I Hate Backtracking By John Ahern

The merest thought of backtracking makes me twitch at the lack of new adventure. My travel companions were about to learn that I would do anything to avoid it.

Crammed on a bus crawling high into the Ecuador Andes, my amigos were ignoring my backtrack rant. ‘There must be another way back!’ I insisted, trawling through guides and maps. Hours later I presented my thesis. ‘You’re kidding,’ they spat. ‘It’s madness!’

Then as though cued, the bus slid and suspended us momentarily out over the mountain edge, staring down into a chasm of bus skeletons. Terrified they screamed ‘OK! Anything. No backtracking!’

On the first leg of my plan, a bullet ridden body blocked the jungle path of our bus. Bandits charged on, sticking guns in our faces, taking our cigarettes and underwear.

Determined not to backtrack, we crept at dawn into Bogota airport days later. Carlos our contact, shoved us into the hold of an old war plane, hissing ‘Ssshh!....you stowaways’. The pilot fired the props, glugged scotch and took off as we clung to onion sacks to avoid toppling into the tail.

After recovering in a jungle village we sailed down the Amazon. The boat was a leaky box, but included free food, which we discovered was monkey and piranha. The ‘cruise’ was delayed nightly as the knife-wielding Capitano traded contraband. ‘You gringos......good cover,’ he would smile.

We eventually returned to Lima. Robbed; dead bodies; eaten monkey; stowaways and smuggler cover. But we didn’t backtrack!

in South America


John Ahern is the author of 'On The Road With Kids. One Family. 30 Countries. No Turning Back.' Published by Pan Macmillan. He has travelled through >85 countries, converting adventures to stories.

See John's profile.

John's website.


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