Yup, you read it right. Eighteen awesome hours bus ride from Mancora to the capital of Peru. It was the longest bus ride by far for both of us (to be trumped by a 22-hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco 4 days later). I had no qualms because I know that I chose a good bus company.
As I was planning our IT last year, I scoured the world wide web for bus companies with a good safety record that would transport us across Peru. My research led me to Cruz del Sur. Most of the reviews I read were positive and helpful so I made a go for it. Cruz del Sur isn’t exactly cheap but you can’t put a price tag on safety. They do have early bird promos though, take advantage of those!
While still in Manila, I religiously kept an eye on their website scouting for web promos. I probably visited their website every other day for 2 months haha. Unfortunately, I only scored a discounted fare for the Lima – Cusco leg of our trip. Other than that, we made it to Peru without booking seats in advance because I was still hoping for some last minute sale to happen! :))
On the day we arrived in Mancora we immediately took care of our bus tickets to Lima. It was not discounted so we paid the full amount (ouch!) of 147 Soles (about $47). The lady who attended us did not speak English but we understood her emphasis on time of embarkation. We should be at the bus station at least 30 minutes before departure. She also asked us what type of food we would like to have for dinner, chicken or beef? JC chose the first so I went for the latter.
Just look at our happy faces. In that same mototaxi was where JC left his mobile phone moments after HUHUHU. JC only realized this after we’ve checked in all our backpacks, 20 or 25 minutes have already passed.
It could be because we were in such a hurry, what with so many bags to attend to, or it could also be attributed to his shallow pockets but whatever the reason was, what’s done was done. We couldn’t (and wouldn’t) let that incident dampen our mood. That’s why aside from World Cup finals and the cold beach, we’d always remember Mancora as the place where he lost his phone.
So there it was. One mobile phone down, still a month and a half to go on our trip. Right, back to Cruz del Sur. We were asked to fall in line as the attendants checked our tickets and passports. Get this, one of them also started taking a video of us as we hopped inside the bus one by by one! One of the attendants armed with video camera started recording each passenger in case of hijacking or hostage while on the road, you know, to identify us should the worst happen. Believe it or not there really were/are cases of hijackings occurring in South America. A bit disconcerting if you’re about to tackle the same road hence the investment for a premium on transportation safety.
Passengers were mostly backpackers like us and, I noticed, a lot Colombians on a holiday. Totoo palang maingay sila hehe. Sshhh.
We left at exactly 5:10pm. The view outside our window was pretty drab saved occasionally by the view of the beach. When we left the coast it was back to barren lands. Did you know that Peru’s coastal region is dominated mostly of desert landscapes? I didn’t until we arrived there and was able to read more on the topic. The northern coast is often described as bleak, rocky, barren.
The landscape is ruled by rugged mountains and consequently vegetation are sparse. It’s how I came to understand why water conservation is very important to Peruvian coastal dwellers. Water conservation signs were scattered all around our hostels when we were in Mancora, Lima, and Arequipa (Cusco not so much).
How about the bus and the overall service? I’m happy to report that Cruz del Sur’s buses did not disappoint. We used their services 3 times when we were in Peru and I’d say they were very consistent.
The buses were new, clean, and best of all, well-maintained never suffering any hiccups on the road (thank God!). I am not saying this because we don’t have this kind of “bus luxury” back home you might be thinking we’re prolly just appreciative of pretty much everything (especially me). It’s part of that, yes, but when you really step back and take into account all the services that the crew provided to the passengers, the serious consideration and attention the drivers put in every road curve to ferry everyone to Lima, then you’d understand.
Cruz del Sur mostly have double-decker buses (the first floor looked absolutely divine pero mahalia!) so if you are prone to motion sickness, either pay more for a seat on the lower deck or take the necessary meds before the bus rolls out haha. I should know, I have a resident dizzy boy with me lol.
The bus attendant (we have a bus attendant!) provided each passenger with a pillow and a blanket all sealed in a plastic to ensure passengers that they don’t recycle these items. They did smell nice to be fair 😉 The best part was the, how d’you call it, in-bus entertainment?! :)) Now that was something we didn’t expect on a bus! They showed an elaborate safety video for everyone to watch at the beginning of our journey before we could actually tinker on our TV screens with the entertainment of our choice (films, music, ebooks). It sure helped beat the boredom.
At 8pm they served dinner albeit my pork was a bit stringy. Didn’t bother trying again so JC ended up finishing mine, with me eating half of his chicken. Moral of the story: do not order beef. Chicken is always safe. We had a nice dessert though so I ate those too. They also served (your choice of) Inca Kola, coffee, or tea. I always asked for mate. Lahat na ng flavor natikman ko sa tatlong beses na sumakay kami sa kanila!
But the best part, for me, were the bingo games. HOW COOL, RIGHT? After breakfast was served and wolfed down by hungry passengers, the bus attendant distributed one bingo card per passenger and proceeded in calling out the numbers from a microphone in his station at the back. He spoke quite fast though so be ready for that, not to mention would call the numbers out in Spanish only. Medyo nagpasalamat ako na sinakop tayo ng Espanya once upon a time, may silbi naman na natutunan natin ang numero nila sa Espanyol. :))
Too bad neither of us won. The, er, chatty Colombian mom won. Nonetheless, bingo on the bus was pretty awesome. Aminin nyo. At least nag-isip sila ng paraan to entertain their guests sa napakahabang byahe na yaon. 🙂
After 2 movies, 2 meals, a comfy night of sleep, 2 short naps in the morning, and a fun bingo game wouldn’t you know, 18 hours have already passed. We made it to Lima!