Introducing…

 Emma rocks a downhill

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We’ve got some fresh blood on our little expedition. Emma our latest revolutionary joined us a few weeks ago in Cusco, and will be with us on the road to Lima, roughly 1,300km through mountains and desert.

Emma’s originally from Blacklion in County Cavan, she has a degree in Drama and Theatre studies from Trinity and works as a freelance arts facilitator in Dublin. 

When not faciliting or studying, Emma has been training like a demon, swimming, running and spinning to regain the fitness that she enjoyed when she was an Ulster and Irish swimming Champion back in the nineties.

Not one to turn down a challenge, Emma is looking forward to the grind over the next few weeks.   

Emma has already raised €1,394 for Aware.

You can help the plucky Cavan girl reach her total here 

Going down, down, down.

Eerie Clouds

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Puquio-Peru

Tomorrow we begin the, much anticipated, descent to the Pacific. We’ve been living at over 3,000m since January. That’s been nearly 3 months feeling unfit, like an asmathic with lessened appetite. Up here there is less oxygen so its easier to get out of breathe, stairs are particularly bad for me often I have to stop and have a breather like a granny, sorry gran. Digestion also takes longer with the lower oxygen levels, so its a push to finish what would usually slide down the trap in no time. Lastly, but not suprisingly, our time in the Andes has been plagued with hills? Constantly up, down, and around beautiful peaks unfortunately placed between a and b.

So, as you can imagine, breathlessness and a diminished appetite, and lots of hills don’t really make for the most comfotable cycling. Hence we’ve only managed about 3,000km over the last 3 months.  If we were on a cycling holiday this wouldn’t be a problem, but as we’re doing a circumnavigation we have to cover over 29,000km we’re keen to get going. Anything less than 29,000km and it would be a circumsicion….. badum tish : )  

Seriously though, I’m really looking forward to seeing the sea, getting my appetite back and breathing lungfulls of oxygen rich salty air. Being up here is all to reminiscent of being an asmathic child.

Tomorrow we begin our last climb, up and over 4,000m to our last pass then the road points down for a luxurious downhill when we get to loose over 3,000m in 60km… I’ll bring a spare pair of pants for that one.

On the coast we will have to contend with 40 degree heat, deserts and onshore winds. And, no doubt once there we’ll be longing for the cool andean hills, but for the moment the grass is definitely greener.  

We’ll be mapping our descent using Sanoodi’s excellent SMAP application and our trusty Blackberry.           

 

Livin in Greystones

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=4496751&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Living in Greystones from Reginald Mcloughlin on Vimeo.

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While waiting for Marina to get to the top of the never ending qeue at the Police Station, I stumbled across this very odd video. I think it’s a tidy towns promo. It’s got an angsty track over it which isn’t bad. I remember feeling like that circa 1995- the predictable angst of a middle class teenager.

Now, looking at shots of my little town from the other side of the globe, almost 25,000km and 12 months away the feeling is somewhat different. I´d love nothing more than to take a morning walk over Bray head, have lunch in the Happy Pear with Mum, maybe hit some balls in the driving range with Dad and head for an early-bird in the ThreeQ´s followed by pints in Dans with my two siblings.  I know it all sounds very comfotable, maybe even a little boring.  Funny how things change, how distance and time make things more appealing. How you can spend years dreaming of leaving and then once you leave dream of going home. Not that I really want to go home, simply that it looks so attractive fom a far, that distance makes the heart grow fonder and the grass seem greener.

Going Nowhere

Simon looks suspect
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Cuzco-Peru

Cuzco seems to have a pull on us. It feels like we’ve been here for ages. We’d planned a stop-over as Si’s folks were in town for a week, and Emma, our newest revolutionary(who’ll be introduced properly in due course) needed to acclimatise to these andean heights, but we never thought we’d be here this long. Every time we try to leave, something crops up. First it was more blockades, this time due to civil unrest because of rising water rates.

Unfortunately, today’s holdup was a little bit more sinister, and as a result we spent the afternoon and evening in the copshop. We’d stopped for lunch in a run of the mill Comedor(eatery) after climbing out of Cuzco. We were all in good spirits, glad to be moving and on our way round the world again. When we went to leave Marina, noticed her bag was gone. It seems that 3 shady characters had followed us into the restaurant, ordered 10 lunches “to go” to distract the staff, then vamosed with the bag when the opportunity arose.

After a feverish race to an internet cafe to cancel cards before the thieves got a chance to use them, the cops were called, and a merry-go-round of recounting exactly what happened, and describing the culprits began. Oddly enough one of the rozzers had a picture of the thief on her phone??? Her naff glasses were the giveaway. So, we all went down to the station to give statements so that they could go and raid her house. It seems that she was on their most wanted list and there was much activity at the station as Marina was cross examined.  

To an extent, it was inevitable that we were going get something stolen in South America at some point, although that’s no consolation to Marina, who lost the guts of 500 euro’s worth of gear. However, I think that its interesting that it happened in Cuzco, tourist central. Before leaving many friends relations and well-wishers expressed concern for our safety- what, with us travelling through all of those unfamiliar and “scary” places . Yet we’d been on the road for six months with no events. Then we go somewhere that’s familiar and cosmopolitan, Cuzco even has a Mc Donalds, and we get robbed. Today’s mal-adventure reaffirms my belief that one is safer away from the tourist crowds in unfamiliar and “scary” places.

Fingers crossed, the raid goes well and Marina gets her bag back, although we’re not holding out much hope.                

Tomorrow, we’re going to give leaving Cuzco another shot. Hopefully this time we’ll make a go of it.

 Marina and Emma are taken away in the back of a paddy wagon: )

Machu Picchu- the Incas rocked

Revolution Cycle-Machu Picchu

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Peru-Cuzco

I’m not particularly fond of seeing 3.59am on my alarm clock. It’s not so bad if its flashing en route to sleep after a night on tiles, or if it’s a brief glance before turning over and dozing for a few more hours. But when the digital display reading 3.59am is accompanied by the bleep of an alarm clock I’m rarely polite nor compus mentus for several hours. Our day at Machu Picchu started in the middle of the night at the ungodly hour of 3.59am, and by 4.20 we were neither awake or feeling particularly civil, but silently marching into the beams of our head torches, up steps carved over five hundred years ago to the sacred city of Machu Picchu.

Sleepy Revolutionaries

Not surprisingly, Machu Picchu gets its fair share of visitors, around 1.5 million every year. The best view of the deserted city is to be had from Huayna Picchu, a pillar of jungle green flora covered granite standing next to it, as its peak is around 300m’s higher than the Andean citadel and gives a condor’s view of the surrounding valleys and the shear cliffs looming over the sacred river of Willkamayu. In a nod to conservation and safety, apparently 2 people fall off it’s narrow and slippery steps each year, the authorities limit the numbers of the foolhardy to 400, first come first served. So every morning there is a race up the 400m’s of roughly hewn and well worn steps to sign up, hence our uncharacteristically early morning call.
      
In the race to Huayna Picchu we had a bit of an unfair advantage over our competitors- a mixture of serious trekkers decked out in technical gear, wheezing backpackers slipping their way up in jeans and runners, and aspiring American golden oldies tripping themselves and everyone else with their walking poles and covered from head to toe in North Face logos. As, we’d spent the previous 3 months cycling in the thin air at altitude, we thus now have the respiratory systems that a Kenyan runner would be proud of. We quickly squeezed past those who had managed to tear themselves from bed even earlier than us and comfortably made queue for Huayna Picchu.  

Once we’d signed on we had time to relax, eat some breakfast, and digest the significance of that amazing city, built without the aid of complex technology, or even the wheel for that matter. The Incas started building it in the 1430’s then abandoned it when the Spanish arrived 100 years later after which it was “lost” to the world until it was “discovered” by  an American, Hiram Bingham in 1911.

Machu Picchu- Terraces

The thing that struck me at Machu Picchu, after 3 days trekking along parts of original incan routeways- narrow stepped walkways carved into the shear valley sides with hundreds of metres of empty space below, was how comfortable they must have been with heights. The incas lived in a world of 3 dimensions, they seemed to be as comfortable building up and down as we are building left or right. They farmed terraces on the side of vertiginous cliffs, designed banks of steep stone steps that would fatally punish one mistep, and built impressive large stoned structures in apparently impossibly steep and inaccessible places when there was perfectly good flat land at close hand. Crawling like a crab down the scarily steep steps on Huayna Picchu on my arse, with my heart in my mouth, and my sweaty palms slipping on the greasy granite, I imagined nimble large calved little incas nonchalantly skipping past me with heavy loads balanced on their backs.

Although, modern man, has managed to build structures that reach beyond the clouds, most of us aren’t comfortable at height. Most of us are only really comfortable in two dimensions. The slippery narrow and exposed stairwells of Huayna Picchu, that no doubt would have been as comfortable for the Incan inhabitants as an elevator is for us, showed up the vertigo of modern visitors. The added exertion of having to propell oneself up as well as forward illustrated our physical short comings. Many times during our day out, when I passed a sweat soaked, panting and shell shocked tourist perched on a slippery step clinging to the safety wire trying to muster enough energy to go on, I was reminded of a video on YouTube which showed a platoon of british troops who had been given LSD for experimental purposes and were reduced to clinging to trees or absurdly staring wistfully into space. Incan 3D urban planning is not a comfortable for a modern man, or woman.            

As the sun cleared the cloud from the jungle below, and burned off the dew from the chunky stone buildings, the structures looked less like buildings on a remote island off the west of Ireland, and we began to get a full sense of the place. The magnitude of carving a city from from hard granite on a mountain-top hit home. As the clouds rose slowly, like steam from a shower window, from the jungle below we began to understand why the Incas reveared this sacred place. The scene was enough to move this devout atheist to consider the Incan triadic cosmology. The incan cosmos was divided into three parts, represented by a trinity of sacred animals. The Serpent who signified the underworld, the Puma who embodied the living world and the Condor who represented the heavens.     

Normally, I’m not one for landmarks. I find that I get more from the “in between” bits than the destinations. In the past, I’ve been sorely disapointed by places that are supposed to inspire, as usually the droves of tourists  rabidly taking pictures of well known spectacles get in the way.

Machu Picchu was different. It is a trully magnificent site, inspiring moving and mind boggling even though by midday it was over-run with Canon toting tourists.