The Bargain of the Year: Dacia Duster
Can the UK’s cheapest 4x4 survive the Southern Hemisphere’s harshest mountains?
Posted: 09 Jan 2013
My prayers and gunning don't work. In one of the longest tunnels, perhaps half a mile in, I spot the lights of a bus heading the other way. Coward that I am, I get on the throttle, hoping to force him to reverse, but the rusty coach keeps on coming until he is a couple of inches from my front bumper. I look in the rear-view mirror and see nothing but blackness. No choice. As I start to edge gingerly back, another bus appears from behind, blaring its horn and flashing. Typical. You wait ages for a bus, then two turn up at once to trap you in an Andean death tunnel. We sit in stalemate for a few minutes, both bus drivers honking and gesturing. What do you want me to do, señor? Eventually, Bus One starts to reverse. He inches back about 50 yards before pointing and waving to my left. Oh god. There is a car-sized window cut into the rock, looming out over the abyss below, with a sill of crumbling rock perhaps three feet across. He wants me to drive onto that ledge. I shake my head and cross my arms. Not happening. Bus Two begins to edge into the Duster's rear bumper, shoving me slowly but persistently into the gap. Happening, then. Head craned out the window, I edge into the too-small edge. When the Duster's left-front wheel is within two inches of the crumbly precipice, I stop. My bravery will permit me to go no further. Bus One lurches forward, convinced he can squeeze through. Alongside, mirrors folded, he must be within a inch of the Duster's flank. God, this is close. If he nudges us now, we will be over that edge and doing our best Wile E. Coyote impressions. And then dead. Inch by hideous inch, the bus edges past. Closer, closer... and then freedom. I tiptoe the Duster away from the ledge and out of the tunnel, not stopping to find out how the two buses passed each other. For all I know, they're still there now, locked in tunnelly stalemate for eternity.
Past the tunnels, beyond the abyss, into the lush mountain valley. And, finally, civilisation.