Adventure Travel In Peru - Trying Out A New Road
By Vic Hanson
In my missionary work here in southern Peru, I sometimes help out some short-term teams that come from the U.S. On one of these occasions, I drove to near Oyolo, a village about five hours away from Cotahuasi where I live, to meet Pastor Eddie and his team from Florida. They were driving from Pausa and were supposed to be meeting me up on the high plain, about an hour before Oyolo, as they were going to be using the "new road" we had learned about when we were there a number of months before. It was supposed to connect between Tactanga (there is a good road between Pausa and Tactanga) and Oyolo, saving a 4-5 hour walk. On Monday afternoon, I waited for Eddie and his team for a short while at the designated meeting place but that didn't last long as I am not a very good "waiter". So I decided to drive as far as possible on the new road to meet them. I drove down the road for a few minutes until I came to a steep downhill and stopped to check it out. I was afraid that if I went down there I might not have the power to get back up again as my car doesn't have a "4x4 low" range and the road was somewhat soft. No problem as this road appeared to be just a shortcut if you wanted to go to Oyolo. The main road seemed to be about six miles towards Cotahuasi so I backtracked to that.
There were fresh truck tracks on the road, with dual wheels, so I figured if a big truck could go through there the road couldn't be too bad. However, about 10 minutes down the road, the truck tracks turned around, but there was still a set of tracks continuing, going down a hill. Those turned around a few minutes later and the road disappeared! I could see the road climbing out of a gully on the other side and I could also see where it went towards Oyolo. But there was at least a mile of rocks and a deep gully between me and there. Walking down, I followed a faint track across some sand down to what looked like a swampy area; fortunately it was dry now. I lost the tracks but was able to get up on top of a hill where I could see the road less than ¼ mile below me but no road to it and no tracks, just more rocks and gullies. After waiting for about an hour, I decided to go on to Oyolo and see if there was a message there.
In Oyolo, I called on the public radio to Pomacocha (the last village they went through with a radio) and found out that they had left there about 3:00 pm, but the operator said that they were on the walking trail. I started walking down the trail, asking everyone I met if they had seen the gringos. Finally at about 6:00 pm I met a man who said that they had started on the road at Tactanga at 3:00 pm and were definitely attempting to go by truck across the high plain. We had been told that it was only three hours from Tactanga to Oyolo, so I hurried back to Oyolo, expecting them to be there when I arrived there at 7:00 pm. There was no sign of them so I started walking up the road, hoping to meet them. After an hour I gave up and returned back to Oyolo at about 9:00 pm. Now I didn't know what to do, I knew they had to be up on the high plain somewhere, I couldn't drive or walk there, so I finally went to bed, praying that they were OK.
Tuesday morning I got up early and drove back up the road two hours to where I had waited the afternoon before. Still no sign of them. I walked down to the road below and then up the road on the other side to a ridge about an hour away. They should have been there by then. I should have been able to see their dust if they were on the road. Nothing. I walked back to my car, clearing the road of rocks and filling in holes to make it passable, as it hadn't been driven on in months, since the rainy season. I cleared the rocks to make a path up the hill I was parked on, so I could drive down. I was able to drive down to the road without too much problem, went up the road to past where I had walked to, probably about 10 miles total. I finally reached another steep hill, going down to a flat plain, where I could no longer see the road. No truck, no dust. I finally decided that they must have turned around and went back for some reason.
I returned to Oyolo where there was a message to radio them right away in Pausa, it was urgent! Turns out they gotten lost up there Monday night, spent a cold restless night at over 15,000 feet with little sleep in the truck, and returned to Pausa on Tuesday to get more fuel and a guide. Eddie said they would try again on Wednesday, so I got up early again and went back to meet them. I waited at the top of the hill, above their road because I had barely made it back up the day before. After waiting for what seemed like forever, I saw their dust and finally they appeared. It took them five hours, not three, because the road was so bad. A few days later when they returned to Pausa, I rode with Eddie to learn the road. I then hiked back to Oyolo to pick up my car and return to Cotahuasi. On a future trip they plan on flying into Arequipa and driving through Cotahuasi to get to Oyolo, rather than take that road again.
Vic Hanson is the founder of Adventure Cotahuasi Tours, which offers pre-planned and custom adventure travel tours in Cotahuasi Canyon and other areas of Peru.
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