A LAND-BORNE SPACE SHIP
I`m in Trujillo, Peru today, sitting in Asturia`s cafe waiting for a sandwich. Last night was spent in the Hostel Colonial ($17) which is more like a small hotel than a true hostel, but is very attractive and nice. Trujillo is a bright, smallish but prosperous, town with lots of brightly painted blue, orange, yellow and pink buildings around. It`s clean and safe and worth staying for a night or two. Here the temperature is warm – between 75 degrees at night and 84 in the daytime, as we are almost on the coast.
Maybe the prosperity here is due to the several big casinos I noticed on this street alone, but its atmosphere isn’t a gambling scene. Everybody sells tours to Chan Chan and other archaeological sites nearby and I will go tomorrow. Today, I`m just getting my bearings around here.
The bus ride yesterday between Piura and Trujillo was absolutely futuristic, comfortable, cheap and amazing and I was sorry when the six-and-a-half hour experience had to end. It was that good! Luckily, I have another long journey on the same type of bus – a bus cama (or bus bed) to look forward to from here to Lima. Again, Lonely Planet guidebook is to thank for the information leading me to the ITTSA bus company which offers this fabulous way to cross the country. Otherwise, I`d have been suffering away, as usual. I could have gone straight to Lima, in one sixteen-hour overnight swoop, but what`s my hurry?
My only other experience with bed buses came in India with a bright cotton candy pink, funky old thing with seats removed in favor of small tin rooms padded with three-inch foam mattresses. It was a regular hoot as we flew over such dreadful roads between Pune and Panjim in Goa. I had loved that throwback to the Hippie Days I’d missed out on. But, yesterday´s ITTSA bus was more like being aboard The Enterprise of Star Trek fame. Would that these Peruvian buses would replicate out all over today`s travel universe. I want lots more of them.
Here`s the story: I arrived an hour ahead for my 1:30 p.m. departure and was lucky enough to snag the last actual bed-seat in the bus. The majority of the seats are semi-beds, which are arranged as other buses, in rows of two and don`t recline quite as fully. They are priced at 25 soles, (soul-ays) or a whopping $7.86 for this six-hour journey. My more expensive, more private (because it`s in a single row beside a window), and truly luxurious seat cost 35 soles, or all of $11! After buying my ticket, I sat with my large backpack waiting to board, just as I’ve done in every other bus station.
Slowly, it dawned on me that the operation going on at a different counter was not for freight, but for our luggage. This bus company operates exactly like an airline, collecting the baggage to be checked while still inside of the terminal. Plus, they don`t load it under the bus, but in a huge room at the very rear end of the big beautiful road machine. Finally, when the signal came for us to board, we had to line up and go through security only a few degrees more relaxed than the airlines. This Space Ship might not actually fly, but it sure behaves as if it`s going to.
Several of these elegant, double-decker buses were in the “hanger” with ours and we were guided out to the one that was ready to roll. There`s no door up front near the pilots`cockpit; instead, it opens dead-center into a foyer containing an airplane-type bathroom, a short stairway to the upper deck, a little hall allowing a peek into the impressive cockpit, and a curtained door leading to the lower level inner sanctum where my seat happened to be, right at the very back – the best and most private spot of all. Before I knew that, however, I explored the upper level looking for my seat number. It`s so much like an airplane interior, or a very swanky train, with two-seat rows on either side and large curtained windows.
And, oh those seats! Butter cream genuine leather and wide enough to accommodate the well-endowed, with a leg rest that can support the whole lower leg and a back rest that goes way, way back. How much depends upon whether you have bought a semi or a cama (bed). Camas don`t go all the way flat but they go a long way down and you don`t have to sit beside anyone as they form a single-seat aisle by the window. So it`s okay to contort yourself around to find comfortable positions. The seat was wide enough so that I could actually fold both legs up and lie sideways. I noted also, that the music playing was of the soft Spanish crooner variety, though the featured movie was still one of those gruesome American violent ones, though a simple drug bust one, rather than the usual chain saw massacre type.
Because we were a non-stop carrier traveling over very, very, flat land consisting mostly of sand and straight roads (these high buses probably wouldn’t do for the Andean switchbacks) there were no stops involving us passengers; only highway toll points or traffic needs. The presence of the bathroom aboard took care of one need, but any passenger who hadn’t brought his own refreshments was out of luck as there were no purchase opportunities en route.
As we rolled along, I compared the constant smoothness of the ride and the comforting sound of the engine hum to that lovely, softly-enveloping sound aboard a train. You become a part of the whole and it`s the closest any of us will come to a return to the womb. Guess that`s why I was loathe for it to ever stop. Too bad that cell phones still operate inside of this muffled cylinder though. The fellow across the aisle was married to his, so I made the best of it and studied his changing voice tones and tempos since I wasn’t going to be able to eavesdrop properly. Not knowing the meaning of his words meant that I could concentrate on the inflection behind them….sometimes jovial, sometimes conciliatory, occasionally business-like and a few times, amorous.
At least the other guy with a phone, who spent his time in the terminal shouting into his cell, with one hand pressed to his ear, the other slicing the air with gestures, must have been riding upstairs. His wasn’t angry shouting and his words sounded like routine business, but he was an older man who has probably never accepted the fact that something so small, and not directly in front of his lips, could pick up a normal voice tone.
Anyway, it was an interesting ride from start to finish and when I wasn’t observing telephone tendencies, I was practicing Darwinian Science on baby villages. But, that shall be the subject of tomorrow`s blog as I have worn myself out on this Bus Rave.