Tag Archives: traveling by bus

Murphy’s law and Chinatown in Roma.

imageIt was unusual for me to have dire thoughts prior to leaving on a trip. But, this time I did. I had visions of being robbed, left alone, lost…. I think they came from the guide books and a travel book my friend sent me. ” Watch your stuff!” Beware of late-night train & bus stations, keep you money secure in your belt.” Maybe it’s because I just felt too lucky, and too blessed- the shoe will fall. What ever silliness runs through one’s head like a bullet train, it is hard to drive those thoughts away.

It all started well. My flight was on time from the U.S. My burly English seat companion was of my ilk. We slept and laughed-slept and laughed. The flight from London was two hours late.

In Rome I found the train. Two ticket machines were defunct. But finally, I got one. When I was taking it out of the tray, I spotted a 20 euro note on the ground. Found money is a good sign. To counter that, the last train was pulling out of the station when I got there. I ran for it anyway. I was the last person standing in the cavernous station. Alone. A guy looking through the garbage cans was working the perimeter of the place. He looked at me and passed. Finally, an employee opened a door. “Last train. Go to bus.” It was English-enough to make me feel better.image

I found the bus. The passengers were sitting patiently, waiting to leave when the driver came in and yelled at an obviously gay, young, Asian passenger across the aisle from me. “Get off the bus!” He yelled something about his purse. The passengers sided with the passenger. “It’s just a purse. Just a friggin purse!” They yelled at him. the young  man held his ground. (and niggled the driver just a bit) “I’m never getting off this bus!!” Ah, I could have been in New York in the 70’s.

20 min later, I got out of the bus, took a cab driven by a tout driver who preys on tourists, ( even though my shoes DO NOT LOOK LIKE I AM A TOURIST )and, because I had no idea how far the hostel was, took him up on his offer of 20 Euros for a three or four block trip. 20. Easy come: easy go.
(Btw, it was the second time I’d been gifted a 20 dollar bill on the ground in a week!)

At the hostel the night guy said there was a problem. “What problem?” I asked nicely. I have been on the road 24 hours, I am tired, cranky and need to sleep. And, I have a reservation.”
“The hostel has been closed. I can send you to the Downtown Hostel. ” “Will you pay for it, otherwise I am not going anywhere.”
He looked at the computer and called someone. ”
“Good luck. You can sleep here tonight.”
I slept like a baby. Now I am in the Downtown Alessandro, Roma. My bed is comfortable, my belly full. Two slices of mushroom pizza-2 Euros, one half bottle of vino tinto-2.5. Huge fresh strawberries, 1.5 E. And, image
imageI found Rome’s Chinatown. See. Good luck everywhere
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Get Off the Bus

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of persons in the US over 65 (officially elderly) has jumped by a factor of 11! in the past decade. We are growing by an average of 2.8 % annually. Well, our numbers are. Personally, I am shrinking faster than that. I have to hurry before I am too short to ride The Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island. cyclone

Seniors make up the wealthiest niche market in the developed world. As travelers, they are said to want comfort, are cautious, safety oriented, demanding, and complaining. Additionally, they are quick to sue if anything goes awry. It makes sense.

A majority of these seniors live in gated communities, which comprises 10% of the US housing market. According to an article by Rich Benjamin in the New York Times, these communities “attract like-minded residents who seek shelter from outsiders and whose physical seclusion then worsens paranoid groupthink against outsiders.” In other words they distrust those beyond the pale. However, they have a staggering amount of money to spend, and the tourist market is working overtime to accommodate them.

tourist bus

Daily, buses full of middle class and upscale tourists from around the world clog the narrow streets of ancient cities forcing the residents to wait until they pass. Tourist companies pick and choose shops and restaurants that are ‘perceived safe’ for their clients. They are cautioned not to eat or drink from local street stands, or buy from unapproved merchants. God forbid they should go out alone at night. So, from their sheltered, cushy, climate controlled seats, perched high above the streets, these people observe the surroundings while being informed about it by the guide’s well rehearsed discourse. Later when relating their experiences at cocktail parties, they say, “Oh, yes. I’ve been there, I’ve seen that, or those people. It (or they) were charming, or quaint, or poor.”

The tourist industry is attracting like-minded physically secluded, tourists who seek shelter from the very places they tour. It’s crazy.

If you have the slightest inclination to step out a bit, to experience a different culture, or mingle with the locals, you have to get off the bus. Let that be your first adventure.

Adventure by definition means taking a risk, however small. Trust that people around the world are kind and curious. They want to know you, and are eager to share. As Rudyard Kipling said, “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”

Bilando, Gatos, y Amor

Lima is huge and complex. The poor are perched precariously in favelas on barren hills, and the wealthy over look the sea and live behind iron gates.

Facela

Favela

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For lunch today I had an Asian salad with grilled chicken breast and a delightful red wine at Tony Roma, on the malecon overlooking the beach where at least 50 surfers vied for the perfect wave. I could have been in Los Angeles. One of the parks along the malecon is Parque del Amor. And it was. Entwined bodies were openly, lovingly,  strewn about the grass, and cuddled together on the wall.

Sculpture of love.

Sculpture of love.

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The Flying Dog Hostel is in Miraflores, a neighborly section of the city, the center of which is Kennedy Park. Living in the park are an estimated 250 cats. I’m told they each have adopted parents who feed and care for them, and sometimes take them home for visits. Certainly they seem relaxed with the attention and affection they receive  from  tourists and residents alike.

Dancing in the park

Dancing in the park

On my way to lunch yesterday I saw a large crowd gathered around the sunken stage area, which turned out to be dancers. If I hadn’t been meeting someone, I would certainly have thrown myself into the dancing mass. Form wasn’t an issue, and it seemed that most folks danced with anyone who could move.

Dancing in the park.

Dancing in the park.

I’ve spent most of my time here researching my route to Cuzco, Lake Titticaca, Machu Picchu and then Chile, and purchasing the first of the bus tickets. Getting around has been fairly easy, but the bus rides are looong. Yikes.

 

Off the Beaten Path/The Kindness of Strangers

The beaten path is referred to as  the gringo trail,  places that are listed in the guide books. Currently I’m working my way to the western coast of South America, heading across northern Peru. Chachapoyas, the capital of Amazonas named for the warrior people is  nestled in the mountains that are  dotted with their ancient ruins and monuments.  It’s listed, but I couldn’t find anything to tell me how to get here.

In Tatapoto I got up early,  packed, found coffee, and took my stuff to the corner where I could find a tuktuk to carry me to the bus station. As it turns out, no busses come directly here. My Spanish was not fluent enough in listening to understand details, but I was told by two clerks at major bus stations to go to Chiclayo (12 hours) and double back to Chachapoyas (another 9 hours). What??! Besides, the busses leaving wouldn’t depart until that evening.

Only an idiot would go for that. I dragged my muletta across the rocky , dirt parking lot to a hostel I’d spotted from the tuk tuk. It was a hostel/bus stop for Peruvians. A bus that one need only hold out ones hand and it stopped. the clerks told me that I needed to go to Pedro Ruiz and take another bus to Chachapoyas-to hurry the bus was loading, leaving in a few minutes. For 40 soles, about 11 dollars I got a ticket and jumped on board. Pedro Ruiz was not on my map nor listed in the guide book. I had no idea where it was, or how far it was from Chacha, but I was no the bus. I settled into the lumpy seat and relaxed.

Along the way, the bus stopped. The driver called a 15 min break so I got off to pee. As I was exiting the bano, the bus was pulling out. Yelling, I chased it down. I was barely in my seat, and he was in 2nd or 3rd gear. Suddenly he screeched to a stop. The woman and her son who had been sitting across from me climbed on. He was leaving them too. They had been eating when they saw the bus round the corner. We shook our heads, and laughed.

At Pedro  Ruiz, a man pointed me to the garage wherecolectivo busses left for

. I was walking down the street looking for it when another man, asked me where I was going. When I told him, he took my bag, and led me there. At the garage, a woman looked at me and said Chachas? Si. A few minutes later I was on a packed  bus with tourists, Indigenous folks, and locals going to villages in the mountains, heading in to my destination. Piece of cake.