Be Alert, Arrive Alive

We left Ayacucho at 5:00 yesterday and headed up, up, up, and away. I couldn’t tell by the map how long we’d have mountain travel, but I thought it looked like we’d be over the mountains and down into the lowlands in about two hours. I was wrong.

We got up high and stayed up high for hours and hours. We reached a height of about 16,000 feet and looked up to snowy mountains all around us. It was beautiful… and cold!

We stopped a few times to take pictures of mountains and valleys, llamas and alpacas and vicuñas and sheep. The road was fairly smooth the majority of the way, but every once in a while, the pavement just wasn’t there, and we went bouncing and banging across rock and dirt. That made Steph very uncomfortable. We were grateful the baby was not born on the mountaintop.

I told the children we would stop for a snack when we hit 12,000 feet. They kept their eye on the altimeter like hawks. At last we took a break for a brunch.

We happened upon a copse of pines. The children and I went for a short hike while Steph got food together. We were surprised to find a female donkey hidden in the pines. She had a deep gash on her shoulder that was bleeding and weeping infection.

The children were entranced with her. They were sure that we ought to load her up in the bed of the truck. “I’m sure Mr. Simon’s would love to take care of her and make her better,” Anne said. We did not follow her advice.

Not terribly long after that, we began the long descent. We were shouting about every new exciting sight. “Look! A tree!” And at last,”Look! The ocean!”

We were able to travel along the coast the last several hours. I am pretty confident I saw a whale beach at one point and shouted for Steph and China to wake up and look. They are pretty confident I found where Nessie finally ended up after leaving the loch.

The final great test of the trip came–Lima. I entertained the thought experiment of which I’d rather do, drive through Lima traffic or have a tooth pulled. The thing is, teeth are used to eat pizza, and I’m rather fond of pizza. I decided I wasn’t ready to make a decision.

About halfway through Lima, which was something like two days later, the GPS said there was a wreck on the northern end of the city along the PanAm. It suggested a new route.

I told Steph, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the new route would take me right through downtown Lima?” Why do I say these things?

If I never drive through downtown Lima again, that will be entirely too soon. I was so nerve-wracked that I told my wife–who was saying words at me while I was busy keeping us all undead–that I really thought I needed it to be silent until we were out of Lima.

China found my distress funny. She was rollicking in the back seat, even stopping to taking a video of me exclaiming while trying to shift into another lane. I remember calling out to all the honking, “Someone with my constitution should not be doing this!”

We were finally escaping the congestion of the city when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a red light. I slammed on the brakes and stopped perfectly at the line, only to watch the vehicles behind me go sailing past, yelling encouragement at me as they honked in support.

China said, “Shawn, I think you should go before we get hit. That light is just blinking.” We went leaping away from the light.

We stopped at a gas station for a rest. Then we took off for the last hour to Huaral. It was so nice to be able to drive at full speed again–until we hit a large dog. It took a piece of plastic from the front of the truck as it went spinning away. I did not stop because I was afraid of going back toward Lima so soon after escaping.

We arrived at Simon’s somewhere around 6:00. It was quite a joy to be with them again. The children were over the moon. Abbey had been laughing maniacally the last few miles, which is probably about how they all felt.

Christine says it is a bit disconcerting to have a blogger in their house. She says she’s afraid I’ll say their house is messy, and their children have dirty faces, and the food isn’t good, and things like that. But I won’t.

Taking pictures of alpacas
Snowy mountains
Some sort of sulfur spring, frozen on the mountain
Our donkey friend
Hiking
Snack time
The Pacific Ocean
At Simon’s