Tuesday, November 27, 2007

amazing coincidence #2

3rd October 1998

Writing the recent post about Lake Titicaca reminded me of a great coincidence that I witnessed. (Agreed not MINE but I was there so stop your whinging)

I was travelling from Cusco in the Andes, which is a beautiful little town set high in the mountains where most Macchu Pichu trekkers go to acclimatise. I had just finished the 4 day walk and was heading to Lake Titicaca by train with Helga and James, a couple I had met on the trek.

The train covers almost 400 kms between Cusco and Puno, climbing to 4,690 meters above sea level at the highest point. The scenery is quite spectacular in places.

As the railway line comprises of just a single track, and one train a day goes in each direction, there necessitates a split to a double track around halfway in order for both trains to pass. This also means if one train is a little early, or the other tardy - one train must wait for the other.

We arrived first.

Out in the most barren of landscapes, with no hint of civilisation in sight.

But within moments, as if out of the very earth itself, a swarm of villagers appear carrying baskets of bread, fruit and strange steaming delicacies and begin the daily task of earning their living.

Sitting here in the middle of the Peruvian Andes you can quite easily feel small and insignificant, many hundreds, perhaps thousands of kilometres from the nearest espresso machine, convenience store, scented toilet rolls and Wheel of Fortune.

As I casually sit swatting off sellers of blotched bananas and knitted alpaca egg warmers, the other train rolls into the sidings where we are waiting. Very slowly it rolls to a complete halt.

Curiously Helga, James and I crane our heads to peer at the South-Northers (being North-Southers ourselves) to see what could possibly attract them all to doing this journey in reverse.

Suddenly James yells out something and dashes off the train. Perhaps he saw someone selling miniature-llama woollen leg warmers or an authentic Andean plate of Pachamanca.

About 20 minutes later, when we were getting concerned that the trains were going to set off again James returned with a huge grin on his face.

It turns out that sitting in the carriage directly opposite ours, on the other train was one of James' work mates from Amsterdam in Peru on holiday.

James had no clue his mate was even coming to Peru, and to run into him in the middle of nowhere was quite bizarre.

What made it all the more unusual was that his friend had to be sitting in the window seat of the exact carriage that pulled up alongside ours or he would never have been spotted.

And dammit, not a newsagents in sight to buy a lottery ticket. Tut.

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