, where we hope to spend the rest of our vacation playing tennis, kite-surfing, plotting with the mayor and director of urban planning of Manta (our tennis partners)to create a self-contained retiremnet community for aging baby boomers who can’t afford to live in the States on their social security checks ($1,000 a month goes a LOT farther south of the border) and investigating the CIA-affiliated “private” contractors who are feverishly recruiting Latin American gunmen to work security details in Iraq for $2,000 a month.
Ecuador has better internet connectivity than Peru, so we hope to keep posting regularly. Stay tuned…