December 23-25, 2011
We left the taxi at about 7:30 pm and wandered down the steep road to the bus terminal in Cusco. I should have known that two nights before Christmas the entire country would be traveling. Upon entering the madhouse we quickly became worried we would be left behind and not a single bus seat would be left to take us to Arequipa. Fortunately, amongst the dozens of bus counters each with someone shouting out cities, we heard our destination and scrambled over. There were four seats left, perfect!
After a quick sandwich and trip to the ATM, we paid the terminal tax and headed to the loading station. If we thought the inside of the station was crazy, outside was ten times worse. So many people were waiting outside it was impossible to navigate past the rows of buses loading up the holiday travelers. We saw our bus waiting in a long line, looking for an opening in between the 20 loading spaces to pull in and begin the boarding process. Finally, 30 minutes after departure time, it found an opening and we climbed aboard.
Our seats were on the second level of the bus in the very front. At first, I thought, “This is great!” We could look out the window and see everything in front of us. But we had no leg room because we were so close to the front. Our seats did not turn into beds, making the next ten hours of driving through the night a dreary thought. And one piece of forensic evidence proved ominous. The spider webbed glass in front of us could only have been made by a human skull hitting it with a powerful force.
Thus began our two day vacation to Arequipa for Christmas.
The trip was pretty awful, but we arrived in good spirits. We checked into a cheap hostel and headed off to breakfast. The sun was out and it was so hot we had to sit in the shade. Awesome. The rest of the day Kari and I went shopping while Anisha and Steve went to a few tourist sites I had already visited. A 5 block by 5 block area in downtown was shut down and filled with vendors selling everything anyone could need for Christmas. It was pretty incredible to see.
After a nap in the afternoon, we headed out to dinner with Vanessa and her friend Eleana. We ate at the same vegetarian restaurant she took me to back in November. We all had a great conversation and then headed out to the club. Eleana brought two huge loaves of Panaton which we shared with the bartenders. It is the holiday bread that EVERYONE down here eats for Christmas. It is bread with chunks of brightly colored fruit inside, and a favorite of mine. (Kind of like fruitcake, except it is actually good.) We stayed until 4:00 am.
Christmas day was the closest I’ve felt to being in the States yet. We started with a gift exchange in our room. Sitting there on the beds covered in wrapping paper and sharing gifts seemed like a pretty normal way to start Christmas. We then headed out for lunch, at BURGER KING! Yes! There are only two in Peru. Needless to say, I ate a lot. Oh processed, unhealthy food how I have missed you. I wandered outside and found a bookstore. Now, for days we have been looking for a puzzle down here with no luck, and this place had a 2000 piece puzzle! Merry Christmas to me! We then went to the mall. It must have been designed by an American architect because it looked and felt exactly like a mall from the States. We went there because it has a MOVIE THEATER! That is a tradition in my house back home to see a movie on Christmas, and we saw not one, but two in a row. And while we were waiting I played DDR and Guitar Hero in the arcade there. After the movies we ate at the food court, and I had Chinese. But not like the regular Chinese down here, it was legit, crappy American Chinese that felt like I got it at Dragon Express in Grand Haven. There are so many flavors that I have not tasted since early June. Man it was good.
So despite being 5,000 miles away from friends and family, it was a great day and the closest I will feel to being home until I get back in March.