Micah: Unmitigated

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Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)

August 24th, 2010 at 19:30

Leaving Trujillo, my goal was to go straight to Caraz, the northern most city near Parque Nacional Huascarán. That proved to be more difficult than I thought. With only general information about departure times and destinations, and the lack of a central bus terminal to peruse (Buses leave from their company offices scattered around the city), I had to improvise.

I arrived in the junction town/fishing port known as Chimbote, with hopes of making a connection direct to the mountains. Those buses leave in the AM and the time was currently in the PM. Spending the night there did not interest me, thus I booked an indirect night bus thinking it was direct. There are 3 different routes to Caraz and I was unable to clearly communicate my desired route, but more on the route later.

Dispatch time was 9 pm, giving me 7 hours to kill in this very non-touristy incorporated municipality. I stored my bag and started walking away from the terminal, knowing that there was a large smelly body of water near by to take a look at. On my right, I spotted a stadium and a few people walking around it. Some were going in, some were playing drums, some were wearing full riot gear with shield, and some were selling tickets. I peaked through a door and saw a fútbol field, then approached one of the people selling tickets, purchased a piece of paper allowing me entry, and went in.

Looking toward the visitor section

Looking toward the visitor section

Luckily I sat in the “Home” section and near the corner of a large banner that was covering a row of seats. The crowd was sparse and somewhat energetic. The game had it’s moments, with a few memorable opportunities for the home team that left the fans near me cursing and laughing. At the midway point called “halftime”, the leader of the cheering section had us grab our portions of the banner while it was unfurled, revealing all of it’s glory.

the banner, I have no idea what it says

the banner, I have no idea what it says

In the end, Home lost 1-0, but I was mostly entertained by the fans and the food vendors. Their main cheering section is similar to the “Timber’s Army”, with smoke things and some loud gunshot sounding device that I was eventually able to not flinch at. The weirdest thing was realizing that I was probably the only white person in the whole stadium. I tried to keep my head down and not draw attention to myself, but before and after the game I could feel the stares and got the whistles. Even though I have been traveling for over 4 months now, I could really feel my whiteness during my time in Chimbote, I think mostly due to a combination of the non-tourist town and the outgoing Peruvian way toward Gringos. Overall though, a good afternoon.

Now to the night bus ride: There was a noticeable lack of room for my knees which resulted in some pain. If I would have let myself think about the route, it would have caused me more pain. (For your enjoyment, go ahead and pull up a map of Peru on the internet.) My goal was Chimbote to Caraz, go ahead and look at the map now and determine the shortest route. We did not take that route. The path of this bus went down to Pativilca, then up through Huaraz, before finally reaching Caraz, 11 hours later. The only explanations are that the road is paved and that Huaraz is a large city (and that I chose the wrong bus). My explanations are that I didn’t want to stay in Chimbote and that I didn’t know. I could have taken an afternoon bus to Huaraz and gotten to Caraz at about 11pm, but then I would have missed the experience of the professional fútbol match and the events of my night bus ride….

So, about an hour before we got to Huaraz, a woman walks up the aisle in the dark, to the drivers door. She says some stuff to the man and he proceeds to turn the lights on and wake everyone up. The woman slowly walks back to her seat, crying, telling her story to all who care. At this point I had no idea what had happened, my thoughts ranged from her soiling herself to possibly her child or family member was ill or injured. Then there was a small search and talk about police, which narrowed it down. Apparently she lost, or had stolen, something made of silver worth 380 soles. I thought I heard “mi cosa” which Google translates to “my thing”, not helping me determine the item.

In Huaraz, we parked in the company lot, the Police came, the Huarazians disembarked and possibly got searched, and the bus was checked. I decided to feel my own pockets to make sure I wasn’t being set up in some big elaborate scam, luckily I was clean. In the end, nothing got resolved and a kind lady started taking up donations to help the continually crying woman. I pulled the “no entiendo” card and didn’t give. Maybe I am an insensitive jerk, but my initial thought was that she lost a $140 watch, and to that I say “que es tan malo”.

Huascarán (6,768 metres, or 22,205 ft)

Huascarán (6,768 metres, or 22,205 ft)

I enjoyed seeing the sunrise over the mountains, but will never know what really happened on that bus. Maybe the guy next to me stole it and that is why he was in such a hurry to get off in Huaraz. Maybe the woman left her “silver thing” in Chimbote or it dropped out of her pocket at the meal stop. Maybe there is no “silver thing” and she just wanted some attention. Either way, it was an adventure spawned by poor planning.

I guess what I am trying to say is: When you carry around one 4 year old guide book that is supposed to lead you through the whole continent of South America, you are going to have to figure some stuff out for yourself. I both stress-about and enjoy the challenge. Qué dirección se encuentra al sur?

E = 110

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2 Responses to “Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)”

  1. Miriam Hoelter Says:

    What an experience, Micah. Traveling can get complicated. I am glad you are still relishing the challenge of it all.

  2. Nick Says:

    I would love to see a futbol match in another country like that. Good for you.