Scuppered plans, empty seats and exam time (but not for me!)

Good morning Folks

I trust you had thee most splendid of splendid weekends.
5mths in Peru, here’s a quick round-up of the latest from Lima…

Scuppered plans  :-(
Photographs of inspiring places have always had a huge effect on me.
I saw a pic of Cerro Torre & Fitzroy in Patagonia when I was nine years old & told myself, “One day I will go there!”

Patagonia, 2004. A bit breezy round the dreads…

In 2004, I made it to the windiest village on Earth; El Chalten. In my 3 days there, I saw Fitzroy, but Cerro Torre remained elusive in a storm cloud. A reason to go back one day!
I read an article in a climbing magazine, with page after page of amazing cliffs, crags & peaks in Sardinia & booked a flight there, (& promptly got spanked, the climbing there is nails, hard as!)
sard 2Sardinia 2011, made me realise that although I had long hair, I wasn’t actually Chris Sharma!

I also saw a photo of a place called Ticlio, just before I first came out to Peru in 2004.
Ticlio in Lima, Peru, I’m going there one day too I thought!

(To be honest, I did very little research about Lima, as originally I was heading straight out to the Amazon, to teach, but the project fell through 2 weeks before I left & I took on a placement in Lima. I loved the placement & I grew to love Lima, as it was a very, very different world to what I was used to).
This was what made me think that I’d drop down from the clouds & land in an Andean landscape, surrounded by llamas & soaring peaks. The truth was very different, a crazy concrete jungle.
However, Lima is a BIG place; over 1000 square miles in area & a population of almost 10 million (most of them queuing on Av. Javier Prado!)
I looked at a map midweek & saw that Ticlio is a mere 86 miles up the Carratera Central. A bit like Leeds to Ambleside, but a bit busier than the A65.

At work, the students have cycles (not pushbikes) of 4 weeks.
They finish on a Thursday & start the next cycle on a Tuesday. A light bulb flickered into life above my head; long weekend!
Then I realised that my Saturday classes weren’t on the same cycle, so I’d work Thursday, have Friday off, work Saturday & then have Sunday & Monday off.
Awesome, overnight trip planned, all Brownie points (& more) cashed in.
Supernoodles purchased & bag packed!

At work on Saturday I was informed that I have a meeting on Monday morning (& as I’m the new boy, on probation, so I can’t really say no). In addition this meeting would entail a fair chunk of homework. I could have come back first thing Monday morning, but as I work all day Saturday, I didn’t really want to leave Lina on her own with the Nipper, all weekend.

So I started thinking, there & back in a day, surely it’s doable?
I asked a few people about Ticlio & was surprised by the reactions!
“You’ll die, it’s too cold”
“It’s still the rainy season, you’ll drown in an icy deluge”
“It’s the highest place on Earth, (refined to the highest railway on Earth)”
“The altitude is so high that petrol tankers explode!”
“I guarantee you won’t enjoy it, go to the beach instead!

Snow, ice, bandits, altitude sickness, kamikaze truckers.
It sounded perfect!


 Wonder if they serve San Miguel???

Weather-wise, it’s almost like going through 3 zones; the cloudy, murky greyness of autumnal Lima, breaking out into sunshine halfway & then up into the cold & rain (& snow & ice, but the exploding tankers would surely keep me warm!)
The Wee One is still not sleeping very well, so it was a late one Saturday night & despite a 5:30am alarm, with an unacceptable amount of faffing going on, it was 7:30am before I hit the road. The Carretera Central is the main route from Lima to the department of Junin, in fact it’s the only route. 236 miles from the coastal desert capital to La Merced (Also known as Chanchamayu: Quechua for chanchay to walk and leap about, to walk quickly and confused, chancha chancha to walk quickly and irregularly, shancha a kind of bird, mayu river. Sounds like a top spot!)
So I wasn’t expecting to have the place to myself. However, once I got out of Chaclacayo & Chosica, it all became a bit dicey!
Trucks are all carrying different loads/weights & therefore all go at different speeds. Add a lot of speeding 4x4s, crawling Mototaxis & the fact that it’s only one lane each side, & you soon get bottlenecks, hold-ups & frayed tempers!
I’m used to seeing some outrageous driving here in the city, but it was nowhere near as reckless as some of the moves pulled on every blind corner. One maniac in a small truck full of (loose) gas cylinders was overtaking on the inside/outside & generally every corner where a crash would mean certain death (or worse!) The Clunk is only a 125cc dirt bike, so it’s not really designed for overtaking, uphill on mountain passes, but it held its own. The surrounding scenery is awesome. Huge mountains & bigger peaks in the hazy distance. Despite the regular speedbumps (going downhill maybe, but for a labouring Mototaxi, these are not too welcome heading up the pass.

It is however, committing. It hairpins skywards to almost 16000ft (& I wasn’t 100% sure how the jets in my carburettor which are happy enough tootling round sea level Lima, would cope).
I’d set myself a turn-around time of 11am, which came & I was still a long way from the top, so I turned around & freewheeled all the back to Lima, where the roads became more chaotic & the traffic more unpredictable, the nearer to home I got!
Some pics right here.
Ticlio will have to wait for another day, (& I did see an intriguing trail snaking upwards away from the Carretera Central, which after looking at a map, would make an AWESOME day out, watch this space…)

Two-&-a-half empty seats on Monday’s LAN flight from Lima-Madrid-Heathrow.

We came out to Lima on a return flight. It’s often cheaper than a single, it offers an escape route & you don’t have the hassle of proving onward travel. (Sometimes, arriving as a Tourist, you’re asked at Customs where you’re going next. If you say nowhere, alarm bells start ringing!)
Our return flight is today!
We set ourselves some goals, & always said it was a trial; 6mths, 12mths, 2yrs.
If it’s all going well after 2 years, who knows!
(But my Dad has told me I can’t leave all my junk in his shed for any longer than 2 years!)
It’s been an up-&-down ride so far!
Some things have worked out awesomely, some things not quite so awesome.
It’s not better, nor worse than Blighty, just different, (but it’s definitely harder here & milk is crazily expensive!)
I’d heartily recommend living/working in a different country to anybody, it is an amazing experience.
Hard work is generally worthwhile & challenges are good, but this week my moodswings have been above average levels, for which I apologise to my ever-patient wife. I’ve been thinking a lot about that flight…
5mths isn’t a long time to settle in a place & if we went back now, we might regret it in a few months time. I’m not homesick, but there are some things I miss about Blighty (& it’s not things like Fish&Chips, but I could murder a decent pie right now!)
In addition, with all the gubbins & paraphernalia we brought out here, it would take at least a week, for a team of Logistics experts, to get all of our cases packed.
So we won’t be back on Tuesday then!

Exam time!

All my students sat their final exams this week & they all did bloomin’ well.
A small cross-section of the Lima populace are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about Rugby League, fellrunning, Bitter Vs. Lager, Mongolian river crossings & riding/maintaining Clunks!
It will of course serve them all well & they will never have any awkward silences whilst making conversation, anywhere they may travel around the English-speaking-planet!

Victor Meldrew says…


The grumpy one is having a week off, but will be back next week with a double dose of moaning!

That’s all for now folks.

Have a beyond awesome week :-)

Johnny, Lina & the Nipper x

One thought on “Scuppered plans, empty seats and exam time (but not for me!)

  1. Theresa Gallagher

    Thank u for these updates Johnny.
    Wishing u and Lina well.for the next few months.


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