On the last day, I woke up in the town of Lircay. It had rained all night and morning. As I sipped on my caldo de gallina at the market, all that came up on the news was story after story about landslides and floods across the country. I was about 4 hours away from Ayacucho. So close yet so far. I really wanted to get there as soon as possible, but I also didn’t want to die. After breakfast I approached a police woman on the street and asked if she knew how the roads were between there and Ayacucho. She said she wasn’t sure, but that she could ask a local taxi driver. We tracked down the taxi driver who assured me that the road was safe to travel on even despite the rain. By about 10am the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. I packed up my things and headed out of town. The sun was shining almost the entire way. I did come across a few flooded areas along the way, but since my motorcycle is relatively heavy and meant for all kinds of terrain, I was able to get past all the obstacles pretty easily. After about 3 and a half hours of riding, I was starting to feel pretty good about myself. “I might actually make it to Ayacucho in one piece,” I thought. But just as I was starting to get my hopes up, I pulled up to a road crossing that was completely flooded over by a river. The river was a reddish brown color, surely from the runoff of the surrounding mountains, which also had a reddish tint to them. Cars were lined up on both sides of the river and all the people were outside talking or just staring at the river with the same look of desperation. I witnessed a few cars unsuccessfully attempt to cross which then had to be towed out by either a truck or tractor. A few motorcycles also pulled up, but none of them dared crossing on their own. A few turned back, but most of them were able to hitch rides on the back of trucks. I spent the next four hours trying to convince every truck driver that passed by to give me and my motorcycle a ride across, but with no luck. I think it had something to do with the fact that my motorcycle is relatively big for Peruvian standards and on top of that I had a mountain of luggage and gear strapped on the back and sides of it.
As the sun started setting, I began to feel a sense of desperation. I didn’t have any food, cell phone service or enough gas to go back to the closest town. On top of that, it looked like more rain clouds were moving in over the mountains. A lady and what looked to be her mother were sitting by the river conversing in Quechua. From what I could tell, they lived in the house next to the river. I approached them and asked(in Spanish) if I could set up my tent on their land until morning when I might be able to hitch a ride or drive across if the water level goes down. They immediately expressed some concern and started asking me more questions like where I was coming from/going to and how long I had been waiting there. After explaining my situation a little bit more, the lady told me that her son has a tractor and could take me and my motorcycle across once he gets back from dropping something off in the next town over. I was pretty stumped about how she thought we would be able to get a motorcycle on a tractor, but I figured I wasn’t going anywhere anyways, so I might as well wait to see this tractor and to hear what her son had to say. As I was sitting there waiting for the tractor a man and his teenage looking son walked by on their way home from work. They stopped when they saw me and asked how long I had been there and how I planned to get across. After chatting for a while, the man told me that his son has a motorcycle that he rides across the river all the time and that he could ride my motorcycle across if I wanted him to. I was extremely hesitant at first. Trusting a complete stranger to ride your motorcycle over a flooded river in the middle of the night is a pretty clear no no. And with the size and extra weight on the bike, it seemed significantly more risky. I thanked them, but said that I preferred to wait until morning. They were very understanding and the man offered to let me stay with them for the night. “See that light up there on the hill?” he said as he pointed to a small light in the distance…”That’s our house and you can sleep there tonight if you can’t get across.” Just then, the tractor pulled up and the lady ran out of her house to explain the situation to her son. After coming to the agreement that we weren’t going to be able to put my motorcycle on the tractor, the lady’s son suggested that I ride to the other side with all my stuff on the tractor and that the teenage boy ride across with my motorcycle. By that time a small crowd of locals had all gathered to help and everyone seemed very confident that it would work. Probably due to my desperation, lack of food and the fact that I wasn’t thinking straight in general, I agreed to the plan and we started taking my gear off the bike. Once we had taken everything off and loaded it onto the tractor, it was time to watch the boy attempt to cross with my bike. By that time it was pitch black. I watched the little light from motorcycle as it slowly moved from one side of the river to the other. He made it. I have no idea how, but he made it. Then it was my turn to cross with my gear and the lady’s son on the tractor. The towns people waved and yelled, “Chau gringita! Cuídate!” as we pulled away.
Once we had made it to the other side, I thanked the boy and the lady’s son and strapped all my gear back on my bike. As I pulled away from the river and headed down the dark road toward Ayacucho, it started pouring rain. I was relatively unfazed after everything I have been through. I just kept driving until I eventually made it to the city where I filled up my gas tank at the first gas station I came to. As I drove into the city, it was about 10pm, it was dark and I had no idea where I was going. I figured if I could find the main plaza, there is a good chance I would be able to find a hotel or hostel where I could stay the night. I drove up and down random streets and tried following groups of cars in hopes that they might be making there way to the center of town. Eventually I pulled into a random parking lot and asked the attendant how to get to the main plaza or the closest hotel. “You’re one block away.” he responded. It was a miracle! The attendant offered to let me keep my bike there while I went to scout out a place to stay. There just happened to be a huge celebration in the plaza where hundreds of people were gathered watching bands and dancers march through the streets for Carnaval. I felt a little out of place trudging through with my huge backpack and rain gear, covered head to toe in mud. On the other side of the plaza I found a hotel that was conveniently located next to a pizzeria. I ate almost an entire family sized pizza by myself, took a long hot shower at the hotel, contacted some friends and family to tell them that I was alive and went straight to bed. The motorcycle stayed in the parking lot until morning when I picked it up and drove to my new host family’s house. I will be spending the next two weeks here living with a family who makes and sells artisan crafts both locally and abroad. I am eager to learn about them and their business, but first I am taking a few days to rest and build up my immune system again. Stay tuned for more about my life in Ayacucho!