Peru postcard

Chest tightens and a blue chill adrenalin wash plunges to my toes, jaw, grip harden. The chalky dust hazed imperfect orb is far away, this tunnel that is otherwise close your eyes black, this one’s longer and its narrow lane affords no bailouts for oncoming traffic. I punch it, feel ignore the protest in my legs, the wheel troughs in sand nudge the steering to the bottom helping steer, little other balance feedback, I kick harder eager to be out, watering eyes fixed fixed on the exit.

The Canon del Pato, ascend a short set of switchbacks to enter a startling gap between two mountain ranges, river rending against two textures of rock, the walls leaning in so shadows and tingling nerves. There is a precarious dirt ledge along the south vertical that passes for a road, dry pocked, and where it can’t hold on it passes through constricted unlit tunnels in the angled rough columns that plunge to far below. On a famous route for cyclists, most of those tunnels are short, lit first from behind then light’s transmission transition to in front. Listen for traffic, pedal through, repeat. But that one was long.

I wait at the entrance to another spiral hole into rock, hearing something or just the wind. Wait. A burlap bag overladen delivery truck is slowly backing out, no reverse lights, the woman in the passenger seat leaning out the window calling out to the driver. It tucks into a pullout, three roaring brand new cement mixers interspersed with shiny white pickups, furious headlights flood accelerating out in a cloud, Bigger right of way, I note that there’s at best a foot or two clearance on each side of the bigger vehicles. We wait for quiet, I’m jagged edged about diving in. A plastic bottle gets thrown out of the delivery truck, I muse that they’re jettisoning refuse for the jump like in The Empire Strikes Back, the tunnel is menacing opaque dust stillness, the truck crawls forward, picks up speed, a lightbulb equal parts insight and stupid buzzes on in me, I take off after the truck, you’ll be my safety, my blocker. Delivery truck doesn’t have rear running lights either, so only somewhere indistinctly ahead is the halo of its headlights mostly hidden by its geometric hulk, the driver is worried just like I am so he leans into the gas. I’m riding behind at two or three feet, now we’re rolling clicking through gears my headlamp strobing like a bad dream horror film against reflecting bits, but it’s diesel smoke and dust and dust and smoke. I don’t know how long it will go, I’m tangle wired to this truck and to relax I leave my body to just do, no more seconds or darknesses. Not sure when I notice we shock out.

Arms, legs, lungs covercoated, powdered t-shirt. I’m sure my knuckles don’t hurt from low level terror or anything like that. Resolve and inspiration and rheumy gaze fixed, for the next long one and the next, I ride different trucks right on the bumper. When it’s all over, unthinkingly run my tongue over my teeth and taste the sand, I must have at some point started grinning.