The middle-aged Peruvians surrounding me can only frown or look on, mystified, as I stifle giggles watching the small television screen on the bus.
Singer Milder Oré and his trio of merry musicians are grooving along and miming to popular hit, “Nunca te olvidaré” (I’ll never forget you) atop an Andean mountain overlooking a sweeping valley.
In typical Latino fashion – and with no sense of irony – his next song atop a different mountain, in front of some nonplussed sheep, is the equally passionate “Ya te olvidé” (I’ve already forgotten you).
The reflective sunglasses-sporting pan piper in the background is really getting into the tunes and jamming so hard he could be served up in a slice of Victoria sponge. The scene cuts to moody shots of a bustling mountain town, though I’m not sure if they meant to include the bit showing a doddery old woman nearly getting hit by a runaway rickshaw.
By the time Milder has started crooning to his no doubt devastated love, “Ya eres casada, chulita” (You’re already married, cutie), the small girl on the seat in front is being sick into a plastic bag with a towel over her head. I have to wonder how much that has to do with the bendy road or altitude, and how much is thanks to the folkloric cheese-fest unfolding before our eyes.
But, secretly, I quite enjoyed it and am a bit disappointed when the telly is switched off and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” starts up over the crackly radio.
I glance out the window and am more than slightly disturbed to see there is no trace of the ground below us – it’s as if we are flying through the Andes alongside the condors.
Thankfully the dusty dirt road suddenly reappears and with it we whoosh past a pair of women sat at the grassy roadside, disappearing into the folds of their full skirts as they wind brightly coloured wool onto spools. Their bowed heads are hidden behind the enormous pale yellow straw hats that are typical to the area.
I’d say this journey ranks around the “mid” comfort level of the Peruvian bus travel we’ve experienced so far.
The best was without a doubt our trip from the north coastal city of Trujillo to the sprawling capital of Lima.
We eased back on board a swish Cruz Del Sur double-decker with cosy reclining chairs, endless movies, meals included and…a game of bingo! (We didn’t win, but it was good practice for our Spanish numbers).
This has been swiftly replaced by the daily minibus ride to our volunteer project location in Arequipa, which feels something akin to a form of medieval torture.
If you’re the last on, no sooner have you put one foot on the step than the driver slams his foot on the accelerator and it’s all systems go. Then it’s a matter of finding a place to squeeze in among the throng, as the conductor yells for everyone to move down into the already impossibly crowded combi.
On one memorable occasion, after a typical sudden braking, Phil is thrown into the lap of a startled twenty-something woman, who he also manages to elbow in the face.
Meanwhile I’m hanging on to the overhead rail as if my life depends on it, despite having lost all sensation in my arms about half an hour ago. The two sweaty fat blokes I’m sandwiched between – also arms aloft – make me feel like I’m at the “before” part of a Lynx advert.
Things only get worse when the driver cranks up the volume on his favourite soft rock ballad “Te Quieeeeerrrroo” (I loooooove you) and starts wailing along.
I’ve never longed for Milder Oré as much.