Good morning folks
I hope you had a superb weekend & that this finds you in tiptop form.
A quick round-up from sunny (sweaty) Lima.
This week saw Final Exams & a long-awaited Clunk trip.
Other things happened, but I’ll focus on the 2 main things.
Whilst the Clunk trip was long-awaited, I was kind of dreading the final exams this month.
Final exams in 7 courses, which meant about 120 exams to mark, get grades on system & feedback good/bad news to students.
(All bar one student passed! One lass got 100%!)
Because I’m also working early-doors in a (kind of) University, this really complicated things & robbed me of Lima’s most precious commodity; time!
Thursday night/Friday morning was nervous breakdown material & just as I left the house in between job I & job II, I managed to lock myself out, Lina had gone out for the day, so the rare 3hrs spare I had in the afternoon disappeared, as I had to stay at work from 10am-9:30pm!
So many plans had been made; packing for trip & maybe even a super-rarer-than-rare Siesta.
It never happened, so as usual I was trying to pack until gone midnight & then gave in.
6am start was looking iffy…
Not for a long time has a trip been so eagerly awaited & underplanned.
I’d been cooking up this trip since I saw a feint line on Google maps in July last year.
Working every Saturday limits my weekends a bit & since the Clunk was poorly from July to December anything bar buzzing around town was off limits. With the Clunk being back to full fitness,(almost) run-in & having my first Saturday off since October, an overnighter was on the cards & daydreaming had gone into overload.
The route was a rough loop, from my house out to Cienguilla, Chontay, Nieve Nieve (“snow snow”, snow chance!) Sicicaya, Antioquia & then (into the unknown) an 80 mile off-road trail passing through 2 villages (Langa & Chorillos) & then nothing for 60-odd miles.
I’d tried to get information. Nobody had done it/heard of it/was interested! I once asked a friend if people went walking in the mountains that hem in the city in on 2 sides, he said “Why?” (Because it’s there?!)
The last bit was the mystery. I could see a line representing a track on Google maps, but street view hadn’t got there yet…
On top of this, I had a bit of a nagging doubt about petrol. It was more than a full tank, so I took a fuel bottle too.
Even so, running out of juice or breaking down would land me seriously in the not-so-sweet-smelling-stuff.
It was a road to nowhere, from nowhere. I had done a brief recce (got lost) on the first/last bit & it was bleak.
Friday afternoon was my time to pack & away at 6am was the plan.
Locking myself out of the house put paid to packing & 6am found me not finding my sleeping bag & tent.
No sweat, I’ll bivvy out.
7am became 8am became 9am & I eventually tooted goodbye at 10am. It was hot as a hot thing in Lima.
I have 2 ancient bungee straps (can’t find them for love nor money here) & one was stretched to critical limits.
I stopped to rearrange my junk & became a bit wider than normal. Traffic was its usual madness with dozens of overloaded Dumper Trucks lumbering up the hill. Sandy pavements make for easy undertaking on a Clunk. Around 11am I finally pushed over the top of the pass & the limits of La Molina & down to the paradise of Cieneguilla. From the sweltering humidity of Lima to the baking dry heat of the neighbouring valley. No time for a brew at my favourite café, I had time/miles to make up.
I knew the bit between Cieneguilla & Chontay was rough, there was a good road after Sisicaya to Antioquia. Sweeping hairpins along a flat, lush river valley, blocked in on both sides by towering mountains. From Antioquia it was off-road & up into the clouds.
At Antioquia I pulled into the “Plaza de Armas” (main square) to meet a group of about a dozen bikers; KTMs, Big Beemer GSs, KLRs & an unusually intriguing Honda XRE300.
I parked up a distance away & strolled over (confidently, on a bike that was 1/8 as powerful & 1/16 as expensive than the smallest/cheapest on show). Luckily they understood my crap Spanish & offered me some Coke (drink). I don’t normally touch the stuff, but on a scorching day it tasted ace.
A friendly bunch, the first time I’ve actually had a conversation about bikes, with bikers here.
They’d been beaten by the weather/conditions up in the hills. “Huaycos” a word I didn’t know, but would learn about later on…
One lad was impressed that I was going on my own, on a diddy bike into the mountains.
He said he was considering buying a smaller (than his HUGE GS) bike & would get in touch.
Time was passing & I still had a way to go, so I made my excuses & cracked on.
At the last tiny tinpot village before the climbing started there was a shop selling petrol (not a garage I must add).
I was in two minds. Dodgy/dirty fuel could give me grief later on. “Tienes 90?” (Do you have “90″ octane petrol?)
“Si” she said as she wandered off for a mucky looking gallon container. I’d filled up earlier & there was space for about half a gallon & it was clear that there was already petrol in the tank. Seconds later, petrol was pouring everywhere & her reactions weren’t too quick.
She got a bit uppity. “Why didn’t you tell me there was petrol in the bike already?”
Petrol by the gallon & only by the gallon!
I didn’t ask & she didn’t say. One of those communication breakdowns. The juice was 150% the price I’d paid at the last garage, so I wasn’t leaving it, but with no room in the bike, I was at a loss where to stash it. She drained the remainder into a 1 litre pop bottle.
It didn’t really fit in my rucksack pocket & now I was left with a budget of 4 soles (80p). It’s a good job I wasn’t going near any kind of civilisation! I was gasping for a coffee & some sustenance, but decided to push on. White-line-fever (off road) was my disciplinarian.
Two miles up the road I heard a sudden “crash”, I turned round like an owl spinning its head to see a black carrier bag drifting skywards & the bottle (intact) on the trail. A dodgy 3-way-combo of:
- A boulder
– Rutted loose gravel
– The lightest of touches of my front brake
ganged up & mugged me!
I felt the front end go & braced myself for a crash. My new Clunk Boots saved my bacon, as I landed with most of my weight on them, my rearranged luggage & my beloved RHS mirror. (Whilst most Motociclistas remove their mirrors in Lima, I have a twitch which constantly checks my inside line). In a spectacular slow-motion crystalline like transformation I watched it crack & explode. Bugger.
My back indicator was a casualty too, but I was ok & after lifting it up (try that with a fully-laden GS) & a bit of persuading I got it going again. I stopped for a caffeine fix soon after.
Above the clouds…
After the steam room heat of Lima & the sauna heat of Cieneguilla, it felt strange to be actually cold!
The first time I’ve actually seen/felt proper rain here & the first time I’ve actually not being sweating my proverbials off.
Wisps of cloud became a heavy cloak of fog. Dry trails became muddy furrows & muddy furrows became slurry!
It was intensive stuff. Too wet for goggles & squinting through the fog, for boulders, landslides, rockslides, potholes, the edge & the occasional other road user tanking downhill (not expecting a punter to be coming uphill!)
The trail was hewn out of the rock, so you had a sheer drop on the left & steep rising ground to the right.
The saddest dog in the whole World. If I’d had space, I would have taken him home
I normally start looking for a camping spot to doss down an hour before dark & I figured in this weather, that’d be about 2 hours off.
I was bivvying (no tent) & there was nowhere at all
a) To hide the Clunk.
b) To lie down.
My speedo/odomotor (measuring oddness?) doesn’t work, so I only had a rough idea how far I’d gone. Due to the worsening road, it was taking longer than I had thought. Push on blindly (literally), or make a decision?
Out of the murky mist I suddenly came upon a Policia 4×4 truck, with his bonnet up.
“Scam” was my automatic reaction. I’d heard of this kind of thing, so when he tried to flag me down, I swerved with a polite “Buenos tardes” & sped on. Then I automatically felt very guilty. What if he genuinely had broken down. I put myself in his shoes, (not literally, as after looking for a pair my size for over 12mths, I wasn’t swapping my boots for anyone/anything!)
My big worry was that my insurance had just run out (Thursday). It’s not a case of a simple phonecall & renewal being automatic here (surprise, surprise!) The previous owner of the Clunk had been stung for having no insurance & that is why he sold the Clunk, to pay the fine! It is a hefty one. So, I was on my guard…
Officer Saltanas had broken down, bigtime, in the middle of nowhere. He’d hit a huge pothole & couldn’t steer/couldn’t move. He was trying to hotwire it & asked me if I knew how to do it! (Even if I did, & I don’t, would you show a Police Officer that you know how to hotwire a car?! Dilemma-&-a-half.) I really was no help, so I asked if he had back-up coming & he said yes. I gave him some biscuits & offered some encouragement. He told me the road ahead got worse & worse. I’d been umming-&-ahhing for a while about going on.
I checked my fuel, filled up the tank with the pop bottle & figured that I might not have enough petrol to get round. The Clunk is supereconomical round town, but a guzzler at this altitude. I decided to go down…
Apart from riding a Clunk up in the hills, one of the sheer joys in life for me is camping in the wild. People say why rough it, but I say why not? Life is full of so many things that make easy jobs easier. We are in danger of becoming a population of softies, (he says, after turning around!) It was now 4:30pm & I’d need a helicopter to get back to Lima in the light. I’d look for somewhere, anywhere, to doss down.
Going downhill was exhilarating. I’ve still to figure out the carb-jetting at altitude & the Clunk crawls on the steep bits, but was a different beast altogether descending. I’d only spotted one place to sleep in the entire route before the villages started. I got there, & it was taken :-/
Not by a person, but by a Clunk! It was parked up & covered up. A walking trail led down to some makeshift houses below.
I had a brew & pondered. Because of the rain, many “Huaycos” had formed. A huayco is a landslide, or a river of mud & rock. Any flattish bits had had rivers running through them & had been carved into deep crevasses. With very little vegetation, there was nowhere to stash the Clunk. I’d be sleeping on the road basically & despite its remoteness, there was still a trickle of traffic.
Could I get home, negotiating the off-road bits in the dark?
I stopped at the same shop that had sold me the petrol, to give her the empty bottle back.
“There’s a Huayco ahead” (in Spanish, obviously). If so, I could be really stuffed!
A crowd of spectators were gathered. A bus wanted to come from the far side & an Ambulance wanted to cross from this side.
They were both doing the scientific ” Chuck-a-boulder-in-&-watch-the-splash” method, we’ve all done it!
I paddled across the fast flowing chocolate sludge. It was just up to the top of my (thankfully waterproof) boots, but I could sense a lot of rocks moving. The bus driver got impatient & floored it (whether his passengers wanted to cross, or not!) He made it, so the pressure was on me. The Clunk lapped it up, I got wet, but we were over. Surely nothing could stop us now!
“It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue…”
When I was a bairn, I used to watch a series called The Invaders, starring David Vincent. I remember nothing about it, bar the opening credits. My eyes were shot, I was caffeine wired & a long way from home.
I’ve only had it 3 times in my life. Once doing a 21hr day in the Silver Streak from Astrakhan to Volgograd. Another time from N.Scotland to the Lakes (Silver Streak again) & third on the old CB500 with Lina on the back, heading up to Scotland.
In a car, it’s not so bad. Music on full, windows down & passenger talking to you. On 2 wheels, it’s not so easy.
Coffee, coffee, coffee works, up to a point, then it tips the scales.
It was now dark & although I only had about 30 miles left, a chunk of that was off-road. I was committed to getting back to Lima now.
The sweeping hairpins were fun, even with my candle-power lights, until a new character appeared to try to foil my plans!
Canine Russian Roulette!
I was well in the zone (wherever/whatever that may be), fully focussed ahead . Suddenly, very suddenly I felt something brush my right leg, I swerved & heard the angry barking of a very angry black dog. The barking warned the next hound up ahead that fresh meat was on the way. At least half a dozen silent assassins went for my shins. I was even more grateful for my new Clunk boots, but really didn’t want to collide with one of these 4-legged-Kamikazes! They wait till you’re close, then lunge. It must be a rush for them, but not without hazards. A bit like a dog version of playing Chicken at Brands Hatch. Luckily (for both parties) the score was 0:0 at the end of the game.
Off-roading in the dark.
If you look up “Driving in Lima” on Google, it will generally paint a bleak picture. Don’t drive unless you have to & definitely don’t drive at night. What about off-road at night?
I’d built myself up for it & was doing alright. I’d taken my goggles off, as it had suddenly got very hot after descending into the valley again.
Then traffic started coming the other way. Dust, sand, more dust & more sand! Sand is crap to ride in (or I am crap at riding in sand).
I finally hit the tarmac & breathed a sigh of relief. 15 miles to go…
The only thing about escaping the chaos of Lima & the beneficial effects of doing so, is that they are all negated/forfeited when you need to return. Saturday night fever in the streets; buses, taxis & 12 million other punters trying to get across the city as recklessly as possible.
Never let your guard down!
Roundabouts create absolute chaos here. It is almost like they have just been introduced onto the roads & to the public!
In Blighty you give way to traffic on the roundabout, on the continent I believe you give way to traffic entering the roundabout. Here, nobody seems to know, so you get half-&-half, which is even worse, as you never know.
Almost as if by magical powers, 4 lanes of traffic lurched to a halt to let me & the other maniacs onto the roundabout, then one Taxista lost his nerve/temper/mind & surged for a gap (that wasn’t there), I had to slam all on & swerve left, hoping the taxi on my left would also swerve. Almost wiped out a mile from home!
After 10 hours riding (minus a few strictly times breaks) I was home!
I’ll tackle that one again when the Highlands wet season has finished…
Stuck for holiday ideas? Look no further!
Sir Buddy & Mr. Tom, on Monkey Bikes, in the desert. You know you want to…
The Adventurists have dreamt up Adventure #10 & it is a beauuuuuty.
Riding Monkey Bikes across the desert!
The Adventurists created the Mongol Rally & many more adventures.
The founder, Tom Morgan said “If nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong!”
A number of my Dixie Chickens Bus amigos, Gunboat Don, Will, Tommy & a chap called Oscar have all signed up for it & if I lived closer to Morocco, I would do too!
Check out this video & get signed up
Have yourself a spectacular week.
Johnny, Lina & the Nipper