May 29, 2020


Good morning/afternoon/evening folks

(To both of my readers in different time zones).
II trust this finds you in finest fettle.
A week of ups-&-downs and some almighty ####-ups.
This is the weekly round-up of happenings in the land of la Ciudad Blanca

Flying Lima trip…

My good friend and colleague, Diana, got married to Andres last Saturday and as I had promised to be there , a lightning trip to Lima was in hand. Due to the ridiculuous “VDA mileage challenge” (which the men lost on a technicality), I decided to run to the airport, not that far, but cutting through a less-than-salubrious part of town kept me on my toes, as did the dawn squadron of wayward hounds. It is basically all uphill to the airport, but I arrived just as the sun appeared.

After the recent disaster of Peruvian Airlines, LATAM actually left early and dropped down through a big grey cloud into Lima in an hour-&-a-bit. The sun gradually came out & even though I´ve only been in AQP for 5 weeks, I felt like a proper country bumpkin in the big city.

An appointment with Maro, my Physio/Magician will hopefully keep my battered pins moving for a few months more and then a mad dash to get spruced up and to the wedding, battling the car park that is Av. Javier Prado, to arrive just before the Bride appeared. I´ve not been to a wedding in absolutely yonks and it was a really cool Do. The Bride and Groom were the happiest people on the planet and it was great to see my old Camacho Compañeros.

Squeezed in a cinema visit later on. The last two seats (front row) to see the Joker.
Lina had said that the trailer did remind her of me, which was a bit worrying, but having seen the whole film now, I see her point! Don´t get to the Flicks much these days, but it was a classic.

Sunday was a sprint to Miraflores for a curry with the gang (good tucker + diabolical service), then a cab to Jorge Chavez and back to AQP by nightfall.

(As a footnote, I serously take my sombrero off to all flight attendants, who must have infinite patience with the ar$es who are passengers. The boorish couple next to me refused to turn down the “telenovela” they were watching on Youtube during the safety announcement. Should have chucked them out the hatch when we flew over Callao docks…)


Eternally bad guts reached new levels this week, possibly due to a freak incident whilst out for my morning plod on Wednesday. A monstrous puddle of foul-stinking water was lurking ominously one block away from my gaff.
Naturally/inevitably, as I chose my moment to dash past this hazard, a 4×4 travelling at Mach 3 suddenly appeared and transferred the water from the street to me, giving me an early shower with a bonus mouthwash :-/

I dashed back home and brushed my teeth 20 times with carbolic acid.
It wasn´t to be my day, as I also got another minor dosing as I trotted to catch my bus to work, kept my mouth shut that time though.

If there is no blog next week, who knows what horrendous malady I have succumbed to. I hold the bloke in a white 4×4 to blame, investigate him!

Jeffrey Bernard is unwell.

Next week.

The Magic Sign.

Next week.


After all the previous drama, my new best friend, Junior, gave me the thumbs-up and I am now all above board/legal until the next big hurdle in April!

It´s all about the bass (part III)…

So, after procuring (indirectly) my new black, insanely weighty 5-string bass guitar, as a bonus gift with the steel string Jumbo acoustic copy and lugging them back across the city on the bus, I was presented with a conundrum.

a) Did the bass actually work? I hadn´t been able to test it through an amp.
b) Which instrument to focus on? My limited musical abilities/time wouldn´t allow me to dominate (!) both, if at all one…

So, under the pretence of buying a new amp, I hauled the heavy beast to “Audiomusica”, Lima´s (if not the World´s) most expensive music shop. I took along the Nipper, who thought it was all a huge adventure and thought her Old Man was about to become a rock star, (she hadn´t heard me play yet!)

Plugging it in I was relieved to discover that I had not bought a melon and said I´d think (indefinitely) about the amplifier, buying some new strings to ease my guilt. New strings fitted, it actually looked alright, my next hurdle was to learn how to play the thing…

I used to pass a music school called “School of Rock” (must have been up all night dreaming that up), who quoted me a price that I could possibly cover by selling all my internal organs.
A few other “schools” advertised online never answered their phones, nor messages I left, a lucky escape (for them).

I contemplated teaching myself, how hard could it be. What I desperately needed was an amp, something to make a bit of noise, revenge (against my raucous neighbours) would be sweet as.

So, as I had just received my Fiestas Patrias money, which was burning a hole in my pocket and I figured I might need my internal organs, I looked for a different music shop and found Music Factory. A completely different set-up to Audiomusica. It seemed to be frequented by customers just playing the instruments, using the amps and the staff just letting them get on with it!

I already had an idea (shortlist of 2) which were out of my budget, but I justified/counteracted that with the idea that a good amp can make a crap bass sound ok, a good bass through a crap amp will always sound bad, whilst a crap bass player will always sound crap, regardless of whether they are playing the world´s best bass/amp combo!

Try doing that 20 years ago!

I had my heart set on a Fender Rumble 50 (amp). When I picked it up, I felt like I had eaten a shedload of spinach, it was so light, compared to my old 40 watt 10-stone beatbox from back in the day! I took a deep breath and took out my credit card…

It was then that I got chatting to the shop assistant, who as it turned out, was also a bass guitar teacher. That is how I met Alex, a super friendly Venezuelan lad, who always took the wrong bus and got lost on the way to my gaff, for my weekly lesson.

Taking lessons! Surely I had to improve. I normally take the “bury myself in something until I have wrung my soul out” approach, which unsurprisingly doesn´t generally yield good results unless it is something that just requires maximal effort and zero skill (ie, running!)

I quickly realised that I was really, really crap. Far worse than I had thought.
Alex matched this with unlimited positivity and infinite patience.
I got the hang of the (very) basics and marvelled that it was the same instrument whenever I passed it to him!
After a short time it became patently obvious that 5 strings were a problem, a string too far…
Also, the sheer weight of the bloody thing was also not helping.

In a nutshell, 4-string basses have strings with notes E-A-D-G (Everybody Ate Dead Grasshoppers),
5-strings have an extra (low) string which is generally tuned B-E-A-D-G.
6-strings have another extra (high) string, tuned to B-E-A-D-G-C.
Are more strings better?
Only if you don´t have big clumsy mitts like mine, forever hitting the (redundant) low B-string.
It was decided! A new bass, but first I had to sell this 5-string lump, and that is a different story.

(To be continued..)

Taking the pi$$.

I´m not a prude, but two things that still grate on me here, are blokes urinating in the street and people spitting (and I have seen the Exploited “Barmy Army” live).

Everybody gets caught short once in a while, but do it discreetly, por favor!

There was a road near my old place in Salamonkey where Taxistas used to stop to empty their bladders (just next to the corner where somebody dumped half a tonne of loose/mixed rubbish every night). Most would just relieve themselves as if they were invisible. Others open the front door to preserve some modesty (that old rear wheel coaching rule of old doesn´t apply here). I even saw a bloke showing his youngster to take a leak against the wall outside the public toilets.

No escaping it here in AQP either. I have witnessed some thinly-veiled performances.
– The old bloke who goes through the mesh fence of the park (spotted twice, same time of day, consistent).
– The petrol taker delivery man who was dropping off a load at the garage and watering the framework of his own truck.
– The kamikaze daredevil who I spotted taking a leak on an armoured Police truck!

Put it away chaps…

Orgullo Arequipeño!

If you said that people from Arequipa are a proud bunch, you´d be making a huge understatement.
They even have milk from exclusively Arequipeña cows.
After the recent scandal of one dairy company passing off white water as milk, if it comes an animal it´s a bonus!

The drugs don´t work.

I am not a cyclist (especially not right now, as I don´t have a pushbike), but I do love cycling.
More of a runner who pedals now and again, normally when crocked.
I brought my old BMX back from Oz in 1982, with a pedal-back/coaster break, which nobody else could ride, (a bit like the first time you drive an automatic car and press the break at 80mph, thinking it´s the clutch!)

It was my mate Steve S (my bike guru with endless patience for my incessant questions) who got me into road cycling.
I have said a zillion times “If you´ve run a bike shop (in the UK) over the last 15 years and you haven´t cleaned up/made a mint, you´ve been doing something wrong!”

Cycling in Blighty has boomed since the turn of the century and it is not a cheap sport to get obsessed about!
How many times have I scrimped and saved for a new push-iron, to then have to flog it on fleabay 6mths later, as I was skint.
A bad example of a business model, (unless your idea of a successful business model is one that loses much more money than it ever makes! I never learn…)

LEGAL DISCLAMER: What follows is pure subjective waffle of my own, I have no real idea what I am talking about.
In the style of Have I got News For You

Competitive cycling fascinates me. The big races such as the Grand Tour trio (La Vuelta de España, Giro d´Ítalia and the Tour de France). Drama, action and underhanded skulduggery!
Somebody maybe once said “You would have to be on drugs (to be daft enough) to finish the TDF”
The murky world of performance drugs is not a recent scandal.

776BC: “Ancient Greek athletes drank wine potions, used hallucinogens and ate animal hearts or testicles in search of potency.”

The legendary Doncaster lad, Tommy Simpson, tragically paid the price on Mont Ventoux in 1967.

There is not sufficient time nor space here to go into the darker period of cycle racing (or drugs in sports in general) here.
It is cheating, fullstop.

To make one thing clear, popping a few pills will not make a general member of the punting public a TDF yellow jersey contender, an Olympic 100m champion or even the winner of the 7.5km Parque Lamabramani Ultramarathon.

Looking purely at cycling, the tour is an example of one of the toughest physical events on the planet.
Just to finish it in one piece takes a superhuman effort. In 2003, Tyler Hamilton rode 400km with a broken collarbone, grinding away 11 of his teeth, which later needed to be capped. He finished 4th. (In the following Tour of Holland, he broke his femur). This is not your standard rider!

What performance drugs do is enable the body to be pushed harder and recover quicker. Sounds perfect!
There is always a flipside to the coin.
EPO was (silently) hailed as a new wonder drug. A cancer drug that increases the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells. The problem is that it thickens the blood to the consistency of treacle. Not a problem when the body is going at full tilt, not so good when sleeping, as the heart needs to work harder just to keep the sludge pumping around the body. Allegedly cyclists were having to set alarms in the middle of the night, to get up and do exercise. Risky stuff.
Blood doping is where blood is removed and then replaced, during which time the body has compensated and therefore the oxygen carrying capabilities are improved, like having an extra lung (or two).
Human Growth Hormone is naturally produced in the body. HgH as a drug increases lean body mass and is said to speed up recovery (from injury and training), it was a “wonder drug” as at first it was undetectable in drugs tests.

All are just examples (of what I have read, please don´t sue me Lance! I bought your books and your Magnificent Seven DVD).

Apart from being illegal, unethical and cheating, all of these are highly dangerous. 18 cyclists from Belgium and Holland died suddenly in the 1990´s, their deaths possibly linked to drug use. It is an extremely dangerous sport as it is, let alone increasing the risks with drugs.

For me personally though, it is bloody fascinating reading!
It was “Yellow Fever”, by Jeremy Whittle that first caught my attention, the scandal of the 1998 Tour.
After dropping off social media in December, I suddenly had more free time, so I read all about cycling/cyclists; the insane world of Tomas Dekker in “The Descent”, Tyler Hamilton´s “The Secret Race” and “Racing through the dark” by David Millar. Reformed dopers making money through book sales?
Is that really a good thing though?

(York lad, Charly Wegelius did do it clean in “Domestique”).

I remember thinking sometime after Lance Armstrong´s 6th tour win, If this guy ever tests positive, it will be one of the biggest sports scandals in history.
The man himself is quoted as saying “ If you consider my situation: a guy who comes back from arguably, you know, a death sentence [Armstrong’s 1996 cancer diagnosis and treatment], why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That’s crazy. I would never do that. No. No way…”

Then of course, it all came out. First saying that he would no longer contend allegations against him, then confessing to Oprah Winfrey. Due to his profile, fame and personality, Armstrong was always going to take a big hit.
Marco Pantani, Il Pirata, 1998Tour winner and one of the greatest climbers of all time fell from grace and took his own life.

Then there is the tragic case of Rugby League player, Terry Newton.
I recently read “The dirtiest race in history”, where you almost end up feeling sorry for Ben Johnson.

A friend sent me this in-depth ARTICLE a few years back, it is as enlightening as it is scary.
If recreational athletes start using/abusing drugs, then the end is definitely in sight.
Scary in that the minimal gains that top athletes possibly achieve, compared to huge gains for Joe Joggers, but at a cost.

Where is all this unguided rambling leading? (This started as a two sentence snippet, apologies for going on and on and on).

As is often the case here, if you want a particular product, there is often a street/district where every shop/outlet sells the same product at the same price. TV racks, car exhaust mufflers, chrome twiddly bits, washing machine belts and also, Human Growth Hormone…

If you ever need some HGH, it is on the same street that sells curtains. I was so lost that I cannot remember where it actually was. I won´t be going back there though…

Remember Zammo!

Asi es Peru.

Next week.

Not quite El Misti…

I came down to AQP with a headful of ideas (daydreams), but as with most of my aspirations in Peru they have remained daydreams (the Cordillera Huayhuash was my original inspiration for coming here and 15 years on, I still haven´t done it).

Early days…

I cooked up a half-baked plan on Friday (public holiday: Dia de los Muertos, Saint´s day) to at least try to get to El Misti.
I miss Ordnance Survey maps, they make dreams/plans become reality. Google Maps isn´t quite the same and my work computer wouldn´t fit in my bumbag!

So, getting info/beta/data was tricky.
There are 3 main routes, but two of these require transport, a tour company, a guide and two days.
I had 8 hours and a budget of less than half a tenner!

The only online details I could find about the one possible route were on, who solemnly said:

Delantera (SW route)

This is the historic route accessible by 4×4 to the trailhead at 3400 meters (Los Pastores). It used to be the most popular route on the mountain, but robberies have made the route more risky than it was in the past. The route is no longer recommended.

A hike of 5 to 6 hours gets you to camp at 4700 meters. It is then 5 hours to the summit and 3 hours descent to the trailhead.

The “Pastores” trailhead is at an altitude of 3400m (14cm short of 11155ft in old money) which is as higher than the loftiest peaks of the Pyrenees and Dolomites. It is about 5 miles each way of mixed (smooth sand, ankle deep sand, rutted sand and craters) trail from the cemetery.

The only other “intel” I could gather was from a running friend called Waldo.
He had backpacked the route over 2 days from the cemetery and also ran it from the trailhead (with a 4×4 to cut out 10 miles of sand).

As “el Dia de los Muertos” was a bank holiday, Halloween (which seemed like it had just been discovered here) was celebrated wildly, especially by my neighbours, (some things never change), so a 3:30am alarm felt like it came 10 seconds after I had laid down in my pit. A quick brekkie, bit of packing/faffing and a tentative worry that I didn´t have enough water (long story, not just my schoolboy error).
I don´t have a 4×4, but figured I could jog the track to the trailhead, if I left early enough surely the bandits would be still sharpening their daggers and any hungry hounds, hopefully sleeping.
The rough plan was to get as far as possible, but with a cut-off time. I needed enough daylight (and steam, and sustenance) to get up, down and back through the graveyards, before darkness fell…

I took a cab from my house to the cemetery. The driver didn´t have a clue and we stopped to ask for directions. I had run there once, but couldn´t remember the way. It seemed that most punters were still drunk/made-up from halloween parties. We drove as far as we could, where the driver renegotiated his fare and booted me out at what appeared to be an open air tip, to a battalion of wide-awake pooches, who seemed oblivious to my badly-aimed rocks. Surely there were enough bones in the boneyard for these lot!
It was now 5:30am, a bit later than I had hoped to be under way, but with howling hounds hopefully behind me I plugged on to the trailhead, by which time it was cracking flags. As my mate Waldo had said, the path was good (“don´t cross the river ravine”). Basically it just headed vertically in the direction of a mountain which appeared to be getting further away!

Chronically bad guts didn´t help my progress, but as I didn´t really know the distance, I misjudged my food a bit and figured that by eating the bulk of it early, I´d have less weight to carry plus more energy! I had 2 litres of agua, a litre of magic sports drink, plus 3 honey butties, 3 bananas, 2 flapjacks, 3 gels and a fistful of salt tablets. Plenty surely???

After about 4hrs the going got tough, steep uphill sand, one step forward and three steps back. I had seen nobody all day, but then the first of 3 groups passed me coming down, all wrapped up for Baltic conditions, they stared disbelievingly at me in my shorts and hinting that I was leaving it late, (they had camped overnight and left their tents at 3am, it was 11am.

I´d set my self a self-imposed turnaround of 1pm.

The route was full of trash and with this place being so dry, most of it (plastic water bottles, empty cans of tuna and broken rum bottles) will sadly stay there forever. All the big boulders were daubed in white paint with names and slogans dating back a long time.

The first rockband didn´t get much closer, despite my gurning. Then it started snowing, then I took my last slurp of water!
(Camelbak water holders are fantastic until they suddenly run out, a bit like a Scuba diver´s tank, but maybe not quite as serious). I´d just popped a salt tablet and the other fluids I had were an experimental mix, in this case wayyy too strong.
Weighing up my options, I reckoned it was another 1hr+ to the top, if not more. I´d done 20km already and decided that “Discretion is the better part of valor” (or something along those lines). I was up to 5000m, it was a good bit of training and I would (hopefully) see the summit in the race in a weeks time. Although it was all downhill, I had a fair way to get back and I was goosed!

What had taken me 6hrs to climb, took 2hrs to fall down.

Plastered in the finest dust imaginable, massively dehydrated and with 2 juicy blisters on my bonny plates of meat, I staggered into the first cemetery, where everybody else seemed to be staggering too, “El Dia de los Muertos” is a popular day to pay respects to those who´ve passed away and the cerveza was in full flow!

I gave up on waiting for a bus and caught a cab, who took the most contrived route back home.
As it was a bank holiday, most shops were shut and I couldn´t face the queues in Metro to buy some water.
I had no tucker in the house, a Chifa was the nearest/easiest/cheapest option.
It was also the saltiest food known to man, so I woke up with a mouth drier than a camel´s undercarriage (and no water)!

Will it be enough for next weeks MSR?
Will I be able to walk again by then?
Watch this space…

(With a day of hindsight, it was an overambitious route, but I reckon with a mega-early start, more water and some pepper spray, it will go!)

And finally...

Thanks to the fine folk at ALPKIT.COM I once had the chance to try “Slacklining”.
An almost meditative sport, relying on balance and coordination, I really was doomed from the start and filed the experience away as “another one tried, failed convincingly and not one I would ever get any good at even if I practised 25hrs a day/8 days a week”.

It´s a bit like tightrope walking, but the line is not tight (dóh!)
I always fancied joining the circus, but I think I´d have a better chance as a clown (and I hate clowns, so that is not going to happen). In my debut I was only about 1-2ft off the ground, baby stuff, but it was still bloody hard!

I am not sure how some social media works and what presses people´s buttons, but the fact that this video only has 400 views and 7 likes makes me wonder?

(There is a technical difference between slacklining and highlining. I think this is the latter).

Maybe I have become a little obsessive about the big hill behind my house “El Misti”.
I promise that after next weekend, I´ll put this obsession to bed…

In the meantime check out THIS. Absolutely incredible 🙂

Have a tiptop week.

5 thoughts on “T´fells…

    1. Thanks Angela. Everything this year has been pointing towards El Misti and as I see it every day nowadays, there is no ignoring the task in hand!
      Last year I trained specifically for it (and was crocked most of the year).
      This year I have done one hill session since June (& I still can´t walk properly!)
      Let´s see what happens on Sunday :-/

  1. Hey Johnny! Another monster effort to pack that much into a week! I swear the hours must be longer over there to fit it all in 🙂 I love the advice “It used to be the most popular route on the mountain, but robberies have made the route more risky than it was in the past. The route is no longer recommended” and then your taxi driver wondering why his passenger wanted to go to the cemetry at 5 in the morning after halloween!
    But those landscapes and the views, even through the powder and the chaos, it really is something to behold. Each time I see the pictures I am transported to a wild and lunar landscape that your long legs get to travel. Thanks for sharing buddy.
    Not much to share on this end for now from me, will send you a video update soon!
    Hope those feet mend soon and you get your hydration right. HAppy days hermano 🙂

    1. Muchas gracias hermano. Alwasys good to hear from you. It was a bit of a bonkers week.
      Will be Duct-taping my plates of meat if they haven´t righted themselves by 3am Sunday morning!
      Onwards and upwards 🙂

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