Sunday, 25 October 2015


No Perú Tour


I've collected a few of the idiosyncratic gestures that seem particular to this part of South America. The shaken hand, the pulled eye: too expensive and bad news. Now I've gathered another. A long distance bus is coming towards us, we both slow down, and I see the driver give a 'scissors cutting' action. The long road is near deserted, the very occasional car and then another coach, who gives the same gesture. Something has happened. Road accident? Striking frontera officials? International border dispute?

Last year we bussed between the Peruvian and the Argentine capitals via the Chilean one, two sides of a right-angle triangle. This year we're returning by bus to Lima, this time by the shorter Pythagorean side. It will save one day, from that eighty-four hour journey. Or it would if the pass was open.

We're snowbound at 4190 metres, not that there's any snow to be seen. A few old season remnants clogging the creases on the high volcanic tops.

Two soldiers in fatigues saunter down the road and a group of expectant drivers meet and confer. Body language needs no translations. Not today. There's a thought that something might be known early tomorrow morning.

Seems that this situation is becoming the theme for this year's trip. One day forgone to fog, eight days delayed by wayward luggage, followed by five days waiting for the bus tickets. Now another day and counting. The month of October is disappearing.

Only they can't be classed as lost, nor wasted. It's all travel, they're all stories. And forbye, there's always a consolation. We're being force fed a dose of altitudinal acclimatisation. A dubious silver lining that manifests as a thumping headache, nighttime cough and bleeding noses. Force fed as we've gone from sea level to this oxygen depleted pass in one day. An accumulation of height that would, on a bicycle, have been a more adaptable four to five days. Yet to listen to our fellow travelers suffer through a cold night, we must be carrying a degree of seasoning from the beginning of this year. Still, the longer that we're stuck here the more bankable that accumulation of acclimatisation.

The sun rises on a classic Andean scene, sharp clear light, frost powdered mountains, and those three discouraging cones. Early intelligence indicates that there will no immediate opening. That aura of resignation settles back down again.

Mid morning and another two soldiers approach the barriers. One picks up a cone. The reaction is instantaneous. We're off and, well maybe not running. We've still two sets of officialdom to negotiate. This will be an "Into Chile" crossing. But that too is another 'pulled eye' tale.