Cusco, Peru. The sun had just risen over the mountains that have cradled Cusco for thousands of years. I was walking down Avenida Jose Gabriel Cosio, in the Magisterio district hoping to figure out the navigation of the seemingly disorganized and poorly marked public transit. The bus station, or rather unmarked van station, is situated at the end of the street just a few blocks from the hostel I was staying at for the next week. I had just a few soles and other coins to get me to the Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cusco where many tourist buses and backpackers congregated.

I approached the station somewhat apprehensively, there wasnít much commotion as it was still early in the morning, but as soon as one van would pull up, and before it had even stopped a well dressed young boy would open the van door and jump out, shouting out the vanís station stops in Spanish too fast for my untrained ears to catch. I tried my best to yell out Plaza de Armas but only got confused looks and shut van doors in return.

I did not want to become discouraged however, as taxis were much more expensive and the walk to the Plaza would take longer than it was worth. I had been taking taxis for the past few days but felt that this was not the real experience to be having. After all, when was I going to get the chance to be packed on a van with a bunch of Peruvians and actually experience everyday life?

Numerous vans had been passing me and I was only getting more flustered until an old gentlemen in a suit kindly told me that the upcoming van would be passing through the square. I kindly thanked him and nervously questioned the boy that had just jumped out of the van, doing my best to look like a tourist (though I am sure that I need not have acted differently) for added sympathy.

I was squished between an older woman in the traditional highland garb, a long skirt with a solid blouse and cardigan sweater all topped off with a (usually black) hat, and a young boy eating a popsicle. The driver was blasting electropop fusion songs, including Lady Gaga dubbed in Spanish, so loudly that I wondered how he knew when the boy that jumped out to shout stops had gotten back on the van, as he never seemed to look into his mirrors to check even if the doors had fully closed before speeding into the heavy traffic on the Avenida del Sol. It turns out that the stop-shouter doubled as the fare collector, yet oftentimes people wouldnít even bother to pay. I would occasionally dart looks at the fare collector to see if we were approaching the Plaza, and luckily he gestured to me that the upcoming stop was mine. I gave him the fare, equivalent to about 20 cents in USD, and the bus sped off just as I had taken my second step off. Like the driver, I didnít even have to look to know that the fare collector had already jumped back on.

~ Lana Daniels '16

Recreate the Experience:
Walking tour of Cusco -
Suggested hikes around Cusco/Machu Picchu -