A day out to Otusco
It was time for another mini adventure so this weekend myself and M decided to take ourselves off to the Andean town of Otusco. Billed as the Faith Capital of Peru the guidebooks and friends recommended that we should go and see the statue of the Virgin de la Puerta (Virgin of the Door) which is housed behind glass on a small balcony on the outside of the cathedral above the huge wooden doors. There are also some good walks to be had in the surrounding countryside and the town itself is said to be quiet but pretty.
We set off on our two hour journey and after negotiating the army of yelling, arm waving touts who were all trying to get us to choose their combi we settled into our chosen mini bus. The first bit of excitement was to discover that the vehicle actually had seat belts but it was soon to be dashed when we realised that they were not adjustable and therefore totally useless. An hour later as our driver was attacking each hairpin bend with gusto at top speed, often whilst overtaking a huge truck and accompanied of course by the rhythm of loud Peruvian cumbia music, I did wish that my seat belt worked but I also reasoned that if we were to plummet over the edge I would need a lot more than a little strip of material to save me. Our driver obviously knew the road like the back of his hand and I do believe that he had a little challenge of his own going on inside his head – to shave a few minutes off his personal best journey time. We did eventually arrive in one shaky piece and found Otusco to be a delightful little town. The views from the top were good and the steps up between the little houses were colourfully lined with the yellow and red blooms of the striking flowers that are a feature of so many parks out here.
We bought and wolfed down snacks of tortitas sandwiched with condensed milk and honey and had a coffee in a very strange little backstreet cafe whilst we waited for the cathedral to reopen. We checked out the profusion of little stalls which were set up outside the cathedral selling candles and images of the Virgin, visited the church and the statue……and then decided to come back home. We had planned to stay the night but the place was dead. And not dead in a relaxing calm way either but as if some sort of plague had hit and half the population had checked out.
The journey down the mountain was even more scary then the journey up as this minibus driver was not only trying to beat his personal best but he was obviously going for the overall record in the mountainside championship. We hurtled down the hill with M gallantly trying to take photographs of the view out of the window whilst not actually looking as she endeavored to keep the contents of her stomach where they belonged. I focused intently on my Spanish homework in the vain hope that trying to conjugate verbs would distract me from the sight of the river in the ravine far below.
We did however survive the journey and celebrated life by heading off out later that evening to a Latin dance club where we shook our stuff until four am.
Getting into Peru
Some guide books and travel agencies recommend that you buy a return flight for Peru as some over zealous customs officials may not allow you entry and may just pop you back from where you came on the next plane
Despite not knowing how long I wanted to spend in South America I decided to take the advice of my travel agent and I opted for a return flight into Peru and out of Rio. This worked out cheaper than two single flights, and for a small fee I will be able to alter either my destination date, my departure airport or both, although my agent also said that technically this may not be enough as you need to evidence leaving Peru not the continent.
Many of the people that I have met in Peru arrived on a single ticket and they have booked flights as and when they have decided to go home; but I also have friends here who have come unstuck. And the problem has not been at the arrivals desk in Peru but at the outgoing airport. At Madrid airport two friends were told that they had to prove onward travel out of Peru before the official would issue them with their boarding passes despite having a return flight from Brazil. They then had to spend a frantic and stressful couple of hours in the airport trying to connect to the internet to book a bus ticket which would take them out over the border, without knowing anything about alternative routes or their options. Somebody else had a similar experience at Gatwick and ended up booking an onward flight out of Peru but within South America which cost almost as much as their original single trans-Atlantic ticket.
My advice to anybody intending to travel into Peru on a single ticket would be to do some research first from home. Check out flights and onward bus routes and have the web addresses handy somewhere about your person. That way, if you are prevented from travelling you can at least get online and book something relatively quickly and cheaply and eliminate some of the stress.