Here’s how the Peruvian Bus System Works
Category 1: Posh people & Tourists book tickets & seats in advance. Their luggage can be stored either on the roof or in the hold.
Category 2: It seems possible to me that other lesser standing people are able to pay less yet still book their seats in advance – their allocation is written into the book in pencil and can be usurped if a person from category 1 above comes along.
Category 3: Once all category 1 and category 2 passengers are safely aboard the bus will then drive round the corner (out of site of the bus depot) and pickup category 3 passengers. This is a cash-in-hand thank you no questions asked class of passenger. These people have the freedom to sit wherever there is any space left – in the corridor, on seat arm rests, up in the parcel shelf – I think you get the picture.
Additional services offered by the Bus driver -
1. Food and Water. Whenever the bus stops to pick up and jam in more category 3 passengers the bus will also allow at least 5 or 6 different very large Peruvian women on board offering anything from meat and potatoes in a bag to what looks to Seamus and I as piss in a bag (we saw some people drinking this so I assume its not!).
Again, it is worth mentioning that the sales women and the new category 3 passengers all have access to the isle at the same time. Sitting in seats 1 and 2 (as we did) is not recommended.
2. Postal Service. Another thing the bus driver will do is stop and pick up as well as deposit parcels and letters etc. en route. Remember every time we stop we are also flooded with the sales women and yet more category 3 passengers. Again this is all cash in hand stuff.
A final word or warning –
These services provide the bus driver with a healthy top-up to his basic income and therefore each and every bus along the route is in direct competition with each other. Several times along our 24hr journey to Cusco did we face death as our bus over took another desperate to reach the oncoming village before the other and get the business.
In summary you have no other choice but to use this service so the only thing you can do is make things easier on yourself – don’t do as we did and sit at the front of the Bus.
There are two reasons for this:
1. At the front of the bus you get the inevitable traffic jam of Peruvian bag of food sales women and category 3 passengers all fighting for access to the corridor – and hence you end up with bangs and even small children falling all over you.
2. This is even more important. Our second bus actually let us see into the driver compartment and hence out into the on coming road – unusual for Peruvian Busses. And I now know why. Firstly the view of the oncoming road etc. can be frightening especially when driving along Italian Job mountain roads. And secondly, whist driving along said roads we clearly saw the bus driver eating from a bag of meat and potatoes and when finished, he held the wheel between his legs and climbed out of his seat to crab a toilet roll and wash his hands. I’m all for cleanliness but I mean…