National Geographic : 1964 Feb
ipices hundreds of feet above rushing moun tain streams. At one curve, a truck coming from the opposite direction failed to honk, and we skidded to a dusty halt hardly a bump er's width apart. Slowly we scraped by each other, with our outside wheels crumbling away the very lip of the cliff. Peruvians give their trucks fancy names. This one-"The Friend of Death"-did no good for my peace of mind. A day later we encountered the terror of the Peruvian highlands-a landslide. Near Castrovirreyna we rounded a curve to find our narrow ledge above the Sinto River blocked for a hundred yards where the side of a hill, lubricated by the seasonal rains, had come crashing down. Buses and trucks waited on both sides as a bulldozer and a score of workmen strained to clear the way. After a cold night in a miners' rest house, we returned to watch under a sun that burned with special ferocity through the thin air. Boulders were sent flying into the ravine, but new cracks kept appearing in the slope, and rivulets of sand slithered down beside us. 232 Women from the puna came down to sell food: a dish of sheep liver, onions, and rice for three soles; three small potatoes for a sol (about four cents). The potatoes had purple flesh. They were one of a hundred or more varieties grown in this land where the "Irish" potato originated. Finally, near sundown on the third day, a one-way passage was cleared. A countryman in a brown poncho, with a sack of rockets for a fiesta, came leaping across like a frightened deer. "Dios es grande! [God is great!]" he gasped as he reached safety. Ranrahirca Still Lies Buried Later we visited the site of Peru's most de structive recent landslide, at Ranrahirca, in the Callej6n de Huaylas north of Lima.* Above us loomed the incredible white bulk of Nevado Huascaran, at 22,205 feet Peru's highest peak. At the edge of the boulder strewn avalanche path, the remnants of Ran *In the June, 1962, GEOGRAPHIC, writer Bart McDow ell and photographer John E. Fletcher described the ava lanche that wiped out 3,500 Peruvians in seven minutes.