By Zach W. Watson
The road to Huaraz was closed from six a.m. to six p.m. due to extreme dynamiting on the four thousand meter pass. We found out, from a sweet construction girl who guarded the entrance to the pass, that the only way to get on that pass was written consent from the comidante, Manuel Chu, the foreman of the entire reconstruction of Via Huaraz.
We found the campamento, where we were told M.C. would be, at the bottom of the hill. The campamento seemed like an American construction operation center, with its brand new Volvo dump trucks, a series of small, clean, and uniform buildings, and a steel gate. The only thing that gave it a more Peruvian feel was the armed security personnel. It was very clear that Manuel Chu kept a clean kitchen.
The girls, being our diplomats as always, went to the gate and asked for Chu. The guards told the girls that Manuel Chu was unable to be located, and it would be roughly twenty minutes before he could be found. After two hours of sitting on the side of the road across from the campamento, the girls shook their way over and smiled big to pressure the guards into finding Chu.
Manuel Chu appeared, miraculously, out of the cluster of dump trucks and began conversing to them through the steel gate. He told them that we wouldn't be able to pass because we needed to ask for permission before noon. It was then two.
Marta told him that we were with an organization that, through photo and musical workshops, promoted environmental awareness at universities around South America. Manuel Chu was astounded because, it just so happened, that he needed someone to speak on behalf of the company since Queiro Golvao, the Brazilian contractor building the road, was not only a molder of the land but a protector. Marta brushed him off and said that she was leaving soon due to her studies back in Spain and that we really needed to get to Huaraz the following day because we had a meeting to attend. After twenty minutes of deliberation, Manuel Chu asked them back to his office with Alex and the title of the bus. Shortly after, they appeared with a white piece of paper granting us permission to drive on, what turned out to be, the Peruvian version of the Caminos del Muerte. Our allowed departure time was 3:30.
We waited by the road block until the time came, reading and eating candy. It was time. We gave the sweet construction girl our permission slip and followed down a single lane dirt road, passing dump trucks heading opposite directions, men on cables high on steeps clearing the excess rock, steam rollers pressing the newly formed gravel road, construction workers with orange hats and blue jump suits whistling at the girls and waving at us, newly dynamited rock piles, and isolated mountain towns. It seemed we were the only civilian car on this road. We soon learned why.
An hour into the drive, we came upon a giant pile of rocks, a cluster of men, machines, and trucks. We were halted for about thirty minutes. After about thirty minutes and the workers letting us know we had a tire with low air, they let us pass. We crept through the demolition zone over a collection of small boulders that just an hour earlier were part of the mountain to our left. Ssscrappee. Bang Bang. Boom Boom. EEEEEwwwwwwww...fuck.
We pulled over and everything seemed fine. We continued down the one lane, ten-percent grade path, not even a road, higher and higher. On every sharp corner stood a sign on the edge of a three thousand foot cliff that read: honk your horn. It was there to avoid a head on collision that would surely end in mutilated metal and a few torn carcasses.
Dark was coming and rain from the east and a slow, increasing worry. I searched the landscape for campsites, but nothing exposed itself, just cliffs and farms and unsettling mountain communities full of drunk Quechuans that didn't seem too welcoming to a bus full of Gringos. Mike wanted to push on. I clearly stated my opinion, which was camping at the first site we could find. In time, our collective nervousness came to a boil and we stopped in the rain at a flat terrace that sat over cliffs made specifically for dumping rocks and dirt. We parked right next to the road in this small mud lot, our tire was low on air, and we couldn't cook because it was raining.
We sat quietly like a family holed-up during a hurricane with nothing but conversation and a few stale rolls to munch on. The rain slowly died and I set my tent up directly next to the bus and about twenty feet from the road, which was only open at night. Marta and I climbed in and quickly fell asleep. Within fifteen minutes, the first truck rounded the corner. His engine break screamed as his high brights lit up the inside of my tent.
"Ahhh!" I sat straight up thinking that the semi-truck was barreling toward me and the woman I loved.
"It's alright," she said. "Go back to sleep."
I laid my head on the jacket that I used as a pillow and drifted off to sleep.
Ee aah. Ee ahhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I could smell the heat of the female ass from where I laid, and from where I laid, I could here the sweet sounds of donkey's fucking all night long between the panic attacks caused by encroaching semi-trucks. I painfully checked my watch, hoping for morning, every time I was awoken by air or engine breaks and the sporadic increase of light in my tent due to on-coming big wheels.
At daybreak, I popped my head out to sunshine. I checked the tire. It had retained air throughout the night. The bus started fine, and we continued up the dirt road for another hour until it finally became paved again. As we summitted the pass, bright white glaciated peaks reined over the morning valley as our mouths swooned and mountainous excitement charged and lightened us. We stopped, ran out of the car and just smiled and stared at the white goliaths. It made me forget, for a second, the two sleepless nights before, and that Marta was leaving the following day, for good.