Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ayacucho - Peru. Travelling in harsh terrain conditions

The town of Ayacucho is located in the south-central Andes of the country.
It lies in quiet and calm area since Shining Path terrorist movement based once here had been defeated by Governamental forces in the eighties. In fact, Ayacucho was one of the most important strongholds of Shining Path in the past. The threat of a potential terrorist activity is low but precautions must be taken during travel missions. Traveling by road especially at night is dangerous. The areas potentially at risk are the Provinces of La Mar and Huanta. Overland travel from Ayacucho to San Francisco is not recommended.
The area has experienced some assaults by local criminal gangs of youngsters who usually prefer to operate during night time or early in the morning. The methodology used to attack buses and cars is well known: one of the members of the gang lies down in the street pretending that he had an accident so that the bus stops and get assaulted. In the meantime the local criminals rob the passengers of their belongings. The level of threat related to common criminality in the Ayacucho surroundings, is medium.
The office I visited in town during my RSA is located in an area called Huamanga which enjoys a low level of criminality.
The threat posed by earthquakes and water floods is very low in this area.
The local roads connecting Ayacucho and the neighboring rural communities, which are regularly used by local populations, are not paved and very dangerous. There are no side road protections and roads are often narrow. Several bends make the driving even more challenging. If a vehicle is coming the other way, our vehicle must stop trying to maneuver using the little road side space if present.

Ayachucho surroundings: local community involved in an UN funded agricoltural project (food for work)

In the rural areas the road conditions are even poorer than in town. Most of the local roads are not paved and in some instances operations are cancelled if weather conditions render part of the routes too dangerous for travel. There is high risk of car accidents though the number of cars circulating is scarce. The accident could be generated by landslides, or softness of terrain, as well as an impact with another car. If a mechanic problem takes place, (my recommendation) the driver must stay with the car while the passenger looks for help. The environment can be dangerous due to harsh natural conditions of the terrain and the lack of radio coverage in the Ayacucho Region. There is a high risk to be assaulted during night hours. There is no cellular network up in the mountains as well so that the only communication means is the Sat phone. The risk of an accident by road travel is assessed as high.

Author while travelling between Ayacucho and Huancavelica at around 4700 mt. above sea level, sorrounded by glaciers.

1 comment:

Peter (Worldman): said...

Hello Generoso,

I have not been commenting much because I "blocked" after my hand surgery. But all is coming back to normal again. In 3 weeks, I go back to Sri Lanka.

I send you and your family my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Take care