Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kilometre 58

The Pan-American highway forbids pedestrians, horses, bicycles and mototaxi’s, so there we were - living on the edge, fugitives from justice, driving like banshees. Trucks blew by us at speed leaving us wallowing in their wake. In 10 minutes my nerves were fraying and my bottle dropping. I convinced Zaya to take the side road and get off at Pachacámac. Fear had overwhelmed logic: we'd learned the hard way that traffic in small towns in Peru has a special insanity all its own, but at least it was low speed insanity.

We pushed through Lurin and things cleared out fairly quickly. As we entered one of the many beach resorts we had our first real roadside police inspection. The young, uniformed officer wanted all of our papers, asked why we were driving a mototaxi, to where, and examined our cover letter from the Adventurists with insouciant interest. He briefly considered the situation, made his decision and let us go. A little further on our side road petered out and we had to rejoin the Pan Am. By this point trucks were fewer and further between and the going got a little safer.

Kilometre 58 and there was the vehicle inspection station. Trucks wandered in, drivers took papers to a booth, returned to their cabs and the trucks lumbered off. Zaya took what was left of her high visibility orange contact paper and made a sign for Cusco, Ica, or Nasca?, while I mulled over our options, including continuing under our own steam. Friday was the finish line party and it was already Wednesday afternoon. Even if everything went smoothly it would be a stretch to finish before Saturday.

After an hour or so of sign waving and chatting with the inspectors, Zaya found a van driver who said he'd take us as far as San Vincente in Cañete, about 75 kilometres away. From there he said we should easily find a truck heading further south towards Cusco. We piled in.

As soon as we reached San Vincente Zaya found a truck heading to Nasca, but by now all I really wanted was a night's rest in a bed. Negotiating a price with the driver proved difficult. His breath smelled of fish and his three remaining teeth were little more than pegs rattling around his mouth, making conversation incredibly distracting. He wanted 300 soles for the trip, which at that moment seemed entirely unreasonable. It didn't take much to convince Zaya our options would be better in the morning.

After we cleaned up we headed to town for Chinese food and cocktails. We found a bar frequented by a group of drunken civics students (are there any other kind?) keen to practice their English skills. The girls were pretty and the boys were charming, so we chatted a bit until they were overwhelmed by Tequila and we called it an evening.

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