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Jesse Miller

Riding on the Wild-Mouse.

PERU | Saturday, 10 May 2014 | Views [273] | Scholarship Entry

Our Peruvian van-driver never told us the macabre stories of landslides, bus-collisions or flash-flooding watersheds that frequented the road carved into the sides of the Andes Mountains we were following, though most of the tales demised with a plunge over the precipice to our left. As a matter of fact, he didn't really speak much at all, instead opting to cluck his tongue or hum something foreign for a few sparse seconds.

A smoky-blue, post-dusk haze filtered the gaudy interior, masking a tangle of limbs and the polyester bags belonging to my three sleeping companions. Outside, fog began coiling itself into something intangible and a mist of rain lightly beaded on the window.

Nowhere near fluent nor wanting to distract our driver in simplicities, I closed my eyes and let my body drift with the flow of the van, a giddy wave of emotion, bordering on nostalgia, washing over me. I was eleven years old again and the narrow road we followed became a “Wild Mouse” roller coaster - a display of brightly painted metal beams dominating a boardwalk skyline, where cartoon-caricature fiberglass cars swerve around tight ninety degree turns, while inside I’d be thrown left-to-right, my skin tinged with sunburn and the sweet taste of ice-cream lingering on my lips between yelps - KABLAM.

A fresh-scattering of rocks split off from the mountainside and slid in front of the van, enveloping the road in a plume of smoky dirt. For a millisecond, I saw our driver look at me in the rear-view mirror, a slight grin on his face. A sour tingling inched its way up my esophagus. He paused, backed up, and we edged around the obstruction, only to come face with yet another: a bridge - rather two planks of rain-warped wood balanced over a ravine, held together with twine. This was no amusement park thrill-ride with safety backings. I must’ve made a sound, barely audible to me, but one that one caught our driver’s attention again.

“Esta bien?” Are you OK? He now bore a pleasurable open-mouthed smile and I noticed a chipped tooth. Just behind his dark frame, the windshield wipers made a grimy swipe across the windshield. It looked dirtier than it ever had this trip.

“Si.” Yes. I tried to hide my hesitation and he fell silent yet again, but his smile remained. He aligned the tires with the wooden planks and without much pause to gather his bearings, pressed his foot down on the gas as I once again closed my eyes and stepped aboard the wild-mouse.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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