Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mas Champagna, Por Favor

So, sometimes traveling is easy; it is merely a matter of taking ones seat and waiting for the champagne to be served. Maybe, strike up a conversation with the attractive woman sitting adjacent to you. And drop a quick prayer that you haven't seen the feature film that is getting ready to be shown. At other times, traveling from point A to point B has the ability to test ones will and shake your personal sense of patience to it's core.

Rob, and I arrived in Arequipa yesterday after enduring a true test en route from Cusco. Traveling with Kayaks is at best catch 22. Sometimes it opens doors, and very often it is a limiting factor. Typically, it is just a lot of heavy shit to lug around to the next river. We had discovered that most of the long distance coaches did not have roof racks and if by some chance you could talk the luggage managers into taking you're gear it would more than likely double the cost of you're ticket. So, trying to avoid the excess baggage charge when buying tickets to Arequipa we located a local bus that had racks and was willing to be bribed to put our boats on top. We were supposed to leave in the morning and we arrive by late afternoon. Though it is only about a six hour drive from Cusco to Arequipa via car, the bus route is differnt and takes about ten hours. The clerk at the desk had told us that it was a direct route. A direct route is very important, otherwise you stop in every town picking up and dropping off people- not too mention the countless verndors and traveling salesmen.

So, the next morning we arrived at the terminal around six, loaded the boats and took our seats. The bus was not nice by any means, so i didn't even ask the driver if it was possiable to get a mimosa. On the positive side, the bus seemed to be undersold so it looked like we would be traveling light. We left the station and didn't drive a hundred yards before the driver stops to pick up people. Over the next hour, we stopped every possible chance on our way out of cusco and picked up enough people to fill the bus twice over. I am pretty good about people getting into "my space," but at this point i was on the verge of freaking out. I was sitting next to a large Qechuin women, and in the isle facing me was a very large man who seemed to have trouble maintaining his balance, every turn my face seemed to be the gaurd rail that prevented his belly from falling out of the fucking bus. It is a funny image but at the time I wasn't sure how long I could maintain my demenor. After a few hours they both got off and I regained a bit of sanity.

So, we had been driving for about six hours and we had stopped at every town possible. The bus stank to start with but a little bit of incubation will always create some new smells. And when we picked up two women selling baked beef spine, the bus went crazy. Baked beef spine for everyone! The smell was so revolting that i had to litterly hang my head out the window, while everyone around me layed into some spine.

As everyone was relaxing, letting their spine settle, i was staring out the window. We were crossing a desert plateau that sits at about 14,000 ft which was beautiful. All of the sudden our driver-side front tire released, sending the front left side of the bus into full grind causing the radiator to explode upon impact. Our driver did a great job keep the bus from tipping over. But by all estimates we were at least three hours from anything and missing a tire. It tuned out that we had lost our rim, though it probley wouldn't have mattered anyway because we didn't have a jack and the radiator looked toasted. A group of people immideatly deserted, when a box truck stopped. Having Kayaks with us, hitchhiking seemed tough. Especially, since alomost every vehicle was either a bus or a semi. And it seemed that only a handfull were passing every hour. There was a big rock outcropping in the distance, so we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and escape the stinch, if only for a while.

As the sun began to set, I returned to the bus to read while we had light. When a small girl grabed my attention, and pointed out that rob had flagged down a semi. Yhrough the front windshield i could see Rob running back to the bus. So, i tossed our stuff out the window and climbed ontop to begin unloading boats. Within a few minutes we had reloaded our gear ontop of 40 tons of rock destined for Arequipa, and we were on the road again. It was dark, and the load forced us to drive slow. But we were moving. And the cab smelled of Axle greas, which was a big immprovement from the bus. Our driver was very friendly, had great taste in music, and didn't seem to mind a bit of company. Though, he was a year younger than Rob and I he already had eight years experience driving big rigs. After four hours, we had driven about 110km. it was getting late and rob and i had passed out. When a familiar sound raised it's ugly head once again. BOOM!BOOM! " you have to be fucking kidding!" Apparantly, we were exceeding our recomended weight and the heat generated from the exessive pressure caused both back right tires to blow out. now changing a tire is one thing, But changing a four foot tall tire on a semi with 40 tons of rock is a completely differnt animal. The wind was howling and the temp was heading below freezing. So, we took turns on the jack to stay warm. and after an hour or so, we had one tire off. But the inner tire was a bit more trouble, and it seemed that the jack wouldn't give us the extra two inches we need. So, after two hours the mission was abandoned and we settled in for the night.

That evening it dropped just below freezing, and in the morning we were greeted with several huge volcanoes surrounding us and a heard of animals running just outside of our camp. They look similar to llamas, but are much slimmer and have the ability to run very fast. As rob, knocked the ice off of his bivy bag. The driver and I began working the same problem again. "how do you make a jack want to be taller than it is supposed to be?" and the answer is, if you have 80,000lbs of rock sitting on top. you don't do shit. After a few hours we began trying to hitch with little success. There weren't many cars and the ones that did pass were not equiped to carry what we had. Eventually, a potato truck stopped and a whole family piled out: like eight people in an exteneded cab. They were very friendly, and helped us throw our boats in the back of the truck. The truck was about 3/4 full and offered a great vantage point to veiw the beautiful surroundings heading into Arequipa. We were moving again, and point B seemed to be almost in sight. I felt that i could almost taste it. After a few hours we pulled into the local market in Arequipa; to everyones surprise, there weren't just potates back there, but also, some strung out gringos. carrying huge pieces of colorful platic. a cab to the hotel makes four rides, and we were there. A cold beer in the shower was just as i had imagined. More champagne, please!

Pictures: (Above) views from the potato truck. (Below) Tire one....Gone. Tire two....and three...gone. dawn in the desert. the last leg, via potato truck. first trip of the year. Rio Chili, Arequipa.


Thomas said...

You couldn't hire a team of writers to come up with a better story. I love it Jay! Hope the trip was worth it! Love you and talk to you soon.

Val said...

Sweeeet....Love it, great story.
Hi to Rob and GianMarco!

Subscribe in a reader