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Bus ride for the ages


View The Route thus Far on bchu's travel map.

8 hours from Ayacucho to Huancayo. No problem. I even take the morning bus and sit at the front to get some good views of this Central Highland area. 2 hours in, weaving up and down the mountain pass, and everything looks even more phenomenal than expected.

And then the dirt road disappears. Huh? All I see is a ton of people standing on the bank of a raging river. Takes a second but then it clicks in...the river IS the road...or at least has washed over/washed away the road for a good 20-25 metre stretch. There are some guys standing on rocks in the water trying to lay down more rocks to bridge the gap. Helps a bit but would take hours to complete a semblance of a thorough path. Two buses sit idle on the other side, its passengers standing around impatiently.

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Our bus driver has had enough. He surveys the scene one last time before marching confidently back to the bus and whistling for everyone to follow. Crap, I thought my river crossing days had ended in Chile. As I board, I ask him if it's possible. He looks me square in the eye...and just chuckles as if to say ¨Dude, even if this river carries us of that cliff, it'll be a fucking good time.¨ Earlier in the day, no lie, he remarked to some girl that the coke he was drinking was mixed with whiskey. As the wheels hit the water, I'm left wondering if he was joking or not.

Halfway across. So far so good. People are literally praying on the bus. I'm taking photos out the window and having a whale of a time. Three quarters through. Motor stops. Shit, we're stuck...but only for a couple of seconds. Engine revs and we're moving once more, closer and closer to the other side. When the bus is fully on land again, everyone is whooping it up and lauding our heroic driver. Meanwhile, a collection is passed around to help the locals from the nearby community, for they will spend days putting the road back together.
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And then, no more than 20 minutes later, on a tight muddy corner...

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HOLY SHIT! What can I say? Well, to calm my mother down, I should say that I wasn't on the bus at the time. I was outside helping gather rocks to improve the traction. I guess the bus driver was a bit impatient once again. Hubris.

The bus seemed to topple over in slow motion. Screaming ensued both from within and outside the vehicle. I admit I was frozen for a bit. From my vantage point, I couldn´t see the cliff behind and just expected it to go all the way over. As I made my way around, I could see how close it was...maybe a couple metres to the left and it´d be in the river below... along with about 25 dead bodies.

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People started crawling from underneath the bus and climbing out from the windows, which were now at the top. Only a few elder folks had to be dragged out. After an exasperating 15 minutes, everyone had escaped the vehicle and miraculously, no one was severely hurt. Just some scrapes, bruises, and a lot of shock.

Because not many people were really keen to do it, I climbed nervously back aboard and helped excavate the bus of all personal belongings. It was kinda cool, felt like pilfering a sunken treasure ship. And then I remembered the bus could still be teetering on the edge, vulnerable to sudden movement, and I got my ass out of there as quickly as possible.

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Here´s a couple more photos from different angles. It's hard to describe but our toppled bus basically blocked the entire corner so nothing could get through (i have no idea how they are going to remove it). So we had to wait for a bus going to Ayacucho in order to take it back towards Huancayo. And the people on that bus had to get off and wait for a bus going to Huancayo so it could turn around and go back to Ayacucho. Sorry if that makes no sense. All I know is the 5 hr wait was torture.

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I wish I could say that was the end. An hour later, an 18 wheeler was stuck on the road (engine problem) and blocked our way. We waited another hour and a bit trying to help fix the thing. It didn't work. So our driver (a new one at this point) attempted to go around it, cliff on one side and no more than half a foot´s extra width of open space to drive through. No fucking way!! I have NEVER been so freaked out watching something as I was this (we were obviously not on the bus...but all my belongings were!!). I really didn't think it would make it around. You should have seen how tilted it was. On practically two wheels, I could have pushed it over with my pinky. Everyone was holding their breath or crossing their fingers or praying. Oh yea, it was dark and raining by this time. And there was still 5 hours to go.

The rest of the ride, people were flipping eveytime we took a tight corner...and rightfully so. Two or three more times we had to get off the bus because our collective weight would have sent it over (I forgot to mention that the bus was packed...people were crowded in the aisles). And everytime I watched the bus manuever these bends(sometimes with 5 point turns in mud across a stream), I always thought it was going tumbling into the abyss. Quite simply, it was like being on Death Road again, but on a bus instead of a minivan or bike. On many occasions I thought about the buses that had fallen off that mountain and the gravestones that lay beside the road. Tense only begins to describe my status during certain moments.

Somehow in the homestretch I fell asleep. I woke up to paved road, never being so happy to see cement. Those bus drivers are incredible(except the one who flipped the bus). We got in at 3am (12 hours late) and I stayed in a hospital across the road from the terminal that doubled as a hotel (??). How fitting.

Don't worry folks...I will make it home in one piece!!

Posted by bchu 14:31 Archived in Peru

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Comments

Hey,
I have been reading your Blog with great interest. I just have to say that it makes for very entertaining reading, and your photo's are quite spectacular. You should seriously consider travel writing....

Ms Pinky
Australia.

P.S - Keep it coming. I am loving it.

by Ms Pinky

Hi Brian,
Keep posting your travel blog! It's really interesting and makes me want to go South America soon.

by jesscmy

This story is unbelievable!! Awesome writting, and why not, awesome luck!! I cant believe you made it through! Im suposed to do the same route sometime during the summer and Im a bit freaked out at the mo! :D

Take care!

Miromar ;)

by miromar

Okay, now I'm officially terrified. I'm going to South America too, in a month, and I've heard about these bus accidents.

But interesting writing!

by SJS

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