Journal South America

Traveling directly from Puno to Mollendo in one day

Here it is, the longest day of our holidays! Probably longer than the flights themselves, it was a long and challenging journey from Puno to Mollendo.

Again, it rained during the whole night, and again that feeling of being lucky during the day! Probably that’s how the rainy season works in Peru. We had the bus tickets Puno > Arequipa booked the day before, so we just had to go to the terminal and enjoy our trip on our “first row seats on a panoramic bus“! Arequipa, here we go!

In Peru we have to pay taxes for everything, even after having the tickets already pre-paid. Guess that we’ll never know if having a ticket actually means going on a trip… Oh well, again, we had to pay some additional tax after the bus ticket prior to our actually trip. This “tax” kind of made our schedule even more tighter, no time to go to the bathroom! Thankfully, the woman at the ticket counter said that the buses have toilet, uffff! Six hours is a long trip.

Getting to the bus, and we started to realize that something was wrong…, where was the panoramic bus promised by the guy at the hostel? And what about the seats, wasn’t it supposed to be first row? So, we got a very old bus, smelly, dirty and that leaked water from everywhere! Great! We weren’t pissed off because of the old bus, we actually really wanted to try a “chicken-bus” (which wasn’t also the case), we were pissed off because the guy promised something that was way far from reality! Well, cultural shock, I guess…

Due to our “not so first row”, I barely took photos during that bus trip. Again, we were again in Juliaca…, and because of the Carnival, the bus had to go through a different route outside the main road, and that according to the natives inside the bus, the driver picked the worse way… It was kind of funny and scary at the same time! Just see the photo below, we actually passed through that “road”!! As I said on a previous post, Juliaca is a flat city and when it rains the streets become rivers! This is almost true, we actually thought we would get stuck there and Juliaca doesn’t seem a nice place to get stuck in!

Traveling directly from Puno to Mollendo in one day
Traveling directly from Puno to Mollendo in one day

The way to Arequipa was quite traumatic for me, as I stated before, I had to time to go to the toilet before getting to the bus, and I was told that the bus had a toilet inside, which actually was not a lie. The woman just forgot to mention that the toilet was closed for some reason that the driver didn’t want to explain. So, basically I was 6 hours inside a bus, passing through amazing landscapes and desert areas, REALLY desperate to pee!!

Another detail about that trip, supposedly it was an express bus, without stops. And actually, no stops to let people exit, but the guy was stopping all the time to let more people in. At each stop, a lot of people complained with the driver, which was kind of fun. But my head was too busy to panic out with my “primary needs“. I had to ask the driver to pee, but instead of using the polite way, I actually said “I need to piss now!” and as expected, the driver said I should hold a bit more. Everyone laughed, and even some people asked the guy to let me go out to pee. He didn’t.

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I actually even considered to pee inside the bus, I was almost at a “I don’t care” point of no return, but…, we were in Peru, in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t know what to expect, probably the driver would throw me out of the bus, and I really didn’t want to take that chance. I just kept holding it…, and then, something strange happened to me. My brain started to trick me, it was a very weird trip, my brain actually made me feel like totally wet, like if I had peed myself! I didn’t. So every few minutes (probably less than minutes) I was checking if my pants were actually wet! It was really insane, I never felt anything alike in my life! Guess that in Peru I tested my whole digestive system. And I guess it works!

Arriving in Arequipa was even more painful, the city suburbs are like all other cities and towns in Peru, looking really awful and not appealing to stay at all. We were tired of that, and I was in pure desperation for a toilet! Mind that we were 6 hours inside a bus, and I had to drink water as well… What a challenging trip… And getting to the bus terminal wasn’t easy either, we passed through good part of the city suburbs until we stopped, and knowing that we were close my brain was pushing harder to “release“. The moment we start turning to the terminal, I just jumped to the door! I had to be the first one to get out!!! Well, guess that Ramón didn’t realize my desperation, and he asked me to take care of the luggage the moment I went out…, you might guess my reaction…

Atacama Desert in southern Peru
Atacama Desert in southern Peru

Finally, outside the bus! Running to the toilet!!! And…, I had to pay to use it AHAHAH!! I didn’t care at all! Not going into much details, but it was really hard to pee, and it actually hurt! I really never felt something alike before… After that, my mood totally changed! We went on a relaxing mode, we ate something and we were deciding what to do next!

We were tired of traveling, and we really were needing two or three days of pure relaxation, so, why not going straight to Mollendo? Changing our initial plans, we postponed Arequipa! How to get to Mollendo? By bus, about another 6 hours…, or by taxi… And, fuck it! Let’s go by taxi!

Two hours from Arequipa to Mollendo, 200 Peruvian Neuvos Soles, about 60€ for a 130 kms trip! Not bad at all! Now I managed to take a few photos, and we crossed part of the Peruvian part of Atacama Desert! It is indeed fantastic, and quite curious at the same time, along the road we saw several parcels of terrain well-defined for different owners. Don’t forget that it is a desert, and Atacama Desert is the driest desert on Earth, so, why having parcels there? I didn’t understand that, but I also didn’t ask.

So, in one day we went from the 3800 meters high, from the highest navigable lake on Earth, going down to the 0 meters of altitude (sea level) and passing through amazing green landscapes at the Andes, passing through the second biggest city in Peru, passing through the driest place on Earth, a desert, and seeing the Pacific Ocean! What a day! Ignoring the “primary needs” issue, it was indeed a memorable day!

Arriving in Mollendo, time to pick a hotel! We were all tired, and everyone with low tolerance, so picking a hotel was not as easy as expected, but we ended up at a very good place very close to the beach! After that, a walk through the town and going for dinner, and finally having a very deserved ice cream! Then, bed time!

By Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

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