Vern: I'm sure that in the same way that the human body forgets childbirth and severe trauma so that we can get on with our lives our bodies will forget the bus ride from Cuzco to Arequipa but in the meantime we're still coughing up soot and insanely scrubbing dirt from our clothes like Lady Macbeth. We'd bought tickets from an upper class bus company but at boarding time that evening we were informed that our bus wasn't going anymore because of violent rioting miners (who would continue to scupper us in our journey) who were hurling stones at vehicles going anywhere near Puno, a town on the standard bus route. Our tickets were refunded and our backpacks handed back with a suggestion that we take a bus with another company which took a different route and was departing immediately. The tickets for the new bus were worryingly cheap and the only seats left were next to the toilet - not a good place to be seated for an eleven hour journey. The queue to pay the bus station departure tax was long and the bus didn't want to wait for us so the conductor snuck us illegally through the baggage room and out to the boarding platform. As soon as we boarded we realized that our seat positioning was irrelevant - the entire bus stank with the odor of public-toilet. The bus rumbled off and for no good reason the driver turned on the heating. Scorching hot air blasted from the sides of the floor of the bus and quickly the rank, heavy air heated up to around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Andrea begged the conductor and then the driver to spare us, but was told that it would get cold so the heating was staying on. Covered in sweat, we took off all but a base layer of clothing and laid the discarded clothes over the vents in attempt to cease the blasts of hell's breath.
In the dark we sat and sizzled to the point of delirium, and then bad turned to worse: The bus turned onto a dirt road and its every screw started rattling. As we bounced around in our seats, we noticed the disgusting air started to become visible. Shards of light from street lamps bounced off dust particles swirling around in the cabin and it became increasingly harder to breath. We pulled t-shirts over our faces as makeshift air filters and breathed shallowly because deep breaths burned. Andrea was trying to distract herself and was reading by headlamp but the bus would not be ignored - one of the ceiling panels dislodged and fell and hit her square on the forehead. Her yelp prompted two men into action and they began searching the back of the bus for the aperture allowing in this sandstorm. The conductor was also summoned and simply checked that all the windows were closed and returned to his seat but this was obviously not the issue! The panel which had fallen on Andrea wasn't the only missing piece and the desert winds continued to bellow in through the holes in the bus roof all through the night.
We were so grateful when the bus eventually pulled into the terminal at Arequipa and we disembarked looking like ceramic versions of ourselves: the dust having mixed with our sweat into mud and then baked in the sweltering heat.
We caught a cab to the hostel, which was brand new (ours were the first names in the register), and laundered our filthy clothes and showered before collapsing into fresh sheets.
The following day we visited the Museo Sactuarios Andinos to see the "ice mummy". Turns out you didn't want to be a hottie in the Inca olden times because occasionally the beautiful and unblemished youths were offered to the mountain gods to appease them after earthquakes and eruptions. "Juanita" was sacrificed 500 years ago at the summit of the Ampato volcano (6288m high) and was frozen until hot volcanic fumes began to melt the ice cap and she rolled out of her grave. Three weeks later out of luck an archaeologist found the corpse almost perfectly preserved bar the three weeks of exposure to her face and today she rests in a freezer with her hair, nails teeth, gums and skin all amazingly in tact. Found with her were artifacts including a figurine of mother earth, Pachamama with a headdress made of parrot feathers which were as brightly coloured as if they fell off of the bird today.
Afterward, we booked a trek into the nearby Colca Canyon, bought some high energy food and went back to the hostel to rest in preparation for an early start the next day.