In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Two Weeks in Peru on Two Wheels.

So here I am cycle touring, maybe cycle adventuring or equally true cycle racing around the world. There are plenty of cyclists out there who like to put labels on things. Well you can put whatever label you like on what I am currently doing but in the end I’m suffering like a dog at times and feeling sheer exhilaration at other times as I race around the world.
Inca Stone Work Symbolic of my Trip So Far.

And let me be honest. It is a race against both time and the other entrants in the challenge. Time because like all world travellers I have had to apply for Visas in Kazakhstan, China and Vietnam and these cannot be changed.

I like to think of what I am doing as cycle touring in its purest form. I have chosen a route through twenty five countries many of which I have never been before. I’ve chosen a route not based on speed but through terrain that as a natural climber I thought would give me a huge challenge. Of the twenty five countries I am visiting I can only speak the language in two of them (New Zealand and Australia). Above all I want to return home knowing that I circumnavigated the world on my bike with no motor support except jet to traverse the oceans and a few Stan countries that refused me a Visa. And I accomplished it using only low traffic volume roads. But as a  hardened cycle tourist of many past trips I have the pride and purpose not to beaten by a lesser man who may think that all cycle tourists are soft.
You Either Need a Triple Chainring or a Donkey in This Sort of Country.

So let’s call it a race and let me tell you how I feel that I am going. I’ve been on the road now for 14 days although it feels much longer. My first three days got me from nelson NZ to my point of departure to South America. I cranked along during that time covering 140kms a day pulling all my gear and generally doing a final check on my bike. All went well freedom camping along the road until Christchurch. Sand fly attacks my only concern.

After major stress getting my flights my Mercian and I finally landed in Lima. And I faced every cycle tourist’s nightmare, arriving in a foreign city on dusk, having to assemble your bike and cycle into the chaos to find your Hotel. I was totally out of my depth but Hotel shuttles etc. are never an option for me. I had a compass and had made a mental note of the direction I had to go to get from the slums to the tourist part of town. I didn’t make it. Finally checking in to a cheap Hostel to get my kit and myself off the street. The next day I left my gear in my room, jumped on the Mercian and found out how far out I was. I was in a bad area but luckily not that bad. I toured the tourist district and then went back to my Hostel to further agonise as to what I’d got myself into this time. I felt I could go home now or just get on with. I just had to get on with it.

I travelled in the following days down the Pan American highway passing through desert areas and what as a New Zealander, I can only describe as dump towns. The highway was smooth going but hard in 30 degree C temperatures and a persistent light headwind. I was on target but in a gloomy mood trying to adjust to a foreign culture and my first week on the road. I missed my target of Nazca and had to tent in the desert, with no dinner not improving my mood.

Nazca was the point where I left the coast and headed into the Mountains. The town itself was chaos again, raining and muddy. I loaded up with cash and putting my fears aside headed up the Valley on a climb from sea level to 4500 metres. Into the clouds with no idea what lay ahead. It took me two days to get to the top with a lonely night in the tent at 3700 metres with unpleasant dreams breaking the only other activity, constant pedalling in low gear at 9km/hr.

Cresting the top on day two I felt sheer elation. But as is often the case cycle touring trouble is never far away and things can always get worse. I dropped from 4500m to 2200mtrs and then the next day had to cycle out of the valley and up onto the tops again. This time I was greeted by a snow storm and had to make an emergency stop in a farming village where the only warmth was the local kindness of the people and there lama skins which I tented on, and jammed with me into the tent.

The next morning was a white out but I had no option but to keep going. After five hours cycling I crested the top of the plateau and immediately plunged 2000m down into the heat of the next valley. This is my Peruvian cycling adventure. No sooner do you get a few hours of easy downhill cycling only to be punished severely for it as you struggle up the next mountain. I have found now that the climbs are generally of 50km duration and the village you are aiming for is usually about 15km from the valley floor. So a typical day starts without breakfast because its time consuming and you climb for 3okm in low gear until lunch. You then wiz back down and  along the valley floor until 4pm when you begin your final climb of 15km up the side of a mountain to find accommodation and dinner on dusk.
Dogs Waiting For the next Cyclist to Go By.

During this time my mind is totally focussed on the climb and the dogs that are a constant menace snarling at you panniers. Today grinding up a climb I had three dogs badgering me on various sides and I almost stopped to pick one up and throw it over the edge never to be seen again. Luckily for him reason shone through as I have learnt that if you ignore them and just make sure they don’t get under your front wheel, they will finally give up. (Never make a run for it. Dogs like chasing things down).

In the evenings I think of the race and the other contestants. In the times I have been able to get Wi Fi or internet I have learnt that many of the contestants are finding it tough going, having problems with their bikes and bodies. Some is suffering to the extent that they have abandoned or had to seriously restructure their attempt. My Mercian and my body have both endured many tours in the past and to date I can report that although the terrain has slowed me and put me a day or two behind I can report no other problems and think that now I am in Cusco the worst of the Andes is behind me.
Tomorrow I will take a day off to visit Maachu Piccu and to regroup so to speak in true cycle touring fashion. Clothes need washing, I need to cut my hair (a tidy cyclist is a happy cyclist), and then I’ll be ready to start to put the hammer down as the mountains begin to release me from their grip.
Machu Picchu? No it's Saqsaywaman!

Tomorrow is now today. And up bright and early at 8am I was down to the train station to rail it to the stones of Machu Picchu. Railway  ticket man said "Silly cyclo touristico gringo, MP is 2 to 3 hrs train away and then a 2 to 3 hour visit and then a train trip back. You needed to be here hours ago if you wanted to do it in one day!" 
"No!" I cried.
"Si" he replied. 
I had to see Inca ruins or I couldn't call myself a cyclo tourist. What sort of a person cycles across Peru and doesn't have time for Inca ruins?
Then the local Touristico policeman said "you gringo cyclo man must then go to Saqsaywaman because its mucho closer and the stones are great"
So MP will have to wait. I have seen and touched an Inca ruin and the Race cant be put off another day. everything is a ballance. Maybe when I come back to South America with Adi on the Vespas we can then se MP together.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Neil Neil orange peel great to read your blog sounds like fun I suggest cold sausages they seemed to have worked well in tje past keep it up wonderful
    Amazing stuff Phil