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.

Day 17: Even the pigs are trying to be dogs…

12 Jan

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Another crack of dawn start. It’s the best way to do it, but the psychological thought of getting up at 4.30am is not something I am programmed to appreciate/enjoy. Especially on a so-called holiday.

But, all 4 teams were up and going by 5.30am (well, Nick we had to wake up, and even then we had to just let him catch-up, as we were not sure what he was doing). The morning was freezing. All of our clothes were still wet from the last couple of evenings, and putting on wet clothes and gloves was pretty painful. A lot of shivering.

It took a good few hours for us to get up to Cerro de Pasco. Supposedly the highest city in the world or something Meg claims (driving, I have no opportunity to do any reading, so whatever Meg tells me, I have to believe). We didn’t really pay too much attention, as it was so damn cold at 4,600 feet at 7am in the morning. But, it was a beautiful part of the world, and made us forget pretty quickly, the painful process of getting up that high.

And the good news…

It was downhill from now on in (bar a couple of peaks, but nothing like the 4,500 we were now at.

So, we cruised down the mountain, the sun came out, we took off different layers of clothes at every stop, and everyone in pretty high spirits. Were we going to make our target destination of Tingo Maria by 3pm – for once would we arrive in daylight and it not raining?

We got into Huancuo around lunctime, grabbed some petrol, lost Nick yet again (the man is a constant disappearing act!), and busted on out the city. We all wanted a bit of lunch, but as it was the Aussies leading the pack, we missed the beautiful hillside café, and found some truckers stop (by which point the disappearing Nick had caught up with us).

The rest of the day was a pretty uneventful journey along decent roads (until Tingo Maria, naturally). Not sure if I have pointed this out, but the dogs in this country have a habit of chasing mototaxis. The thing that really surprises me, is that all dogs seem to do it. I mean, all of them. Either it’s genetic, or some random fluke/passed down knowledge between dog generations, but today even the pigs were doing it. A little pig began chasing the taxi. A very strange sight.

We made it do Tingo Maria around 5pm, found a hotel with wifi and the 2 boys teams, decided to get their vehicles check out.

By this stage, Meg and I had agreed, that we were going to be doing the next part in a truck. Tomorrow was looking like a 15 hour drive, of which most of that was on unmade road, and I physically (& mentally if I’m honest!) just couldn’t do it after the amount of hours we had clocked over the past few days. It was also through the ‘danger zone’. Bandito country. Never travel through there in the dark was the warning.

I did a bit of a reccie, to see whether we could sort out a truck the night before. Apparently, you can only go to Lima from Tingo Maria on a truck. Nowhere else. It made me a little nervous, but hey, in the cold light of day, we were sure it was going to be ok…

Day 16: I’m just gonna have a look for some waterproof trousers, ten minutes, tops…

12 Jan

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We were in need of sleep but Miguel was in need of repairs so we were up early again despite a difficult night.  While Miguel was fitted with a new a new tire and a new jerry can and the other boys looked for various other tools/parts, Rich and I managed to sneak off to a shopping mall (the first we’ve seen since leaving Lima) to get some coffee and internet.  Everything took longer than expected and we arrived back to the mechanics to some sour faces, until they saw our bags were full of Burger King at which time all was forgotten and everyone chowed down.  Nick reappeared who had made a brief appearance the other day, apparently he had trucked it through the tough part and caught up with us via the Aussies.  We were a convoy of 4 again but we were told all roads were good from here to Tingo Maria, music to our ears.

And the road was beautiful, we flew along doing in a few hours what had previously taken us a full day.  We descended into Tarma, a stunning city with terraced agriculture all along the decent.  We stopped at a gas station to fill up.  At this time Nick told us he would like to have a look for some waterproof trousers, we all knew how this would play out but there was no convincing him otherwise so we sat and waited and fidgeted and felt frustrated for an hour while he fruitlessly foraged a 2nd tier Peruvian city for waterproof trousers for a very tall English man.  Finally we had to continue without him.

Next up a very tall mountain which would lead us to our highest pass on this journey 4380 meters (that’s well over  14000 feet if you’re playing at home) and we hoped to make it that night.  The mountain was tough, a lot of first gearing and hopping in and out and pushing was required.  As it got dark we were flagged down by the police and told mototaxis weren’t allowed on the road, Chris managed to convince him we were for a good cause and were would only continue to the next town at which time we would stop for the night.

And we did.  We had to.  It started to rain, it was windy, it was ungodly cold despite the obnoxious amount of layers we had stopped to put on on the middle of the mountain. But when we finally got to a town we all agreed wholeheartedly we would stop, it was waaaaaaaay too cold.  We never really got properly warm that night, there was no heat in the room and everything we owned was frigid or wet or both, we both knew the morning would certainly come too soon.

Day 15: we owe you a breakdown…

9 Jan

Today is genuinely quite difficult to explain. Perhaps one of the most eventful days I have had in a long, long time.

Here’s a summary in numbers:

11 x breakdowns between our 2 teams

7 x the motortaxis were on their side having something done to them

5 x our chain fell off and had to be put back on

4 x stream/river crossings

3 x over the same bridge with the hole in the middle of it

2 x occasions of fuel cans falling off motortaxis

1 x ditches we found ourselves in

We got up at the crack of dawn yet again. 5.15am. Ouch (but, the state of the accommodation, we were glad to be out). Today was going to be easy, we only had 120km to get to Huancayo, so we were all looking forward to getting there early afternoon, finding a nice place to stay, grab some food, re-internet, do some washing, etc, etc.

Uh-Err (family fortunes/family feud noise)

It started pretty badly with one of our chains coming off within the first 20 mins. And then again 10 minutes later. Chris kindly did some wheel adjustments to tighten the chain. Which was good for a few hours until the chain fell off yet again (although my attempt to fix it was to simply put it back on and spray WD40 on it – apparently that isn’t the professionals way of fixing motorbikes). And, over again the mototaxi goes, to adjust yet more. In the meantime, they were also having all kinds of trouble (permanent breaks, steering column, a leg broken off Rickety – their ceramic horse mascot).

As you can imagine, the roads were pretty terrible to cause all these troubles, and even more scarily, they were narrow, narrow mountain passes with no barriers, and sheer drops either side. I would like to say we have some photos to share, but I don’t think anyone was in the mood to really be peering over the edge, while our less than robust mototaxi tried to stay upright and on the road.

We managed to get some hastily repairs done in a small village around lunchtime – i.e. charging my iphone. That was my priority. No music, no apps. I was lost. Oh, and they welded back on our exhaust.

The next few hours were yet more narrow-dirt-rocks-rubble-puddles-pot holes-cliffs type passes.  We had a goal of getting to Huancayo that day, and we had some naïve thought that we would get there around 5’ish, get the taxis in for repairs, chill out, etc. Hmmm.

At around 3pm, I was so tired that I semi-forced Meg to have a drive for a little while. The roads seemed to be getting wider and a little more solid, and we had been promised “asphalt” any time soon. However, it appeared that Meg didn’t want to follow the well beaten path to the next town, but felt a ditch and side of the mountain would be a better route. Thankfully nothing bruised except for a bit of pride. However, this did set us back another hour and a half as we towed ourselves back to the nearest village, and some local dude manually tried to bend the rim back into shape. We were getting almighty bored at this stage, and the night was drawing in. Finally we got going…and then it started to rain. Oh, and we forgot to put the mud guard back on the front wheel. Oh, and the mechanic  didn’t think I may have needed some front brakes.

So, we then drove for another 3 hours, in the dark and pouring rain with nothing but water spraying into my face. And uphill a lot of the way, so spraying in my face, but also at just the right 10km an hour speed to ensure I could see nothing.

Finally we arrived at Hunacayo around 10pm, having also bumped into a couple of the Aussie guys (who it transpired had also been driving for the last 3 hours in the rain, because a policeman told them their friends were “5 minutes ahead of them” – alas, that’s a Peruvian 5 minutes, so it took them 2 hours to finally catch-up with us).

We managed to find a hotel with a garage, and myself and Meg plumped for the Jacuzzi in the room suite. Apparently

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we were staying in some kind of un-official love den. The others even had poles in their room?! (but, the owner wanted a picture of us in the morning, so let’s just hope we’re not on their official brochure). The room was freezing, so no chance of anything drying. Thankfully Chris allowed us a little lie in, and said we could leave at 8am to get into town and find some mechanics.

Apologies for the ramble. But what a day…!

Day 14: Uzbekistan has been dethroned….

9 Jan

Sorry we’re a bit behind, it’s really hard to find time to write on this trip we’ve simply not got the time  as we’re up early every single day and in late exhausted every night, so you’re get a very brief vague summery.  Essentially stuff happened.

Actually we woke up super early again got on the road and the Sea Gypsies and their first time every time mototaxi  broke down again, this time we had to push on.  They said they’d turn back try to get some repairs and hop a truck and meet us down the road.  Up a ridiculously high amazing moon like mountain pass where we saw some wild llama/alpaca and some crazy people living on the top of that mountain.  I’m getting a little tired of being cold and I’m told it’s only going to get colder, ai you.

We came down the mountain pass and into to another city, got some proper coffee, drove about in places we weren’t supposed to be driving, got lost trying to find our way out of the city, you know the usual city stuff.

We pushed on, hopping to make it just a little bit further.  The town ahead was flooded both by rain and by some sort of water main break, we were soaked but pushed on trying to get to La Esmerelda, because we liked the sound of the name.  Then the road fell apart, literally.  We’re talking first 5 miles in Ukraine fell apart, that 300 mile stretch of road in Uzbekistan fell apart.  And this in a motor taxi.  We felt every pothole, every ditch and every bump.  A man told us the road was closed up ahead, Peruvians seem to have no concept of distance.  It’s always just a few minutes or a few kilometers even if it’s an hour or 100 ks, it’s annoying.  Jonathan needed a break and Rich happily stepped into to drive poor Miguel, in the rain, making horrendous noises on the side of a cliff at night.  It was scary.  Especially not having Jonathan driving anymore, while I know Rich is an excellent driver I don’t trust him like Jonathan, so it was nerve racking.  Over some “bridges”, looking out at land that just ended literally and down some muddy hills we finally came across a town of a few scraggly buildings and found the 1 hotel which happened to have 2 rooms, we went to bed crossing our fingers the road would improve tomorrow…

Photos!

8 Jan

We’ve updated each of our prior entries with photos so you have at least a vague idea of what the photos are of.  Have a look!

 

Day 13: Up a mountain, down a mountain, rain and repeat…

6 Jan

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Today was team repair day.

After getting in & asleep at about 1.30am last night, hearing the alarm going off at 7am was not a great sound. Myself, Stu and Rich took our taxis and found some repair shops. My guy said it was running, ‘normale’ which was my excuse to make sure he took the engine apart so that I could get ‘mas poder’ (more power). He tinkered about, blew into a few things, scrubbed something else with a toothbrush, and most importantly, welded the screw back onto my seat.

After the usual messing around nonsense, and a slightly over-sold ‘Police escort’ (a guy in a security jacket wanting a lift up the road, for us to then proceed to double back on ourselves to get out of town), we finally set off about 2.30pm. Meg had a little try on the mototaxi, but I don’t think she really enjoyed it. Our hope to reach Ayacucho loomed in the distance (at about 200km away). However, we knew how unrealistic this was going to be, so we pumped for a middle ground of Concheros.

We started off ok, for about 20 minutes, before the Sea G’s bike started playing up again. It was something to do with the something to do with a motorbike. Good old Miguel was running ok (although pretty sluggish up hills), and only a few rattles to keep us on our toes.

The journey was pretty cool. There was some amazing mountain passes, and one of the final descents to our final resting stop was brilliant fun. Having had a motorbike for a while, it was these kinds of roads that you loved – I’m looking forward to the photos & videos.

It began to pour with rain, but we battled on through, and got in around 9. We found a place to stay among a few other junketers, and after our standard issue Chicken & Chips, it was into a Harry Potter cubbie hole, with the ambitious 5.30am start. Yes, you heard correctly. Chris seemed to convince us all that 5.30 was a normal human time to get up of a morning. I disagree, but we had some distance to make.

Day 12: That’s exactly what our overcrowded mototaxi needs a cage and another living creature…

6 Jan

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Today was a long day, a very very long day.  We were awoken by the crowing of roosters at an hour we’ll choose not to mention, but it was time to hit the road and hit it hard.  We’d already seen teams broken down along the way and noticed other teams struggling but we had faith in Miguel.  So we rocked on, up a HUGE HUGE mountain, about 4000 feet above sea level and you could feel it, in your head in your eyes in your heart.  It’s tough, it’s another 1000 feet above Cuzco even.  We reached the summit, far far above the clouds and took some photos, then started the decent into the first city we would encounter on the Junket.  Unfortunately, much like the Rally, cities again prove difficult.  It seems most of the world has not figured out you should have a way to let traffic passing through the city bypass it.  So a trio of mototaxis, cumbersome slow vehicles, descended upon the city.  And it took us forever to get through, but we did pass a few more mototaxis, leading us to believe we’re near the front of the pack.

Thus far the roads had been great, paved flat lovely.  We exited the city, went around a bend and saw 2 roads leading away.  One road was paved and a beauty, the other was broken down, potholed, gravel.  Both went up the sides of a mountain, we, of course had to take the second road.  This would be the first sheer cliff, no guardrails driving we would do.  It was nerveracking for me, as I’m sure it was for Jonathan.  But we pressed on, passing several more broke down mototaxis.  Seeing some which were on their own made us happy we had joined a convoy, we’ll need all the help we can get when we break down, as we have no mechanical skills whatsoever, and break down we will.

It was getting late and our goal city was still about 70 km away and we were staring at yet another mountain and 3 mototaxis turning back.  Telling us it would take a few hours to cross and there might be snow on the top of the mountain and it would be dark soon.  We collectively decided to press on, it was important to make it as far as possible as quickly as possible.  So we stripped down in front of a crowd of locals (much amused by the the gringos on the ridiculous vehicles) added layers, thermals, scarfs and every other piece of clothing we could gather.  Then we moved forward, up the mountain.  About 30 km in we heard a bad sound and realized the other two mototaxis were no longer behind us.  The Sea Gypsies had broken down.  After about an hour of trying to get it to work, to no avail we decided we were close enough to the crest of the mountain, we’d push/pull/jimmy rig it up to the top then free wheel it down 40 kilometers of mountain.  And that we did, it was exhausting and freezing and dangerous.  And then came the road into the city where the road essentially fell apart (sounds familiar doesn’t it?).  Potholes, darkness, cliffside.  I can’t believe they made it down safely and quickly.  But they did, we found a hotel, with wifi and hot water and collapsed for the night. Everyone’s still in high spirits though, excited by the fun and novelty of it all. Hopefully that continues.

Day 11: Come on let’s get the rod out of here…!

4 Jan

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We’re off!

Woke up a little bit dusty, but a final Jack’s brekkie cleared a few of the cobwebs. We managed to load up our stuff into a taxi to get shipped out to the starting point. Man, oh man, do we have a lot of stuff.

A couple of hours of tinkering, and the Sea Gypsies (Ed & Stu) helping us with knots, and still it didn’t look like we would leave at the planned time (12.30 official kick off). I have to say, even though we expected things to be less than organized, this one was a pretty shoddy affair. There were 5 teams that didn’t even have a mototaxi.  But, after sitting around for a few more hours, we finally set off at 3pm. It was very cool to have a Police convoy through the city (as Mototaxis are banned there), and seeing 40 of us all trying to cough and splutter our way out of town, was a sight to behold. After about an hour ( & what I can imagine were 20 teams broken down), we were out of the city and had clocked all of 20km…

The Sea G’s had a bust back brake, but that was fixed pretty sharp (they are boat engineers. We’re pretty happy they’re with us), and then Que? Guevera (Chris & Rich) caught up with us at a petrol station. After Meg was accosted by some old dude, we think trying to get a ride to the next town, and offering us 8 soles for the privilege, we made a beeline to tick off as many km’s as we could.

So, onto the mototaxi itself – Miguel. Firstly, it will not drive in a straight line. You are constantly having to fight it, and my arms and neck are absolutely killing me (to the point when we stopped in the evening, it was an almighty effort to brush my teeth – my hands were numb). It also feels like the thing is going to tip at any point, and we have to go up hills in 2nd or 3rd max, which means a top speed of about 15km/h.

It’s going to be a slow, hard slog.

The only saving grace, is that we are riding in the Andes. Cruising at 4,000 feet in a convoy of mototaxis has something very, very unique about it – I just wish we’d done it in a nice car.

At about 10pm we arrived at Limatambo. Found a hostel, grabbed some food, and crashed. A planned early start in the morning as we have some distance we need to travel. We’re only on day 1, and already we’re about a day behind where we were hoping to be…

Day 10: Yep, Check it off. Feliz Año Nuevo!

4 Jan

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Due to the fact we weren’t able to get train tickets previously were decided to blow off the last day of mototaxi pimping/trying to get the thing to start and go to Maccu Piccu, apparently it’s something you should see while in Peru.  It’s in lots of pictures, films, you know the one.  Even though we were terrified poor Miguel would be cannibalized by other teams with nonfunctioning mototaxis or teams without mototaxis at all we had no choice so we set off for the train station and arrived just in time to take off on the slowest train ever.  Seriously dogs were moving faster than we were; we saw a mototaxi speed past.  Three and half hours of screaming inside later we arrived at the town downhill from the site, and then we took a 25 minute bus ride up a mountain until finally we were there.

It’s impressive, I have to admit.  Apparently they have no idea what it was used for, they think it might have been some sort of super elite resort site,  I’ll tell you what if I was a super elite back in those days I wouldn’t to be climbing that high up the mountain, seriously why is it built waaaaaaaaaay out of the way.  Also, it’s not that old.  We were talking about it and it’s from the 1400, it’s interesting to think that’s what they were building in the 1400s and what they were building in Europe.  Completely different.  But we really enjoyed it, spent some time lounging and taking in the sites, then loaded on the bus back down the mountain.

Before boarding the super slow train back we stopped to have some Mexican food, Jonathan got a burrito I got enchiladas.  They took about an hour to arrive and when they did the were exactly the same except his had guac on top and mine had some awful red sauce, there was no cheese, there was no sour cream, though I was offered mayo.  Then Jonathan went to the ATM and disappeared for an hour, I could see him down the street waiting in line, and then he was gone.  I had flashbacks of Moldova.  He appeared cheerfully shortly before I started to panic.

When we got back into Cuzco we dragged ourselves to The Adventurists arranged party and then proceeded to have a great time.  There was food, booze and a mototaxi was lit up with fireworks, good times.  We managed to hope a bus and make it to the main square just in time for midnight, which was impressive even to people who have seen spring festival in China done. We bought the saddest fireworks ever and then it started pouring down rain so we figured we had the launch in the morning and we’d call it an early night.

Or that was the plan.  Instead we go the hostel and Jonathan was in full JJ mode and we stayed up drinking and laughing with a  Dutch couple we met, not a bad way to spend New Years Eve overall.  Launch in the morning then it’s off into the mountains to see what Peru is going to throw at us.

Day 9: This one had a cracked fuel tank, but other than that it’s a great machine. We’ll take it.

4 Jan

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Today we were very fortunate that we turned up at the test track around midday. Supposedly the taxis had already been allocated, but after failing to find our designated steed (it was ‘in the garage’), we grabbed another one that looked like it wasn’t just a shell of a motor. He seemed to have some putty or other under the motor (transpires it was the test taxi from yesterday, and some dude had wrapped it around a lamppost), so we actually spent 95% of the day kitting it out with the tonnes of stickers, Moses and Mimi. Just before the end of the day, we thought it may actually be an idea to see if the wretched thing starts. Joy. Start Miguel did.

As we clearly didn’t feel like we had enough stuff (err, we clearly had way too much stuff), we then proceeded to spend about an hour in Plastico Fantastico 2000 – essentially a TK/TJ Maxx but for the plastics world. We only really needed some tarpaulin, but naturally we came out loaded with frying pans, disposable cutlery, a water cooler thing, and some garden ornaments.

I’m not sure if it is altitude, or lack of actually doing anything, but we crashed at about 10pm, like a bunch of old grannies. But, Machu Picchu tomorrow, so we’ll use that as the excuse for yet another night of non-drinking and getting to know our fellow junketers.

The good news today is that we have a convoy all sorted – Que? Guevara (who did the Mongol Rally in ’05. Old skoolers) and Sea Gypsies (living the life of Riley working on boats in the Med. Not envious at all)

Day 8: Wait the clutch is where…? How…?

4 Jan

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We woke up bright and early (it gets very bright very early at this altitude) and headed off to an amazing breakfast eagerly anticipating our introduction to Miguel.  Firstly however, we realized we hadn’t bothered to get any vaccinations and that yellow fever might be useful.  Alas we arrived in a hospital that both looked and smelled like death so we calculated out our odds of survival and decided we’d go ahead and chance it.

While attempting to hail a cab we saw another team that had arrived at the wrong university for training (The Adventurists in all their planning decided to change the location via email at 7am day of, great), we hopped in their taxi and headed out, way out, and finally arrived at our destination and got a look at the beasts we would be attempting to traverse the Andes and the Amazon with and… they were scary.   They looked tired, beaten down and downright undriveable, fantastic.  However, after more brilliant planning, they realized not all the mototaxis and arrived and none of them had gas… ok…  After lots of standing around we were told to register and a few of us would be able to give the taxis a spin (if we could find ones that started).  Sometimes my impatience pays off and I was able to find a functioning taxi, figure out how it worked and head off around the tiny little track they had laid out of for us, which consisted of two small hills on cracked pavement with giant gutters with grates you had to hit to cross over.  All and all a perfect track for learning how to ride an imperfect vehicle.  After a couple of spins we were told we didn’t have to stay for the mechanical brief if we didn’t want to as a similar one would be given tomorrow so we headed on our way.

Still worn down from the altitude, excitement and general traveling we dragged ourselves to find all the parts The Adventurists thought we might need for Miguel fixing along the way.  Jonathan insisted on buying all the spare parts even though I noted we would not know how to use them even if we had them.  We bought them anyways.  It was difficult and tiring, buying a length of rope turned into a 20 minute ordeal involving price and length and dollars and sols, ai you.

Parts purchased, Mototaxi driven, we’re ready to set off, but there are still a few more days of waiting.

Day 6 & 7 photos

30 Dec

wahoo…

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Days 6 & 7: Cuzco – the starting line

30 Dec

Do not fret people, we are not being lazy and just thinking we’ll merge two days together. But, as Meg has pointed out earlier, at the moment there’s not much ‘adventure’ going on. Not until the actual junket starts…..which is getting, very, very close (3 days and counting).

So, day 6 was spent on a quick flight to Cuzco, and then holed up in our hostel (yes, ‘hostel’ – I didn’t get my way in flash packing it up for this leg of the trip). Hans, et al strongly recommended for the first day that we simply lie down, and take it easy, to help acclimatise (or acclimate if you are of an American ilk). So, we lay around, watched a lot of Community (we have all 3 series to keep us going on this trip – the latest Ricky Gervais show has not been animated yet), and question why our feet were constantly tingling, why we couldn’t stop going to the toilet, and why our memory seemed to last for only about 10 minutes. The first 2 down to the altitude sickness pills, and the 3rd down to my age + the altitude.

Day 7 was tourist day. Well, it was meant to be, but Cuzco just has a nothing but a bucket load of churches (don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cool place), which we both find painfully dull (curse us to hell). After a couple of hours of feigning interest, we instead decided it would be a good opportunity to buy kit for the trip. Tents and sleeping bags, but also 2 of the same woolly jumpers for me, and an owl hat for Meg. Vital stuff. A massage and some grub later, we met up with some of the other junketers in a pub. There only seemed to be about 30 of us, so we’re not entirely sure where the other 50 are, but I’m sure they’ll make themselves known over the next few days. Early indications show that there’s the usual mix of the experienced, the brave, the reckless, and the useless…

Days 4 & 5: No, I think the yellow underpants will be enough…

30 Dec

You’ll notice a day is missing, it’s because we spent traveling, nothing exciting just flying from here to there and finally arriving in Lima, Peru at 10:45 and getting to the hotel at 1:30.  We don’t even remember the flights we knocked ourselves out.  The key to runway to runway success seems to be two simply sleeps and a Benadryl.

The next day was Christmas Day; we woke up bright and early and looked out our window to find we had an ocean view, who knew?  But what we needed was coffee, so when one is in a place like Peru which has an abundance of coffee beans some of the best in the world, where does one acquire coffee?  I’m ashamed to say Starbucks, it was there… it was easy, we went for it.  We spent the whole of the Rally longing for a Starbucks (and a Holiday Inn) and were not going to let the opportunity pass us by.

Very luckily for us one of my oldest friends in Shanghai, Hans, happens to be Peruvian and his family was  kind enough to invite us into their beautiful home and share their Christmas with us.  And I have to say Nancy cooked the juiciest moistest most amazing turkey I’ve ever eaten, we are truly grateful to have been able to join them.  We had a great time enjoying dishes we were familiar with and a few we weren’t and they also hooked us up with some chicha, Peruvian fermented corn juice/drink/milk?  They shared lots of stories and insights with us a lot of which will probably come in handy on a motor bike in the middle of a downpour in the Andes.  They also let us know that we should wear yellow underpants on New Years Eve in order to insure good luck for the following year, lucky will probably prove to be important on this trip.  Much joy was had and Jonathan was forced to awkwardly kiss each and every person on both cheeks hello and goodbye as they completely ignored his outstretched hand, I of course found this hilarious.  After dinner Hans and his Dad drove us around the city to take in the sites a bit until we, truly exhausted, had to call it a night.

The next morning Hans and his dad (Edmundo) picked us up to take us into the old city and experience more of Lima.  While on the way we passed and ancient wacca.  A sort of pyramid that was build hundreds of years ago then covered up to hide it from invaders only to be completely  forgotten.  It seems as a child Edmundo used to ride his bike and play hide&seek atop this particular buried wacca.  Lima is a truly beautiful city.  It’s new and old fashioned at the same time, anything that’s not ancient looks like it couldn’t be more than 10 years old and anything old is just breathtaking.  It just reaffirmed my ideas about moving to South America in a couple of years.  At lunch Jonathan chose to indulge in a typical Peruvian dish, kuy better known as guinea pig.  It was pretty good, but his British manners wouldn’t let him use his hands to finish it off as the locals insisted he must.

Hans and Edmundo were perfect tourguides and Nancy a wonderful cook and pisco sour mixer.  Edmundo gave us invaluable information about roads and routes to be avoided in Peru and we can’t say thank you enough to their family for their hospitality.  But it was time to move on, we retired for the night and dreamed mototaxi dreams of a land high high in the mountains to be reached tomorrow, the starting line is near, very very near.

Christmas in Lima (we promise blogs soon)

29 Dec

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Days 1 & 2: coming, going, arriving, staying, sleeping, collapsing

26 Dec

Well, the first couple of days have all drifted into a haze of ‘not quite sure’. We left on a Thursday evening (luckily. Who knew you needed a visa waiver thing for the US?), and arrived in LA on a Thursday afternoon (with a little bit of plane cat-sitting thrown in for good measure – I hope you made it home safely Diane!). After needing very little persuasion, I upgraded from a Chevy grannymobile to a Mustang convertible-massive-American-thing. Even though we were only going to be in LA for essentially a day, I wanted that day to be spent in an unnecessarily big car (one where I couldn’t really see the edge of the bonnet).

That first evening we met up with Alison (an old friend of mine who has lived in LA for the past 4 or 5 years). We went to a bar in Venice and sunk a few ales (Meg hiding her disappointment that fish head dog / dog head fish / head dog fish beer was not available – yep, the brand makes no sense whichever way round you pronounce it).

The next day the whole, “divided by a common language”, struck home. Ordering a coffee in Starbucks was just one, big, awkward, school disco type affair. At one point, after I think I’d got my message across that it was 2 lattes, and that my name was Jon, we both seemed to stare blankly at each other for a very long time. I fumbled around in my pocket looking at loose change, hoping that would detract from the situation/she would just give me some change, but when I looked back up, the woman was still staring at me. We both sort of went “err, do I need to do anything else”, before I shuffled off. p.s. I’m still a little unsure who, when, or what I am meant to tip. Yet another uncomfortable social situation for a Brit.

Anyway, the day was spent with Alison driving us around LA for a few hours (yep. Upgrading the car. Totally worthless. Alison was driving us around in her car). It was all going swimmingly until my extra-large BK milkshake, and Meg’s gorging on some chilli & peanut butter ice cream, put paid to any last sap of energy we may have had. The wall was hit. We got back to the hotel and crashed. We did manage to make it out to grab an in & out burger, and spend $150 on god knows what in a pharmacy. I then spent another hour dicking about trying to put petrol in the car (why are garages not the same the world over – surely open the cap, put the thing in, lift the button up. Oh, apparently not so in the great US of A).

Joy of joys, our flight the next day was at 7.45am. So, alarm set for 4.45am. Getting up at that time of the morning has confirmed that we are in fact “on holiday…”

where in the world is quechair…?

24 Dec

The folks at the Adventurists are running a live update site again, so while our updates are going to go to our facebook accounts you can also follow us on the map here!

 

http://www.theadventurists.com/the-adventures/mototaxi-junket/teams/wwwquechaircom

 

You what…? 4 days to go…?

19 Dec

So…. It’s 4 days until we leave for Peru.  That was… fast, very very fast.

We signed up for the Rally 6 months before the launch (not that that meant we were any more prepared than we are now) but I feel like we’ve prepared mentally less for this one.  Although I just looked at the Mongol Hair blog and to be honest we had no idea what we were getting into, we had it all wrong for the most part, so history is on our side.

But once again Jonathan has been taobaoing (China’s ebay) it up and we’ve got loads of stuff, mostly stuff that probably won’t be all that useful.  Our Top Gun theme has produced a few humorous costumes (leather jackets, large white underpants and 80s blazers complete with shoulder pads for starters), we’ve got a large stuffed llama and sweet helmets but have we got proper gear for 4,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains?  Have we go a tent?  Sleeping bags?  A lighter?  No, no sir we don’t have any of that.  But we do have a compass that works, which I gotta tell you this time I think we’re going to need…

I honestly don’t know what to expect, I’ve seen the pictures, I’ve done some googling, some map reading and some day dreaming, but I’m still not really sure.  The only thing I am sure of is once again Jonathan is going to be doing the bulk of the driving. I am not driving on the edge of a cliff, I don’t even know how I’m going to sit in a vehicle on the edge of a cliff, I almost had a panic attack on the Transfagarasan.

But over all we’re excited and getting more excited by the day, Navs and Kungfu Papa ride again and just wait til you meet Miguel, Mimi and Moses, it’s gonna be a good one folks.

We also want to say a big thank you to Shelia and all the people at BEAN Shanghai. They worked really hard and put together a fantastic fundraiser, 70 foreigners riding bicycles on a Saturday afternoon in day glo vests?  Fantastic, and we’re happy that we were able to be a part of such a good cause!

It’s on – biking for BEAN

24 Nov

Great news.

We have been working with our friends at BEAN shanghai, and they have arranged an amazing charity event that we’re proud to be a part of.

 

Come kick it with BEAN for our first-ever Bike Crawl!

The deal: We start off at Kaiba 1, then bike along a super-secret route in Jing An district and the French Concession, hitting up two convenience stores and a bar along the way.  We wind up at the just-opened Kaiba 3, also known as The Tap House, around 6:30, where Rudy and the gang will have some killer drinks and food deals for the BEAN crew

Safety first: we’ve got 100 sexy DayGlo vests donated and the first 50 people who register will get some major BEAN swag (and you know our swag is always the coolest- think back to previous events).  What’s included besides aforementioned vest and swag?  Two beers- one at the Kaiba 1 and one at Kaiba 3/The Tap Room.

How much, you ask?  For a mere 100 kuai, you get five hours of cheap beer, fun, and riding down little-known streets you wished you’d heard of.  What happens to the cash?  Well, after we pay for the beer for you lot, we use it for BEAN operations: buses to take kids in wheelchairs to the park, library books for our Reading Buddies program, diapers for the orphanage, whatever programs need a little jumpstart in the funding department.

How do you register?  Write us at beanbikecrawl@gmail.com and we’ll take care of ya’.

Find out more here – BEAN bike crawl

Mongol Rally video

13 Nov

Well, it’s here.

Meg has been chained to the Mac for the last couple of weeks, and has produced our official Mongol Hair 2011 Rally video – enjoy!

What? Really? How is that Possible? Peru? When? Seriously? You two again? I’m not surprised…

31 Oct

These have been the general reactions when we tell people we’re heading off on another adventure and you’re actually getting this new quite late, as in reality we signed up for it a week after we got back from The Rally, so to answer those questions.

What?  The Mototaxi Junket.  Forget Mitch (god rest his soul).  The days of a roof, footbrake and even 4 wheels are gone.  Miguel is the new steed, and we’re told to expect the worst.  The guy who started The Adventurists said the mototaxi is far and away the least practical of the vehicles used on their adventures.  As if Mitch didn’t give us enough problems…  What’s a mototaxi?   Well as far as I can tell, with my still minimal mechanical skills, it’s a motorcycle attached to a cart by a bike chain… I think…  We’re told to expect many many flats, slipped chains and tips, sounds easier than overheating radiators and red lights of doom if I’m honest.  Oh, and I have no idea how to drive it… Sounds familiar…

Really?  Yes, really, plane tickets are bought, entry fee is paid.

How is that possible?  Picture this.  Two people who need movement in their lives come back from a 5 week trip of a lifetime across a third of a globe and realize they’ve come back to the real world and regular life.  How… disappointing.  Literally ten days after we got back, once again a few bottles of wine in we started to think of the next adventure, started to think of how we could break free again.  We searched the Adventurist website, and the timing worked, so we signed up then and there before we had time to think through the craziness of our actions.

Peru?  Yep, and I, for one, am hyped.  What’s the first thing the Lonely Planet has to say about Peru?  Food.  Food, glorious food.  Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the four great cuisines of the world.  After nothing but the smell of goat and onions from day 10 of the Rally on I am really excited to go somewhere the food is meant to be eaten.  Oh, and I’m told there are mountains to climb, waterfalls to bathe in, beaches to lie on, a rainforest to traverse and apparently some lost city called Maccu Piccu… not sure about the last one might be a rumor…

When?  Like I said the timing worked.  The launch is December 31st, we have 13 days to make it from Cuzco in the southwest to Ayabaca all the way on the Northern border.  We’re stopping in LA for a short visit (mmmm In-and-Out) and arrive in Lima on the 24th, gitty up.

Seriously?  Yep.  We’ve high hopes (and low expectations).  More road signs perhaps?   Fewer bribes?  Shorter breakdowns?  Actual roads?  Less of a language barrier?  Even more Laughs?  Availability of gasoline?  Coffee?  A compass that works? Epic travel companions?  Hopefully, but one thing is for sure this time there won’t be any border crossings, yay!

You two again?  Yep, Dream Crusher and Kung Fu Papa ride again.  Gone is Mongol Hair, this time it’s QuecHair.  Quecha is the indigenous language, so we’ve modified it to stick with our “Hair” theme.  Miguel doesn’t have a back story yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with one.  And we my have another team joining us, fantastic!

I’m not surprised….  You shouldn’t be, neither are we.  Becky, the girl from Djinn and Bear It, that convoyed across Mongolia with us did the Junket 2 years ago, she says it’s tough.  Quechair says:  “Bring it”.

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