Let me recommend Ampay bus line for all of the above.

We hop onto the afternoon bus bound for Quillabamba and I am impressed. This bus is a Mercedes-Benz with freshly ironed curtains lining the windows. The entire bus has a crisp appearance, every surface has clean edges that don’t seem to be worn down with years, grime and abuse. But the best features are the padded, plastic covered leg rests. Ah, luxury! We recline our seats, kick down the leg rests and breathe deep. I am looking forward to a relaxing, comfortable ride to the jungle town of Quillabamba.

The lady across the aisle from us is the only other rider I have an awareness of. She’s holding a cute little puppy in brightly colored manta. Great! We’re riding in comfort next to a cute little puppy . . . can it get any better? We play with the puppy and his little blanket. The puppy eventually shits on the bus floor. We all laugh and the lady cleans it up and throws the toilet paper out the window.

The journey to Quillabamba is long and arduous. Not many travelers take the trip because it’s an eight or nine hour bus ride and the last few hours are on a bumpy, unpaved road and there aren’t many popular tourist destinations in that direction. Quillabamba sits in the high jungle just on the other side of a range of 14,000’ mountain peaks that overlook the popular tourist town of Ollantaytambo. We want to go to Quillabamba for an experience of the high jungle, locally grown coffee and just to see what it’s like.

The bus twists up and up and up for a couple of hours, on a really nice smooth paved road. Then we hit the clouds and we glide through mist. Every once in awhile, the bus is flagged down by little Peruvian kids wearing traditional Quechua clothing. We stop for just a second, the driver hands the kid some bread and we are off again. I’m so comfortable and I’m thinking about how I need to have an Anna-tude adjustment about riding the busses and just learn to relax and trust that everything will be all right. The clouds are so beautiful, we’re crossing the apex of the mountain peak, the cute little puppy is running around . . .

. . . and all of a sudden, there’s a bit of a commotion. No less than four Peruvian matriarchs, including the one sitting next to us with the puppy, run toward the middle of the bus. “Que paso?” I ask the guy sitting next to us. He makes a rounded-belly motion with his hand. “Nacimiento?” I ask. A birth? He shakes his head an emphatic yes. The bus still twists and turns through the clouds, not slowing down at all. I look up. Sure enough, there are four matronly ladies with concerned looks, swaying and staggering in the ailse as the bus rounds the curves, looking down at a passenger who is reclined in one of the comfy bus seats. All I can see from my seat in the back is that they are pushing on a woman’s belly. I’d like to get a picture, but feel it just wouldn’t be right . . .

They ask me if I want to see. I stand up and make my way, swaying with the bus, toward the woman. She’s reclined and her fists are clenched into the blanket that covers her waist. She’s made not one sound, hasn’t cried out in pain at all. “Has she had the baby?” I ask, thinking that the woman is still in labor. Then I notice the man sitting next to her. He’s holding the cloth that the puppy had been wrapped up in earlier. He pulls the cloth back to reveal a tiny baby so new that it’s still covered in goo.

“Close the windows!” one of the matrons calls out. Another passenger offers a sprig of some kind of plant. The woman holds the sprig over the baby and murmurs a prayer in Quechua. The Andean people revere the surrounding mountains as gods. The fact that this baby was born on the very top of this apu is not lost on these mountain women. This baby is special. That apu wanted it to be born right at that moment.

Sometimes the apus claim lives in horrific bus crashes. It’s a daily fact of life that Peruvians just live with. But this time, a new life is born, innocent and new at 14,000’, in the clouds and mist at the top of the mountain.