What a beautiful nights sleep, 30 feet from Pacific waves singing their crashing melodies all night. We’re up at 6 and watch the sun rise. Big black pelicans cruise the water while huge prehistoric friggot birds surf the morning thermals amongst the boats bobbing in the harbour. Peru is running out fast. 60 miles along the coast and the temperature is rising with each km as we inch towards the equator. One of the riders has been attacked by midges and has comedy ankles that he can hardly walk on so I have the pleasure of his girlfriends company. I’m getting to like this pillion lark. The heat is too much for her unfortunately (or my riding is too bad) and she takes the support truck after a couple of hours. I think it went over 100 degrees today and very humid, just the conditions you need for crossing borders in a mobile leather solar panel.
Out of Peru is easy peasy. Passport to Ecuador is easy. Bike into Ecuador is like having someone with a tiny pin hammer driving a rusty 6 in nail through your knob. It’s absolutely sweltering and we’ve reached ‘wait central’. This is where I’m going to send my waiting holiday reps for training. It’s so depressing. What ever you do, don’t sell up everything, move to South America and spend all your life savings setting up a clinic specialising in RSI. You’ll get less than one customer…ever. The border has a computer again but it appears to be run on a combination of AAA batteries and a hampster/wheel arrangement. The hamster is on a tea break, sat in his chair watching telly, scratching his balls and belching. You can see a huge queue of people in front of you. You multiply the number of people by the processing time per person and you might well spend the rest of your life here. In fact they have a retirement party for the clark whilst we’re waiting. He was only 17 when we arrived. Continue reading Ecuador
Out of Bolivia in a flash then into Peru. The ‘people’ part of getting your passport stamped is always the easy bit but it it’s the bikes that always cause the problems. This time they have a computer that is powered by money. It seems it will just not work unless you put a 29 Peruvian Soles note in your passport. Perhaps when the bloke takes the note and slips it under the desk there is a little furnace that burns the note and powers the computer – weird. I’m glad I’ve not got one of those at home, it would cost me a flipping fortune. The thing is, we don’t have the right (or in my case, any!) insurance and the little bloke says he can ‘overlook’ the issue and give us the necessary paperwork if we can ‘help him out’. It always astounds me when government officials ask for bribes but I doubt it will be the last time we do it oaths trip.
And if you were wondering where Jabba the Hut went after they finished filming Star Wars the wonder no more. He is working at the Peruvian border with Bolivia, his huge fat face pressed up against a glass partition with drool running down the inside. I’m sure I’ve got a dribble in my passport.
Off into Peru I go. It looks a lot more affluent than Bolivia already. The same farming seems to be practiced and the ladies with the small bowler hats are everywhere. What is it with these hats? Did they all used to have tiny heads or do they all worship at the Church of Stan Laurel? I just can’t see the point. Either way, they’re all extremely camera shy that’s for sure.
On towards Cusco, the home of Machu Picchu. The roads vary from smooth and fine to the shittiest tarmac on earth with 2 million potholes per 100 meters. It’s true, I counted, twice. Approaching Cusco and it descends into car carnage again. Its quite difficult to describe this part of the journey. First you need to get a 10000000watt spotlight to simulate the sun, then place it on the horizon and aim it directly into your eyes. Next, get yourself a giant tarmac woodpecker and let him loose for a couple of weeks to reek his havoc, then put gravel on a lorry with square wheels and have it drive round to randomly deposit it’s slippery mess in huge skiddy pebble puddles. Delete ALL the road markings and signs then go to battersea, grab all the dogs and let them loose. Now tell 50000 drivers that the first one to Cusco wins £10000 and there you have it, simples. How we get through these places without an accident sometimes really surprises me. We get a taxi on the outskirts and follow it in. It’s all narrow cobbled streets and steep hills. We’re following the taxi down a damp cobbled street when he jumps on the breaks. SHIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTT. My brake light stopped working so the other day I disconnected the back brake light switch to see if that was the fault. I also mistakenly disconnected the ABS sensor so I don’t currently have any ABS, THANK GOD! Karma has disabled my ABS and lets my wheel lock and slide for a second till I touch a kerb and stop. ABS would have put me straight into the back of the taxi without slowing down. We get to the hotel then once again drive all the bikes through reception and into the courtyard of the converted nunnery.
Continue reading Peru
As luck would have it we appear to have stumbled upon the world woofing competition venue and last night was obviously the final. Dogs from around the world seem to have descended on the place and spent the whole night trying to out bark each other. There seemed to be a lot of fighting amongst the crown to from what I could hear. Consequently, very very little sleep.
Breakfast was served in super slow motion so we left late and it was already getting warm as we headed into the Atacama desert. This place is the driest on earth, in some places it’s apparently never ever rained. It’s a very high desert too, very rocky and and rough here, not big and golden traditional sandy desert like I expected. Hot though, very very very hot. Long stretches of straight road shimmering to the horizon and not much else here. This is the first bit of the traditional Pan American highway that we’ve done and it’s pretty mind numbing for a while. It’s not until later when we come down from the high plains that you see the kind of scenery that the Dakar boys play in with their big expensive toys.
Again the scale is hard to describe. Your brain is saying ‘surely not’ but your eyes are saying ‘yep, it really is that big.’ The road winds up and down through long canyons. We often go from 2000m down to sea level then back up to 2000m again and it makes you feel a bit strange. The roads have limitless, barrier less falls at the sides. If you go over the edge here you’d probably die of old age before you hit the bottom. Up and down more canyons/super duper sized dunes in the afternoon. Lack of petrol is the only damper on the funometer. We get to Arica and end up in a real shit hole in the arse end of town. it’s in Prat street. I kid you not. The place is an absolute hovel. 1950s bathroom furniture, beds that you don’t want to breath in near, windowless rooms and a general air of neglect and damp. All the surrounding shops have bars across the fronts and the pavements are thick with dirt and unmentionable fluids. Going out has to be done in multiples, I’ve no compulsion to be a target so a few of us head up to the better part of town and eat before returning to the dark side for a night of sweat and discomfort. Continue reading Chile and Bolivia
Let’s play the ‘get out of town’ puzzle again shall we. I’m sure the people that implemented Högertrafikomläggningen when Sweden moved from driving on the left to the right in the space of a single night emigrated to Argentina. I’m sure the road system is different in the morning to what is was the previous night. This is only a small town but it takes 40 minutes on unmarked roads to get out the flippin place. It’s a mountain day today. We’re just in the smaller Andes siblings but we still go above 2200m on piste as we cross a small range. FUCK ME the drops are HUGE. Ruta 40 is as wide as a runway one minute with perfect flat tarmac, then a few miles later
it’s 6 foot wide with loose piste and and death drop on one side, then a few miles later it’s back to tarmac again. Spectacular views though. A lot of the mountains here look like huge piles of old workings from days long gone by. I reckon when the world was under construction that South America was the builders merchants. ‘Whata you want eh? We’a got plains, mountains, lakes, deserts. We’ve got sand, rocks, boulders, earth in every shade of red and brown, anything you want, I got. Whata weather you want to go with that? I got sun, rain, snow, ice and I’m a doing a special on wind at the moment. Extra strong, as much as you like. Buy one getta one free’. I reckon the Swiss came and bought a load of mountains but dropped some on the way home, Africa went overboard on sand and sun and the Dutch turned up with the wrong luggage and ended up with a load of flat pack scenery. England bought a ‘lucky dip, bargain bucket’ selection box I reckon. Not a bad ride today though and extremely varied. We end up in Catamarca at a hotel where we find fleas and bed bugs queueing up at reception complaining about the standard of accommodation. Nice. Continue reading San Jose to Chile
Very cold morning, up and out of Mordor through the greasy slimy mountain roads, half asleep and freezing, riding directly into the morning sun, easy! Out of Argentina and into Chile towards the piste again. Customs say there is a crash, the road is blocked and we need to take a 100 mile diversion round some worse piste, I just can’t think of anything better. Just as we hit the piste someone gets another puncture. Between us we have about 100 different puncture kits and we try them all – no luck. We take the wheel off, then the tyre and patch it from the inside, put it back together but still no luck. The puncture is bad and it has pushed some of the metal banding through which seems to be thwarting all the attempts to fix it. Wait for the backup truck and change the tyre. Now it’s getting dark and we’ve not started the 100 mile piste yet. I’m sort of getting used to this now but I’m still not as confident or fast as the others and it’s still a very very scary experience. My old bike is taking a battering and a fork seal has blown now to add to it’s woes. 100 fraught and tense miles later and the front wheel kisses the tarmac again as the sun says goodnight, perfect. Over the Magellan straights again on the ferry then a quick squirt through customs, onto Rio Gallegos and horizontal bliss.
Head west today to Calafate and the biggest fuck off glacier I’ve ever seen. Into the national park and its lakes lakes and more beautiful lakes. They look like someone has washed big blue paintbrushes in them. They’re absolutely stunning and the most piercing I think I’ve ever seen. Out to the glacier, OK, it’s big… very VERY BIG. Scales are difficult to describe but when lumps fall off it they make a sound like thunder claps. Like a HUGE big feck off penny shove machine, the millions of tonnes of ice are slowly pushed down to the lake, then fracture and finally drop. It’s an incredible site at the face. A lot of the glaciers I’ve seen are moving so slowly that they are grubby and brown at the face but this is absolutely amazing, a truly incredible sight. Back into Calafate aka Disneyland. These places seem to be ordered in kit form, all identikit wooden buildings like every ski resort you’ve ever been to and it’s all a bit fake to me. Within a few miles there are people living in poverty in ramshackle buildings eating mud and worms. Out to rough camp tonight. Ride a few miles out of town, find a bend in the river out of the wind and throw up the tents. Continue reading North to San Jose
Buenos Aires, down to Ushuaia then up to Alaska, all in 9 weeks, March to May 2010. Bonkers. This is the story of the trip. It’s more ‘bog’ than ‘blog’ I’m afraid but I hope it can give an idea of the trip. This one was quite difficult for many reasons. I’m sure you’ll see so I won’t pre-empt your thought patterns by telling you yet. A long way to go and not enought time to do it in really. Did we make it? Ready? Here we go….
Tick, tock, tick, tock.. Self destruct, armed, ready, steady, go.I bought a little cheap laptop out with me on this trip that I was going to use. I was going to stick my hand into the velvet bag of words in my skull and lay them in order on the screen. Turns out my thoughts are happier to run at the speed of ink so I’ll let the words fall from my head, down my arm and onto the page instead. Putting words to paper is dangerous though. An open book is…well..an open book. One of my two faces will write this account while the other outward facing one will filter my thoughts and present only those deemed acceptable by the audience at the time.
Back to the front. It’s quite a big group of riders – 20 bikes and a few pillions and crew. There is bound to be a complete cross section of people amongst them, there always is. [Hang on a minute, I just have to get something off my chest. I’m in a hostel in Buenos Aires. I’m sitting at a big table in the kitchen. It’s lunchtime and the freaks are out. Travellers. Fucking big stupid dreadlocks but never been anywhere near Jamaica. Speaking with Australian voice inflection, assaulting my ears as he tries to chat up a sleepy blonde. Jesus. “Do me a favour mate” I ask him. “Here is a big scary knife, jump onto it will you please”. One less oxygen thief in the world. Face 2 wipes the blade of blood and I’m back in the game.]
So we all turn up at the airport and the willy waving begins. The 11th commandment dictates that motorcyclists take part in this ritual whenever they meet for the first time. I’m never going to win one of those. Perhaps if there were a weener waving contest I might stand a chance. Whos going to be fastest/first/biggest/best? Who’s got the newest shiniest gadgets? Face 1 plays the game while face 2 starts the categorization process. I’m bad. I know it. I’m the current ‘quickest to judge’ world champion. No second chances. No reviews. No shit. It’s the same with everything I encounter. Sometimes a touch is enough. Drag a finger along a button in a shop and its like reading a barcode. Bleep, crap, move on. Cars, bikes, holidays, cutlery, food, TV, audio all assessed and categorized immediately. I look at people and I like to think I can read their characteristics like words in a stock ticker running through their veins. I try not to look at mine. I’m not sure I’d like what I see.
Continue reading The end of the earth