Sometimes I wonder what motivates us to do stupid things when we are fully aware of how potentially risky they are. I'm not talking about stupid things that are fun and that provide some return in exchange for the risk - I'm just talking about stupid things done for no particular reason other than maybe curiousity...to see if we can get away with it.
Gry and I arrived in Huaraz early this evening after a crazy 30 hour trip from Guayaquil. It surely didn't come easy. We started out on a nice coach that was to take us south along the coast of Peru to a small town where we would transfer to another bus that went east and up into the mountains. Seems simple enough- it always does until you're in the middle of it. After 20 hours on the bus the driver suggested that we get off at a different village than we originally planned because he claimed it was a much faster way to go. Ha! Turns out our connecting bus had already left. A fast talking Peruvian convinced us to get on his bus and switch again at yet another village. Not only did the driver forget to stop in the little village we needed, but pretty much sent us off on a wild ride to nowhere. After realizing we had missed our stop, we got off the bus and found a "taxi" that claimed he was going to take us back to the earlier stop we had missed, just ten minutes back up the road. We arrived there to find no stop at all, just people milling around beside the road (no doubt waiting around for stupid gringas like us). We were told we could stand beside the road where yet another bus would prooooobably arrive eventually and maaaaaaaaaaaybe it wouldn't already be full, OR we could take the offer of a very friendly man who said there was a car that could drive us the rest of the way (about 3 hours) for just 100 soles. Gry and I looked at each other, started laughing our asses off and said "ok, let's go!". It was a surprisingly easy decision standing beside a highway, hundreds of miles from any real town, with our luggage sitting in the dirt and not much else in the way of choices.
(This isn't the bus stop, by they way. This is a real village that we would have been thrilled to be dumped in.)
No sooner did we leave the comfort of the little village (and possible witnesses to our impending robbery and murder) than we started discussing what a potentially bad idea this was. But now we were out of the village and heading up a windy mountain road into the middle of nothing - couldn't exactly hop out of the car and wave down the next taxi. Still, we just shook our heads and laughed at each other, what else could we do.
It didn't take long before what little concern we had for our well being was put to rest. We came to a police checkpoint and found that one of the officers was coming off duty and needed a ride as well, so he jumped in the front seat and at last we were feeling like our decision was not as idiotic as it really was. After a quick u-turn to retrieve his forgotten pistol, we were again on our way up the windy rather deserted road to Huaraz feeling very secure with our own private cop.
The officer stayed with us about half the way up the hill until he reached his stop and again we were alone with our driver. But, by this point we were feeling quite comfortable and just enjoying the changing landscape. All was relaxed until high up into the mountains where the rain started and the tires began to squeal around each sharp mountain curve. Do south americans know how to drive any way but fast? I was reminded of a certain drive over a mountain pass in Brasil several years ago and once again wondered if I would die a stupid lonely death in a foreign land - punishment for doing what my mother told me a thousand times that I should never do - get in the car with a stranger.
As is always the case, my guardian angel was close behind. After about 5 hours, one pee stop, two coke stops, one stop to help a car with a flat and one extra hitchhiker we rolled into Huaraz none the worse for the wear.
The landscape along the coast of Peru is nothing like I expected. It is rather barren and desertlike. We passed miles and miles of sand dunes and it felt as though we could just as easily have been in Afganistan.
Once up into the mountains, it started to look more like Peru to me.