Just when you cross the Andes, almost cross the continent, you start feeling pretty tough. Then you get put in your place… twice in a few hours. I started north out of Nasca into a brutal headwind through the desert and met some fellow adventurers along the way.
About 12 miles out of Nasca I stopped at a lookout to observe some of the famous lines made by the ancient Nasca culture. As a few tourists took my photo I saw a proper fellow cycle tourer approach from the distance. I raced down from the lookout to see what he was up to. His name was Sam:
Me: Hey, where you coming from?
Sam: Oh just Palpa (town a few miles north of our location).
Me: Oh, are you just starting your trip?
Sam: No, no. I am two years in.
Me: Woah! Jesus.
Sam used to be in high finance selling bonds in London. The market started to tank, his girlfriend went to Switzerland for her Phd, so Sam left on a real world tour. He started in Turkey and cycled back through the Mediterreanan to London. He then flew to the US and cycled East to West (the US was his second favorite leg after Sumatra!). I asked how the people were in the US as far as hospitality and he said in the middle around Missouri and Kansas he met some of the most outgoing people in the world.
After a bit through British Colombia and down the West coast all the way to L.A. he flew to New Zealand. Around NZ and about 600 miles through Australia before touring “You know, all of South East Asia and Sumatra.” Then it was a flight to Colombia to start his North to South of South America. No big deal Sam.
I won´t bore you with next stretch through emptiness with nothing but glass in the road, roaring trucks, and sand blasting headwind that absolutely desiccated my body. I was looking forward to riding in the desert but to sum up the riding of this day… it sucked.
I was a few hours into the desolation when there was a green shack selling warm drinks. I pulled off the road and out of the wind for a few minutes when lo and behold another tourer! I was laughing, two in one day… Jesus. Now Sam has quite a trip behind him but Mark Beaumont shook my hand and gave me his business card, it read: ADVENTURER. It was no joke.
Me: “You going to Nasca today?”
Mark: “Yeah. Wait, what?”
Me: “You headed to Nasca?”
Mark: “Where´s that? I thought you asked if I came from Alaska.”
Me: “You came from Alaska!”
Me: “Jesus Christ!”
He is a documentary film maker for the BBC and he constructs his own adventures that are fully funded by the BBC. He has a production team create TV series out of the footage he shoots and they plan ahead interesting things for him to do along his route. Big deal Mark, my girlfriend does that for me too.
All joking aside this dude is a stud that makes me look like his little brother in the first photo of the post. On his trip, Cycling the Americas, Mark will be mountain climbing the highest peak in North America and then cycling to the highest peak in South America and climbing that in the same season. It´s never been done before, he´s riding alone, and he has already climbed Denali in Alaska and cycled all the way here to southern Peru. He has 2600 more miles to make to reach Mount Aconcagua in Argentina by January 1st.
After hearing this story I felt like I needed a business card: Doug Gunzelmann, AMATEUR.
We chatted for awhile when the little girl, the daughter of the Señora who ran the joint, pointed to a greasy smear of roadkill on the pavement and said it was her dog with a big smile on her face. Wow. They raise them tough around here, maybe the landscape put some gravel in her guts.
Further down the road I was running out of gas again when I pulled over for a rest at a small restaurant. I saw a man in dirty clothes propped up on his bag reading an ancient copy of Reader´s Digest in Spanish. He asked if I spoke English and proceeded to ask me about the birds in the US. “Do you have turkeys, wild turkeys, not domestic ones.” Yep. “And pheasants? How about the woodpecker. Have you eaten a woodpecker.” I told them they were kind of small and I never heard of people eating them. “Oh no, I think I mean woodcock.” Yep Jorge (his name), that makes more sense.
We then switched to Spanish so he could understand my trip, then once he found I spoke some Portuguese he nearly jumped in my lap as he had lived in Brazil for 8 years. He was very curious about my time through the Brazilian Amazon, and whether I spent any time with shaman, or if I had taken Ayahuasca, an Amazonian psychedelic plant that shaman use. He also wanted to know in general what I thought of colors.
Sorry Jorge, my trip was an actual physical journey. I told him about the cougar and puma I saw and he wanted the exact location. Never mind that it was about 2000 miles back in the middle of nowhere over a month ago, he needed to find them! I gave Jorge my website and he gave me his, although I can´t get it to load (www.pasiónyagoniaenelpariasoamazonico.blogspot.com). It took him three times to write the letter W, even though each attempt was correct, and he seemed to reflect on his first name for a few seconds more than anyone would after introducing himself.
That aside he was very nice, spoke nearly 3 languages that I heard, and I´m sure has a lifetime of experiences that are interesting and insightful. He´s taken a different path to say the least and I would have stayed longer to listen to more of his writing that he read to me from a journal but light was fading and I needed to get somewhere (very un-Jorge-ish of me).
So to the desert oasis of Huacachina for a rest. The desert here looks like the movies with giant yellow sand dunes. It is very tough to walk in and some of the dunes are extremely steep. I went for a 3 hour hike to snap some photos and didn´t make it more than a few miles away.
Thinking back on the fellow cyclists I met and their achievements I remembered Alexandre. I bet Alexandre and I could give them a run for their money laughing the whole way!