Ayacucho Coasting

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Green Machine and the Mototaxi Junket. There’s more to see about it here.

“The Aussies!”

We pulled to the curb behind them. Scott and I jumped off while Andrew milked the throttle, sustaining the engine’s life support. We agreed to follow them in search of a place to stay.

On the first uphill they pulled away, far enough that it became the job of Scott and I to keep tabs on them. It felt like we were tailing them, staying back far enough that we could still see them, but not getting so close that we would be obvious. Our lack of lights made it that much more authentic.

Of course, any proper tail would have a decent vehicle. On one cobbled street, the engine died. Scott and I jumped out and started to push, hoping the cobbles wouldn’t sprain an ankle. Once up to speed, Andrew popped the clutch. The taxi’s momentum turned the engine over, and the spark caught again. We piled in and continued down the street, our mark lost in the night.

“Just keep going straight. They’d notice we weren’t behind them.”

We coasted through intersection after intersection after intersection, eyes peeled, uncommitted to any direction. Maybe this was hopeless. Maybe we should have been searching for a place to park the mototaxi for the night instead of Barry and Gerald. For all we knew, they were still moving.

“There!”

Scott pointed to our right. Down the street perpendicular to ours stood Barry, next to their parked mototaxi. Andrew wrenched us around the corner and pulled behind them, the engine dying as we came to a standstill.

“I thought we lost you guys.”

“You did.”

Gerald appeared from a door way. “No good.” He rested hands on hips. “Not enough room for all of us. But they said something about a traveler’s hotel just down the road there.” He pointed down the hill.

“We’ll just keep following.”

“Sounds good.”

Gerald and Barry loaded up and started down the hill. Andrew tried the electric starter…nothing. The kick starter…nothing.

“Andrew!” Scott pointed at the ground. “Kill the fuel!”

The carb again. Fuel squeezed past Andrew’s makeshift seal, and sprayed from the seam. It spilled onto the road, washing dirt and oil from the ancient cobbles before being funneled down the hill by the mortar channels holding the surface together.

“Well…” Andrew leaned back. “…now what?”

We stared down the hill, to where the Aussies had vanished from sight.

“Screw it. Let’s coast.”

“Huh?”

“They said this place was just down the road. What if it’s literally down this street? We can coast it.”

After a quick discussion to hash out the details, Scott and I abandoned the sofa to stand on the rear cargo rack so we could dismount in a hurry and push the taxi if necessary. It was also nice knowing I could bail at any second. Ready, Andrew slipped the transmission into neutral, eased off the brakes, and let gravity takes us.

Before the end of the block, we had picked up enough speed for the lane’s cobbled rhythm to be dampened by our suspension. The warm night air dropped a few degrees as it accelerated past us, tousling our hair. The rush of air, the squeaked compressions of old suspension springs, and the clatter of chain links spinning their sprockets was the only sound in the dormancy of our engine.

“Wooooooo!” To my right, Scott was leaning back, arms straight, chin pointed to the sky. My face relaxed into a cheek-bulging smile and I yelled with him. Our taxi achieved a speed impressive for being accelerated by gravity alone. Then again, the yelling drove our steed faster, past its limits.

The city’s culture was instilled into the air, like incense. It energized us. We leaned off the taxi, ignoring the potential traffic at each intersection. Our bent knees took every bump the taxi could not, our calves absorbing and recoiling with the energy. We glided near the ground, with no lights, like a predator in the dark. No flight could have been better.

Our bird of prey cried out, the brakes squealing. Scott and I stood straight again. On the sidewalk, Barry and Gerald both pointed to a large garage door. We lost momentum in the corner and on the incline of the garage entrance. Scott and I hopped down and helped the mototaxi to where the Aussies had left their own.

“We lose you fellas again?”

“Fuel problems.”

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