Monday, 28 September 2009

A Bus With A View

Peru truly is a geologist’s wet dream. The variety of form in the scenery is staggering. In one trip from Nasca to Arequipa we viewed the full range. Hugging the coast, I watched the violent Pacific crash against deserted beaches, the bus winding higher and away from the shore. Winds whipped the dust from shifting red Martian sand dunes, howling through craggy passes of dramatic, seamed rock face. The colours changed by the minute as the sun dropped from the sky. We climbed ever higher, the reds giving way to greens as we left the coast.

Almost devoid of life, tiny villages dotted our way to the mountain region. Darkness fell, as solitary spectral figures scurried between shelters in the fading light. I pondered life in such a place. Far different from ours, that much is obvious. But do these people envy what we have in the West, or make do with what they have and simply be happy with a healthy family and a simple life? I know which would make most sense, and which is preferable. After all, you cannot buy happiness, despite what the advertisers would have you believe; but is ignorance bliss? I couldn’t say.

You pass these places a ghost in a window. Catch an eye. Receive a smile; a raised hand; a nod. Fleeting connections with people you’ll never know. Or have a chance to. I often wonder what they think when they smile back? (What’s that fat Gringo looking at?) I think the real way to travel is by motorbike; next time I’ll be able to stop and ask. I’ve had rudimentary conversations with a broad spectrum of locals on my trip through South America, and I’d like to know more, certainly once my Spanish improves further. As far as the simple pleasures of travel go, there’s nothing better than chatting to a dusty local in a far-flung corner of Peru.

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