Commentary, Travel

Traveling in Cusco’s Provinces during Holidays

A Bus to the Sacred Valley

Considered the month of miracles, October has arrived. It is called such because of the feast of the Lord of Miracles which takes place this month. The emblematic color of this crucified Christ is purple and, as a result, the month is also called “the purple month”.

We have a very strong custom in Peru of celebrating religious feasts as well as civic days. The 8th of October, for example, was a national holiday, a celebration of the battle of Angamos, fought on the Pacific Ocean. Many Peruvians and Chileans died in that contest, among them our national hero, Miguel Grau. Peru lost the battle as well as the armored ship called “El Monitor Huascar”. Today it occupies a museum in Chile.

We are dedicated to celebrating our holidays. Our government also goes out of its way to promote national tourism, the idea that Peruvians should be tourists in their own country, especially during these days. In some cases, state institutions transfer the free day to a Friday, right before a weekend, so that people can have a three-day weekend.

As a result, Peruvians take advantages of these holidays to travel, especially short trips into the interior of the country or within the department (state) in which they live.

We decided to have a new experience and travel in the provinces of our department, Cusco. From the beginning, our experience of traveling during holidays was filled with excitement and noise. The bus terminals were filled with persons who, like us, were hoping to find space on a bus. The small number of buses meant that transport was rapidly filled Still, this did not seem to matter to people. They preferred to travel standing during the more than two hours a trip took to arrive at Urubamba, which was our destination.

I was surprised but then I thought about the circumstances. Normally our urban transport fills because of these situations, even though the distance they travel is short. People do not hesitate to climb on board a bus that is full, just to save a bit of time.

I wondered if trips on the interprovincial buses were always like this, with people standing. In order to get an answer I asked the person responsible for moving through the bus to charge passengers their fare. He is called the boletero. He told me that this crowding was fairly common, but that it depended on the days. On weekends the buses tend to fill as they also do at the end of the day. Those are times and days when you cannot easily get a seat on the bus and people are obliged to travel standing up.

These buses are mostly used by people from the provinces. They need their services in order to get to the city of Cusco where they may work. They are also used by people from the city who work in the provinces.

Our trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas was filled with diverse conversations among the passengers. Nowadays there are also a lot of foreigners who reside in the Sacred Valley. They do not find these situations at all strange even though the circumstances make Peru look like an underdeveloped country.

Even though in many ways it is still underdeveloped, there should be more order in our public transport. Many times these buses suffer accidents and you would think the government is not at all concerned with the quality of transport we should provide, especially for the most vulnerable people who, in reality, are those who live in the provinces. They do not have the comforts we take for granted in the city.

Nevertheless, the experience of traveling to our provinces is good. The optimism and happiness of the people there is singular and very contagious, even though everything is not happiness. Still traveling in these buses give us a particular and fascinating savor.

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