Dragoman`s catch cry is "Not your typical adventure" and this day was a perfect example.
Prior to leaving Chivay, early in the morning, we had been warned that farmers were protesting on the outskirts of Cusco, near our destination of Raqchi. It was a 10 hour drive so hopefully it would all be over by the time we arrived. Ummm....No!
The drive took us back south over the alto plains at 4800m and then we headed north over some amazing scenery. The combination of height, cold dry air and terraced hills leading to snow capped mountains provided plenty for us to be in awe of while the wheels turned and hours ticked by. I´ll try and add photos soon.
Approaching the main town and bridge south of Raqchi, Sicuani, a road guard warned that the road was still closed. Sure enough 20min down the road the trucks were banked up for miles on the small two lane road. We double backed and stopped at some thermal baths for a cuppa and possibly long wait. An hour later we were back in the truck having heard rumours that the road was open. It turned out that some trucks had been let through but otherwise the road was closed. Another rumour in spanish said it would be open in another hour. By this time it was dark, we were getting hungry and no one knew the real situation.
....Continued after hopping off to Machu Picchu.....
So, stuck on the side of the road with trucks in front and back we had to eat. Myself and a few guys grabbed the emergency spaghetti and tin soup and started cooking next to the truck, much to the interest of locals and drivers. Then my eyes and throat started stinging slightly and I hadn´t added any pepper or onions yet. Tear gas!! The police had started firing on the protestors and forcing their way through. Strong winds blew the gas straight into us. We finished quickly and ate on the truck as riot police in full kit marched several trucks past us. All had smashed windows. The situation was either going to get better or worse quickly.
More rumours circulated that the police were pushing tourists and non industrial trucks through.. So over the next 2 hours we inched our way forward to the "front line". Blankets were put over windows and everyone took cover at the back or down low. Every kid and local on a mobile phone could of been an informant keeping the protestors informed of vehicle movement. Our main truck driver Darren was on foot in front, trying to get a clear story and keep us out of trouble. Then..several more shots of tear gas rang out and and the roar of anger from ahead let us know that it was time to retreat. Darren, jumped back into the truck and the fastest 3 point turn with a dodgy gear box was completed in Dragomans history. We lumbered away, dodging rocks on the road and older barracades for several miles, returning to the baths for a wild camp.
The next morning at 5.50am the police arrived and let us know the way was clear. Quickly we packed and took off. In daylight the empty road was eary. Full of rocks, tree trunks and burnt fuel. A few car drivers shook their heads inidicating it wasn´t going to be that easy. Approaching the bridge about 200 locals lined the bridge blocking our desired path. Others starting throwing more rocks on the road. We weren´t welcome! Left with no other choice we took the side road into the mountains and headed for Cusco the long way round. At every village for miles afterward we veered around a partial road block. The scope of the protest was amazing. We made it to Cusco safely after 2 days of long drives. Thanks to our great Drivers!
Post log: The protest was caused by the Peruvian government trying to allow a mine to build a Hydro scheme in the farmers valley. It would steal all their water and poison the rivers. They are already very poor and this would destroy them. They are protesting for their lives!