We knew we might face blockades in Bolivia, but it never occurred to us our travels would be disrupted due to blockades in Peru. A few days ago, we learned of a blockade blocking the roads to Cusco. When traveling like this, we take things as they come. Thus, we did not concern ourselves with the blockade until we arrived yesterday to catch a bus from Puno to Cusco and learned they were not running.

At the bus terminal, there were several other backpackers seeking to go to Cusco. Some of them heard we could take a private car around the blockade. So, we formed an international coalition made up of Israelis, French, Dutch, and Americans and proceeded to find a private car to take us to Cusco. We were approached in the bus terminal by a few drivers trying to sell us on paying $50 per person for a private vehicle. The French thought this was too expensive so we traveled back to the city center to see if we could get a better deal. It took us awhile, but eventually we arranged private transport for $35 each. We were pretty elated because one of the drivers was a policeman. To receive police escort seemed like a sure bet!

After 3 hours of driving, we reached the blockade. We could see many vehicles taking a different route through the mountains on a gravel road. Our drivers stopped and chatted, and then told us we could not pass. They said another blockade was at the top of the mountain pass. I think there is always a sense of mistrust when you do not fully understand the language, and as we watched cars, minivans, and buses travel on the mountain road I felt a certain amount of suspicion of whether they were telling us the truth. However, it seemed we had no other option and we returned to Puno. Our international coalition failed…..

As we were headed to breakfast this morning, we passed a stranger on the street who said, ¨Cusco?¨ and started snickering at us. Immediately, my gut had that sinking feeling; we were taken. We stopped into two travel agencies this morning to see if it is possible to cross over the mountain road, and both have confirmed that yes, private transports and some buses are crossing and making it to Cusco.

It is a bitter feeling to be taken advantage of in a vulnerable moment. Our Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu begins in three days. We were to report to the office today; it is unknown whether we will be able to make it in time for the trek. We try to rationalize that Peruvians experience a poverty we have never experienced, and thus when opportunity presents itself some take it. But, it sucks to be out $70 and still stuck in Puno.

Currently, we are attempting to arrange transport either through a travel agency or a bus that goes around the blockade. Wish us luck in making it to Cusco by Tuesday, so that we may begin the Inca Trail on Wednesday!

UPDATE:We managed to find a private bus for a Polish tour group that is attempting an alternate route to Cusco tomorrow. They were kind enough (after many calls) to allow us to join their group. We checked out the tour agency and the route with a local information desk and all seems to be legitimate, except they have never taken this route before. Wish us luck!

4 Responses to “International coalition to thwart Cusco blockade”

  1. Gillian says:

    I hope you make it to Cusco!! That’s the thing about traveling where you don’t speak the language (and probably too even in some places where you do) – you’re relying on people to be honest with you. I don’t know how you tell the difference between people who are being honest with you and people who aren’t. It is certainly one of my concerns for when we head out. Good luck!!

  2. Chris and Emily Ruth says:

    Glad you guys made it to Cusco!! Sorry about the mishaps.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Gosh, I SO know that feeling of being taken advantage of in a vulnerable situation. It’s how we felt about the shoe shine scam in Istanbul, as well as countless other moments. I guess it’s just the “cost of doing business,” as they say. South America can be a tough place to travel, I suspect. We’ll see how we fare in about a month!


  4. Lyla says:

    Glad to hear your spirits are still up… you and Chris are wise to keep listening to your gut. Stay safe and know that we are cheering you on!

    I’m going to write you an email, but I thought I would also write you here in case this is a better way to contact you- do you think we will be able to meet up in Buenos Aires? We will indeed be there from Nov. 7th- 14th.

    Love, Lyla