How do Folks
I trust this finds you all in mighty fine form.
Another week in Lima survived, so I thought I’d write a few words!
Starting off with a shameless (& well deserved) plug for a mate’s book. “DANCING FEAT” by Neil Bennion.
The funniest book I have ever read! Buy this & laugh, now!
I first met Neil in 2004, via my friend Charlie. They had both just finished (literally, that day) their CELTA course. I know that feeling of relief very well! Blog here.
I was just about to come to Peru, for the first time & I remember Neil telling me some brilliant tales, especially an anecdote about the ubiquitous 5-tone Latin American car alarm. The first time I heard one (on the first day) I chuckled. In fact, (like a man who has lost his marbles), I chuckled every time I heard one. One night, a year later, I got home from work & chuckled at the car alarm going off outside. “Woo-woo-woo, nee-naw-nee-naw, woop-woop-woop, barp-barp-barp, whooo-whooo-whooo… & repeat until turned off, or not, as the case was! It was still going off when I left for work the next morning, bleary eyed. I kept in touch with Neil & used to meet up for a cuppa whenever he was in Leeds. Neil is the man who encouraged me to write this blog. Gracias amigo
I haven’t yet jumped on the Kindlewagon, maybe I should. I could outstubborn a mule at times with my half-brained ideas/theories. Digital cameras were the last thing I resisted. (“I’m not selling my soul, it’s film or nothing for me”) Until I got one & sold out completely. I had to select my books very, very carefully when packing for Peru. We were up against it with our weight allowance & books weigh a fair old chunk, so I allowed myself half-a-dozen. Book No.1 was “Inca Kola”, a book I’ve read at least 20 times (I have a bad memory). Book No.2 was the magnificent “Lois on the Loose”, an epic & hugely recommendable book. Both would be tough acts to follow… From the first to the last sentences, “Dancing Feat” was a book that had me laughing my head off (I would never, ever use those three letters but I did, constantly, on the Combis, to looks of bemusement from my fellow passengers, not many people laugh on the Combis). Neil writes so well, that you feel like you now him, (well, I do know him, but I imagine that if you read his work, you will also feel the same!) You can feel his pain, his embarrassment & his joy. This isn’t a book review, go & read it, you’ll love it. If you have any interest in Latin America/travel/dance/adventure/comedy/good books. (One/some/all of the above), you will enjoy it immensely. What he achieved took some doing, I don’t know of anybody else who has achieved what he did (& wrote a book about it too!) I also have one Latin American dance confession, but that will have to wait for another blog. Buy Neil’s masterpiece right now & right here (a Kindle bargain, if you have a Kindle, if not, it’s also available as a book).
He also has an excellent website too, he’s a busy chap!
Neil was kind enough to donate a copy of this awesome book to our last Mongoliando.com “Leaving Blighty” Draw. It went out to a lucky winner in January. I got a 2nd copy for Christmas & having just finished it, like all good books, I’ve passed it on. Hopefully Lisa of the Two Wheeled Nomads is enjoying it on her long ride ‘oop north!
LIMA RUSH HOUR!!!
In other news this week, after owning the new “Clunk sin nombre” for over a week now, I’d been tootling about town, but hadn’t taken on the ferocious monster that is the Lima Rush Hour yet. “Taxi!” If you tried to get across London (or Leeds, or Liverpool) at 5pm, you’d expect some delays, but in Lima it’s one of the quietest time to travel. Twice a week I have an early lesson in nearby Santa Anita. I leave my quiet street & then I round the corner & hit a wall of people at 6:20am, the roads are in full flow, food stalls are bustling & the bus horns are at full volume. Morning rush hour starts early. It’s am attack on the senses at that time of day! Nighttime rush hour seems more manic somehow. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s dark (gets dark here around 7pm-ish in summer & 6pm-ish in winter, next door to the Equator & indeed Equador), or because folk are always more keen (frantic) to get home, than to work (where “el trafico” is an excuse for any kind of tardiness. It’s a bit like people saying “Que calor” in summer, it’s hot/sweaty, it’s always hot/sweaty & it’s summer. The traffic is always mad, as the summer is hot/sweaty & people wave their hands in front of their faces, which always strikes me as a pretty ineffective fan but there you go). Now I do drive here & once you get used to driving like a Loonbag, it’s alright. It’s always a relief to get to your destination, but it’s that scary & as long as you never, ever show any sign of hesitation (lest you face the wrath of a dozen horns), it’s ok.
On the Clunk, on two wheels, it’s different. I suppose I was trying to find the Lima equivalent of Shipton’s NW Passage, a quiet route to work. I wasn’t seeking mossy lanes in the countryside, just a slightly more relaxed ride. Early recces saw me very lost in the maze of San Borja, when the street name inventors ran out of names, they just used numbers, so when I found myself in an infinite maze/loop of “Calle 24 (ex Calle 16)-Calle 14 (ex Calle 5)-Calle 9 (ex Calle 17)”. Streets have a tendency to change names too) & then on to the Panamericana, but heading in the wrong direction, I needed a rethink. There had to be a way, surely! On my first rush hour commute, I tried taking the route that the bus takes normally. Av. Canada is familiar territory, I know the combi movements off by heart & as I’m normally stood up on the bus & can’t see where I’m going, I’ve learnt to memorise all the various junctions (the Cobrador shouts them out too). Av. Arequipa was a different kettle of pescado. As I normally take the Metropolitano (guided) bus, I’ve been tricked into thinking it’s just a 5-minute blast down to Av. Ricardo Palma. (I wonder what I’d have to do to have a street named after me?) Arequipa is a nasty snarling taxifest. Combis are easier to judge/anticipate. New rules mean that they should only stop at bus stops, whereas in the past, if you sneezed/scratched your nose/touched your ear, a combi would slice across 4 lanes of traffic to scoop you up. A bit like when I used to go to the Auction Mart with my Dad, when I were a lad. I would sit on my hand, terrified that I was about to buy Lot 24 “4 x Pedigree Charolais bulls!” Taxis however are a different breed. They have a variety of speeds/modes. Optimistic kerbcrawling, worse when they’re in convoy, as the seagulls follow the trawler (not my own quote), the first taxista will often get knocked back when they spot a fare, taxis following will go through the same bartering charades game. For this reason, playing it safe in the nearside lane, isn’t that safe, as you need to also be aware of other taxistas filling the gap. Indicators are seen as a sign of weakness & hazard lights are used as an excuse for everything! Junctions are pretty manic too. Generally (in Blighty at least) if you want to turn left/right, you try & get in to a left/right-ish lane to do so. Not here, somebody turning right will be in the far left lane & cut across 4 lanes (which are only really 3 or 2 lanes in effect) to turn. So, on a bike, you’re often forced to go left/right against your wishes, as a result. Mirrors are handy, but you generally have to re-adjust them at every set of lights, as cars have clipped them umpteen times since the last set of lights. Playing it safe & driving like a car (i.e., in the middle of a land & not filtering) isn’t an option, as you’ll get squeezed up on both sides by cars. So, you find yourself drawn into doing the most idiotic riding imaginable, simply because you have to! Driving on the pavements isn’t something I’ve stooped to yet, but it’s normally the case that somebody had suddenly blocked your way, so it’s last-minute evasive/defensive action.
The other major peril is other bikes! One big thing that I’ve noticed here is that there is very little (no) bike comradeship, at all.It’s just survival! It’s impossible to try & compare Lima to Blighty, or elsewhere, it’s very different. In the UK, regardless of what you’re riding (there are exceptions) you normally get some kind of acknowledgement (i.e., a nod of the head, which means nothing here, apparently!) On a lowly Clunk C90, it’s great, as most bikers have had a Clunk at some point in their lives, whether they’ve learnt to ride on one, or had one nicked, it’s the bottom of the pile, so you do make friends. I’m not here to make friends with other motorists, I’m just like the rest, trying to get from A-to-B, but maybe I have a bit more self-preservation. What you get here is other motorcyclists suddenly appearing in your gap, from all directions! It’s a pretty full-on & very serious game. One hand on the brake, one hand on the horn, one hand on the clutch, both eyes on the mirrors and ahead, to the sides! Anyroad, I had foolishly dreamt up a route home from work (without a map, just heading in the general direction). I wanted to avoid the main E-W drags of Avenidas Benavides (taxis, combis & traffic lights every 10yds), Angamos (Combi Testosterone racing drag strip) or Javier Prado (a limping car park & bikes aren’t allowed on the lower bit, the upper part is a different story). So my harebrained, half-cooked route actually sampled all three & more, much more. Despite the dark & potholes, I was doing alright, until I got cut up & had to turn left/right, against my will. I suddenly found myself on a one-way road, heading to a place I really wanted to avoid, like the plague. Jockey Plaza at 8pm :-/ It’s a place where you could have a sudden nervous/mental breakdown, but that’s not really an option, as you’d jut get squashed. It’s 6 lanes (or more) of swarming, jolting, erratic & unpredictable auto-movement. At one point I was tempted to ditch the bike & take either of the 2 taxis that I was sandwiched between! It’s a bit like a load of bucking broncos have just been let loose, with the world’s biggest roundabout (very different rules here) to circumnavigate. Then, with nerves shot to pieces, I shifted down (instead of up) the gears & accelerated. The Clunk sin Nombre did complain, but forgave me & I was home, where I kissed the floor! Let’s just say I need some practice (or to grow a pair!) It would be an awesome place to ride (& it is early doors, when the roads are quieter), or if people drove/road a tad more predictably (I wouldn’t go as far as saying more carefully), but it’s like recycling, everybody has to do it, for it to work
This isn’t meant as a rant about Lima’s traffic. It’s a BIG & busy Capital City & it has a lot of awesome people, hidden beauty, amazing culture & good points. The traffic however, is always, interesting!
My amigos, Lisa & Jason: The Two-wheeled Nomads wrote this excellent piece, which sums it up much better than I do.
The Nipper’s first Cumpleaños!
The little Nipper was one year old this week. How fast has that gone! In a way it seems like 2 minutes since we were at Harrogate District, but in another way, I have aged, a lot, but it’s been worth it! She is now starting to remember how to sleep again, which is ace! Lina knows what she is doing, but I still have a lot to learn about being a Dad, it’s a steep learning curve, & I am pretty clueless, but we’re getting there. Birthdays are seen as a BIG thing here, the actual day itself & the cake is obligatory/mandatory/essential. (I once forgot a cake for Lina’s cumpleaños, never again!) Without sounding like Scrooge, I didn’t plan a huge birthday for the wee one. Every weekend I see BIG fiestas here; clowns, dancers & the works. As the Nipper is only one year old, she wouldn’t remember it & so we had a fairly low-key, but very enjoyable party & the Bairn loved it. I promised her a bigger Do for her 2nd birthday & she was fine with that. Although at one year old she has started saying “No” to everything & shaking her head.
“Do you want some more breakfast?”
“No” (as she guzzles it down).
No Sunday ride this week All of us are crook with the Lima Lurgy & I’ve developed a 40-a-day cough, which the Nipper likes to copy to her amusement, whenever I cough. And I’ve done my back in, again. Got taken out by a rogue sliding door of a Combi on Friday afternoon.BIG ride next weekend, Clunk is being serviced this week & I have a cracking route planned for 6am next Sunday!
And finally, saw this pic doing the rounds this week. After Señor Clarkson’s dismissal, could the flying sideburned Lincolnshire Tea Drinker be his successor??? Interesting! He’d get my vote.
Next week, I promise not to mention the traffic, or the Combis!
Have a week full of awesomeness
Johnny, Lina & the Nipper x