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Author Topic: From the Andes to the Amazon  (Read 7669 times)

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Offline cloudgazer

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #20 on: August 26, 2013, 04:21:25 pm »
hell yes....
 :thumleft:

i'm ready to read.
 

Offline Hinksding

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #21 on: August 26, 2013, 07:26:04 pm »
 :coffee2:
Eet vleis! 'n 1 000 000 jakkalse kan nie verkeerd wees nie.
 

Offline badballie

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #22 on: August 26, 2013, 07:30:51 pm »
 :sip:
Cash, Gas or Ass............ no-one rides for free :-)

I did it because I can, I can because I want to and I want to because you said that I couldn't !!!!!!!
 

Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2013, 03:47:05 am »
LOL Neil. So you could stand for an hour only, and then decided the time was ripe for a long bike trip  :imaposer:

BTW, were you immobile for three weeks?  ???

Hehe, that's right yes. I can stand up to about 1 hour before things really start to hurt. Each day it gets better I suppose. ::) The thing is when is a good time to start doing stuff again? Should I wait until the end of the year once I am fully fit or go for it now? The doc was okay with me putting weight on it and wants me to exercise. That's a green light in my heart but in my head I was nervous. This was part of the reason why I found this trip a very big personal challenge.

Pissies will never be heroes...   :snorting:

I had an accident on the 26th Dec 2012, and took my first limping steps without crutches on the 1st August 2013. Anyway on with the story:
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 03:47:45 am by BlueBull2007 »
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Offline Mev Vis Arend

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2013, 04:47:59 am »
 :sip:
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Offline Camelman

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #25 on: August 27, 2013, 05:23:08 am »
Lekka Neil!
 

Offline Buff

Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2013, 07:44:40 am »
Good to see you back in the saddle Neil, looking forward to the rest of your report  :thumleft:
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Offline Malibu

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #27 on: August 27, 2013, 08:08:53 am »
Neil, you are procrastinating too long here... if you treated your RR with the same energy you treated your trip, we'd be a lot further into the story by now.... COME NOW! 


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Offline >>Thump°C

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #28 on: August 27, 2013, 08:41:43 am »
hmmm?
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #29 on: August 27, 2013, 09:09:45 am »
First we planned to leave on Thursday, then when I went to change the rear tyre on Daleen's bike I noticed the cylinder head gasket was leaking. This is the third time in 4 years that I have had to replace it ::)  So we ended up working all Thursday night on prepping the bikes. We hadn't even packed yet and my leg was damn sore so we decided to postpone again and leave, relaxed on Saturday 17th August. No point in starting out exhausted especially seeing our first day would be a very long one most likely. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

So its Friday night and I can't go to sleep. There is party next door and the pre-trip excitement has my mind whirring like a 1950's typewriter at the hands of a no-nonsense, blonde courtroom stenographer wearing horn-rimmed glasses. I lie there thinking about riding again after 7 months convalescence. Its going to be awesome, but I cannot, must not crash and hurt my leg. That would be truly terrible. At 03h30 I nod off and 5 minutes later my blackberry hums us awake at 05h30. Woohoo!

Somehow preparations never seem to end. We make some last minute gear adjustments, and finally get going at about 06h30. Its a wet, grey, drizzly day outside. The fog comes in very heavy sometimes at this time of year, a cold pea soup not unlike that which is served in some boarding school canteens. This is the only precipitation Lima ever gets and it does not wash things clean, it just makes the dust, the city soot and everything else rather moist. Mixed with the grease and oil dripping and oozing onto the roads from 2 million aging vehicles it turns already seething streets into black slicks as slippery as weasel snot.

Its too wet to bother with cameras at this early stage and we struggle though heavy traffic to the Pan American Sud (south) highway. It Saturday, but it makes no difference in Lima, traffic is always worse as 100,000 new vehicles are added to an already overloaded traffic system each year. Welcome to the capital city of a country whose economy has expanded 6.4% year on year for the past 10 years. Its boom time in Peru, and even in 2008 it was one of only two countries in the world whose economies grew rather than contracted. Consequently the middle class has grown dramatically and everyone wants a car, taxi or a bus Company.

Wrestling with black belching buses and trucks, mixed in with a healthy dose of dodging, blaring, minibus taxis and the odd fast four by four with darkened windows is character building. Its absolute chaos, everyone cuts everyone else off and there is a complete absence of the rule of law, never mind road etiquette. South African or Indian or Asian drivers horrified by local traffic can come here for therapy. They will go back thinking their traffic is more like a lazy Sunday afternoon jaunt.

To make matters worse, I have also forgotten how much the drizzle can obscure the view through my visor. I'm stressed, overdressed and steaming hot and my visor has misted up. I can't see where Daleen is. I'm doing my best to go a little faster than the traffic in order to stay alive, but I cant see properly and its like riding on ice between rolling wheels of death. I'm scared, terrified in fact. My whole body is tense.

Wiping my visor does not help so I lift it up and blink my eyes rapidly to keep out the drops of mud and gunk. I finally see Daleen right behind me in my mirrors, its going to be okay. Slowly, very slowly I get into a rhythm, aiming for the biggest and safest gaps between the honking and swerving moving hulks around me. Sometimes we are in the left lane other times in the right and sometimes in the middle lane. It makes no difference because the locals here ignore the lines anyway and drive where they please - screw everyone else. The usual third world nightmare with a bit of extra selfishness. Most of the time no one even notices us and we have to move around to avoid being squashed. Having an escape route at all times is essential and we have anxious moments when these get shut off.

Its everyman for himself, but somehow we make it to this fuel station alive. Its taken us the better part of an hour to get near the edge of the city.


I dismount my bike, trembling a little, covered in grey muck and slime. I am still in an uncharacteristically fragile state of mind. I know it is foolishness to be fearful, so I do my best to shake it off. Daleen smiles at me and seems quite relaxed. Afterall we have been living in this place for six years and she is no longer surprised by the carnage. I tell her it found it horrific. She is surprised at first but understands given my injury and her calmness reassures me a little. 'It will ride off,' I tell myself without a lot of conviction. But she agrees. Just as well 60% of this trip will be on asphalt.

Pushing on, we cut through the first toll gate and it does begin to wear off a little. In Peru motorbikes are exempt from paying, but are not allowed to ride through the gate. There is always a slot on the side between cones that one can zip through and this is where we go, skipping perhaps 50 vehicles in queues. Its a nice, liberating feeling that detracts from the thinning traffic.

We get clear of Lima eventually and slab it for 240km at about 140km/hr, south along the coast, slowing a lot though the equally busy and congested city of Chincha Alta, known for its cotton plantations and as the infamous landing destination for west African slaves in the 1530's. You can read more about the slaves trade and Afro-Peruvians here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Peruvian

Finally we arrive at Pisco, famous for its Pisco hard-tack made from grapes. Peruvians and Chileans always argue which country first invented the brandy, both claiming the title. I personally think the country with a city named after its brandy wins hands down. There is a refreshing peruvian cocktail drink made with pisco, limes, egg white, some sugar called pisco sours. They're most refressing with a little bit of a bite and as the saying goes they are similar to a woman's breasts: One is too few and three are too many. They are potent things - The Pisco sours I mean.
:imaposer:

Being too early for Pisco we stop to refuel and get out the map. Daleen worries about us not having a GPS but I tell her confidently there is a very good GPS inside my head. I'm one of those people who may get lost but always know I am somewhere  >:D ;D

We are weary, but we are still feeling pretty good seeing we are almost half way to our destination city of Ayacucho in just 3.5 hours including city traffic and pit stops. At least it has dried out a bit.

Looking back towards the coast.


My road book is a crude, primitive setup, but it works well for me. Apologies, but I am not one of those Mr. Gadget types.


A view (looking East) of our route so far


340km of mountain twisties to come. Yes its asphalt but come on, who would not kill to ride something like this?   :ricky:


The road is now heading East away from the Pacific ocean towards the mountains just a few kilometers away.



A rather odd-looking piece of farming equipment.



Even though we are in a very dry desert, rivers from the mountains makes parts of it very fertile and green. Its always quite a contrast.


Finally we break clear of the coastal fog, and it unveils a harsh but magnificent landscape.








In the far distance we can make just make out the 5,000m peaks, appearing in the haze like some kind of ghostly apparition.


But first we have to cut through the foothills. The road is a constant left, right, left right litany of curves. There are no straight bits. We take it easy. I'm still quite uncomfortable, braking too hard in the front and over steering in my nervousness. And I'm also wrestling with my camera. Its irritating because I am normally relaxed and confident. My knee-moania is acting up, my leg is not enjoying its cramped position on the bike and letting me know about it.


Its quite strange that though we are steadily climbing, it does not feel like it at all. In fact it feels like we are travelling downhill, but that is just the perspective one tends to get when going up these huge mountain passes. Only the direction of the river below gives it away, and then it somehow seems like it is running uphill.


We pass this fellow doing about 100km/hr on his motorcycle.


Clearly helmets are either not meant for people with superior skill levels or if you're modeling the latest rural fashion.


We are both getting serious monkey butt so we decide to stop under some trees for a quick lunch.


Helmet hair in the strong wind: Freaky, don't photograph me now!


I burn like a pig in the sun so I take cover and tuck into homemade meatballs with dates for pudding.


There are these little, innocent black flies that take a liking to us and leave us with bites that itch for days and days.  


The view is surreal compared to what we see in Lima. A peacefulness decends on us




A truck grinds past us in 2nd gear on the main road, highlighting the deceptive gradient. They can build roads these guys, the gradients are very consistent, unlike what we are used to in South African mountain roads. This is not a problem at home, but it becomes a major factor above 4,000m when engine power is down by 30% or more due to the altitude.

In Peru it appear people love to build walls. They are excellent dry stone wall builders. There are walls everywhere. Here is a example of a roughly built one, but some of them are truly exquisite - Inca walls aside.


I find the local farming interesting. Maize grows between lime trees, and is harvested 3 times per year.


Temperatures at these altitudes of about 2,000m is still warm all year round with a surplus of irrigation water from the river.

We press on and within the next 1,000m gain in elevation we see the first signs of rain: Grass is growing on these mountains, and the road coils up into an aggressive series of tight turns and switchbacks.


A view back the way we came from 4,000m


Well clear from the coastal haze, a big sky and lofty, grassy plateau (pampas) greets us as we top out around 4,300m




Passing though a small village. No one is around, all are out tending their llamas in the fields.


I consider the local way of life as I pass an old lady bent by age and a life in the mountains.  To fast to get a photo, but anyway these people don't like it because they believe you are stealing their spirits by taking pictures of them. How people survive up here is anyone's guess but they do. I suppose if you have little you do what you can do with what you have available to you and that's all there is to it. Sometimes we make life so busy with our little things and schedules, and values. What is valuable today? We are told by television that we owe this or that to ourselves, that we need something, that we must have it, work towards it, obtain it at all costs. In my case a new bike maybe, or some career position or achievement. Looking at these people it all of becomes meaningless if you think about it. Yet the pursuit of happiness seems so difficult for so many these days. Poor people seem to be more happy somehow. There is something to be said in that. They say they know God and He looks after them. I believe them.

We climb even higher and reach a the highest point for the day. I thought I took a photo of the sign but it must be the altitude, sorry. Anyway it says 4,750m above sea level. That's pretty cool. Its so high the grass does not even grow properly here.


I'm feeling light headed and dizzy, like I just had ten beers. My headache feels like my brain is going to burst. Clear signs of altitude sickness. You find yourself catching your breath, yet it is so easy to breathe in this air. If you think about it too much you start to feel worse. I always get it and it takes about a day to acclimatize. The best thing for it is something sweet and limiting exertion until one feels a bit better. Often tour companies will take a bottle of oxygen to help with the suffering, but we have no such luxury.

We drop down maybe 700m into a valley but anything above 4000 makes me feel rats. At least the fresh, cold air blasting my face helps a tiny bit. We stop for a break anyway because that monkey bit our butts again, and my knee is agony.



In the president Fujimori days of the early 90's just after the shining path guerillas were wiped out by the military the country lay in economic ruin. Lines were cut into all the high altitude plains to collect water for some reason.


Apparently it was a country wide economic project to kick start the rural economy. These days these plains are filled with healthy herds of llamas.


Daleen stretches her back muscles.


I do the same and then wait for her to finish.


Which way now? My GPS and map say this way  :lol8:
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #30 on: August 27, 2013, 09:10:23 am »
We ride another two hour leg. Now we are really tired and sore. The many switchbacks and curves make it all slow. The number of images per km also drops off.


Hey, check out this giant limestone tufa deposit, its about 500m long


Its not a mine, its a natural secondary limestone formation, the biggest I have ever seen. A natural concrete pavement - who would have thought up here.

We press on, past some amazing natural mountain formations. Looks man-made but its not.


This next bit is hard to write about but I will try.

Not long after this I lose my clutch. Hmm. I stop and need to make an adjustment. hopefully it will work fine with just a cable adjustment. I feel so helpless and can hardly walk. So I sit down on a rock to rest and instantly am not sure I can get up again. I feel so weak. I'm in so much pain I decide to remove my knee brace. My knee has swollen into a round orange. We have 100km or so to go still. I don't know how I am going to do it. It dawns on me that there is now nothing to protect my knee at all if I fall. Oh God, don't let me fall!  Then I realize there is no way I will be able to pick up either of the two bikes whether I fall or not. If one of them goes down both of us together will not get it back up again. No ways I am in a position to help Daleen if something happens to her. What if I crash?

Trying as I have been, I have not been enjoying this ride. The nervousness is still there, and me being tense for 8 hours on the road has completely sapped my strength.

Now get this: I get a certain comfort knowing that though we are far from civilization, most of the time I am in a position to self rescue. But this little clutch cable incident and the altitude, and my leg highlights a vulnerability I am not used to being in, never mind admitting. I feel so hopeless, lost and pathetic. Fear and hopelessness grabs hold of me again. Its irrational but its real and it engulfs me. A dog from a nearby farm hamlet smells our last meatballs and comes looking for food. Its very cautiously friendly and I pat its head, tears streaming down my face. What a bloody miserable mess I am. I'm angry at my emotional state but the trip has become simply too overwhelming. I can't do it. I have overstepped the mark. I have taken this trip too soon, I need more time to recover.

Daleen calms me down. I am blessed guy to have a wife like this. She is so strong when I am weak. She has been strong for me all year in fact since my accident. Eventually after several minutes of weeping, I pull myself together and munch down a few more dates. Amazing things dates are. They are like energy bursts. We have to get going. At the speed we are doing and given the number of stops we will get in after dark.



I limp badly to the bike get the tools out, and breathing a prayer to God while I tighten up the cable a bit. I start her up and she pulls away just fine. Its working again! Thank you Lord Jesus! now there some tears of joy. It is going to be okay. I can do this. I must do this. There is no option of staying out here exposed on this cold mountain tonight.

Less than 10 minutes later my clutch goes again, like the cable broke or something. That's it, I think. Without stopping I lean down and fiddle with the lever where it goes into the engine casing. I'm stunned to find that its not the cable but something inside my engine that has gone. Maybe the lever broke inside the casing. There is no resistance on the lever no matter what I do. What now? Shit, I can't stop now....the road is winding up a mountain and I still have to ride in a city like this! Daleen follows me, oblivious to my predicament. Please Lord help me!

At least I know how to change gears without a clutch, so as long I am moving I am fine. Changing down gear I find much harder to do, especially when engine braking as one does in the mountains and tight curves a lot. Its hard work grinding down behind trucks and things. My body is really sore now and we will have to stop soon anyway. After all we have ridden 480km tight and slow kilometers so far. I notice my riding is erratic. Am I seriously this tired? I guess I am. I cannot press on like this much longer. I'm going to have to stop and what to do then? I look for a wider section of road and judder to a halt. The sun is setting.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 09:11:28 am by BlueBull2007 »
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Offline Heimer

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #31 on: August 27, 2013, 10:10:36 am »
I am engrossed, enthralled and in anticipation.

 :smileinbox:

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Offline roxenz

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #32 on: August 27, 2013, 12:01:01 pm »
I find myself saying: "Come-on Neil, you can do it!" because the way you write it one feels right there with you, boet!  Thanks for talking us along.  :thumleft:
 

Offline KTMRICK

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #33 on: August 28, 2013, 11:38:15 pm »
Don't stop, keep going bru.  :thumleft:
 

Offline Crossed-up

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #34 on: August 29, 2013, 06:42:56 am »
Hang in there, boet!
 

Offline TornadoF5

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #35 on: August 29, 2013, 07:14:02 am »
Neil has hidden power reserves......

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Offline Cave Girl

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #36 on: August 29, 2013, 07:27:56 am »
Love your writing style! As Roxens says!! Can't wait for the rest!
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Offline Minora

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #37 on: August 29, 2013, 08:05:20 am »
 :sip:

Briljant! Kan nie wag vir die res nie

Neil - jy het 'n talent met woorde en weet net hoe om almal in spanning te hou - well done!
Ek weet nie wat hier aangaan nie, maar dis 'n moerse sukses!!!
 

Offline Carnivore

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #38 on: August 29, 2013, 10:47:34 am »
Is this a live report, or is the Man home and writing....? Eish, I can feel the pain and fear..!
Old, grey, crafty...

You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas. Enthusiasts are fighters. They have fortitude. They have staying qualities. Enthusiasm is at the bottom of all progress. With it, there is accomplishment. Without it, there are only alibis.
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Offline Offshore

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Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
« Reply #39 on: August 29, 2013, 11:32:32 am »
Nou wat nou Ouboet, ons wag in spanning.