Monday, January 2, 2012

Peruvian Roads

"Oh man! Look at that backup!", Tammy was pointing to the long line of crawling cars and trucks on I-70 west of St. Louis. We were on our way from Alabama to Nebraska when we ran into (not literally) this big slow-down. We hadn't seen anything like that for years. The roads in Peru don't have traffic back-ups, but they sure have their own share of interesting and fun diversions. There is a TV show,"IRT: Deadliest Roads", that has featured Peruvian roads this year. Many folk have asked us if we have ever been on those roads.
The answer is, "yes"! If we didn't ride on those roads, we couldn't be here. Andahuaylas is in the middle of the Andes and there is no way to get out of there, get around in the region or even GET there (unless you fly) without riding on those roads for several hours at least. The roads are narrow, dirt roads and they criss-cross the Andes all over Peru. Many of the roads are way over the tree line and can be snowy and icy all year round. Others are more temperate; but the steep drop-offs, unimproved surfaces and frequent rock or mud-slides keep them from being boring.
One of the most notable features of these roads, that stands out riding a narrow old bus for 18 to 30 plus hours over them, is that they aren't straight for more than 2 or 300 yards at a time. The effect of all the constant turns is a kind of land-based seasickness. When that hits along with the altitude (very often well over 10,000') the resulting nausea is a blast! (sometimes literally!) The dirt surface is full of bumps and humps and holes, that also contribute to make the experience unforgettable, "Oh my aching back!".
One common occurrence is the "trasbordo". This happens when the bus that you are on can't go any further, the road is closed because of rock or mudslide, water pouring over the surface or maybe the road has just gone away (maybe fallen off the side of the mountain). Everyone gets out of the warm(ish) and smelly bus, grabs their luggage and hoofs it across the rocks, mud, yawning chasm - whatever - and tries to find a bus on the other side that can execute a 3 point turn (that will give you some white knuckles) and take you where it came from. That will at least be closer to where you are trying to go.

And I could go on and talk about highway robbers, icy roads, wrecks, spending hours in a small uncomfortable seat, roadside food and restrooms, etc. but I will save those for another time.
Just remembering the roads back home made the St. Louis traffic jam seem to be no problem!