When travelling on a budget, one must get used to a wide variety of circumstances that on a regular fortnight away you would find vexing. Wearing the same clothes every other day. Packing and repacking, then having to pack some more. Missing Game of Thrones. And countless more. The hardest one for many is the necessary act of sharing your sleeping quarters with strangers. Through this trip I would guess that I have slept with hundreds of people. And it was hardly ever fun. Snoring, farting, shagging, crying. You hear it all on the road.
Today I was awoken to the sound of a sixty year old Korean woman mooing like a cow.
For the six or seven people reading this blog, I’m sorry it’s been idle for so long. A combination of conditions have made it hard to keep up to date. I’ll be better from now on. I recently went to Machu Picchu and it was such an experience-for reasons other than you might think-I decided to break protocol and skip ahead.
I’ll be back in Russia soon.
Today we went to Machu Picchu, and it is a tale of more woe, that that of Hamlet, Brookside and Othello. What a trip it was. So much to say. So let’s be having it.
The day before we picked out our tour agency and got ourselves booked up. We were to get a bus from Cusco all the way to a town named Santa Maria and from there we would travel to an area in which a hydro electrical plant operates and get a train to the town of Aquas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu Mountain, stay in Aquas Calientes for the night and in the morning, after hot toast and tea, we would scramble up the mountain, see the place, take lots of pictures, scramble down and do the trip in reverse. Like ‘Memento’ but with nicer scenery and lots of Spanish.
We were told to be up and ready for 7:30 because the bus will arrive between 7:30-8:00am. Now I am not nor will I ever be anthropologically apt in the ways of Peruvians but since arriving I have been informed of, and observed a phenomena known as ‘Peru time’. Peru time is a simple way of saying the people are often late. If a Peruvian tells you they’ll be there for 7, expect them at 8. If dinner is planned for 9, it would be prudent to eat a chicken wing at around 7:30 to stave off the next few hours’ hunger. So it was with this in mind that I got myself ready at 7:20, picked up my bread roll from the breakfast counter and, I swear it, the moment my knife touched the bread to separate the bun:
Slept fine for someone vicariously positioned on a top bunk of a rickety old train. Fortunately there was a sort of harness attached to the side of the bed and I strapped my leg to it. It could very well have saved me a broken arm. Baggi let me know that the Gobi had ended and the shacks and gers dotted over in the distance were the far reaches-the suburbs-of Ulaanbaatar. The houses seemed a little ramshackle but wholly liveable, and who wouldn’t want their own ger in the garden?
“Normally a family member, maybe an aunt, will live in the ger.” Baggi told me.
“How many rooms in a ger?”
“Just one room.”
“For the whole family?”
“How about if…the parents want a bigger family?”
“They will all stay there.”
“Yes, yes, but how do they…make a bigger family?”
“Thank you, Baggi. I’m wondering how the act of copulation occurs with the little’uns scamping around.”
Up at 6am. These early starts will start to get to me before too long. I am a notoriously late sleeper. My mother surely considered homicide in my youth trying to get me up for school.
The reason for the early rise is that we aren’t completely sure about getting a bus ticket from Beijing to a town called Erlian, on the Chinese/Mongolian boarder. Online sources have said various things. Some have said they have had to wait in Beijing for days for a ticket, other have strolled up to the tickets desk with minutes to spare and got one. We’ve decided to get there as early as possible to try and score tickets. Peace of mind and all that.
From our dungeon it is only a 15 minute walk to The Forbidden Kingdom, where our bus stops. We are around 300 poxy metres from the stop when we see the bus coming from behind us. We leg it and just get to it in time. For anyone reading who would like some tips, the bus is number 2 and many people will tell you to get off at Muxiwun station but this is not correct. You actually have to go one more stop Hua Hutong. Here is where the long distance bus station is. When you stop, you walk 50-100 metres in the direction the bus will go and the station is on your right. A big, glass covered building. We arrived at 8 and asked the lady at the ticket box:
“Erlian. Today. Okay?”
(Lots of Chinese)
I won’t put you through the whole back and forth but this went on for a while. At the end of it she figured out where we wanted to go. To her credit I think our pronunciation of the town was less than stellar. Once she got the gist she directed us to the information desk.
“Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”