I took the train and bus back to Cuzco the day after visiting Machu Picchu, spent the night there and then flew to Lima early the next morning, having decided against a 23 hour bus journey. Just as I was about to consign my backpack to the airport check-in person, I policeman came forward, showed me his badge and asked me to go with him.
He took me and my luggage to a private room where he and another man went through my bags, looking for drugs, they told me. I was frantically trying to keep my eye on both of them on opposite sides of the room to stop them either removing or adding anything. I was very glad I had abandoned my big bag of coca leaves in the hotel room that morning, although I’m not actually sure of their legal status here.
They didn’t search me or my pockets though, which seemed odd, although they did ask me to turn out the small shoulder pouch I was wearing. I had kept a very small bag of the leaves and it was in here. I just waved it around and said “tea” (since it is served as such in hotels as loose leaves) and they didn’t seem interested.
When they were finished I had to sign a book, which could have been to agree that all my stuff was there (I hadn’t had time to check) or maybe it was just their visitors book. They did carry my luggage back to the check-in desk though, where with my belief in the middle-aged respectability of my appearance severely dented, I finally checked in.
After this excitement, the rest of the day was spent taking a bus north up the coast from Lima to Trujillo, passing between barren sand dunes and the sea, for a large part of the way. I travelled with the most expensive and poshest bus company, who serve meals (including vegetarian ones – oh joy!) and along with the usual film entertainment ran a bingo game during the trip.
The latter went on for what seemed like hours – the whole bingo card had to be filled in to win, not just one row and the bus stewardess read out each number four or five times. In comparison the films were only mildly annoying, affording me yet another opportunity to wonder what on earth anyone sees in Adam Sandler.