Chapter 12.

Ayacucho to Andahuaylas

The road to Andahuaylas was not in a good condition nor was it really a road, more a one-lane dirt track going up and down thousands of feet in altitude. Along the way they would pass by several small towns, like Ocres and Chumbes. It is a route with curves and deep slopes where you must be a careful driver. Maria had taken the wheel with Pedro beside her with Luis and Jorge along with Pierce at the back. Pierce was sleeping as they had departed early in the morning. Pedro saw this as an occasion to speak with Maria about the expedition and to obtain more information.

“Well Maria, this expedition is really mysterious. I am sure there is more to this, right?”

“Shush, he might be listening at the back.” Maria said whispering. Pedro decided to speak in Spanish.

“Alright, I am sure that now he will not understand us. Tell me more about this expedition of yours”

Maria looked at him and smiled, seeing how curious Pedro was, and she gave in slightly to his curiosity. “Well, the gringo has money, lots of it for the expedition. That is according to his attorney. And he asked me to organize everything for him, which I did. But yes, we will be looking for more than old bits of pottery.”

Pedro smiled and exhibited his perfectly white teeth and his golden tooth. He now knew that they would be searching for gold, the lost gold of the Incas. That is all he wanted to know but now he had to find a way to send information back to his wife Eliza. The next major town on the way to Andahuaylas was the town of Chincheros which was 5 and ½ hours away and they had to stop there just to relax. Finally they reached the town after climbing the mountain pass of Huamina and then driving down past the towns of Ocres and Chumbes.

“Well, let’s rest for a few minutes and perhaps find a restroom,” said Maria.

“Yes of course. “chimed in Jake Pierce, by now wide-awake. “Maybe I can drive the rest of the way to Andahuaylas?”

Maria looked at him and smiled. “Mr. Pierce, we have three other drivers here that have experience of the Peruvian roads. No need for you to drive, better get used to the higher altitudes that prevail here.”

Pierce smiled and knew that she was right. After all, he was the boss, and bosses do not drive, they are driven.

“No, the next leg it will be Pedro and then Luis with Jorge last. It is best like that, okay everyone?” The others looked at her and nodded in agreement at her words.

There was a small restaurant at Chincheros and all went in to eat and rest, all except Pedro. He scampered across quickly to the post office, knowing that he could find a telephone there to report back to his wife Eliza.

“Hello Eliza, its Pedro. We’re now at Chincheros. All is well. I have learned that they are really looking for gold, not artefacts.”

“Is that so.” replied Eliza. “Try to find out if they have a map or some indications of where the gold is located. By the way, Drake and Acton are behind you following closely, did you see their car?”

“Not at all.” replied Pedro. “But they must be careful as Maria is aware of other people searching in the area it seems. I have to go now or they might get suspicious.”

“Fine, go now and keep me informed when you reach Andahuaylas.”

Maria and the others were eating at the restaurant, oblivious to the absence of Pedro but after 15 minutes she asked the others where he was.

“Well he told me that he had to make a call to his wife, “said Pierce. Just as he was saying that in came Pedro, all sweaty and grinning sheepishly.

“I had trouble finding a telephone.” said Pedro. Maria looked at him suspiciously. She regretted telling him about the gold and would have to be more careful from now on with him.

On they went with their voyage, with Maria sitting near the driver’s seat and with Pedro driving. They resumed their conversation in Spanish but very low.

“So, do you have a map of where to go and find what you want,” said Pedro.

“Don’t worry yourself and drive. I have everything that I need.” With these words Maria slumped in the seat and put her hat over her eyes, trying to appear sleepy and not willing to talk anymore. She was wary of Pedro now and thought that maybe he was one of the others, the guardians.

The road continued up and down and passed the town of Uripa. They had to cross another mountain pass known as Sorojcocha after which they would climb down towards Andahuaylas. It was as they entered the pass that a loud explosion occurred, a flat tire. Immediately Pedro slowed down, stopped at the mouth of the pass, and put himself as much as possible on the side on the dirt road. They had seen no cars for a long time.

“Well it seems that we will take longer to reach our destination.” Pierce said.

“It’s only a flat tire and in a few minutes we will be back on our way. “said Maria, looking around and admiring the view.

Pedro opened the trunk of the car to retrieve the spare tire but as he took it his expression was one of disbelief. “I am not so sure. “announced Pedro. “It seems that our spare tire also has a flat!”

At these words everyone looked at him with an expression of dismay on their faces.

“What, how can that be? “said Maria and Jorge in unison. It seemed that the car that they had rented already had a flat tire, the spare one.

“Now what do we do?” exclaimed Pierce.

“Nothing much I guess.” said Maria. “We now have to wait to see if a car comes and brings us to the next town.” Everyone was despondent.

Unknown to them Drake and Acton were driving behind not far away. When they saw the car of Maria on the side of the dirt road they knew they had to make a decision quickly; stop and help or race ahead so as they would not be recognized. They decided to speed ahead with Acton crouching low. When they passed the others at great speed they could hear the shouts as well as the cursing directed at them. They looked at each other and smiled.

Eventually the others got lucky as a passing bus loaded with tourists took Jorge aboard and he was able to get at a small town a spare tire, brought it back and installed it. Soon they were on their way to Abancay.

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