Friday, April 10, 2009

This is Getting Beyond a Joke

Remember that tyre man I was supposed to remember to visit? Well, I forgot. Or at least I based my decision not to visit one on the way out of Huancayo on the fact that the last repair lasted 5000km, more than enough to get to Trujillo and do it there. So I passed all the llanterias and vulcanizadoras by with barely a glance, as I motored the totally tarmac route to Hunaco. Until, that is that my rear end started feeling squishy again. Its no laughing matter, let me tell you, when your rear end starts to feel squishy! I pulled over, peered backwards at my tyre and, lo and behold, it was flat again.

Luckily, a mere 1km at walking-pace-on-a-flat-tyre up the road, was a vulcanizadora who sorted me right out for S/.5 , including fixing the bodged patch on my spare tube as well. Crisis averted, and in only an hour too. Great what you can do quickly when you spend your life doing it, eh?

The rest of the day passed relatively uneventfully, just racking up the miles and getting to Huanaco by evening no worries. Next morning at 0805 I set off again, on what was looking to be a long day of 350km, the first bit all off road. As it turned out it was persisting down, but despite this I decided to give it a go, not least because Hunaco is not a very inspiring place.

The road out of town was bad, the river running alongside was in full flood, and as the road got steeper, it also got pot-holier, muddier and lumpier. The temptation to turn back and sod it was great, but on I soldiered at the remarkably swift rate of 20km/h for the next 6 1/2 hours. Yes, it took me that long to get to La Union, the almost-but-not-quite half-way point, and the only other place to stop for the night before Huaraz. And so I stopped, given that it was at least 4 more hours at best, in the rain, and no guarantee of getting there anyway. Reckon I'll finish it off tomorrow. And this too.

I'm mildly aware, incidentally, that I don't want this to turn into a dull and repetitive day by day acount of me driving places (I hope it hasn't so far). I'll work on it. In the meantime, back straight, shoulders back, head up, take a deep breath and hold iiiitt.......

....Aaaaand relax! Bloody lying hostal owner. It was far closer and nearly all on tarmac from La Union to Huaraz, not gravel and stuff like he said. Still, he probably just needed someone, anyone, to stay in his hostal. It still took about 4 hours as well, so not something I'd have wanted to do yeseterday afternoon in the rain. Huaraz strikes me as a very Quessnstown-y place as far as scenery goes (big mountians with snow on, pine trees and rivers etc), but the town is once again typically run down. It is, however, aware of its potential as a tourist honeypot, and is working on its image. Well done Huaraz! Stayed one night, during which it rained almost continually, and delayed the decision as to whether I go on to Trujillo tomorrow until the morning.

Wow. I've said that before about other things, but wow. Double wow, in fact. Almost a triple wow, come to think about it. Its only not a triple wow because the off road section was only 70km or so, otherwise it would be triple wow for sure. Given that I'm drawing to an end of the motorbiking section of the trip, this was one hell of a way to go out.

Out of Huaraz there is a road. Its a road that begins with tarmac, albeit tarmac with surprise pot-holes around cormers and sections of mud where the cliff collapsed across it one evening having been unable to withstand the rain just a little bit longer. It was raining last night as it happens, so some of these slips were still in the "little man with a spade trying to move several tonnes of mud and tapir-sized rocks off the road" stage (apologies for the similie there, I've worked with a tapir, you see, so I know for a fact the rocks were the same size as one. Go to the zoo if you want a better mental picture). This less-than-pristine tarmac continues for about 100km, maybe a little less, then becomes a gravel-and-other-substances road for 70-odd km, before returning to actually very good tarmac indeed. Its the 70-odd km that deserve a mention here. That's 70-odd km that go by the name of......Duck Canyon (Dah dah daaaahh!!!!).

Ok, its a crap name. Its name is actually Canyon del Pato, and pato in Spanish translates to duck, so I guessed it meant Canyon of the Duck, or Duck Canyon, if you will. I'm hoping, none too secretly as it happens, that "pato" in Quechuan, the local Indian dialect, translates as something like "road that all but the bravest warriors fear to tread" or somesuch, but "pato" just seems a little too short of a word to mean all that.

Anyhow, back to the road, and don't let the name lull you into a false sense of security. Its lucky, I think its fair to say, that I had taken the road less travelled in the preceeding few days, because it was, as it turns out, great training for Duck Canyon. Because of where I had been recently, I had seen nearly everything Duck Canyon had to offer.There was less deep mud in the canyon, and it didn't climb as high as I had expected it to, but that was all that was missing. But its not what was missing that was the significant part; its what it had extra that's important.

Imagine, if you will, a raging torrent, fuelled by heavy rains and a catchment area the size of NZ (OK, that might be an exageration a bit, but it was big and raging, for sure, and it had been raining). Now alongside the river, 'pon a high path barely wide enough for a truck with ne'er a protective barrier to be seen, throw in a cocktail of big rocks, potholes, landslips, loose shale, streams, tunnels chipped from the very rock faces themsleves, a drop to near certain death should even a slight mistake be made...but no, I better stop there, lest you have nightmares for a week, and Mother has kittens.

It was not the best surfaced road in Peru, I'll give it that, and the drop-off was genuine, as were the tunnels and other stuff, and speed was once again limited by these factors to a still fairly hairy feeling 30km/h. I tried, I really did, to take video footage as I went along, and I hope it comes out well enough to make Richard even more sorry he stuffed up his bike visa (sorry mate, but you would have loved this road!).

It was a fine parting shot for the Crazy Roads Tour. Utterly appropriate and, combined with the previous few days, a suitable tribute and swansong for the whole journey. During the days ride, I notched up kilometre number 30,000, dropped the bike a number of times, almost entirely due to overbalancing on the treacherous surface while at a standstill (an old favourite of mine, that), bent the handle bars a little picking the bike up, the chain started to stretch like a rubber band that only stretches one way, probably due to my neglecting it over the last week when it got dusty and wet and muddy many, many times. Serves me right. Oh, and the luggage rack appears to have broken again, in an altogether new and more serious place than ever before. Givi have a lot to answer for, let me tell you.

So, on my arrival in Trujillo where I had a couple of days to gather my wits, a monumental decsion was made. I would leave the bike in Trujillo (where Bruce Peru can keep half an eye on it and my ramaining luggage) and I would take a small bag and a...I can barely bring myself to say it....a Ecuador and sort out a trip over to the Galapagos Islands for the last couple of weeks left to me before I have to get to Lima for the rather tedious, and no doubt highly complicated, process of crating and shipping the bike back to NZ.

It makes sense really. Why drive an extra 2 - 3000km up long, straight, dusty, tedious desert roads, seeing nothing that I haven't seen before, just to turn around and come back pretty much the same way, with no real certainty of having a safe place to leave my stuff, of getting a flight to the islands or even a tour when I got there? This way, I can save time and money travelling, get longer on the islands, and get back to Trujillo in time for tea and scones, hurrah! Although I won't get to Columbia, which sucks a bit but probably eases the olds' minds a bit. They've had a lot to put up with over the last 10 months or so, bless them.

And that's exactly what has happened. I sit here before you (well, before this computer screen writing to you) in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, having just visited a small town park crawling with iguanas that try to steal packed lunches, awaiting my flight in the morning to the island of Santa Cruz, from whence I shall book some scuba diving and day trips as I await my vessel to set sail in Darwin's footprints (oh, you know what I mean) on a 4 day voyage of re-discovery, before docking on the island of San Cristobal in order to return to Guayquil and thence Trujillo, where I shall collect my bike and luggage and delicately, so as not to further damage the rack, proceed to Lima and the last stop on the Crazy Roads Tour. I fully expect to be able to write a little more from the Islands (they have all sorts of modern contraptions you know, including, I believe, a horseless cart that moves under its own power!! Amazing!) so fear ye not (can someone please explain why this entry seems to have gone all medievel in its language?), I shall be in touch before too long. Now, go and powder you codpieces ready for tomorrows jousting, you blaggards.

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