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Thursday, 31 August 2006

Descending the Andes? Don't Look! - Page 3

Written by Rick Robiar
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Six months ago my girlfriend and I went to South America. Her convincing me to go was quite a feat considering my fear of flying was no match for a trip that involved eleven plane rides. But after successive journeys from Boston, New York, Miami, and Buenos Aires, my screaming mechanism malfunctioned and for the first time in my life I was speechless. For her, this made for quite a relaxing trip to our first destination: Mendoza, Argentina.  A small city close to the Chilean border, Mendoza’s outskirts consist mainly of wine country, boasting some of the best Malbec grapes in the region.



My conversation dwindled as I focused on the small rocks and road debris that whipped out from underneath the tires and disappeared over the edge. Occasionally I got to watch the poor, helpless stones as they fell out of sight. My gulping became more audible. My eating slowed in proportion to my increased heart rate.


The extreme downward tilt of the bus made it apparent the bus driver had just morphed into God, with thepower to give life or death with the flick of a steering wheel. For some reason, at this critical juncture, the speed of the bus increased, which seemed counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t anyone in their right mind slow down if the vehicle they drove was moving at an angle more suitable for a stomach-pumping, roller coaster ride? Perhaps the driver was inebriated? Was that cola he kept sucking on more than just refreshing tonic? Maybe his woman left him and he had decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore. But he might get lonely on the other side so why not take us along? These thoughts further drugged my mind with fear and anxiety.


Something else got my attention: there were no guard rails on any of the roads! I think they’re against the law in Chile. Perhaps something to do with not wanting to stem the flow of human cargo spilling over into the bottomless pits that seemed to be everywhere. I looked around me to see if other passengers were a tad bit concerned that, to make ends meet, in his spare time their driver was an acrobat in the FLYING BUS CIRCUS.  To my horror, they were all napping. It had to be carbon monoxide poisoning! Who could sleep through this? And to think, they offer this particular trip at night!!!


I had only my companion to share my angst with, and her bug-eyed, stone-faced gasping did not help the situation. At one point she turned to me and said “if we don’t make it, it’s been nice spending this time with you.” Nothing like a heartfelt farewell to cheer up a terrified hypochondriac sitting on a runaway bus.


The road was narrow and had two lanes, accommodating traffic from both directions. Whenever the driver ran into a slowpoke he would gun the gas and pass on the left, often just barely missing the oncoming traffic.  He took particular delight in doing this on blind curves. We barreled along, the bus rattling just loud enough to drown out my pleas to the holy trinity.


This story has a happy ending. We made it to Valparaiso in one piece. We had a great time in South America and I learned something about myself: I absolutely love to fly.



©Rick Robiar


(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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