There's no room for screwing up while driving along this stretch of road. Here, there are no 2nd chances.
Moze, then 19, and Zhang, then 12, had never in their lives been in a school classroom, but it was decided by Bron and Lacara that Cheesah, then 6, would get the schooling they themselves and the older brothers never had. School was about 16 kilometers (10 miles) to the north, and with the family being without a car, it was a good walk along those substandard dirt roads where they lived. Cheesah would have to walk three hours each way to school and back every day, leaving for school before dawn while it is still dark, and getting back home late in the afternoon, except for the times friends and family who did have cars could give him a ride. And a ride aboard a school bus was not an available option either...The 'luxury' of school buses did not exist in that part of the country. On those school days of rainy weather, Cheesah would take a large palmetto frond along to use as an umbrella to keep most of the rain off himself and off his homework assignments.
Five kilometers (three miles) from the school, there is about a two kilometer stretch of dirt road (a little over a mile) that runs side by side with a narrow gauge branch of the C.F.B. Railway through a mountain pass. For about 130 meters of that pass (400 feet), is where it gets the name the locals call "Passagem do Anjo da Morte" (Death Angel's Pass), and for a good reason. It's where the road cut in the mountainside becomes so narrow, the road narrows down to only one lane, and the narrow gauge railroad tracks and road share a 3 meter (9 to 10 foot) wide road cut together in the side of the mountain...Where both road and tracks overlap together, the pass is hardly wider than an average parking spot in a parking lot. On one shoulder of the tracks and roadway overlap is a sheer rock face wall going straight up...And on the other shoulder, 3 meters over to the other side, is a sheer drop off going down more than a hundred meters (a few hundred feet) with no railing or guardrail to stop anything from going over the edge...plus it's on a curve with the distance viewed ahead limited by the rock face wall. It's the kind of stretch of road where if you make one mistake, you would die. The speed limit on that 130 meter long stretch shared by both automobiles and trains is 10 km/h (6 MPH)...and for a very good reason...It's so in case a train and a car met on that 3 meter wide road / railway cut, they can both stop in time to avoid a head on collision (trains don't exactly stop in an instant). And also, so any pedestrians would have plenty of time to stand against the rock face to stay out of the way of a train passing by. Walking home from school, Cheesah would get to where the tracks ran along with the road at about 1:15 pm. That was about the same time a southbound freight train would pass that way, going toward the village on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. If it was a cool or rainy day - provided it was one of the days the train ran - the aardwolf who was the engineer of the train would feel sorry for the little, six year old, meerkat cub walking in the rain out in the middle of nowhere, then stop the train and offer Cheesah a ride to the village. That would always cut a lot of walking distance off of Cheesah's journey home from school. That narrow part of the mountain pass was 11 kilometers (6 1/2 miles) from home...From the village where the engineer stopped the train to let Cheesah off, the walk to home was only a 3 kilometer walk (2 miles). Cheesah would ride in the cab of the locomotive (being a freight, the only other place to ride was in the caboose), which was a narrow gauge version of the Garrett, articulating, steam locomotive with the two sets of drive wheels under the tender and water tank sections, and the boiler and cab being the mid section...which was a real treat for a six year old meerkat cub. A narrow gauge Garrett is shown: http://youtube.com/watch?v=h2hRMpMX3KM . http://youtube.com/watch?v=OfyLBmA-NHY . And the heat from the engine's firebox always felt so good after getting wet on a cold, rainy day...Plus Cheesah made good friends with the aardwolf who was the engineer, and with the baboon who was the firebox attendant. While still on that very narrow pass before the tracks and dirt road separated from each other, you could look out the left window of the locomotive and see the rock face close enough to reach out from the train and touch it with your paw. And from the right window, a bird's eye view of what is out beyond the sheer drop off, giving the illusion like the train was up in the air with nothing under it unless you looked out through one of the locomotive's windshield panes at the tracks ahead of the train. The engineer maintained the train at 10 km/h, and tooting the whistle every 10 seconds while the firebox attendant rang the bell to warn automobiles and trucks not to venture onto the 3 meter narrow portion of mountain cut shared by the road and tracks in the way of the approaching train. Once they were past that 130 meter long stretch of narrow road / railway cut, the train would run at speeds between 50 and 65 km/h (30 to 40 MPH) on the way to the village.