Monday, 21 July 2014

Saturday 19th July - Yay for Independence Day

Today was possibly the best day so far, although it started off...not so great. For the first time this trip the three of us got the Metro bus. It kind of works like the London Underground. We walk onto a little island in the middle of the motorway and stand behind an electric glass door. Every few minutes a bus pulls up, as many people cram onto it as can possibly fit and away it goes. Sounds like a pretty neat little system right? It is, but when this is factored in with the Peruvians' seemingly pathological love for being packed into tight places, it makes for a strange scene. People are piling in, and piling in, and piling in. And piling in. Even when there are about three people hanging out of the doorway, there'll be 3 or 4 other people who clearly don't have the time to wait 5 minutes for the next bus, who are pushing and shoving every which way to squeeze into the 2mm gaps left between the current passengers (for obvious reasons, we decided this wasn't the bus for us and hung back for the next one). They are truly skilled because they did manage to do it. So then the automatic doors on the bus swing shut in a smooth motion that crushes anyone inward who is still unfortunate enough to be still standing in the doorway.

The next bus was emptier. No places to sit, but it was emptier. We bounded in like excited children glad for the opportunity to breathe, not anticipating that the middle of a carriage away from any doors or windows was the very last spot we should be. Barely being able to move or breathe (I'm not exaggerating here), what seemed like the longest journey of my life ensued. I have never had a panic attack before but pretty sure I came close. My heart was beating at some crazy rate, and my breathing became as shallow as a puddle. My mind started creating all kinds of crazy scenarios and I began to sweat. Fortunately though, at work the day before I had written three articles about anxiety attacks and how to combat them. Being scared that I was exhibiting precisely the signs I had been writing about, I put everything into practice, just about managing not to have one.

Eventually, we got there. The town was unbelievably beautiful. I'm pretty sold on anywhere that has a beautiful building and this place has them in spades. The fun didn't stop there though. On hearing some upbeat music, we followed the sound and what we found did not disappoint. The most fantastic parade was making its way through the town. People were lining the streets watching a swirl of colour and glitter dance by. The atmosphere was electric. Each dance group had a completely different but equally impressive show to put on. Jumping, singing, clambering on top of one another - how it is humanly possible to have the energy required to perform a full show almost every 5ft I have no idea, but apparently it's possible. The national pride was clear to see. Flags were hanging from almost every shop window, the red and white colours could be seen everywhere you looked. The traditional multi-coloured Peruvian dress was also as ubiquitous, and the dances ranged from traditional tribal to modern salsa-type, some even telling historical stories. They really go in for Independence Day in a big way here. It isn't even until next week!

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