Friday, 13 April 2012

5 days on

Hi folks just some more info and an update on the 9 lives of David. I cannot have many left.

I am now back in the UK, have been looked at by the hospital and now trying to find something to relieve the boredom. Unfortunately for you I have decided to give a full account from the crash day to now. In other words standby for War and Peace and I will make it as non melodramatic as possible.

So how did last Saturday start? Very well thank you! Woke up and started to get my kit together since I was going to head towards Trujillo with David and Eva my riding buddies from South Africa. I wheeled Daisy out of the hotel courtyard into the access alleyway and piled up the baggage about 5m behind the bike just inside the courtyard. Having done it a dozen times the whole operation of packing Daisy was quite slick but when I turned to get the tank bag it was not there. WHAT? WHERE? HOW? Some bar steward had walked into the hotel lifted my bag and walked out. Disaster!!! On a motorbike there is no room for 'extras' so everything is essential. Visions of what I would do to the thieving gypsy flashed before my eyes and they would make Saddam Husseins head interrogator look like a saint.

After calling the police, searching nearby rooms and glaring aggressively at anyone who was male, had 2 legs and a nose I departed for the Police Station to make a statement. A number of trips between the hotel and police station followed as the head honcho tried to decide what to do. Fairly snuff except that time was marching on and we needed to be on the road. Eventually they completed an A3 incident book by hand and then did the same on a solitary, sorry looking computer sat on a desk in the corner of the room next to the door to the 'we need a good clean and some air freshener' toilets. Not an ideal environment for trying to remember the contents of the tank bag. Consequently I missed out some items.

The whole process took a good 3 hours and understandingly D and E had decided to head off towards Trujillo in an attempt to get there before dark and before the predicted rain set in. I was hoping to meet them a couple of days later.

I eventually got on the road about 30minutes after D & E and looked for the road towards Casma which was the town before Trujillo. Since my map had been stolen I was relying totally oh the GPS. Not an ideal situation. The road that I had intended to take was dirt and being one of those people who has a fondness for staying alive I opted to take the long way round (hoping to see Ewan and Charlie) but the safer way due to it being tarmac. When riding alone if there is only one route and it is ripio then that is the way to go but in the interests of self preservation if there is a tarmac option then I will take that.

So I rode north going deeper and deeper into the Cordillera Blanca. The second highest mountain range in the world, after the Himalayas and the highest tropical mountain range on the planet.

So now we come to the carne of the story. I remember seeing a cow running diagonally onto the road, one lane in either direction, from left to right. I remember thinking s**t the only option I had was the gap to the right of the road between the cow and the edge and since this cow had clearly been training for the bovine olympics this gap was reducing at an alarming rate. The end result was that I hit the cow around the area of its front leg and I was thrown over the top of the cow. Unlike my other collision 10 years ago I actually remember hitting the ground and then everything goes blank. The assumption is that happened when my head hit the ground. A later examination of the helmet and clothing showed that my head had hit twice, that I had hit the cow with my left leg, which was very sore, I am sure my boots had stopped it from breaking and the right shoulder pad had also taken a heavy impact. The trousers were covered in cow shit but there was no sign of the offending beast except a patch of road covered in fur.

'Do you speak English? Do you speak English?' and as I open my eyes I realise those words are being spoken by Lacey. She and her partner Luis are 2 Californians and had been passing in their Land Cruiser. Fortunately Luis is of Venezuelan descent and so speaks fluent Spanish. I was a little delirious and I remember that I kept asking if this was a dream. How great would that have been? I had landed in a ditch right next to Daisy. The first people to have arrived were a farmer and his family since they were right there. My suspicion is that they had been herding the cow. Perhaps that is why it had entered the road like it was being chased Usain Bolt. Unfortunately they had not Googled 'what not to do if you find an injured motorcyclist' and had whipped my helmet off. A Peruvian guy and his young son then pulled up followed by Lacey and Luis, who were to turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread.

The contents of the panniers were spread all over the road and as I slowly got my head together I realised that Luis and the Peruvian guy were gathering up my belongings and sorting out Daisy whose front end was scattered to the four winds. The Peruvian guy then headed to the village, that I had passed 45 minutes down the road, in order to get help. I have no recollection how long I was sat there but Lacey and Luis got me into their LC and then Luis rode by bike very slowly to the farmers house about 400m further down the road.

The plan that we had hatched was that I would leave the bike there whilst Luis and Lacey took me to hospital. At that moment the Peruvian guy returned and unfortunately he had brought the police with him. Corruption is endemic in the Peruvian Police and these pair gave the impression of leading the corruption race. They would not give us their names and were very interested in the bike. When I asked if I wanted to go with them to hospital and no doubt to have to pay bribes so that they got me there or go go with my American Angels. The phrase 'is the Pope a Catholic' came to mind.

So I left Daisy feeling battered and bruised in a lonely mountain farm and Lacey, Luis and I then drove the 2 hours to the nearest hospital. Thankfully my head was starting to clear but my shoulder hurt like hell. It seemed like forever to negotiate the mountain road and finally arrive at the town of Barranca. It was dirty, seedy and a bit run down! The 3 of us concluded that perhaps we should drive onto Lima another 2 hours down the road.

Lima hove into view and we found the Hitchhikers Hostal and took their advice on which hospital to go to. Luis and I then grabbed a cab and were soon standing in front of the reception of Clinica Ricardo Palma. A quick once over by the admissions doctor who asked about what had happened and my medical history, an X-ray and then seen by the Trauma Doctor who assessed that I had separated the clavicle from the shoulder joint and he put some surgical tape on my shoulder. He would be a good Christmas present wrapper upper but he did not even mention the blow to the head or my previous brain injury and when we realised 3 minutes later he had already gone home. Fecal matter comes to mind when quantifying his abilities and I seem to remember getting similar qualifications from inside a Cornflakes Packet. Luis has medical experience with the US Marine Corps and his assessment was just as damning.

Back to the hostal a quick half a pizza and then bed. I actually slept quite well since the shoulder was not too painful and I was to later realise that the effects of the damage to crash at 50-60mph were yet to manifest themselves.

Between Lacey and Luis and 2 other overlanders staying at the hostal, Lizzy and Raul I was really well cared for. Can I just say thanks guys!!!! I hate to imagine what would have happened if you were not there to look out for me.

I managed to get a flight to the UK for the Monday. A long uncomfortable flight. Went straight to A&E where I was told that I might need an op but would find out when I visited the fracture clinic. I had that today and the separation is not great enough to warrant an op.
That said my whole body feels like it has been used as the rugby ball during Bath's scrummaging practice. I am so glad for the painkillers the hospital gave me.

What about Daisy I here you say? Firstly the crooked cops have probably stolen her by now. The keys have been left with Luis. No key, no way the bike can be started. It is hoped that a Brit who runs a nearby lodge might be able to find a use for her. In discussion with some locals, the cost of recovering her to Lima will probably be £1000 or so. Flying her to the UK another £2000 and then repairs £2k-£3k. Her second hand value would not be much more than that. So she will stay in Peru, illegally once the temporary import document expires in a month or so and I will not be able to enter Peru again.

I think that my adventure motorcycling days have come to an end. I cannot face the look of pain on my mother's face again. I think that I will buy a Transit or something, convert it and do some overlanding in that. Riding a bike solo under such conditions is a little dangerous and I have done that so perhaps it is time to move on.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

I saw it come but I did not see it go

Yesterday I was packing my bike with my kit in a pile about 10m behind me. When I turned back I saw that my tank bag was missing. It contained my camera, hence no photos, 2 mobile phones, Victorinox multi tool and a plethora of other things that I forgot to put in the police report. The couple that I had been riding with decided to go on and leave details of their location at the police station in the town we were heading for. After I eventually finished with the police I hit the road only about 30 minutes behind them.
About 2 hours down the road I have this vague recollection of a cow running diagonally across the road from left to right, me hitting it, flying through the air and then nothing. I awoke to hear an American voice saying do you speak English? This was Lacey, her and her boyfriend were overlanders who had been on the road for 2.5 years. They had arrived third on the scene after the Peruvian family who probably owned the cow and had removed my helmet. A big no no for motorcyclists involved in a crash. Another Peruvian guy had also pulled up. I was probably unconscious for 5 minutes or so. To cut a long story short the bike is at the farm of the family and will probably be stolen by the coppers who turned up. Lacey and Luis drove me all the way to Lima where a 'got my training from the back of a Corn Flake box' doctor diagnosed that I had separated my clavical from the shoulder. I could have come to that assessment from the X-ray.
I have no option to leave the bike where it is in the middle of the mountains, get a flight home tomorrow and get the NHS to look at my shoulder. I think my motorcycling days are over since from the state of the bike that has a missing front end and a lot of pannier damage I was very very very lucky. Perhaps I will convert a Mercedes van into a mobile overland home. There was no sign of the cow just a lot of fur on the road. I suspect it is in a lot of pain. Overlanders stick together one couple has offered me the spare bed in their room since there is no available room fo me.
Toodle pip until the next overland adventure.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A memorable taxi ride

David, Eva and I left Huaraz at Crack o Sparrow and headed northish towards Yungay. This town had been completely devastated by the 1970 earthquake and was the start of the road to Laguna Chirancotcha a supposedly beautiful lake 34km away and high in the mountains. We had tried to ride there yesterday but had been beaten by the bike breaking severity of the road. The terra surface had been completely destroyed by tour buses that were also heading towards the lake. Our new plan involved leaving the bikes at a tourist restaurant and then catching a taxi to the lake. The drive up was stunning and surmounted the view of the lake which was ordinary and it proved difficult to take a photo without also snapping one of the dozens of tourists that started to arrive.
We think that we saw a cloud enshrouded Mt Alpamayo which is said to be the most beautiful mountain in the world and the symbol for Paramount Studios.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Harah for Huaraz

Nestled between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra, Huaraz has become a mecca for adventure seeking adrenalin junkies. Funnily I was going to continue up the coast but was drawn here.
Practically destroyed by an earthquake 30 or so years ago it is a fun, vibrant and pleasant city. It was
also a stunning ride to get here and the weather alternated between very heavy showers, zero visibility as you passed through the clouds and bright sunshine all mingled with a bit of adrenalin as you frantically dodged the livestock that seem to have forgotten that grass does not grow on tarmac roads.
Lunch was taken at a fruit stall by the roadside where I tried chiteimoya, the green fruit center picture that had a sweet/succulent flesh and pacae, that looks a bit like beaten up runner beans on steroids. Not quite as nice but never the less interesting.
At Jo's place in Huaraz I pulled up at the same time as 2 South Africans who ride for 3 months and work for 3. Unfortunately they had left their Moto Guzzi in Lima for 3 months and it had been stripped of everything that was not bolted to the bike. Riding kit, spares, tools etc etc.
Peru is the land of hats. I must have seen 5 different types as I have transited through the various tribal regions.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

In Pisco drinking Pisco Sours and planning my 'Solo' route for the next couple of months

Had an easy exit from Chalo today and headed north towards Nazca. We passed straight through Nazca since I have already been there and Des was not particularly interested. That said we did stop at the viewing tour to see the 'hands' and then continued north towards Pisco. I had a close to death experience when a car bonnet blew off the top of a scrap metal lorry that I was following. It landed about 10m from me in a
spot where I would have been if something told me that I should not overtake at that precise moment.
A bit Further on Des and I got separated but we managed to find each other again after 40 minutes or so and we arrived in Pisco not long before it got dark.
So not a particularly interesting day as far as the ride is concerned but today is the day that Des and I have decided to go our own ways. I plan but I am now considering amending the route by taking some things out and adding in more things. One other result is that it I will no longer be possible to track me with the Spot tracker.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The coast and an extra 15 degrees. Temperature that is.

Des got back
from his trip to Machu Picchu 2 days ago and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed it. Since I did not go here are a few pictures of my time there a couple of years ago just so that I do not feel left out.

Yesterday we rode to the coast and stayed at Chalco in a beach front hotel. Very nice and fun!! As we left Arequipa I came across some Police bureaucracy. Like all toll roads in
Peru motorbikes go for free. At this particular toll it was unclear where they wanted bikes to go since some places there is a separate lane and at others you go through the toll lane. I started to head down the toll lane and then frantic waving and shouting tried to indicate that I should go down a really narrow motorbike lane. It was too late so I continued down the toll lane. All seemed fine until a policeman stopped me about 50m past. I tried the 'terribly sorry Mr Policeman' story but he would have none of it. The long of the short is that I had to walk back to the toll booth with much muttering, and pay the toll for a car. Por que? No se!! Just an example of Jobs Worth. Des dare not take off his helmet since he was laughing so much.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Good to have some peace and quiet

Des headed off to Macchu Picchu on Sunday. However when he got to Cusco it turns out that the tour did not go until Tuesday, a day later than expected. There was absolutely no food included whereas some had been expected and the train back to Cusco from Agua Calientes was due to arrive in Cusco after the bus had departed for Arequipa. As you can imagine Des was not a happy chappy and 'Mr Fix It' is likely to have a strip torn off when Des returns. That said I have had a nice lazy time. Drinking Starbucks, yes they have even found there way here, and just generally chilling. Our hotel has a walled garden and is relaxed, friendly and a bit of an oasis.

If there is an earthquake here there are signs in all of the public buildings showing you the safest place to stand. Maybe they should bring back the Morrison Shelter for earthquake areas. If it can withstand Nazi bombs then surely it can survive an earthquake.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Daisy gets a second chance thanks to Cesar the 'wonder mechanic'

Having arrived in Arequipa and whilst searching out some accommodation, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a short plump guy with a big friendly smile. It turns out that he was to be our 'Mr Fixit'.
He pointed us in the direction of some accommodation which we did not actually stumble across until 2 days later, he sorted out Des a tour from Arequipa to Macchu Pichu, he found me a great mechanic for Daisy and actually took us their in a taxi and sorted out Des a peloqueria (or something like) to get his barnet cut.

The centre around Plasa de Armas is stunning.
Quaint, wonderful architecture, great food and the list goes on. We are staying in a small, old hotel that feels a bit like an oasis and is 'just what the doctor ordered'.
I took Daisy to the mechanic that we had found. Cesar collected me from the hotel and led the way to his workshop. The fact that he was not riding some Chinese putt putt but a Kawasaki ZZR600 gave me confidence that he was an experienced mechanic and did not sell bottled gas for a living.
He spent the first 10 minutes just shaking his head but had to stop for fear of it coming loose. Within 2 hours he had removed the dodgy, fire risk bodge wiring, reinstalled my original starter switch and tracked the problem to a connector that was not fully home and all for only 35 soles. On the way home I took Daisy for a wash to celebrate. So Cesar Mayorga tel 958118289 turned out to be a great find.
This is the view I get most evenings whilst skyping Silvana. I can think of worse views :-)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Stunning views and a great biking road

We left Puno with me relishing a time when my head would not be pounding and my lungs craving oxygen. The road was fantastic!! Smooth tarmac, stunning views and bends that a motorbike yearns for. Even with knobbly tyres De
s said it was the best road that he had ever ridden. It feels so good when the bends are disappearing effortlessly behind you and the next coming racing towards you. Even better there was at least 100km of them as we sped downhill. I was enjoying it so much that I did not realise that my head had stopped banging.

We had a couple of days rest in Puno for me to try and acclimatise to the altitude. After a day off we loaded the bikes and pressed the starter switches. From mine there was absolutely nothing except a click from the starter solenoid. Bugger! I had a look at the obvious things but all to no avail. Time for a mechanic. The guy on reception knew of one and he arrived after an hour. He got down to work and quickly assessed that the starter solenoid was defective. That he removed and took away for a local shop to repair. It turned out that he had to take it to a nighbouring city for the repair and was consequently gone for over 2 hours. During that time I enquired about the mechanic's credentials. It turned out that he sold bottled gas for a living and his knowledge of bikes came from repairing his own 200cc Chinese thing. Oh oh! I started to have a bad feeling. But on his return I gave him the benefit of doubt and let him continue. The repaired solenoid did not solve the problem so without a multimetre or test lamp he decided that there was a break in the +ve line from starter switch to the solenoid so he used some wire he found in the back of his tricycle to wire the solenoid straight to the battery and put in a new starter switch. To my horror and before I had realised he had cut through both cables to my original starter switch. WHAT!!! Fortunately the bike started since I had decided not to let him continue.
So Daisy was running with dodgy wiring and having had her guts messed around with. At least it would allow me to get to Arequipa and try to find a proper mechanic.
My new starter switch along with dodgy white wiring.
Puno rooftops.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Incoming!! and a sit down protest.

The following morning we got directions for Peru and then headed out of the city. All went well for the first half hour except that it took 3 attempts before we found someone to sell us petrol. We then came across a road block with a couple of hundred vehicles waiting to get through. We met a couple of Brazilians, turned round and headed the wrong way down the duel carriageway, squeezed through a gap in the Arco barrier, I dropped the bike, headed up the other side of the carriageway and then squeezed between hundreds of demonstrators sat down in the road with rocks scattered between them.
We eventually got through and found the right side of the road. Hooray! Our exuberance was short lived as we ran into another 8 demonstrations over the next hour. They threw a rock at us at the last one. Time to get out. No pictures since I had other things on my mind.
In comparison the ride around Lake Titicaca was great. Quick ferry across the narrowest bit and onto Copacabana sat nestled between two hills on the side of the lake. Another road block just before the border where tour buses emptied on one side, the passengers carry their luggage for 1/2 a mile or so to the other side of the block, catch another bus and then be charged extra for the experience. This was gleaned from a very unhappy backpacker we met at the Peruvian border. The Bolivian border officials asked me for money to pay for the great service they provided WHAT!! and the Peruvian officials were from a different world. Friendly, polite and not trying to fleece you. So happy to be out.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

To be organised or not to be organised that is the dilemma.

With Arica disappearing rapidly behind us we headed for the hills and after some stunning scenery we hit the Chilean/Bolivian border post situated at just over 4000m. So from 10m to 4000m in a couple of hours and in the middle of the stage we had to obtain fuel from a man with a selection of flammable spirits in 50 gallon drums nestled in a courtyard behind his house. Whilst starting to feel lightheaded we passed relatively easily through Chilean formalities and then hit Bolivian customs. You can see their cream portakabin in the picture below. So why were we sent to a back office in a shop just across the border for someone to enter our details in a computer? Yes a computer and for him to charge us 10 bolivianos each for the pleasure.
On my last visit to this border post I had stayed in a room above an adjacent shop as I waited for a Chilean customs strike to finish. Back to the portakabin to be told that we needed photocopies of our registration documents. Fortunately I had these at hand but Des's had done a disappearing act and so back to the shop for copies and the opportunity for us to hand over more money. All the while I was starting to feel pretty awlfull. Eventually we got through at about 1600 and rode on towards Patacamaya.
It was like we had stepped into another world. The houses were made out of mud bricks, the women all wore traditional dress which often included a type of bowler hat perched on their heads and the atmosphere was one of poverty and here comes another Westerner how much money can we scam out of them. This was a totally opposite experience from the one I had had 2 years previous.

About 20km short of Patacamaya we were flagged down another motorcyclist on a KLR650. An Australian who with a mate was riding, eventually, to Prudo Bay in Alaska. He had a front tyre blowout some 5 hours earlier. Apparently he had seen a screw in his tyre but thinking that if he pulled it out the tyre might go down he had left it. The thing is tubed tyres are not like tubeless tyres and if it has not gone down it will not so extract the offending object. They had tried to plug the tyre but unsurprisingly it had gone down again. You cannot plug a tubed tyre since the air will escape from around the spokes. No problem I have a spare inner tube. Where is your centre stand? Does not exist so how do you lift the front wheel off the ground? With a block of wood. Where is the Allen key to remove the spindle? You do not have one. How long have you been on the road? Four and a half months. How have you got this far?
At that moment his mate appeared, he had been into Patacamaya to find a tyre repair shop. No he said the town was Oruro so I suggested we ride in find some accommodation drop off kit and he would then return to his stranded mate and the 2 ride very slowly, on a flat tyre, into town. The town was actually Patacamaya and there was zero accommodation so we opted to ride back and camp on the roadside. As we passed through a checkpoint I suggested we camp there. Very noisy, uneven ground but safer than on the side of the road. So that is how it all panned out.
Just goes to show how a little preparation would have nipped this nightmare in the bud.
OK enough of my preaching.
After a poor nights sleep at Newport Pagnell Services we headed for La Paz, the highest capital city in the world. Feeling a tad peckish we stopped at a roadside diner where half a sheep's head was on the menu. So I tried it and I must say it was very tasty except it took two swallows to get the eye down. I am a great believer in that if you are killing an animal then the whole of it should be used. Besides these sheep have lived free, without hormones, animal feeds or anything unnatural. Have I placated my vegetarian friends?
The ride to La Paz was fine but trying to get into the city and finding accommodation was a nightmare. Vehicles travelling every which way, people stepping into the road without looking, combis stopping with a nano seconds notice, roadblocks, demonstrations and all conducted on the side of a mountain so the clutch was working overtime. Buenos Aires is no longer my most disliked city in South America. I just do not remember Bolivia being so unpleasant, in fact it was my most liked country in South America. Not now? We also tried to buy some fuel. In those garages where the attendant could be bothered to acknowledge our presence we were either told that they would not sell petrol to foreigners or if they did it was three times the price. Welcome to the country of let us hate tourists and then let us fleece them!
At this stage the plan was to find a place to stay. When that proved fruitless we decided to ride out to the start of the death road and it took us nearly 2 hours to get out of the city. OK having had enough the plan was changed to let us find a place to stay and then let us get the hell out of Bolivia in the morning.