Six hours to Tingo Maria 3/26/15

From Huanuco…  onward to Tingo Maria.

P1160210Turismo 10 Office in Huanuco

I always locate the ’emprsas de transportes’ that serve my next destination a day or two before I depart where ever I may be. That way I know exactly how long it will take a taxi to get me there the day I decide to go.

There are few buses in these parts. Most of the transport is done in ‘combis’… which are heavy duty vans that will hold up to 21 people (in the states these would be rated 16 passenger vans).  Because there are so many small villages that require public transport services, different companies only service certain routes.

During the wet season, all kinds of major/minor rain related disasters occur. Rock slides can suddenly block a road. Mud slides do the same or can wreck havoc on buildings or neighborhoods almost anywhere in the Andes. Avalanches are common in the higher altitudes. Earthquakes are not uncommon, but unrelated to the changing of the seasons. These things are taken as a normal part of life… just as snow and low temps are in the Northern latitudes… just as hurricanes and tropical storms are taken for granted in the semi tropics.

When I arrived at the office serving Tingo Maria from Huanuco there was a large flat panel screen with a news program on. The reporters were covering the floods in Santa Eleulia. Video images  showed rescue workers bagging bodies of people who had drown… mothers and family members wailing and the uniformed guys with their stoic ‘just doing my job’ demeanor.

I was informed that the road between Huanuco and Tingo Maria had suffered a major rock slide event. They assured me that road crews had arrived and were working on it. The best estimates were that it ‘might’ be cleared completely in about a week.

That may sound like a lot of time to those unfamiliar with the area and with the nature of the problem(s).  These roads are not superhighways. They are narrow two lane roads. Truck and buses can negotiate the route when all is well.

Imagine that there are several scores of large trucks and some buses that have encountered such a rock slide… which has completely obliterated the road. How are they going to turn around? Remember this scenario happens on BOTH sides of the gap. Now, imagine bringing in heavy equipment needed to clear the mountain of rubble… and then they have to repair the area enough for truck and bus (as well as cars/motorcycle) traffic to pass.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Because such events are not uncommon in these parts, there are procedures that have developed.  Police; both local and national are notified, they arrive on the scene to coordinate rescue and repair efforts. A few police are immediately stationed at such an event 24/7 to help prevent hot tempers from getting out of hand. What happens is, a kind of ‘temporary town’ appears. Vendors arrive offering whatever anyone needs. The truckers are very accustomed to sleeping in their vehicles. No traffic passes at night.

During the day, the procedures allows that people intent on traversing the rock slide area from either direction may do so… but only during certain specific times of the day… as the work crews determine. No vehicles of any kind will pass the rock slide itself.

People will exit the vehicles that brought them to the area from their town of origin… and they will then proceed on foot,  carrying whatever they have… up and over… and past the rock slide… to the other side of it.  When the people walk far enough, they will find public transportation that is ready to take them to the next town. For me Tingo Maria.

What is normally a two hour ride can turn into a much longer day. I arrived at the Huanuco office at noon… arrived at the rock slide by 1:30PM… sat for two and a half hours to be given the OK to walk through… got into a combi van around 4PM and arrived in Tingo Maria around 5:10PM.

I had been to Tingo Maria a few times before. Once on my motorcycle journey in 2012 and once last year as I did my Amazon adventure. I like the feel of Tingo Maria.