Showing posts from May, 2004

el camino del muerte

"I Survived The World's Most Dangerous Road" proudly proclaims the T-shirt I did not receive. Because they're out of shirts, not because I post from beyond the grave. 3600 vertical metres in 5 hours is quite a ride. We began in stark high-altitude where nothing grew but lichen and where the sides of the road were limned with ice, and, layered in many clothes, bombed down steep and exquisitely sinuous asphalt at speeds circa 70kph/40mph. Then, suddenly, two lanes shrank to one, asphalt turned to extremely rocky dirt, and the adrenaline began to seriously flow. To our left, about a metre or two away, sheer drops of up to 1000 feet. To our right, equally sheer cliffs (at one point we rode behind a waterfall for about fifty feet). Before and behind us, enormous trucks oozing their slow way up and down incredibly twisted rocky road. When they stand off, which happens fairly often, the downhill vehicle has to back up to a passing bay, aka one of the little projections of ro


There is nothing quite so headclearing as four days of hard slogging through tranquil wilderness. The Inca Trail is a busy trail, far from remote, worn smooth by tens of thousands of boots a year, yes; but that doesn't detract even a little from its beauty. Am I glad I walked it. (For values of "I" that do not currently include my calf or quadricep muscles.) Roughing It DAY ONE. Stride up trail, manfully proud of carrying my own 12kg/25lb pack. Magnanimously make way for our stream of 18 sandal-clad porters, the largest of whom is six inches and forty pounds smaller than I, each weighed down by roughly 40 lbs each of food, water, tents, fuel, chairs, tools, pots, pans, plates, cups, etc etc. A glorious day, surrounded by raw wilderness, as I desired, entirely untrammeled by civilization, making our way on foot down the magical Inca Trail, like the Incas themselves, as it should be! The rest of the world should throw down their shackles of cars and fixed-wall buildings.


Am back in Lima, fighting off a 24-hour jungle bug. You'd think an evening spent in the grip of fever would spark Stokeresque visions and creativity, but in sad fact I feel all mundanely uninspired. So click if you dare, but I fear this travelogue will be less entertaining than usual. At play in the fields of the Lord Iquitos: a strange place. The largest city in the world (pop. circa 400,000) with no road or rail connections - everything and everyone must come or go by air or riverboat. This lends it a real frontier-town feel, which the DEA helicopters, downtown cafes dominated by a small crew of dissolute British expats, and gutted turtles and caimans (gators) for sale in the local market do nothing to dispel. Still, it's civilization; it has an international airport, banks, pharmacies, a cinema, cheap Internet cafes, a five-star hotel, and a thriving tourist industry, the last focused mostly on expeditions to lodges set in jungle proper. It's not at all apparent when in