The following is an account of my extremely shitty Peruvian bus experience.
I don’t have a better word. It was literally shitty… & potentially dangerous.
A few weeks ago
I decided at the last minute to book a 20 hour, overnight bus from Cusco to Lima. The bus left promptly at 8pm with a 4pm ETA in Lima.
During the night & morning, our bus broke down SIX times in the middle of nowhere in the Andes. Each time, it took at least 1 hour to repair! When the bus was moving, which didn’t feel like very often, it was moving at a snail’s pace through the winding mountain road. We were making almost no progress.
Meanwhile during the night, my bowels decided to have a cathartic release. I periodically had to run from my second floor seat to the downstairs bathroom. To complicate matters, I ran out of toilet paper & had to wake other passengers to borrow some.
At one point during one of our many bus breakdowns, the bathroom was occupied & I was so desperate that I ran out of the bus to empty my bowels in the grass. About half of the passengers were standing outside & I could not have been more embarrassed. Now it seemed that the entire bus was aware of my illness!
The plot thickens.
At around 10am, an empty cargo truck pulled up to rescue us. We were told that we were 30 minutes from the next town. All 50 passengers plus luggage were packed into the pitch black trailer like cattle. People were crying.
About 20 minutes into the trailer ride, the urge to go hit me again. I thought surely I could hold it for 10 more minutes to town. It turns out, we were actually still 45 minutes from town! My stomach cramps were so intense that I was doubled over in pain. Two nice Americans attempted to comfort & distract me from my pain.
Finally off the truck, we were told to stand in line to load our luggage onto the next bus. As Peruvians tend to do, people were pushing & shoving. That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I threw my luggage on to the sidewalk & ran as fast as I could to the nearest bathroom… but I was too late!!
My saving graces were that my luggage had not been loaded onto the bus so I still had access to my clothes & that the bus station had a shower. A nice passenger gave me some Imodium. Hallelujah!
We were given one hour for lunch — I didn’t dare eat anything — & told that we would be put on the next bus to Lima. However, when we arrived back to the bus station after lunch, we were informed that the bus company was refusing to pay for new bus tickets for all of us.
A Peruvian lady started a riot. The bus driver fled the scene. The police were called.
At 3pm, one hour before our original ETA in Lima, we were still 13 hours away. It was then that, thanks to police intervention, we were finally packed onto a bus with no A/C or bathroom & not enough seats for everyone. People had to sit on stools in the aisle.
We arrived in Lima at 3:30am. I think the Imodium saved my life because I thankfully had no more incidents.
Once at our destination, we were advised to spend the rest of the night on the bus because the neighborhood we were in was so dangerous that we would surely get robbed. Even the cab drivers would rob us, they said.
I figured that the situation could not possibly get worse. Trusting that God would surely spare us this time, the two other American passengers & I decided to risk it. We caught the first taxi we could find & headed straight for the nicer area of Lima. Unharmed, we were dropped off near a park. We then wandered for about 20 minutes before finding a hostel with 24 hour reception.
After 32 horrifying hours, the 3 of us were exhausted & so thankful to be finally safe in our hostel beds.
Lessons learned from this adventure:
- Always carry Imodium, plenty of toilet paper, & water.
- In Peru, it is worth it to pay $5 more for a “luxury” bus. This would have never happened had I been on a Cruz Del Sur bus!
- Nearly every South American traveler has had their own awful experience with traveler’s diarrhea.
- Shit happens! Laugh about it.
- And here’s a list of the best & safest Peruvian bus companies here