How do folks
I trust you’re in mighty fine form & that you had a superb weekend.
Starting off the blog this week on a sad, but serious note, with an appeal.
Chosica: A cry for help.
Last weekend, we went to Chosica, a beautiful little highland town about 1.5hrs away from where we live, (still in Lima, which is a massive place). In summer, whilst the nearby coast is sweating away in the pressure cooker that is Lima, in the highlands heavy rain is common, (which I didn’t know about & which we copped for on Saturday night). Rain like I’ve never seen before, beyond torrential. A dash to the shops became an all-out mission. Sunday dawned dry & sunny, but the rain returned on Monday. We came back to Lima & were shocked to hear news of landslides, flooding, chaos & very sadly, loss of life. 8 people have died, many people have been injured & hundreds of people have lost their homes & everything they own. BBC New report here.
If you live in Lima & you can help (food, water, clothing, etc…) there are a number of centres being set up to accept donations. Details of collection centres here, please read this.
On a different note, many moons ago, I landed a handy little part-time job at Pontefract Racecourse (largest continuous flat course in the UK). I don’t think they really knew where to put me, as I had a different job each time: Running photo-finish results from the judge, making sure that the Jockeys were out on time, supervising the Brass Band (if I hear “When the Saints…” one more time!) I even once had to make sure that no riff-raff got into Michael Owen’s private box. And I met Frankie Detorri there, once. Anyroad, on my first day there a very, very well spoken gent stopped me (looking genuinely surprised, in a positive way) & asked me how I was & that it had been such a long time since we’d last met. All the while I was wondering “Who are you, who are you? Think, think. What’s the connection here???” Being polite & as it was my first day, I went along with it. (I wasn’t sure if he worked there, but he was definitely part of the higher echelons of racecourse society, not a 50p each-way punter on the cheap side!) Luckily, he said he had to go & I was left thinking “Who is this chap?” Every time I worked there (once-a-month-ish) I bumped into him & the same conversation ensued every time. He was a very pleasant bloke, but I was still none the wiser. Obviously as I had (foolishly) gone along with it, I’d reached an impasse, in that if I was rumbled I‘d be in bother! So I went along with it & made a big fuss whenever I saw him. I was left with the conclusion that he was a) Not entirely sound of mind. or b) Genuinely mistaking me with somebody else, if so I really hoped that I never bumped into him whilst he was talking to the other person! (But I was intrigued to find out who I was being mistaken for, if I were a bad sort I could have really caused some mischief!) I never did find out & I never bumped into him again. Fast-forward to Peru in 2015 & the same thing has happened again. (Not at a racecourse though). The building boom in Lima is incredible, construction is the line of work to be in right now (hence me giving classes at 2 giant building companies). In my local neighbourhood (urbanizacion), all the houses are being knocked down & replaced with apartment blocks. Just next to the Huachiman’s sentry box, they are starting to build a massive block of flats. On the Clunk-sin-nombre, it’s a tricky manoeuvre getting out of the gate (two lanes funnel into one) & then getting into the main stream of traffic, opposite an unofficial cab rank, where taxistas loiter optimistically, meaning that people get frustrated & overtake, into oncoming traffic (me), whilst negotiating a huge suspension-wrecking rompe-muelle. This is all just a warm-up for my commute. About 4wks back, whilst they were also blocking the road with an outsize cement-mixer truck, I snook out, taking my opportunity, lest wait 10mins for the chaos/traffic to die down. Like most punters in Lima, I didn’t have 10mins! A bloke flagged me down in the middle of my daring move (he was flagging everyone down, as he had a flag & was semi-controlling the trafico. I was expecting a ticking-off, for breaking H&S rules & how irresponsible I was, when the guy started getting animated in a friendly way & although I’m partly mutton-jeff & the fact that he as talking at a million mph, I gathered that he (thought) he knew me. Again, I’m racking my brains, but to no avail. Luckily (for me) I had about 3 seconds to get out of there, before the cement mixer dumped its load on me/I got flattened by the mob of traffic. As it’s the only entrance to my urbanizacion as I go through the gate about 10 times per day & as it’s a massive building which will take about a year to make, I should find out who the chap is, or if he has mistook me for some other scruffy, lanky bloke on a dirt bike, who speaks a-kind-of-Spanish, in a northern accent! He always makes a fuss & waves like he is stranded on a desert island, flagging down a ship. Watch this space… Meanwhile at my local photocopy shop, the lady calls me Tony & at my favourite cafe, the owner has started calling me Jimmy!
After a lot of wasted time, I’m finally getting my act together with my papers! Instead of its usual Friday slot, Immigrations got shifted to Tuesday this week. My appointment slot between 2-3pm meant that I was actually seen at 4pm & after a lot of hanging around, stamping (my feet & their stamp), hanging around, scowls from the staff & more hanging around, I finally got out of the sweatiest place in Lima & was ready to head down to Interpol! Last time I went to Interpol was 10yrs ago & I remember asking 4 taxis to take me there, but nobody knew where it was, as it was so secret! I finally got there, but don’t remember a thing about it, nor where it was located. It’s moved now & for once is a place quite close to where I live. I trundled across there & found the place rammed, not even any parking spaces for the Clunk. A stern-faced Bobby marched across. I was expecting a rocket when he told me I could leave it there & he’d keep an eye on it, but to put a lock on it, just to be safe! Inside the aging Police Headquarters, I was seen to straight away by a smiling young lady who helped me fill in my form, waited about 10mins in a leafy courtyard & then was asked a few questions, had (all) my fingerprints taken. (At this point there was a power-cut, which happened the time before last at Immigrations, which set off all the alarms & felt like Assault on Precinct 13). Then I had my teeth checked. Don’t ask me why, but it was quick & pain-free, then I was out of there. The PC on the door told me to ride safely, all done! Now I have to go back on Wednesday morning at 10am to pick up my (hopefully) crime-free bill of health & a copy of my dental records, then hotfoot it back to Immigrations by 1pm. 3hrs sounds like a lot of time, but this is Lima! I’ve only got 6 days to get it in & Wednesday is my last day. The difference between the two offices was like night & day. I’m not moaning about Immigrations (well I am, actually), but I just don’t know why they make it such an unpleasant & difficult experience, when Interpol showed that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m not expecting tea & biscuits, nor a foot run, but an occasional smile would be nice ☺
Just one major near miss (today) with a car going the wrong way down a one-way street, at a blind junction. I slammed on & gesticulated (not much use shouting whilst wearing a helmet, in this swarming bedlam). He seriously couldn’t see any wrong in what he was doing, as he swore at me & sped off through a red light! Feel like I’m getting the hang of the roads now, driving on the pavement doesn’t feel wrong anymore & I’m completely desensitised to the constant horn honking. I will however need to completely re-do my bike test as/when I return to Blighty. In the car I committed one of the worst possible crimes (one would be lead to believe by the public reaction anyway), I overshot the zebra crossing by 2ft. I thought I was going to get lynched, as the people looked lie turning ugly & were tutting & pointing & generally making out that I should drive myself straight to the Police Station & ask to be locked up. At a busy junction, which I cross, every day, some poor punter always gets it in the neck from the pedestrian masses, baying for blood! There is even a guard with a HUGE Doberman on the same crossing, ready to dish out a fine. (Not sure if he is a Policeman, or a security guard, but he is armed for guerrilla combat & so is his dog!) I’m not defending bad driving, nor condoning red-light-jumpers, nor “Amber-Gamblers”, basically what normally happens is that the light goes from green to red, with no notice (or the countdown figure is jiggered), or the traffic past the lights suddenly all stops & the luckless driver has nowhere to go. Ahead is blocked & the lights are on red & the 2” gap behind has been filled & NOBODY reverses for anybody, (although I did see a bloke reversing down the Panamericana yesterday, to go the wrong way down a one-way street. I’ve been quizzing people about this. What is worse? Overshooting a zebra by a foot (before the green man has turned green), or, the countless drivers who pull out without looking, every single day? It generally seems that people accept reckless driving as part & parcel of everyday commuting, whereas zebra-encroachers should be sent straight to jail, without passing go/collecting £200!
Sunday ride ☺ Fear & Loathing in La Molina…
And finally, a quick resume of an amazing ride out today, the highlight of the week! Up at 5am & out before the Milkman, straight up into the hills of Cieneguilla. The weather has been bonkers hot recently. El Niño has caused a heat wave in Lima, when it really should be autumnal. However, it was more than a bit hazy (like a dry fog, bizarre climate here) until I climbed over the top of the pass, out of town.
I needed to be back by midday, & (as always) I wasn’t sure about my route. I’d seen a squiggly line on Google, which looked like a road & if so, it could make a canny loop route. Very soon, I was bumping along a sandy dirt track, with some monster potholes & giant boulders thrown in for good measure. I was a bit wary, as I didn’t really know where I was, or if this was the road. (I didn’t want to think about breaking down/having a mishap, as although I had two jam sarnies, I had no map/phone signal/spares/tools!) I decided that I’d go along it for an hour & if it lead nowhere, I’d turn back. Sand is funny stuff to ride in, it should be easier than it is, but loose deep stuff is tricky. I had memories of Mongolia for half a mile with some corrugations & the rest was just full-on concentration, but fun ☺
I passed a few tiny tinpot villages, but with no map I wasn’t sure where they were anyway. I’d dropped down from the hills & was in area of really lush vegetation, it was still early & blissfully cool, this would be a sweatbox trail on a hot day.
Suddenly I hit some rough tarmac, which led me up a l-o-n-g hill into a large-ish town. A town I’d heard of! I was a fair way away from home, but not as lost. The streets were crowded with people on their way to church & at one point the Police were struggling to control a large crowd & restless traffic. Out of nowhere came 2 snarling dogs. I’d got my fancy new £29.99 Kevlar slacks on, but didn’t want to find out if was biteproof, so I had to do an awkward kick them away with my right foot, whilst trying to shift gears (upwards) with my left! Try it. It’s a bit like patting your head & rubbing your stomach! The snapping hounds had all woken up now (including a poor 3-legged pooch, who obviously hadn’t learnt!) I love dogs, but these wouldn’t be the type which you’d tickle their chins & they’d roll over! A town full of the beasts. Sadly one of them hadn’t faired too well, as I rounded the corner, there was a carcass on the side of the road, covered up with a carrier bag. Poor thing. The squiggly line on the map made a loop, the sun had come out, life was good! Popped into my favourite café for a brew & tried to talk my 5 words of French (it came out as Spanish) to the owner, who was originally from Montreal. Back over the pass & a gradual freewheel straight back into the chaos of Av. Javier Prado & home. The fog had burnt off & an early doors start had paid off
That’s all for now folks
More next week (providing I’m not caught up in an ambush at Interpol on Wednesday!)
Have a good one.
Johnny, Lina & the Nipper