Here’s my story …
Cusco or Death
Markus swore and crunched his jeep into third gear. He’d taken his girlfriend Jessie on an Inca Trail holiday for Valentines. He glanced across at Jessie, she was somehow fast asleep despite the roughness of the jungle road. Jessie was adorable curled in her seat wearing her khaki shorts and shirt. She had her tawny hair in a messy bun just as she had the day Markus met her in London. It had been that night he learned she loved and studied archaeology. A year later their love was strong and he was treating her to the archaeology trip of a lifetime.
Refocusing on the road, Markus hoped to have Jessie safely back to Cusco by nightfall. Having been to see the Inca Moray ruins, they’d hit an issue. A rainstorm in a lower valley had forced a detour through the forest. Markus dropped a gear and manoeuvred the jeep around a bend between palms and vines. A troop of spider monkeys in the thick canopy shrieked at the jeep and took off.
Markus headed passed a narrow turning on the right. A sign there read; ‘PELIGRO, SIN ENTRADA A LOS CAMIONES’
“Danger, no entry to trucks. Good, not going down there anyway.” Markus grinned at Jessie still sleeping peacefully and headed on through the jungle. He was glad no vehicles came the other way. They’d never pass each other on the narrow mud tracks.
Just ahead trouble loomed.
Markus swore and shook his head, he had to stop the jeep. He was looking down a steep, muddy hill. A third of the way down a tree had fallen across the track. The obstacle was impassable.
“Why’d we stop, sweetheart?” Jessie asked.
Markus watched her stretch and sit up. He reached over and kissed her on the cheek. “Hey, beautiful. Did you enjoy your nap?”
“Mhm, it was nice,” Jessie replied having leant on to his lap. She smoothed his cheek with her hand and returned the kiss. “Did we run into a problem?” she asked as they parted.
“Yeah. We aren’t getting back Cusco this way. We’ll never get over the tree without destroying the jeep. We’re stuck!”
“So, we have to go back to Moray and hope the storm-damaged roads are cleared then?” Jessie grimaced. “We’ll be driving all night.”
“I’m uncertain we can even get back the city that way.” Markus pulled out a map of the area and studied it for a while. “No choice,” he remarked as he folded the map, engaged reverse and started trundling the jeep back down the track.
“I hope we can get through somewhere.” Jessie’s voice took on a fearful quaver. “It’s too dangerous to be in the jungle at night.”
“It’ll be okay. I’ll get us out.” Markus turned into the track marked ‘Danger, no entry to trucks’ in Spanish. “I promise.”
Jessie had noticed the sign. “Well, I hope jeeps are permissible.”
“We’ll soon find out.” Markus kept the speed low and his eyes open for danger as he steered along the bumpiest excuse for a road he’d ever travelled on. Great ruts in the mud caused the jeep to thunder about worse than a rollercoaster.
To begin with they remained within the vine rich forest. They spotted parrots, a sloth and even an agouti scurrying away from a boa constrictor within the branches.
“Look its lightening up ahead.” Jessie pointed to afternoon sunlight beaming through the branches. As they parted she grew wide-eyed, “Oh!”
“Shit!” finished Markus bringing the jeep to an emergency stop. He’d driven to the edge of deep red rock ravine. A river ran through it some hundred feet below. The only way across – a flimsy bridge of ropes and old-looking wooden planks.
“Do you think the jeep will make it?” Jessie asked the big question.
“Not with you sitting in it, lovely,” Markus replied.
Jessie glared at him. “Are you saying I’m too heavy and will—”
“Shush, no. I think you have a beautiful figure and weight.” Markus smoothed her hair for a moment and kissed her. “What I meant was; I want you to walk across the bridge. I’ll bring the jeep over alone.”
“Then if the jeep falls…”
“You won’t die.” Markus nodded. “I don’t want to put you in any more danger than necessary. The bridge will hold you fine but it may not take the jeep. Please go across, I’ll be right behind you.”
Jessie nodded and opened her door.
Markus saw tears forming in her eyes. “Hey, it’ll be okay. The sign said no trucks. This is a jeep; I’m just being safety conscious.”
“Thank you.” Jessie took her rucksack and gave him a cute smile. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
Markus winked. “You warm up that cuddle you do so well. I’ll need it after this.” Markus leant out and gave her one last kiss, then restarted the engine. “Use the handrail rope the whole way.”
Jessie nodded approached the bridge and started to cross.
Markus felt unable to breathe as she moved forward one plank at a time. Jessie was his world and now he was putting her in grave danger. Knowing she was safer this way didn’t leave him feeling any better about it.
After what felt like an hour, she reached the far side, turned and beamed at him.
Markus released his breath and felt great relief as he watched her give a victorious little bounce.
His tension returned; now it was his turn. He rolled the jeep forward and felt it lower onto the first planks of the bridge. “Time to go get that cuddle.” As uncertain about the bridge as he was, he had no choice but to get the jeep over. They were still many miles from Cusco and walking through the rainforest without a guide was almost suicidal.
The bridge creaked and groaned under the weight of the jeep but it held.
Markus kept it rolling forward as slowly as he could. He felt planks cracking beneath the wheels, and forced himself to be calm. Hitting the middle of the bridge he felt it lurch as the ropes stretched under tension. “Don’t break, you beauty!” he prayed as he broke a sweat keeping the jeep straight.
“Come on!” yelled Jessie hopping about and biting her nails anxiously.
Markus couldn’t reply, he was focusing on his mirrors and the way ahead. His wheels were always close to the edges of the bridge.
The jeep rolled on painfully slowly.
A tremendous vibration and a twang ran through the bridge and then Markus heard the wheels his earth as he rolled onto the far bank and safety. He was all smiles as he came to a stop and leapt out of the jeep. “Woohoo! Made it!”
Jessie was waiting for him. She wrapped her arms around him and lay her head on his chest. “Thank you, for doing it the way you did to protect me.”
“Your life is more important than anything. I brought you on holiday to show you I love you not to get you killed.” Markus scooped her into his arms and set her back in the jeep. “Let’s get you to the hotel where I can love you properly.”
Have a great day!