In the pitch black, the fog rolled heavily in and obscured everything: the stars, the dirt road, the 17,000 foot peak, the sheer cliff that lay a few feet to my left. We had followed a sign to Huaraz and were battling mother nature on a steep mountain track, crossing the width of the Cordillera Blanca. Late in the evening, in the cold dark, we wondered what we were thinking still being on the road and 190km from our destination.
It was too late, and too much. Turning around and finding our way back to the paved highway, we weaved and wound our way hundreds, maybe thousands of meters down the mountainside, slushy rain lashing at everything, snowflakes melting in our eyelashes.
I spot the irregular flashing of a light and pull over. A man on horseback- or was it a mule?- soaked in his brown poncho and broad brimmed hat, asks if we had seen a woman and her donkeys up the mountain. No, no woman, no donkeys, and we wish him luck. Unable to help we continued down, being passed by a gasoline truck with warming white, yellow and red lights. I didn’t want to be left behind in the dark, but couldn’t keep up with their glow.
Frozen and starting to worry about hypothermia, we finally descend into a drier valley, little lights dotting the way. Soaked, we pull up to a little restaurant with the words “alojamiento”, lodging, and share a twin bed and dinner for $5 dollars. A stack of wool pelts lay in the corner of the barren wooden room.