Rough Road to Yanque

October 17, 2005
Day 19

I decided that I hadn't seen enough dead bodies lately, so this morning I went to the Museo Santuarios Andinos to see the frozen corpse of "Juanita," who was sacrificed 500 years ago. Before seeing the body (I was told not to call it a mummy), I got to see a movie about how she was discovered. There were also a few Incan artifacts relating to the body.

The most impressive thing about the whole ordeal to me was that Juanita was sacrificed at the top of Mount Ampato, which is 6288 meters (20,630 feet) above sea level. That's higher than Mount McKinley (6194 meters, 20,322 feet), which wasn't summited until the 20th century! She knew what was going to happen to her, and she climbed to the top of the mountain willingly with several Inca rulers. She was given a sedative before being struck with a rock on the right temple. The archaeologists even found her umbilical chord, which probably means she was picked for the sacrifice before birth. She died when she was 11 or 12 years old. There wasn't much else to the museum, and the extremely-paranoid-about-preservation curator wouldn't let me take pictures, but it was still worth it because Juanita is the best-preserved human sacrifice ever discovered.

This afternoon, Morad and I took a bus Yanque. I can easily say that it was the single worst bus ride of my life. To start off, there were several mothers with crying babies all around me. I couldn't hear myself think they were yelling so loudly. Next, after we were on the road for awhile, the sun started beating down into my eyes. No matter how I shifted in my seat, I couldn't seem to get any relief from its relentless heat and brightness. Then I heard the crunching noise that has become all too familiar for me on Peruvian buses: the guy in front of me moved his seat back. The buses here are already made for people a foot shorter than me, and when the seat in front of me reclines, I get to feel my kneecaps slide into my thighs. I already thought the ride was a nightmare, but it only got worse.

After an hour or so, the pavement ran out. The last four hours of the trip were on a gravel road, twisting and turning up and down the side of a mountain. With all of the shaking, screaming, and shinning light on the over-packed bus, I guess the driver wanted to calm everyone down. His solution was to turn on the most awful-sounding high-pitched traditional Andean music that exists on the blown-out bus speakers at 110 decibels. All of my senses were in such pain that I actually felt my brain dying a slow, miserable death.

Then, probably the worst part of the experience happened to me: I saw the guy across the aisle from me reading a magazine. It immediately reminded me of an old Jack Handy joke (number 36), which made the situation even worse. I don't even remember the last thirty minutes. I think I am subconsciously blocking it out of my mind. When we stopped, I told Morad that there was no way I would take a bus back to Arequipa. The train was the only way to go for me, even if it meant paying twice as much and taking twice as long.

After the bus ride from hell, I felt so queasy and had such a bad headache that I couldn't even eat anything other than a little bit of soup. The only good thing about the day is that it's done. We found a cheap, quiet place to sleep at, and we will have to get up very early tomorrow to visit the canyon.

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