The greatest benefit provided by this place is, for the husband and I, the opportunity to travel. So far, I am finding it impossible to quench the desire to see beautiful places. The need is absolutely insatiable.
Our latest adventure took us back to South America, this time to Peru – a place I had wished to visit for some time. So far, our South American adventures have occurred one country at a time. This is of course different to the trips taken by most Aussies – where a visit to South American generally includes at least a few crossing of borders – Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, for instance over a period of 5-6 weeks. When one lives as far away as Australia, where until recently it was necessary to fly via the US, such trips make sense. But for the husband and I with our gift of quarterly travel, we are able to do things somewhat differently.
One may think that the frequent traveler acquires a certain level or patience or tolerance when, while travelling, things go awry. Particularly where those things are not within one’s control. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am someone who has reached that level.
Consider this scenario: you have been trekking in the remote Peruvian Andes for four days at altitude. You’ve slept pretty badly (because how much quality sleep can you get with only a thin foam pad between you and the ground), you kinda smell (baby wipes are not an equal substitute for a good scrub in the shower) and you really need a good sit on the toilet (never could completely relax squatting over a communal hole). Also, you have a night bus to catch in order to catch your flight the following morning to your next destination. However, before you can catch your night bus, you have a five hour mainly off-road drive through the Andes back to town.
At a little before lunch time, the vehicle comes to meet you. You are told the vehicle has a flat tire – so you have time to have a mid-morning snack and share some beer before it is changed. The tire is changed, you get in the vehicle, and bounce 30 minutes down the road over rocks creating dust to your lunch spot. You eat lunch quickly and are keen to get back on the road to civilisation. However, nobody seems in a rush to start the drive.
There is a problem. The vehicle has another flat tire. You are not told this directly, but the suspicion is conveyed to you by your husband after inspecting the vehicle. There is a second problem. The spare tire has already been used. The driver is therefore sent down to the nearest “town” – a minimum forty minute drive – to find a mechanic and have the tires repaired. There is a third problem. It’s a Sunday. And it’s Father’s Day – a holiday in Peru. Oh, and you are in the middle of the Andes, miles and miles from anywhere.
So you wait. And you wait. And you wait for three hours – and start to get quite concerned that you might not make your bus. It’s still a five hour drive back to town and the bus leaves at 10pm. You wait for three hours, with very little communication or reassurance from your guide. Finally, some time after 3pm, the driver returns, and the tire is changed. Your husband makes some noises about the rest of the tires being bald. But at least you still have a spare. Two flat tires is pretty damn unlucky.
You get back into the vehicle and continue to bounce over the rocky roads, swinging around the switchbacks to finally cross the mountain range. You are going at a decent speed as the driver is aware of the now-short timeframe and wants to get you back at a reasonable time. Bouncing, bouncing, you admire the beauty of the tall snow-topped mountains looming over you as the sun starts to fall behind creating late afternoon shadows. And then, not two hours later, the vehicle comes to a stop. No, please, no, you think. You better be fucking kidding. You all jump out of the vehicle.
Yep. A third tire is flat. Breathe deeply, there is still one spare tire left. Except… except the tool required to change it, the ratchet or whatever the hell it is, is broken. The tire can’t be changed. The driver and your husband try to knock at the nuts with rocks to loosen them but it doesn’t help. The tire can’t be changed. It is after 5pm, the sun is going down, cold and darkness are setting in. There are no other idiots on this road, particularly not at this time of day. You are faced with the prospect of staying another night in the Andes, missing your bus therefore missing your flight.
It’s at this point that I lost my shit. I raged around the vehicle, hysterical tears crashing down my face, yelling incoherently, over to a clearing and flopped onto the cold ground. And I sat, and I raged like a crazy person, in the middle of the Andes. In the middle of the freaking Andes.
That, I suppose, was my moment to show what a patient, tolerant traveler I have become, and I failed absolutely. What I should have done of course, is accept the fact that the situation was out of my control and kept calm. But sometimes, for yours truly, it is simply not possible.
I’ll try better next time!
* Note that the husband and I were eventually rescued by a lone Canadian motorcyclist and a van full of locals. The motorcyclist, hoping to camp nearby and watch the sunset, rode with our driver forty minutes through the mountains where he was able to borrow the correct tool from a French couple in a caravan. The family of locals assisted the driver in changing the tire once the correct tool was delivered. The driver then drove like a madman through the mountains (me bracing myself hoping like hell that three flat tires didn’t turn into four) and we made our bus with a little over an hour to spare.