Meg’s video

4 Apr

It seems as if my promise of 3 videos was a little ambitious. I’ve managed about 1.75 and kind of lost interest in the pain of editing.

But, thankfully Meg has come to the rescue, and yet again done a great job of putting a video memory to QuecHair’s trip…

Video 1

22 Feb

so, I’ve made the mistake of promising 3 videos of our trip. It’s slow work.

But, here is number 1 (number 2 is in ‘beta testing’)

The Afterglow: Meg

21 Jan
So here we are again after another adventure.  Back in the real world, back in our real lives.  Already bored, already looking forward to the next escape from reality. The whole trip back (all 43 hours of it) again all I could think was I’m not ready.

This trip was different though, shorter but infinitely more difficult.  I felt less connected with Miguel than I did with Mitch.  Maybe it’s because I never actually drove him other than to crash him, or maybe every parent really does love a problem child more.  We expected the worse when we saw the mototaxis, but Miguel caused us no problems, all our mechanic stops were purely preventative or out of paranoia.

The Junket was also less social, it’s surprisingly difficult to chat when your rolling along at a brisk 15 kilometers an hour with the engine absolutely roaring struggling to climb to the 4000 meter mountain pass you’ve got to get through.  Not to mention there was no music, an over site.  But the comradery was still there.  In fact it was probably more intense this go.  We may have left Rich and Chris in the last few days, but we looked after each other and helped each other on an entirely different plane.  I’m glad we traveled with them.

Peru itself was unbelievable.  It was stunning.  From the high mountains passes to the rain forest to the desert, it truly had it all.  Chris said he likes doing The Adventurists trips because he feels like he experiences the country rather than merely seeing it. Sort of like my “be a traveler not a tourist” motto. And I think he’s absolutely right, we really experienced Peru.  We slept and ate like locals.  Most of our hotels were filled with truckers and the restaurants with locals or no one at all. I may never want to eat
another chicken again as long as I live but you’ll hear no complaints from me on the food, it was wonderful.  The people were as well, always helpful always trying to point you in the right direction even
if they have no sense of direction or distance at all. We saw parts of Peru even Peruvians probably never get to.

We agreed not to talk about The Rally or compare The Junket to it from the onset, and it would be unfair to compare them.  They were completely different experiences each of them better and worse in their own ways,  But in the end do I wish I was still traveling across ridiculous terrain in an unsuitable vehicle? Absoluetely.  Would a mototaxi be my first choice?  Absolutely not, but I’d take it.

Day 21: wait what are you doing here…?

14 Jan

Unsurprisingly, waking up in a pretty average hotel, meant we were up and out pretty early. I think also the fact it was our final day, and ‘only’ 160km to go to the finish line, we were just keen to getting finishing. We estimated 4-5 hours, and Miguel seemed ok (naturally the welding on the exhaust had fallen apart, but I don’t think it’s a bike killer), although one thing we did notice today was that the kill switch didn’t work anymore. In fact, even if you turned the engine off, the engine still ran.

We put on our naval outfits, as this would be our final filming slot (not that we really memorized Top Gun, or did the scene planning that we’d originally been all gung-ho about). We took our time getting to Pirua and the finish line, as this was our last opportunity for photos and filming. Hopefully there’s some good bits in there (not that I think I can be quite bothered with the film editing. But, I feel as if I should make the effort this time). Our outfits looked good, even if my trousers did split within the first 10 minutes.

The roads again were pretty straight and flat, and we were both just itching to get to the finish line. And, so we finally rolled into town. The ubiquitous shot of the town’s welcome sign (blurred, as the 8 year old we asked to take the photo, was a little confused about what we he was meant to do). We managed to find the drop off point pretty easily, but it wasn’t quite the climax we expected. It was a hotel, and no signs or anything that we’d actually finished. I think poor old Annelie and Oscar (the 2 Adventurists organisers) weren’t expecting us, so we just walked into the hotel and found them and a few of the other teams sat down having lunch. So, after a bit of a stage managed ‘re-finish’, we sat down for some well earned beers.

A happy ending to a pretty full on 11 days of driving (well, after some end of holiday illness for me).

The after glow will hopefully be kicking in soon, and reflection a plenty…

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Day 20: I just want to go down, straight down and never go back up again…

14 Jan

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We were so close to the finish we could taste it.  But the boys were still a bit behind so we were talking about waiting for them hoping they’d catch up quickly but also thinking about getting there faster and possibly having a day more of actual “holiday”.  We pressed through the first few towns without incident, stopped for breakfast and an oil change and saw the first gringos other than fellow junketeers for the first time since we left Cuzco, what they were doing in that random Peruvian town we don’t know but we gave the cursory foreigner to foreigner nod.

After that it was all simple plan paved roads, Jonathan’s become quite bored.  We were thinking about how different the trip would be the other way around.  These last few days we’ve been doing around 400k a day, before we’d struggle to get to 200.  You’d really have no idea unless someone told you how difficult that half is.  I didn’t actually think we were going to finish on time until yesterday.  The problem with having the hard bit first is it makes the easy bit dull.  Plus, we no longer have our convoy and because it’s not a very social trip there’s not a whole lot of chat because the bike is loud and there’s a lot of wind.  Jonathan was bored enough and tired enough to stop and have a nap on the side of the road.

We passed the boys “goal end point” early on and decided to continue to where the next bit of mountain came in and we’d wait until the next morning to cross the pass.  Along the way we got stuck in traffic and had to sit there for about half an hour while the villagers descended upon us.  I bought a piece of pineapple at which point the girls decided to sit on the motorbike and have a proper stare at me.  I can understand the Chinese starting a bit, we look different, but we don’t look that different here… Then the girls noticed our food stash, and they were all over it.  I relented and gave them a bag of chips hoping to buy them off but then more came.  We weren’t’ going to eat all of it anyways so I made them speak English in exchange for chips/candy/instant noodles.  They weren’t that happy about it, but it seemed like a fair exchange to me, at least I got some amusement out of it.

We realized we were going to reach the town of Tambo, at the foot of the very last mountain we would have to cross, earlier than expected (again good roads, flat ect) and decided we would discuss staying there or taking on the pass when we got to it.  When we got it however there was no discussion as there was no town and there was certainly no hotel.  Up the mountain we went, I’m starting to feel quite envious of those who took the coastal roads.  This was a scary pass, and with the knowledge of a fellow junketeer’s tragic accident a few days prior (on a road we’d already crossed) we proceeded with caution.  The visibility was nil and as always there were loads of tucks/lorries to contend with, we took it slowly and sighed with relief when we reached the bottom and the fog cleared.  We went to the next town to sleep for the night and let out a yelp of excitement at the Piura: 147 km sign, the finish line was very close indeed.

Day 19: Mototaxi Narcosis

14 Jan

As we had leapt frog about 4 hours ahead of the other boys in the convoy, we tried to leave a little late, and had tentatively said we’d see them in Mayobama that evening. I grabbed a coffee in the morning, and Meg got to busying with the thousands of photos she had already taken.

One thing that did strike me while I was out, (besides the terrible lady boy attempts from the night before) was the number of what I thought were ‘tourists’. We were clearly in the middle of pretty much nowhere Peru, yet there were all these Westerners here. And some of them even driving mototaxis. What I didn’t realize until Meg pointed it out, was that Peru was in fact a major haven for ex-Nazis escaping war crimes. So in fact, all these tourists, must have in fact been 1st or 2nd generation German Peruvians. Now, that is a weird thing. What on earth do you ask your parents when you’re growing up, about your family history, why you have blond hair and blue eyes, yet everyone else looks completely different. And then once finding out, there must be this humungous open secret that never gets talked about, about the fact your father was pretty much an evil XXX. Tres bizarre.

Anyway, back onto the day. After getting some locals to help us find our way out of town (a common problem it seems for Meg & myself), we reached  Moyabamba at about 3pm – even after an hour’s detour to some Llama village (false advertising if ever there was one. Not a llama in sight). It was just way too early to be stopping after only a couple of hours on the road. So, we carried on to the next town, and the next, and the next. In the end, we kept going until about 8pm until we reach Pumapeaches (or something to that effect). The decent hotel on the lake was all fully booked, so we had to settle for yet another pretty ‘basic’ set-up. But, today had suddenly turned into a bit of a long driving one, so we were just thankful for somewhere to hole up for the evening.

Another thing that hit me today, was that the roads were beginning to be pretty normal – straight and pretty flat – so it was now the speed of these mototaxis really came into their own. As the speedometer broke in day 2, I was never entirely sure how fast I was going, but suffice to say, it wasn’t much more than 40-50km/h at best. This meant there was some long, long stretches where you could see the road continuing on the horizon, but which we never seemed to make any progress towards. This, and the fact that you couldn’t hear Meg in the passenger seat, and headphones for music were uncomfortable for anything more than 10 minutes, it made for some quite tedious moments. There was only so much singing you could do in your head. Things that crossed my mind, whilst in such moments included:

–          What would happen if I just put my feet down on the road

–          Moving my head from side-to-side and the different wind noises

–          Calculating the average speed by looking at the km markers at the side of the road

–          Counting the number of dead bugs on my helmet visor

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Day 18: He’s hitting his elbow with his hand, that is not a friendly gesture…

12 Jan

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We woke up in Tingo Maria late (8 am) knowing today was on our schedule, so we went to seek out a bank/someone to fix our tire/some food, unfortunately Tingo Maria is a holiday town in a religious country so on Sunday morning nothing was open except churches and liquor stores, but we managed to sniff out all of our needs and then headed a bit out of town to attempt to flag down a truck.  We had a sign and I have light colored hair (an asset I was assured by my Peruvian friend would get me a long way).  So I held a sign and stuck out my thumb while Jonathan horsed around with the locals.  But no luck, in an hour literally 5 trucks passed through, we would have to go to the next city where the asphalt ends and the road crumbles.

The ride there was quick and easy and for the first time in days we weren’t cold.  In fact we were very very hot, Jungle weather made us very very happy after being so uncomfortably cold for so long.  The trip is infinitely better in the heat.  While we were stopped giving the engine a rest a little man pushing an ice cream cart passed our way, no music no bell, what was he doing here?  Who was he selling to?  We have no idea, but we bought some ice creams and tried to cool down.

We arrived in the city and rather than trying to flag down a truck we found there was a company specializing in this drive.  They would drive us and Miguel (and unbeknownst to us 15 or so other passengers) to Tarapoto after fierce negotiating using every Chinese market skill we could think of Miguel was awkwardly hoisted up and we climbed into the backseat.

The ride was unbelievable.  Through the Amazon Rainforest, up a mountain and all of it every moment was interesting and beautiful.  But I would not have wanted to do it on a mototaxi and we both felt for our convoy who had blazed ahead to take on this road.  But along this road there were small towns, villages really and it reminded me of Siberia, what were these people doing here?  How did they entertain themselves, how often did people leave, did you have to marry your neighbor-cousin?  We generally saw one TV in a village sometimes more and you would see a crowd around it or even a line of chairs carefully aligned one after another outside a door so each could catch a glimpse.  It was humbling.

The truck ride was rough and we kept hearing Miguel’s exhaust pipe bang against the door on bumps, not to mention an array of people crawling and sitting all over him that we picked up during the ride.  We arrived to Tarapoto very late with just Jonathan the driver and I and we looked up at Miguel, on his perch on the back of the truck, and wondered how are we going to get him down?  It had taken 6 men to get him up there and we were three in the middle of a deserted street in the rain.  The driver wanted to go for it which we balked at with visions of Miguel crashing to the ground and us being delayed longer.  Luckily we managed to flag a couple of real mototaxi drivers down and Jonathan offered them 1 sol (40cents/25pence) to help get him down.  We were victorious, Miguel was free and we set off to find a hotel, which of course took us another hour.  And around 1am we set off to find a meal as we had eaten nothing but chips and candy all day, at 2am we crashed into bed exhausted.

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