"The aneroid shows seven thousand."
"I don't care how high we are, I'm still being bitten."
"It's something we picked up at that tea place."
"Perhaps if we go high enough they'll die."
"If they're as lively as this at this altitude, they're probably fitted with oxygen apparatus."
Finally even these ramblings ceased and we were left each with the thoughts of disaster and bankruptcy that attend travellers in the hour before the dawn.
The sun rose at five and the wind dropped. We were in a wide plain and before us was a big river, the Farah-Rud. As the owner of a tea-house had prophesied, the bridge was down. It was a massive affair but two arches had entirely vanished. It was difficult to imagine the cataclysm that had destroyed it.
We crossed the river with the engine wrapped in oilskin, the fan belt removed, and with a piece of rubber hose on the exhaust pipe, to lift it clear of the water, led by a wild man wearing a turban and little else, one of the crew of three stationed on the opposite bank. In the middle the water rose over the floorboards and gurgled in our shoes.
It was a beautiful morning; the sky, the sand and the river were all one colour, the colour of pearls. Over everything hung a vast silence, shattered when the ruffians on the other side started up a tractor.
Because we were tired, having driven all night, we had forgotten to discuss terms for this pilotage. Now, safe on the other bank, too late we began to haggle.
"This is a monstrous charge for wading a river." It was necessary to scream to make oneself heard above the sound of the tractor.
"It is fortunate that we did not make use of the tractor," said the man in the ragged turban. "It is rare for a motor to cross by its own power. With the tractor you would have had greater cause for lamentation."
"That being so by now you must be men of wealth."
Back came the unanswerable answer.
"But if we were not poor, Agha, why should we be sitting on the shores of the Farah-Rud waiting for travellers such as you?"
Literally Lost 37
The action took place in the Peruvian Andes and the author of the book was Patrick Leigh Fermor. The winner was Helen Warner of London.Reuse content