After our fabulous week and a half in Cusco, we are off to Manu National Park in the Cloud Forest (the rim of the Amazon basin) for a week of glorified gardening as part of our jungle conservation volunteer project. We have to get up at some ungodly hour (4am) and catch a 10 hour bus out to Chontachaka Nature Reserve, where we will spend several hours a day playing with dirt.
It’s about 9am when we are jolted awake to the site of jungle all around us (!!) and multiple bus wheels off the road. A quick glimpse out the window reveals that “off the road” is a many-hundred metre plunge down a sheer cliff. Aristo is flipping out, but not too much to grab the camera and start getting some great footage as we recover from the slip and continue along the narrowest cliffside road I’ve ever seen. Matters are not aided by the rain, which is making it difficult to see and also quite slippery, but we are giggling with delight at the prospect of getting this on film.
Numerous times along the road, we come to screeching halts, nose to nose with other cars. One of the vehicles has to reverse until the road is wide enough to pass, which often takes many miles, and then we continue on our merry way. The Peruvian passengers seem unfazed by most of this activity; apparently it is commonplace to nearly plunge to your death in the jungle.
However, when one too many wheels slips off the edge, the Peruvians deem it an appropriate time to panic, shrieking and screaming at the driver in Spanish. Half the bus is on their feet, running to the back to balance out the bus’ weight so that the driver can maintain enough ground contact with the remaining wheels to reverse us out of peril. It’s a true miracle we make it to Chontachaka in one piece.