A slight bit of backtracking…
The Monday of my travel was my last day with the kids. Their new teacher came and observed the kids and my lesson, to facilitate her entry into their learning cycle. Knowing that this was going to occur I had written out notes on the topics covered so far, suggestions for each child, the games and songs the kids had become used to. First observation she made was that I spelled colour with a u. “But that’s British spelling… wait, you guys are under the crown correct? You still have a Queen.” Brilliant.
Any way I am sure she and the kids will get along famously.
I left a bag of excess stuff at the hostal which I will pick up as I pass through on the return journey. Let Carlos know of my decision to forgo the three day mountain trek, as I truly have had enough of being cold for the time being.
Back to my wonderful bus experience…
When the music suddenly stopped I sighed in relief, and the first of several movies started playing. Again no volume opt out. Movie one was a very strange oriental flick involving a poor young student, bullying and some kind of tiny extraterrestrial fuzzy unit. Very strange. Next movie was Taken (with Liam Neeson), which I have had the pleasure of viewing in Spanish on every bus trip taken here for the past 4 years. Good movie, just viewed at least once too much.
Long distance trips often involve on board service and meals… this time it was beef & rice. Not so helpful for me. Never mind I had bread, yogurt and oreo cookies.
So we made a pit stop in Pedro Ruiz, everyones (seemingly) mandatory transit stop town. We picked up a few passengers and headed on our way. Heading out of town we headed down… and down, and down. Slowly and carefully, never breaking 60 km/hr but mostly the onboard speedometer hovered between 20 – 30 km/hr.
The government established mandatory maximums for passenger busses after some pretty horrific accidents (many fatalities), and drivers are required to let passengers know at the beginning of the trip what the maximum is, and to encourage passengers to report drivers that exceed them. There are digital speedometers placed within eyesight.. and the figures change from white to red if the maximums are exceeded. No worry on this trip. Only once did I see the red, and only for a moment on a flat section well out of the mountains.
Hard to describe just how bad the road must have been as we passed between small settlements as the rain began, but the slow speed and many bumpy sections of previous wash outs were a hint.
Then, after winding back up for quite a while the behemoth of a bus slowed to a crawl. Followed by a full stop. Peering out at the view afforded by the circle of light made by the headlights, it looked like we had hit a mudslide area. Deep furrows of tire tracks in the mud and rocks on the road. Back up and try again. Nope.
And this is the good road? Just what must the bad road look like after months of rain?
Smaller vehicles seem to be able to slide their way through this section, but larger and heavier ones were stuck. Almost an hour later larger vehicles started to pass headed the other way. Seems only one side of the road was passable, which creates a problem when there is a backload of such vehicles in each direction. Somebody must have finally taken control of the situation, and we eventually made our way through.
More twists and turns, and from what I can see through the darkness this road is plenty dangerous enough for me. The mountain silhouettes look formidable and the canyons and crevices deep and frightening. There were many sections of road that had softened and warning tape and signs were plentiful in areas where shoulders had simply fallen away.
Despite this, and probably thanks to the combination of Gravol and sleeping pill, I actually managed to fall asleep headed out of the mountain and awoke on the flat coastal plane just outside of the city of Chiclayo. Our bus made a stop here to drop passengers off and we quickly departed on the final stretch toward Trujillo, end of the line for this lovely 15 hour interlude.
Wait… did I mention that it is actually easier to use the on board toilet on flat stretches of highway? Well it is, just remember to bring your own toilet paper… there are no guarantees as I found out.
The road between Chiclayo and Trujillo is the Pan American Highway, running more or less north/south and skirting the coastline. Glimpses were had of the ocean. Through the rain. Yep. Rain. In the dessert. You know, where I was to find sun. Thankfully the equatorial heat was evident as the sun rose.
After 6 tries I found a cab to take me from the bus depot to the Hostal, bed was waiting, and the rest of my day was spent pretty much comatose. Not enough sleep. Nerve wracking ride. And the much welcomed heat I had travelled to far to find.