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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019
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My Best Road Trip: through the Sacred Valley to the Peruvian cloud forest

Starting 1,500 meters above sea level we drive a treacherous road to Santa Teresa’s cloud forest.

Source: Google Maps

  • Each week, TheJournal.ie/DoneDeal motoring mag will feature a reader’s best road trip. If you’d love to see your top trip featured, email us on bestroadtrip@thejournal.ie

MY BEST ROAD trip was driving along the high ledge of a canyon in Peru.

Who: Caroline Cunningham, Wild Star Landing, Carlow, Ireland

Route: Ollantaytambo to Santa Teresa in Peru

Distance: 155km

Time: 1 day

When: July 2013

Vehicle: A battered Hyundai hatchback of some sort

Source: Caroline Cunningham

‘Riding along the high ledge of a canyon’, wasn’t too unlike how my American traveller friends had described it in a text a few weeks earlier. I did not consider this news when I made my decision to travel to Santa Teresa.

The bus journey from Ollantaytambo (Peru) to Santa Maria had taken me three and a half hours over and beyond the Abra Malaga Pass. The views were stunning and the roads extremely windy as I travelled almost an extra 1,500 metres above sea level into the atmosphere from the Sacred Valley.

Source: Caroline Cunningham

It’s an hour by car from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. In that hour, I contemplated the possibilities of life and death. I observed the faces of the other passengers either side of me. They had the usual expressions of everyday acceptance of the familiar. The car rocked from side to side as it grappled with the rough terrain of this dusty, un-tarmacked road.

We drove steadily, negotiating bends and occasional oncoming traffic which threw up blinding screens of dust. I had become more accustomed to the bends but what bothered me most was the fact that to my left I could see right down into the depths of a canyon where the Urubamba River snaked its path with greater speed towards its Amazonian counterparts.

Source: Caroline Cunningham

I observed the driver and his co-pilot. They did not look like fellows who were set to die on this particular day. Logic butted in. An unexpected necessary swerve could send us off this narrow ledge to a certain death. Could I handle it? I had no choice right now. I was certainly not offering to walk or turn back alone. I could handle death if I knew it could be swift. Looking over the edge of this cliff-road it would surely be swift.

Source: Caroline Cunningham

What were my alternatives? I could have stayed at home in my safe environment where life threatened to tick itself away minute by minute repeating the same un-holistic patterns until I died tediously and tragically without much sympathy. My logic drove me to dramatic lengths to justify the fact that I was now sitting in this car on a treacherous route to Santa Teresa’s cloud forest.

Source: Caroline Cunningham

Slowly I allowed the thrill of this high-risk situation to take me over. I had passed the pinnacle of Veronica en route, the glacial mountain which stood adamant in its promise that dreams can be made real as long as we do not give up. Perhaps it was riskier to believe in the dream that I had beset myself and kept within my heart. Risks have to be taken in such pursuits. This was practice.

Source: Caroline Cunningham

The car trundled towards a break in the road. A cascading waterfall, which in another setting would warrant a day of natural observation, was in this instance presenting an obstacle as it flowed heavily across the dirt path. There were two apparent options. The first option was already being negotiated by another vehicle as it waded ever so slowly through the deep trough of the stream. The other option we took without much hesitation. We were driving across the fast flowing waterfall stream along a few planks of wood arranged to bridge the gap as the water beneath us took its magnificent plunge towards the Urubamba far below.

And in this fashion, I eventually arrived with the dust of the earth in my mouth and matted to my skin and hair, into the tranquil surrounds of tropical Santa Teresa.

Read: Reader routes – my best road trip

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About the author:

Melanie May  / https://www.melaniemay.com

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