“Andes Adventure”

As we leave the city of Caracas
we pass armed soldiers on street corners
a policeman who answered a query
with the threat of arrest.
We circle the roundabout
in the commercial center
view elegant mansions
glimpse designer-draped matrons
men in suits of silk and linen.

We skirt the barrios of tin-roofed shacks
decoupaged on hillsides
with their threadbare inhabitants
and bare-naked children,
three-dimensional survivors
of flesh-packed hovels
who wait to pounce
on the incautious tourist
who neglects to guard
his wallet and his life.

Seeking adventure
on a sun-blessed day
we drive from the city
up the steep mountainside
through Colinia Tovar
with its alpine architecture
flowers
vegetable gardens
tourist shops.

On our way high into the mountains
we pass an unattended stand
with insect-infested carcasses
bereft of their skin
each a week’s worth of meals
for extended families.

We are alone
as we begin our descent
into a bottomless valley.
The road drops off
next to the pitted macadam.
A downward glance
warns of the fate
that awaits the distracted driver
whose tire leaves the tarmac.

Vegetation proliferates
while pockets of smoke
dot the landscape.
It is forest-fire time in the Andes.
We see the glow of flames
flickering in the valley below.
The road is narrow
mountainside to the left
thousand-foot drop to the right
no room to turn around.

We soldier on
until a meager indent
allows us to change direction.
The road we have traveled
is steep and the rusty Fiat
protests on its return trip.

We overtake a battered Jeep
with four men
hanging out the sides and back.
Brandishing machetes
and flashing third-finger insults
they slow to fifteen-miles an hour.

We cannot pass.
Our tortured vehicle
hiccoughs along behind.
One false move
and we drive over the precipice
if they don’t
get us first.

Classic case of fear
engulfs us as time passes
and they play on our demons.

With a final barrage
of derogatory shouts
they pull to the side
and let us pass.
Not done with us
they follow close behind
until we reach Colinia Tovar.
Then we are free.

But not from the memory
which returns
in the night
and leaves one
or both of us
bathed in perspiration
and murmuring
“We’ll never be found
We’ll never be found.”

(Written for dVerse Poetics: Travel Poetry. September 16, 2014.)

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This entry was posted in Flash Fiction, Micro Fiction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to “Andes Adventure”

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    That sounds quite, quite frightening… very adventurous indeed. Such beautiful countries in South America, such a shame that it is often so perilous to explore them.

  2. Mary says:

    Oh, this sounds absolutely terrifying. It made my heart beat faster and faster. And so true, if they had harmed you you never would have been found! Whew!

  3. billgncs says:

    an experience where life is cheap, and violence unthinking.

  4. Gabriella says:

    What a frightening experience you have had! No wonder you are still haunted by it.

  5. dkirkstokes says:

    It’s such a shame that international travel has become so dangerous in many parts of the world. Your poem captured the blend of beauty and beastliness that I’ve felt in such circumstances- I felt I was there with you.

  6. Grace says:

    How scary some journeys can be ~ I am wary of traveling to countries where violence is rife and life is cheap as vinegar ~ I specially like the ending of the nightmare ~ Terrific story telling ~

  7. margaret says:

    … and that was a vacation? Yikes. Nice reflection of fear – I could feel it.

  8. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Much of Latin America seems contained in your adventure; most of Mexico, Central America, & South America; & the danger appeared so very real, both natural & man-made. Not that some of us couldn’t have encountered just as dangerous a trip across several gang-ruled ghettos in this country, but you placed us there in the Andes, & I haven’t caught my breath yet.

  9. An adventure of fear for sure.. I sometimes wonder how dangerous such things really are.. I have not been in situations this bad, but for sure there have been cases when I later have understood that my fear was wrong.. I love how you showed South America, and I would love to go there some time..

  10. Really included us ; felt like I was in the back seat there with you sweating too! Geez. Very effective write. Family members go to several times a year. Unnerving.

  11. Sumana Roy says:

    love the vivid details…

  12. Sounds much too true in too many places. You brought it vividly and disturbingly to life.

    janet

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