Good morning folks
I trust this finds you in superb form and that you had an awesome weekend.
In case you missed the midweek blog, it is below (in patriotic Peruvian red and white, I think it is red, I am colourblind, it’s a different colour anyway). If you’ve seen it already, skip that bit.
It has been a l-o-n-g day. Up at 3:30am, 4hrs bus ride, 5hr run, 4hr bus ride and just got in (9pm), so it’s gonna be an espresso blog this week. Usual rambling nonsense will be resumed next week…
Taking the opportunity to give you a one day Micro-blog on Independence Day.
Two years apart and her Peruvian half is showing strongly!
July 28th is a big day in Peru and this year there is a change of President too.
The last Presidente (Humala) didn’t do a lot, nothing especially bad, but nothing especially good either. (His wife told a few porkies allegedly and has done some spending allegedly, but that is nothing to do with me). The successor to Humala, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Godard (a bit of a mouthful here, pronounced (ˈpeðɾo ˈpaβlo kuˈtʃinski ɣoˈðaɾð ) is simplified to PPK, not to be confused with James Bond’s pistol!
“I’ll take 9/4″
(Pic courtesy of Panampost.com)
The 77 year old Politician/Economist is a very well educated chap (Markham, Rossall College-Fleetwood, Oxford and Princeton. If he was at Rossall, he must have been to Blackpool at some point in his life, so he gets my vote (if I could vote here, but I can’t/couldn’t).
In his opening speech he has promised some very promising things, let’s hope they come to fruition. He could be the change that Peru needs…
An adventure before breakfast!
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With just over a week before the BIG race at San Andres de Tupicocha (11830ft, not that I’m worried about starting at that altitude, much), I need to pull my finger out, so after a 5am alarm and a lot of faffing I was on the road by 6 o’clock and in the hills by 6:20am. Another crack at “Doubtful Round”. We are in the depths of winter here, which means fog, fog and more fog.
Damp, but not raining. Cool, but not especially cold. If I could point my nose in the right direction, I should have no significant problems…
Chuckling at my navigation!
The only person I saw all morning was a bloke walking down from the mobile phone mast station, after his nightshift. “Good morning, good exercise that” he said. I grinned and wished him “Happy 28th July” (the longer version is Felices Fiestas Patrias, but I can’t pronounce that very well, so “Feliz Veinte Ocho” is a bit easier off the tongue. Up and down the first peak, crossing the usually chaotic “Av. Raul Ferrero”, a road so busy that it is probably the most dangerous part of the route. With it being Bank Holiday, the traffic was a trickle. The second riskiest hazard was the guard dogs across the road, guarding I don’t know what, but they are very protective of their territory and usually chase me for a hundred yards up the sandy foothills. Just as I had got away from them, there suddenly appeared the offspring of the hounds, two cute looking puppies. Appearances can be deceptive and they snapped at my heels for another two minutes, until they got bored/tired (the first I reckon).
I’ve found a new route up “Cerro Sentinel” which is steep and loose, but cuts off 5 minutes. I managed to lose this and more as I took completely the wrong line off the summit and had to traverse for half a mile. Now my navigation is suspect at the best of times, but I’m going off no maps and a dodgy memory on this route. The middle bit is a case of following a big wall (keep it on your right) and the last bit is into the mysterious unknown.
On a good day it is plain sailing.
I’ve only got as far as halfway in previous recces, powered by the magical forces of SONI POWER gels and chewy bars, bananas and 2 pints of water I had plenty of sustenance, but with the clag making visibility about 10yds at best I wasn’t holding my breath…
Probably the third most risky part was passing through the shantytowns en-route. Pamplona Alta II was the first of these pueblos, but everybody was sound asleep in the murky half-light, as I slogged up the hill. Not quite everybody was asleep though.
Beware of the Wolves!
Three wolves (or dogs possibly, it was difficult to tell) started chasing me up the rocky path. I love animals and I like dogs, but these weren’t looking for a stroke, nor a tickle under the chin. Normally if you motion that you are picking up a rock, they slink away. This didn’t work.
Step II with wild hounds is to lob a rock in their direction. As I am such a crap shot, this isn’t usually very effective. If dogs could laugh!
Step III is to launch something in their immediate direction. This is normally the last option and with my best shot I got within a foot of the black wolf, (who didn’t realise I was aiming for the grey beast). The barking subsided as they sloped off, looking for another victim…
In the mist it seemed that there was a lot more uphill than down, but I was in no major rush, just enjoying the solitude of the hills on a Thursday morning. Since I had last been here there had been a green explosion of life from tiny plants. These hills are the dustiest, most barren set of rocks I have ever been to. It is almost like a vertical, rocky desert. However with the arrival of winter, opportunist clover and tiny, bright green lichen/moss had started to cover the chaotic boulders in a haphazard fashion. I reckon in a month it’ll be even more spectacular here.
Always time for a platano.
It wasn’t a day for photos, which was just as well as I didn’t have my camera, (the Nipper had hidden my charger somewhere). Apart from the sound of dogs barking down in the valleys of La Molina and Villa Maria de Triunfo (uneasy neighbours if ever there were!) It was deathly still and quiet until the unexpected explosion of fireworks to start Fiestas Patrias in VMT, sounded at 8am. With plenty of tucker to tuck into, I was cruising nicely and enjoying the moment.
Somewhere around here, I made a mistake…
I knew the descent would be tricky, especially if I missed the fork in the path, (which I did), so my Plan B was to bag another peak on the round and take it from there. “Pride comes before a faceplant”, overambitiousness and all that. After the summit I suddenly found myself lost.
I first started learning about Mountaincraft when I was about 10 years old, taught by an amazing man called Ray Green, when I was in Scouts (it was more like a Youth Club in our group, we didn’t have a uniform as such and it wasn’t like “Dib, dib, dib” round a campfire. It was more like meeting up on a Wednesday and doing something exciting/dangerous. Weekends were a bit more organised, but equally as exciting. Winter mountaineering and camping in the Scottish Highlands as a youth was an amazing and life-changing experience).
Anyway, in my training as a lad, we were told/shown what to do do/what not to do, when you get lost. Following rivers is a no-no (water follows the easiest/steepest route), blind gullies are to be avoided too.
I could just see the summit, so I headed back there 3 times, frantically trying to find a route off. This wasn’t a very frequently trod peak, so paths were sketchy and with no map…
In the valley bottom I could hear the distant cries of “Tamales, tamales…”
“Are you looking at my tamales!”
(Pic courtesy of aprendamoseswordpress.org)
A popular corn snack, served luke-warm, wrapped in a banana skin. I personally can’t stand them (they always, but always give me bad guts), but with the sound of the Hawker’s monotone cries, I could roughly pick a route down. It could have gone badly wrong. It was really steep, but after about 5 minutes slipping-and-a-sliding, I found a traversing path, which led through an angular boulder field. This was not a place to twist an ankle.Five minutes later I hit the main path down and fifteen minutes later I was down! Caked in dust and sweat, which made me look like the bog monster from the knees down.
On a sunny day, not today!
All that was left was to catch a combi home. One was waiting, and empty too, so I bagged the middle seat at the back (most legroom). A family of four got on (the still empty, bar me, bus) and chose to sit next to me. The bloke was wearing freshly pressed cream chinos, and I cringed as my filth transferred to his slacks as we trundled towards Salamanca.
One stop before mine, I decided to try to get a bit closer towards the door, so I vacated my back seat. I heard gasps of horror and glanced as my sweaty self had left a dirty pool sweat on the vacant back seat, it was a relief to get off and get home for a shower, and some brekkie.
Next stop. Sunday, to the distant and high hills of San Andres de Tupicocha. Recce time…
It’s not about the destination!
Fast forward to Sunday.
(Other things have happened, but my eyes are not working that well, nor are my fingers and I am so badly in need of a shower that the house will need fumigating if I don’t get a wriggle-on!)
“Al fondo hay sitio…” (There’s room at the back!)
Sunday was always going to be a l-o-n-g day.
I’d booked a seat on the bus to go to the yonder land of San Andres de Tupicocha, scene of race III next Sunday, but don’t worry, this bit is not about the running, it’s all about the journey (and what a journey it was too!)
3:30am alarm, decent brekkie and a cup of the strongest coffee known to man. For those of you who work shifts, you’ll know about slow-mo-morning-mode, where time speeds up as you get gradually slower and slower. Much as I am addicted to coffee, I love a tea first thing, but today I was greedy and had both. This was a mistake.
Managed to find a bargain cab at 4am and headed down to the rendezvous point. First there.
We had been told “Meet-4:45am, leave (punctually)-5am”
People were still arriving until 5:30am, punctuality is not big here.
Immediately I was bursting for the toilet, as soon as I sat down. The mood was a dark and sleepy one, matching the morning as we escaped Lima. After an hour I couldn’t wait and begged for a toilet stop. Done.
After 2hrs on the Carretera Central we headed off road (in a normal mini bus, two mini buses in fact, this was a lucky number). For me this was familiar territory, I had been over this ground 3 or 4 times on the Clunk and knew the zig-zags were endless. I needed the khazi again.
This was embarrassing, especially as it was a single-track hairpin paradise.
The minutes ticked slowly by, I couldn’t concentrate. I’ve never, ever had such an urge to go, ever. The bumpy, corrugated road didn’t help, I begged again and thankfully the driver stopped.
Half an hour later we arrived at lofty San Andres de Tupicocha (3606m or 11831ft in old money, we’d soon be heading a lot higher!) It seemed to take a long time for everybody to get ready. Time was ticking and I knew that we’d be out for a fair old while. Due to my incontinence habits on the bus I hadn’t really spoken to anybody, and my small bunch of friends that I normally see at races weren’t there, so I set off in a small group as Billy-no-mates!
Then I heard a voice shout “Johnny Bravo!” It was a lad called Dick who had helped me out with some useful info on some local mountain ascents. A top lad, who led us round the course nicely. I won’t waffle on about the run, but I was pleasantly surprised. My first time at such an altitude and I didn’t die! It is an incredible course and we ran round in a group of five friendly folk; Dick, Gabriel, Martin, Anne and Karina. (Pics below).
More about the course, runners, riders and full SPs next weekend!
Anyroad, we got back to Tupicocha around 3pm after having been out for 5hrs. I was chatting to the bus driver who told me that he had once driven for 3 days without sleeping!
Nobody was quite sure what time we’d actually get off, so I made a quick pot-noodle (I do promise to give them up one day). Just then it was announced we were off. A local restaurant, when asked what was on offer, replied “Arroz con huevo” (rice and fried eggs), as most people hadn’t had time to eat my pot noodle was eyed enviously!
When we came to leave this little high altitude town, the bus stalled on the steep climb, and there was a bit of drama when we all had to disembark and climb the hill, then a tiny old bloke and an even smaller old woman were in the middle of the road, there was a roar of an engine, a sandstorm of dust and they somehow didn’t get squashed!
Heading out of town we turned right, now I knew this track went either a very, very long way round back to Lima (about a day in fact), or to the half-finished road that caught me out last June. Soon we were plummeting downwards on the hairpins. Losing about twice the height of Ben Nevis over twenty thousand torturous turns…
(This shaky video gives you an idea: https://vimeo.com/177012516 )
Well, not quite, as our brakes suddenly/dramatically packed in. Everybody started walking, I made a cup of tea for myself. What else can one do in such a situation…
Mr. Insomnia was left to fix his bus.
We all then got on one bus, about 35 of us. “Johnny, hay fondo el sitio” I was told.
I was ushered to the only remaining seat and to my dismay it was the worst seat on any bus; the wheel arch with about minus 3 foot of legroom. People were standing and I couldn’t say no, so I shoehorned myself in and grimaced.
The incredibly experienced driver trundled on, (not Mr. Insomnia, he was up the hill, scratching his head how to get home, no AA/RAC here!) There were still hairpins to loop and it was now dark. We had taken a different route, but the council had taken the opportunity to know down (to eventually rebuild) all the bridges, so it meant a diversion across the river, in the bottom of a river valley, with a road that criss-crossed the river (normally by bridge) a lot. Luckily it wasn’t too full. It was pitch black by now and the kamikaze dogs were out in force (glad not to be on the Clunk at this point). After about 2hrs of river crossings and dog attacks we reached the brow of the hill back down to Lima, Just a flat-out high speed burn through Baker, and Barstow, and Berdoo. Then on to the Hollywood freeway straight into frantic oblivion. Safety… obscurity… just another freak in the freak kingdom.
Home, coffee, shower, more coffee, tea,patch this blog together and goodnight…
On a musical note this week. The late, great Pete Postlethwaite conducts…
Have yourself thee most splendid of splendid weeks.
Johnny, Lina & the Nipper