Originally written on August 12, 2012
Friday night, 6:00 p.m. Danny and I headed downtown to the “plastic store” to buy a new spout for the water filter bucket that Ade had loaded on the truck when he left at 4:30 a.m. for the last of the mission team treks of the season. It’s a good thing that we now live in the age of cell phones and fairly decent coverage even here in the Andes Mountains, because Ade frequently calls me once he gets to camp and asks me to send out whatever he has forgotten. Sometimes it’s a chunk of frozen meat stashed in the back of my freezer, other times it’s the video projector and the Jesus movie. On Friday, it was the water filter spout… and Martín, the camp cook, who was returning to Huaraz that afternoon from another trek and would hopefully arrive in time to get on the bus for the 9 hour ride to the village where Ade and mission group was spending the first night of their hike.
Water filter spout and Martín’s bus ticket in hand, Danny and I tried to keep ourselves warm as we waited in the parking lot, watching passengers fill the bus while the driver tied luggage to the top rack. Soon we were not only waiting in the cold night air, but also trying to convince the driver that our passenger was on his way, begging the chofer to please hold the bus just a couple more minutes. In the end, Martín missed the bus by less than five minutes. Hoping that he could race to the police “control” on the outside of town before the bus passed through that checkpoint, I gave him all of my spare change and small bills to pay for a taxi. With nothing else we could do to help Martín and the water spout reach the camp in time for him to cook breakfast, Danny and I crossed the street looking for a taxi to take us home.
Martin is a very important person in the AWI camp!
Standing on the dark and freezing street corner, I realized that I no longer had the right amount of coins for a taxi. I had a 50 sol bill, but no taxi driver would be willing to make change; that would be like trying to pay for a 25 cent ice cream cone with a $50 bill back home in Ohio! Digging through my pockets, I found just enough centimos to get on one of the local colectivo busses, so Danny and I huddled miserably in the cold until we saw one of the already passenger-laden colectivos coming our way. Hailing the “Z Bus,” we climbed inside, grateful for the stuffy warmth of the overcrowded seats. Danny immediately fell asleep on my lap, and I settled back for the ride, not minding that the Z Bus would take us on a slightly more circuitous route than a taxi; at least it would go right past our back door in less than 15 minutes.
Quite a bit longer than 15 minutes later, I started to wonder where the Z Bus was actually going. Most of the passengers had gotten off on the far edge of town, and the bus had now started winding up a dirt road that was most definitely NOT leading to our back door! The final few passengers told the money collector that they wanted to get off at the “big bend in the road” or at the “first stairway up the hill into the village.” I didn’t get off at either of those places, because I didn’t know where we were; I DID know that I wouldn’t find a taxi driver out there in the boonies who would have change for my 50 sol bill! In fact, I probably wouldn’t find a taxi driver at all!
Half an hour later, after reaching the village and disgorging the last of the passengers except for Danny and me, the Z Bus rumbled back into town, picking up a few new travelers along the way. It had not passed our back door, and by now I realized that it would not be passing our back door. I sheepishly handed over my 80 centimos to a rather irritated money collector and asked to be let out on the first main street that we came to in Huaraz. By now Danny had awoken, informed me that he’d had a very nice nap and wouldn’t need to go to bed anytime soon, and also that he was very thirsty. Needing to get change from my 50 soles, we ducked into a bakery, bought a Coke and some bread, and hit the streets ready to pay a taxi and GO HOME!
As I was hailing the cab, I glanced in the direction of the colectivo that had taken us on the long and winding road, hoping to see the name painted on the back of the little bus… because I KNOW that the “Z” goes past our house, but we certainly didn’t make it home on that bus!
Two nights later I’m enjoying the warmth of a fire in our woodstove while Danny is hopefully already asleep and dreaming of school tomorrow. I haven’t heard from Ade since he called asking for the plastic water spout, so I don’t know if Martín ever made it to the camp, or if Ade is cooking for the whole crew. But the real puzzler is which bus we took on Friday night, because it certainly didn’t go where I thought it would. Was it the Z or not the Z? For me, that is still the question.