Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shake, Rattle and Roll

By Alex Mehlin

We went to sleep under pink mountains and awoke to sun-stroked white capped peaks crowning the alleged second deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon.

Our goal was to wake up have breakfast and get on the road bound for Arequipa. Like always we had no idea how long it would take to get there but we decided to go the unknown and less traveled route.

Two hours later after leaving the quaint town of Cabanaconac we found ourselves frightenly low on fuel. I parked the bus in the shade of a quite square in an unconcerning town. Alaena and Zach set off to find some info on where exactly we were and how far it would be to Arequipa.

They came back with scary news. We were 4 hours by gravel road away from the Pan-American and once safely on the pavement we still had 2 hours of driving to get to Arequipa. On top of that the only diesel in town was a stagering 15 soles a gallon.

Seven gallons of gas later and a happy send off from the locals we rumbled down the gravel road.

We drove and drove and drove. We passed one other car and saw one person as we drove through red rock country. The kilometer markers on the side of the road were a constant reminder of how far away from civilizaton  we were.

At one point the stone washed marker read 67 kilometers. At this point we were 67km away from any town or person. We had no working jack and tires worn well beyond their retirement age. I was in a state of constant terror.

Contingency plans rickoshaded through my brain. I pictured building a pyramid like structure out of rock and driving the bus´s limp wheel up onto the structure. I then would place a larger support rock under the frame and proceeding to violently knock the pyramid from under the wheel. With a crash I would drive the bus off the rock hoping to not brake anything. Another far fetched idea consisted of a titer totter made of fire wood and rocks.

We breathed in red dust and kicked out a constant stream of exhaust. The bus drove on and on. Our teeth chattered through each section of wash board, up and down we went, banked turns sucked the bus in and spit her out with ferocious velocity as we cruised through no mans land.   

The radio blasted to hide the choir of new mystery noises. When the Gypsies were not making up dances for the impending big night out they were sleeping. We drove and drove.

I have never looked forward to pavement more in my life. As we passed awkwardly irrigated desert farms our salvation laid in a stream of black asphalt just out of eye sight.

The locals were right, once on the Pan-American it was two hours to Arequipa. We arrived to the bustling city of 800,000 on a Friday night. If there is anything I hate it is driving into a foreign city at night. After our last foray into Guayaquil through the dark cover of night I vowed never to drive into a city at night again. Here I was once again braking a vow to myself.

The city lights ominously spread out as far as we could see. We drove into the cayous. Like always we just started to ask the locals for directions. The day was special, the road was kind to us, with the help of a cab driver who parted violent clashes of bus and taxi to immerged from the smog directing us in the right direction. We followed the drections and asked a bus driver to help as we waited for the light to turn green the bus driver asked all his passengers for a playa, he got an answer and let us cut him off to make the irrational turn across three lanes onto our road to safety.

Once parked I stood up stretched looked at our dusty and dirty steed and hugged Alaena. We all were highly relieved that the bus survived such a grueling foray into the wilderness and emerged into the city night seemingly unskaved. 

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