The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Green Machine and the Mototaxi Junket. See more about it here.
We pressed lower into the water shed, and things turned green. The color was provided by the grasses and shrubs; it wasn't lush jungle, but it was a welcome change. Even more welcome were the mototaxis parked on the side of the road.
The flag of Scotland hung form the rear taxi. We parked behind it. The second taxi belonged to a British team. Our kilted friend strutted over to us and leaned against our mototaxi.
"How you boys doing?"
"Hanging in there," Scott answered. "No major problems yet."
"Yeah, their clutch cable gave out. It's been quite the ordeal getting it back to working." The taxi in question fired up. The other Junketeers backed away, tools in hands, covered in the grime of the road. The taxi took off down the road–a test drive.
Andrew asked, "Have you guys seen anyone else?"
"Apart from you blokes, just the Aussies. They came by not too long ago. Said they were headed for Bagua Grande tonight. That's where we're aiming too."
"And us," Scott said.
The mototaxi came back at us, the driver giving a thumbs up. The mototaxi pulled back into its spot and my stomach groaned.
"Well we've been going at it together. Really helped when that cable went. You boys wanna join…till we make Bagua Grande anyway?"
We gave a half understood glance to each other. Caravanning with Josh and Aaron had been great for their company, but worrying about two mototaxis wasn't ideal. We weren't about to take partial responsibility for three.
Scott stepped up. "We'll join for a while. But if we get separated, let's not worry about it."
The Scotsman glanced over his shoulder. The other guys pushed their packed tools into their cargo racks.
"Let's get going then!"
Scott started the engine and pulled onto the road, at the lead of our caravan. We gained some distance before the others pulled back onto the road, but we had them in sight. The road paralleled the river, tracing its northern bank. Across a bridge, the road climbed from the river and floodplain in search of the more interesting curves and subtle gyrations of the valley wall.
Within a mile of this change, the two other taxis caught up. Another mile, and they passed us. A third, and we had lost sight of them. Funny…and ironic. We had not committed to the caravan so we wouldn't be weighed down. But now it was they who capitalized on that noncommittal clause. What was not funny was how easy it was for them to pass us. Both mototaxis had zipped by, no problem.
Of course, not all the taxis would have the same top speed. But back at Colan, during our grand depart, we had kept pace with everyone, including the Scots. Now they could blow by us. What had changed?
The dull red of the gear indicator’s electronic readout flicked through the gears faster than our single piston. The numbers jumped up on the descents, mimicking our speed. On the climbs, they dropped. Using a lower gear was fine, but wasn’t Scott using a gear lower than me on our climb over the pass? Or was I crazy? After ten more miles, it was undeniable: our engine's RPMs were dropping. We were losing power.
I leaned toward Andrew. He leaned back.
"I think something's wrong," I shouted through the wind.
He pursed his lips, then nodded. We both sat back, unsure of what we could do.
The miles continued to roll under us, but at a decelerating rate. One hill betrayed our mototaxi’s secret though. There was a pause in the engine’s song as Scott dropped into second. Andrew and I looked at each other again. Third gear should have been sufficient. He leaned and shouted to Scott.
"Find a place to pull over."