Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK

Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK
Robin on the Road in Trerice Cornwall, UK

Monday, April 18, 2016


  My Shit is Falling Apart

I'm not complaining but my shit is falling apart. I also know that lamenting what's NOT working and ranting about technological failures is not useful. Let me take this opportunity to thank Almighty God for the opportunity to learn through mistakes and tough breaks the difference between success and failure. 
Getting out the door and taking the first step or pedal stroke on ANY adventure is a great success. In fact, I'm not really sure in this case what constitutes failure. 
I'm currently in Huaraz, Peru. It is the adventure capitol of the universe. No shortage of difficult and beautiful adventures to be had. I GET to be here and dream of possibility. With or without functional equipment I'm a blessed and grateful traveler.
My tent leaks and I haven't found anything like Seam Sealer; my brand new Whisperlite International stove is not functioning because the rubber cup on the bottom of the plunger in the pump assembly is torn. The sleeping bag I bought last fall is not warm enough for these high altitudes and the rear rotor on the bike is bent. I'm looking for some shoes because the $9.00 trainers I bought in Guatemala are delaminating. My Paypal account is non-functional (not that I use it all that much) and they have not returned any of my 17 emails. Come to think of it neither has Cascade  Designs about my stove... Assholes!
Should I keep limping this traveling circus side show along and hope that further dys-functions don't occur? The other day I discovered the map app I was using gave me distances "as the crow flies" and NOT actual distance on the road. As darkness fell and a fog as thick as pea soup obscured everything not ten feet in front of my face, I began to wonder how I was going to push this rolling shit show over the 4200 meter (13,700ft) pass on my route. 
As I pushed this junk show up another 500 meters, a woman sitting on the side of the road struck up a conversation as I walked by. Told her I was going to the next village. We chatted for about 10 minutes while we both waited for a collectivo. Several passed. It was obvious they would not stop with me standing there with the bike so I headed off. She Said if one stopped for her, she would find me on the road and ask the driver to stop. And that's exactly what happened. Miracles everyday. The driver dropped us in front of a "Guest House" in Cajacaya. My friend was related somehow to the owners. Nice quiet night in a small village in the Andes. How many people get to say that? 
The next day I was basically exhausted from the climb the day before. It was still another  20 K and 2000 meters of climbing to the pass. With altitude and such it would be another 2 grueling days walking with the bike. My friend from the day before found me on the road in font of the restaurant she owns. She told me where to stand for a collectivo to Colnacocha on the other side of the pass. She assured me that they would stop no matter what. Well, they didn't stop for me and they never will because they don't like bikes. It was frustrating. Then a thought occurred to me: "Whatever it is I think the outcome SHOULD be is nothing compared to how it's going to be"! 
I couldn't really hitchhike because the big trucks weren't having it and none of the utility pick ups that passed me would stop. Hours went by. I was impatient (what else is new?) but miraculously that thought kept showing up and it raised my spirits. "The outcome here is going to be so much better than I can possibly imagine!" I learned that adage in a little clubhouse that shall remain anonymous. I mulled it over for another hour or two. When I became exasperated at the lack of desired outcome, the idea came back. This happened a few times. You know, practice makes perfect.
At least I had some shade, the sun is hot and harsh at altitude and this close to the equator.  I began contemplating getting on the bike. I had also developed some saddle sores and if they blister and get infected I'd really have some problems.  I got to my feet because a pickup has stopped in front of me but I couldn't see the driver because of the glare. I walk up to the tinted window and it rolls down to reveal two nuns in habits. Wow, was I surprised! I told the driver that and she asked why I was so surprised. Just didn't have the language at the moment. I rarely see women at all behind the wheel of a car in Peru and here are two nuns in habits no less. They had not actually stopped for me. I was parked in front of a restaurant/market/laundry/bait-shop. They had stopped to find some lunch or something. I begged for a ride.
The driver was young and being concerned for the welfare of the 20 cases of wine in the bed of the truck deferred to "La Madre" in the passenger seat. She just smiled at the youngster and said, "Yes of course, it's fine don't worry".
And so I rode in luxury for the next 20 K listening to a mix of Spanish Christian rock and monks chanting. And speaking of redemption. After they dropped me in Colnacocha. I did cycle some dirt switchbacks back up to about 13,500 to camp.
I spent that night just below the pass near the stone hut of a shepherd and his daughter. It was blustery and cold.
The next day found me cycling rolling alpine meadows and mostly coasting the 50+K into Huaraz. Nice ride.
I've been here since Sunday and I've been getting oriented, slowly finding the things I need although paying out the arse for some of them. I thought the most difficult fix was going to be the stove. How wrong I was but more on that later. There was no way I was going to find a replacement part like that here. What I need to find is someone with an old, worn out, retired stove that I can cannibalize. 
I'd heard from the SAE about a good guide service that had great books and maps. I found them (Quechuandes) by accident while bumbling my way down the main drag looking for something else. Because remember, whatever I think the outcome should be it is nothing compared to what it's going to be. I asked the gentleman working the desk for some info on a prospective bike route, he was very helpful. I sat down to check out a bird guide when Marie, from Belgium who had been lying on the couch sat up and we got to chatting. I told her about my stove dilemma. She and her husband David, whom I had been speaking with owned the operation and she said, "We can ask David, he can fix anything". I ran back to my hostel and grabbed my useless stove. Sure enough, he looked at it, saw the problem and cannibalized one of his really old pieces of equipment. With a really old LEATHER stopper. Better than I could have come up with.
I was going to try and cycle around the area over some high passes and into the valleys. But, like I said my shoes are pretty worn out. Not that matters all that much but I should be prepared to walk and push the bike. I tried to find some today but the brands made here felt like I was slipping my feet into short, fat, plastic boxes. I found some of the "other" brands one might find stateside but they are God awful expensive. The import tax is astronomical. I don't really have the clothing or for that matter the rest of the things I might need for getting as far out and up there as I'd like to. A wider tire would help on the rough parts of the dirt roads but I don't have them. The selection is limited and also pretty expensive. 
If I wait until a little later in the season, it will be a little warmer. In the meantime, I feel somewhat stymied in my quest for quiet roads to tour on. I'm going to stay here a while and do some hikes and bike rides in the meantime. It is an outdoors' paradise for sure and the people are lovely. 
But I still feel kind of like a rolling disaster waiting to happen. I'm too impulsive, a terrible planner. I should check out guide books BEFORE I go somewhere. That would be a good start. Instead, I try to find them when I'm already "there". That doesn't work well on a continent that does not really have much to start with. I could call this "a fact finding mission". The "fact" is I feel disorganized, like I don't have it all together.
I'm considering cycling to Columbia and going back to the US and find the things I really need there. Which is more cost effective? Spending more for everything or spending the money on a cheap ticket to the US. I found a one way from Bogota to DC for under $300.00. Not bad.
Would I really make it back down here? God only knows. My attention span is equivalent to that of a housefly.
Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that bogata is the bike capital of the world. They even have an annual car free day where everyone in the city has to get around on a bike. So while I haven't been there bogata is regarded as one of the most bike friendly places on the planet so yup can probdbly find everything you need there. It's also way more upmarket than huarez. I'm a kiwi who also had a poorly planned time in huaraz in 99 so i feel your pain. Take some time out from biking for a week and regroup. Meet some people to bike with. That will help. Save the planet and don't fly to the U.S. to get bike parts. And get some decent shoes.

Anonymous said...

And the outcome IS going to be better than anything you can imagine--that's the real adventure! MM