Grounded

01-30

Alex and I had no idea the dramatic changes the next days would bring – how could we. Alex had to suddenly leave South America while I was grounded for a month and a half. It is precisely these challenges that make life on the road so interesting as well as challenging.

Upon receiving the sad news that his grandmother had passed away Alex made plans to fly immediately to Austria for the funeral.  I was sorry for Alex but also selfishly for myself as it meant a lonely Xmas in the mountains for me. It’s an odd thing to meet a complete stranger and spend every waking hour of the following month with them. Then just as quickly as they appeared they’re gone. I got to know Alex well over the month and a half we cycled together and I really enjoyed his company. His easy going attitude and quick smile are infectious.

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It was strange saying goodbye to Alex. Two days prior we had been talking about cycling to Colombia together but with the same suddenness that we teamed up he was gone. This’s how life on the road goes though; you never know what each day will bring.

While I was working on my bike it broke. After a few days working on Doris I thought I had found a solution and set off again. I made it 65 miles but on the second morning the problem re-occurred leaving me stranded in the mountains. I was extremely frustrated but accepted the fact that I would need to order new parts from Europe and wait a month for them to clear customs.

Last day in Peru's mountains

My last day in Peru’s mountains

Once I had managed to flag down a passing bus, the driver tied my bike to the roof. Unfortunately, despite my pleas, he didn’t tie it on very well. An hour later I was startled by a loud crack. I looked out the window and saw my bike sprawled across the road having fallen four meters to the pavement. For the first time I can ever remember rage overcame me. I could have throttled the driver who seemed not to care despite the fact my bike had been seriously damaged.

After the heat of the moment however I tried to keep perspective. I remind myself how lucky I am to be out here and no matter how frustrating these problems are this is all part of my journey. Besides my problems pale into insignificance when I think of the children that War Child helps. Children living in conflict zones – imagine growing up in Syria during the last three years where snipers deliberately target children.

The implications of this delay are big. I can no longer ride the beautiful but difficult mountain route. This would have been the last truly great challenge of my ride and I was seriously looking forward to testing myself against some of the highest peaks and biggest climbs in the Andes. However, after waiting forty five days for the replacement part to be delivered I had just three months to cycle from Lima to Cartagena. Despite my deep desire to cycle these mountains it is more important to me to be back in Europe for my brother’s wedding. So I have vowed to return one day and cycle from Quito to Cusco through the high Andean peaks.

Trying to remain upbeat

Trying to remain upbeat

I returned to Ayacucho feeling low and lonely but determined to overcome these obstacles. I ordered the replacement part I needed. Having learned a lesson in Argentina waiting a month for post, I did some research to find out the best way to receive the items. I found a small school in a town called Huaraz where I could stay for free. I made plans to travel to Lima where I would leave my bike to be serviced and then to travel to Huaraz where I would wait until the replacement parts were delivered. Slowly things came together.

Dawn had just broken over the sprawling city of Lima when I arrived one Sunday morning. I wanted to walk the 6 miles from the bus station to my hostel but was aware that I might unwittingly end up in some dangerous neighbourhoods. With a simple route planned though I decided to try. Having arrived on an overnight bus I was haggard but the locals hanging around on street corners looked even sketchier than me. I walked past one man lying face down in the street. After a couple of miles the footpath in the street I was on disappeared. The road turned into a busy dual carriage way – one I could not wheel my bike along. After a few minutes I decided to take a parallel road and then return to this road once a pavement re-appeared. As I began to walk off this main road in search of an adjacent one I noticed a noticed a man walking towards me, staring directly at me. I decided to confront the situation and looked him straight in the eye. He pointed to where I was walking, shook his head, made a gun with his hand and then slid a finger across his throat. A sudden jolt of adrenaline shook off my tiredness. I thanked the man for his warning and hailed the first cab that I could. That was a real wake up call. Lima is the first place in South America where I had to be very careful about where I go. I still find it amazing that crossing one street can take you from a ‘safe’ neighborhood to a ‘dangerous’ one.

Digs in Huaraz

Digs in Huaraz

Xmas day was difficult. After leaving my bike in Lima to be repaired I took a bus to Huaraz where I spent Christmas day by myself. It will certainly make me appreciate next year with family all the more. Thankfully I received an invite for New Years to go with some locals to the coast. A couple of day’s fun in the sun ensued.

After waiting three weeks for my bicycle parts to be delivered I decided I needed to return to Lima to determine if they were lost or held by customs. Sadly it turned out to be the former with the Peruvian Serpost absolving them-selves of any responsibility. That was a really low moment. I didn’t know what to do. Not only did I feel I had wasted three weeks waiting but I had no idea how to safely receive the parts. It occurred to me that if I could not find a solution I would have to fly back to Europe from Lima. Eventually I managed to find a friend of a friend of a friend who was flying to Lima from the U.S. who could bring the bike parts with her. To say I was relieved is an understatement. Two weeks later I received the parts brought over from the U.S. and in a comical twist Serpost delivered the parts originally posted from the UK on the same day.

45 days waiting for these

45 days waiting for these

In the end it took 45 days to get my bike back on the road. Though I didn’t ride my bike in that time it was one of the most difficult periods of my whole ride: lonely and stranded. The next morning I set off from Lima aiming for Quito in Ecuador.

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