Good morning folks
I trust that you had a superb weekend.
Busy week in the land of Combi chaos & Ceviche con Cristal.
Bank Holiday here in Peru, but that doesn’t stop the blog!
Paolo for Presidente!
If he plays as well in the next game as he did in the last!
Peru pulled out all the stops (& more) midweek, defeating Bolivia in the quarterfinals 3-1. Paolo Guerrero scored a hat-trick.
They now face a stiff task against the host nation & archrivals, Chile.
It’s a big ask, 6:30pm Monday, can Las Blanquirroquas defy the odds???
I was working during the last game, but you can hear what is going on from noise around you, TVs, radio, traffic (horns, as always).
(In Venezuela, a football presenter unrobed herself live after her team won!)
If they do win tonight, Lima will be even louder than usual!
“If nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong”
I had planned to go off for 2 days & 1night, but (as I often the case) it all fell through, so I had an extra long day out in the mountains just 2hrs out of the city.
Mr. Tom Morgan, the founder of the incredible organisation that is The Adventurists once said, “If nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong”.
Applying this to any kind of adventure it is a very true fact.
If you go out to try something (that there is a very good chance that you might fail) & it all goes without hitch, where’s the fun in that?
An adventure doesn’t have to be massive, nor expensive; it’s just a case of trying something new or cooking up an idea
(This is a lead-in to my list of excuses that follow in the next paragraph, when I failed!)
“Maps, I love maps”
I always remember my eccentric Geography teacher, Mr. Gilbert. He was a great teacher, passionate about his job, with a blatant disregard for fashion.
I remember him saying in a class, “I love maps, if you want to make me happy, buy me a map”.
I loved Geography at school, but I failed my exam abysmally. Maybe I should have bought Mr. Gilbert a map?!
I love map too. In the modern world of GPS, it seems that less people love maps.
(As in the Kindle age, with books). I’m a bit of a Luddite & I love books & maps.
There is something amazing about maps, I can stare at a map & daydream for ages. I’m struggling to get decent maps out here, so I’m making do with google maps. There was a thin wiggly line heading south off the Carretera Central that caught my eye. It went off into the mountains & could link up a l-o-n-g day out over towards Cieneguilla (location of my favourite café) & back home.
About 230km & most of it on dirt-tracks.
Brilliant & completely over-ambitious!
I had intended to sketch a map off the computer, but I got in late from work & the Nipper demanded extra laps of the park at midnight, so the sketch never happened, (although it probably wouldn’t have helped much, my drawing is poor, at best), so I wrote down the names of the villages on a piece of paper:
Cocachacra, Santiago de Tuna, San Andres de Tupicocha, San Damian, Sunicancha, Lahuaytambo, Canlle, La Pampilla, Cocahuayco, Antioquai, Siscaya, Nieve Nieve Chontay, Cieneguilla & home.
Not exactly names of pueblos that roll off the tongue.
Up at 5am & on the road by 6, Lima was cloaked in a thick grey foggy soup, which didn’t disperse until I reached the beautifully-named village of Ñaña. Then, just as I turned of the Carretera Central, I realised that I’d left the piece of paper at home!
(The Carretera Central wasn’t completely without incident. Whoever had the bright idea to put a level-crossing across the road at 45 degrees, hadn’t thought of two-wheeled punters! It was like being a Scalextric model for 2.5 scary seconds!)
Now google maps doesn’t have contours, so I had no idea how steep it would be, but I soon found myself shifting between 3rd-2nd gears & then from 2nd-1st.
Not sure if the poor Burrito realises that it’s a Bank Holiday, but he’ll be first in line on Tuesday!
The poor old Clunk (only a 125cc too) has spent all its life at sea level, so to rise vertically up to over 3500m in the space of a few miles left it (& me) wheezing a bit. The familiar headache set in. I’ve always been rubbish at altitude & according to Wiki-travel “Over 50% of people will become ill if they ascend rapidly from sea level to 3500 meters (11,000 feet) without acclimatization”, but the amazing views took an edge off it. I stopped to talk to an Old Dear, who asked where I was heading. She told me that the route rises & rises, until Sunicancha & then heads downhill, she was impressed that I was trying it, but surprised that I was on my own (& where’s your map young man?) Another lady with an outsize bag of hay passed by & joined in. She was less enthusiastic about my chances.
So you’re heading to Lima (well yes, but in a round-about way I said). Why don’t you take the Carretera Central? (I’d just come that way).
No, no, no! It’s too dangerous she told me. She only knew of one person who had ever tried it & he had died, in an abyss.
The roads are terrible, turn back now.
The older lady told me to take care & I was off.
I passed though the first 2 village on my list & then through 2 villages; Patoca & Cullpe, which were not on my list (at least I thought they weren’t, I couldn’t recall writing them down). I found myself on a track, which alternated between deep sand (always a bit spicy on a bike) & hard rock/boulders.
The sides of the road looked to have been hewed out recently.
Then I started heading downhill…
Hairpin after hairpin after hairpin. From nowhere, a mad dog appeared. I’d not seen any people/houses for about 45mins, I’ve no idea where it came from, but it fancied an early lunch, so I bounced downhill as fast as I could, without crashing/getting bitten!
Hounds aside, a seed of doubt was sown, “Uphill all the way to Sunicancha” the Old Dear had said, but after a cuppa & some pasta which had been baking in my bag for 6hrs, I said to myself that it would come right.
I dropped down what must have been 2000m & rounded a corner to a temporary camp, where a family was watching a big old TV. A giant of a man stopped me. Now generally Peruvians aren’t generally tall people, but this chap was about my height, but built like a man that would make “John Henry” look small. He could have been a cage/bare knuckle fighter. He told me to stop & that I couldn’t continue. I had to turn around.
I didn’t want to argue, but said that I needed to get to San Damian.
Not this way, he said, back up the hill to Cullpe.
Then he asked me what I thought of the road.
If I had been honest I would have said it was murderous & then the penny dropped, he was a road builder (probably with his bare hands).
I asked if I could continue, but then he showed me that the road was still being built. Come back next year he said!
He asked me where my map was…
I chatted to Juan Miguel & his family for a while & then reluctantly turned round & slogged back up the hairpins.
I was starting to worry a bit. I had a jerrican, but only 1.5 litres.
I’d been going for 4hrs since I’d filled up & there was only about 5hrs daylight left. I knew there were about a dozen villages on my list (at home) & I’d only passed through two!
Carry on or turn round?
Although as the condor flies, I was only about 3hrs from Lima, I’d only seen about 2 cars in the last 3hrs (& none in the last 2hrs, on my unfinished road). I had my trusty Swiss Army knife (in case I needed to get a stone out of a donkey’s hoof, or open a can of corned beef. At a push I could probably change the jets in the carburetor, if I had any spares, which I didn’t). If I ran out of juice, I’d be in serious bother. A long walk & a most probable return to a bike not there!
So, with heavy heart, I headed home. Unfinished business, I’ll be back.
But I was a long way off yet! About 4hrs from the road.
Just as I reached the brow of the hill I was amazed to see snow-covered mountains in the distance. I wouldn’t have seen them if I hadn’t turned round.
With a telescope/microscope, you can just make out snow in the distance!
Tiredness kicked in & after 3 very close wipeouts in the sand, chased by a pack of dogs, (& a close call with 3 donkeys, tethered in the middle of the road, after a blind bend) I decided to have a siesta.
Blue sky, burning sun, dragonflies buzzing & a distant donkey braying, I closed my eyes & could have been anywhere but Lima.
Not a car/combi/custer/car horn, absolute bliss.
After a superstrong cuppa, I freefalled back down to the Carretera Central. Frequent crosses a poignant reminder of how a slip/slide/skid would have terrible consequences. I concentrated, hard.
Having been on a deserted dirt track most of the day meant that instantly heavy traffic came as a shock. It got worse & worse & snarled to a halt about 15km from home. 6pm turns day into night, no lingering dusk here.
Parked in stationary traffic, a dog on the other side of the road took offence to me & started going berzerk. I love dogs, but not when they’re baying for (my) blood. The traffic started moving, just as it reached me (having somehow avoided getting run over), I spotted a gap on the pavement & didn’t hang around to tickle its tummy!
The traffic really ground to a halt. I could see a fire in the distance & a lot of Police cars. A Combi hopped over the railway line & I followed. It was like a night stage of the Dakar (or Wacky Races!)
Rough boulders, potholes, planks of wood & pitch-blackness.
I cannot understand why anybody in Lima rides anything bar a dirt bike! The Clunk lapped it up & 12hrs after we’d left Salamanca, we were back again. Potentially one of the best days out I’ve ever had in Peru. I love being in the mountains & I love riding off-road, so I was in Paradise.
I learned heaps about riding, but just need to brush up on my navigation!
(If you look at a map, you’ll see that there is only one road, which makes me even more useless, but in my defence, I wasn’t expecting a new road!)
Another end of cycle & another round of exams. It’s a bit of a frantic week, but we got there & all my students did awesomely!
They now know all they’ll ever need to start a conversation involving topics such as “Forward pass?” “Bitter or Lager?” or “Walsh’s Vs. Inov8s”
Next weekend is the Teacher’s Day party, with the 2-best/most troublesome words in the English language (when used together in a sentence): Free bar!
After about 4mths off the pop I am seriously worried, but very excited!
Victor Meldrew says…
This week the moaning one wants to get something off his chest.
Minor moan, but “Mierrrrrrrda de perro!” (Doggy-do).
It wouldn’t bother me too much, but a lot of the time it’s just bone-idle owners. (Not everyone, I’ve seen people with bags).
It’s just not so nice when you’ve got to suddenly grab hold of the bairn in the park & look for a clean bit of grass.
(& I won’t mention my Robin Cousins move when I was running for a Combi & slid in it!)
Victor Meldrew says “Piense Varon, pick it up!”
So, that’s all for this week.
Next week, a short story about how to apply for a driving licence & whether I’ve still got a job after the free bar at the Works Do (free beer always has a price…)
Have an awesome week
Johnny, Lina & the Nipper
p.s. Stop press!
Quick video from Sunday, makes me want to go back right now