¡Hola mi amigos!
You are the chosen ones! My weeding out of the non-believers has
been done and the chose 350 disciples of the 'Bright-One' is complete.
(Sorry, as yet no promised land though!). As you recall, I had nothing
better to do during my injury- (you already know about this) and
broken down bike- (yes folks... another major Beh Emme Doble Veh
component failure: More of that later...) induced lay-off, than
to send lots of silly mails to people, enquiring as to whether my
ramblings are read.
Many adventures have befallen me in the past 5 or
so weeks, quite a few of which I would not wish on anybody.
Pisco in Pisco
Since I last enthralled you with my life shattering
utterances, 'The Bright Stuff' has made it from Vilcabamba, the
'town of eternal life' in south Ecuador to Cusco, centre of Inca-land,
in southern Peru. In between, I had a broken driveshaft on the bike
(note the description of my vehicle: it is no longer the 'wife'),
fun and games care of Ecuadorian Customs trying to leave their country,
paranoia as to whether the beast would make it another 100 clicks
down the road or not, checked out the sights around Huanchaco and
Trujillo, thundered up and around the beautiful Cordillera Blanca,
had some 'interesting' experiences in Lima, drank Pisco in Pisco,
flew over the Nazca Lines, managed to cover myself and the bike
from top to bottom in mud on the road to Cusco (without falling
off!!), visited Machu Picchu, met up with lots of great bikers and
had to deal with DH Hell. So, where shall I begin? Whereever...
The other day, there were eleven overland bikes
in the yard of the hotel here in Cusco. My old GS, a r1100gs from
Austria, a r75/5 from the UK, a Honda Dominator from Ecuador, a
Honda XR400 and a XR600 from the USA, an Africa Twin from Germany
and 4 more Africa Twins from Argentina. A really great bunch of
people, including 'mi hermano' Ricardo Rocco.
The Argentinians are still here, but the rest have
gone Bolivia-wards. Why did I not drive with them, you ask. The
bike, since the divorce (it is now the 'ex-wife': we have a rider/ridee
relationship: so far the deal - I am not allowed to fall off, it
is not allowed to break down) - is holding up just fine. I really
would have loved to travel a few miles with these great people....
Before I abuse DHL I should tell you, I have already
received another parcel sent normal airmail from the USA. It took
5 days and the customs clearance (inspection, forms filled out,
fees paid) took a grand total of 10 minutes! A further parcel, via
DH Hell took 3 days from Germany and arrived in Lima a week ago.
I won't bore you with the complete saga, but the executive summary
goes something like this:
The muppets at DH Hell cannot persuade Peru Customs to release
it, because the address is wrong. It was sent to (as was the USA-Airmail
Parcel!!!!) 'The South American Explorers Club, Attention: Chris
Bright, Street, Town, Country'.... Sound OK so far. NO you just
don't get it do you!!!! As there is no such person as the 'South
American Explorers Club', it cannot be processed/ delivered!!
By this rational, a parcel sent to 'General Motors,
Attention Joe Blöggs' will require a chap in military uniform
to collect it and something sent to 'The United Nations, Attention
Kofi Annan' also cannot reach its recipient, because, of course,
there is no such person as Mr/Mrs/Ms 'The United Nations' at this
address in New York. I will not even discuss what I am paying DHL
for postage. I appeal to you to use somebody else other than DH
Hell to transport your important packages/paperwork around the world.
I was told by motorcycle website editor that I should
not criticise companies because potential sponsors don't like to
see criticism, even if they themselves are not affected. Well, it
is precisely this homogenous, yeh hah, gee ain't it all wonderful
bull that I am annoyed at. Only when their balance sheet suffers,
will shareholders force these plonkers to change their ways.
A few people write to me saying that I am doing
what they always wanted to do. I am really glad that I inspire them.
You could possibly describe it as 'living their dreams'. Maybe they
would like to live my nightmares in exchange. Trust me folks, I
realise I am very lucky (others might call it irresponsible) to
be doing what am doing. It can also get a little lonely, particularly
when you can't walk because your leg is badly burnt and infected,
the cold, the umpteenth time you bike does not work because of a
major component failure, the paranoia that you think there is a
problem with the bike even when there isn't, the totally insane
drivers trying to run you off the road for fun, the rain etc.
I think I might just vegetate in comfy western civilisation
and watch the 'Discovery Channel'. Much safer.
On the other hand, thundering along a dirt piste,
standing on the footpegs through nearly a meter deep puddles, surrounded
by snow capped mountains and having children cheerfully wave to
you could be described as 'living life'.
Anyway, after 3 weeks stuck in the town where people
grow to be 100 years old, Vilcabamba, the then 'still-wife' make
it 30 miles up the road before violent shaking from the chassis
causes me to stop. In a car garage in Loja, against the judgement
of the mechanic we dismantle the back end of the bike. I was right....
there was a problem. The U-joint, closest to the transmission, on
the driveshaft was about to break. So, using my skills and locally
available materials, I took a medium cooked (it must be medium cooked,
otherwise it won't self lubricate) thigh joint of a chicken ('pollo'
in Spanish), affixed it to the shaft and reassembled everything
again. It has been working fine since.
I lied about the chicken thing. In reality I had
to get a new u-j from Germany. This was my first encounter with
the 'service' of the above to be boycotted company. Hence Christmas
was spent in Vilcabamba at Shanta's Bar. The last rum and coke must
have been off. Diced carrots were not mentioned the following morning.
At the border with Peru at Macara, Gary (Austria,
r1100gs) and Richard and Christine (r75/5 UK) again encountered
the total numbskullishness that is Ecuador customs. They needed
convincing that we should be let out of their country without a
carnet de passage. We never had one on the way in, so why should
I require one on exit. They just could not get it. My Minister of
Tourism Letter again helped these hopeless fruitcakes get their
acts together. Peru arrival could not have been more different.
Friendly, professional, helpful, efficient, un-Ecuadorian are adjectives
that spring to mind.
After my paranoia caused bike dis- and re-assembly
in Piura in northern Peru (followed by the divorce) the 3 bikes
head for the coast and Huanchaco and the great ruins of Chan Chan.
Strange to think that every time an Inca King died, hundred were
sacrificed and for one dude, 400 virgins felt obliged to commit
ritual suicide. Now, I would like that kind of power. I obviously
haven't quite got the line of chat and poise in public. Maybe in
a few years?
The drive up from Santa to Caraz in the Cordillera
Blanca was superb. Mucho dirt/gravel, very little rain, 40 or so
tunnels in the hill side to drive through. This route was made for
a railway, but the line was never laid. Thoroughly A1 theory with
the motorcycling fraternity, you know.
New Year in Caraz was pleasant and mellow. Richard,
Christine and I enjoyed the sweet bread and wine by the boxful and
the lack of tourists. Only jolly locals and Guy Fawkes-like figures
being burnt at midnight. A pleasant contrast to last New Year in
The weather in the Cordillera Blanca was not on
our side. It is of course the rainy season, but by getting up Bright
and early and having a bit of luck as to which end of the valley
to explore on which day we achieve 2 wicked day rides up tracks
that lead to wonderful emerald lakes, dramatic views and a 4850
The drive to Lima could not have been more full
of contrasts. From 3500 meters, very cold rain, electric vests,
mountains etc to sea level, heat, a desert. Lima is very much like
many other large cities: Forgettable, dirty, hot, loud. I did learn
four things though:
1. Peruvians, although great people,
drive like 'p*ss poor w*nkers', to mis-quote a North American correspondent
of mine, who, upon reading an earlier report, hoped I did not think
all his compatriots were P*ss Poor driving W*nkers.
2. Somebody clutching a hammer
and a rusty bent mail is not necessarily a 'mechanic', even if he
swears on his mother's grave he is.
3. Never, when you have the chance
to go on a date with a 4 foot 11 Peruvian waitress who 'wants to
teach you Spanish' (the shape of her head will remain undisclosed!),
should you take a fellow biker's advice that changing BMW (stearing)
head bearings (without the correct tools) only takes 2 hours. 2
4. Never, when looking for parts
for your bike, tell the shopkeeper that the required parts (for
example bearings) are for a bike, or even worse a BMW bike. Motorbike
means 'no hay' (no have). It is easier to refuse to tell them what
it is for and they might have the part!
Like I said above, I have met many warm, friendly
and helpful Peruvians. One, Migs 'Moto Guzzi' Guzman requires a
special mention. He and his wife were great hosts and guides in
Lima. I met him through a contact from the Internet, a South African
GS rider working in Prague, whom I have never met. Three cheers
for the Internet!!!
Pisco was hot and foggy and hence I missed my boat
trip to the 'Poor Man’s Galapagos', the Islas del Paracas.
I did manage to drive a little around the peninsula though, before
the fog again engulfed me, then endured the 200 boring kilometres
to Nazca, site of the famous Nazca Lines.
Here I finally managed to meet Eric and Gail Haws
after having passed within 200 miles of their house when I drove
through Oregon, many months ago. I took a flight over the Lines,
which was pretty good. The flying in a 4 seater Cessna was most
fun. The chappies who drew all these lines, figures and symbols
definitely had a few aces up their sleeves. I also met 4 Colombian
blokes. 3 on r1100gs and one on Africa Twin driving Colombia to
Tierra del Fuego and back in 5 weeks!!!!
The drive from Nazca to wet wet wet Cusco was 2 days of fun. The
first was 340km of great twisty pavement that led to Chaluanca,
probably the nastiest town in the whole of Peru. After a full night
of rain the next 150 km of dirt became 150 km of mud, puddles, rivers
and nasty dogs. I drove this stretch with a Japanese chappie called
'Dai' on a DR650. One rabid canine came sprinting out at me, missed
me, lost his balance and orientation and Dai who was following ran
over his head. Dai even went back to try to apologise to the 'owners'.
I managed to persuade Dai to leave the scene before any alleged
owners had a chance to appear and demand cash for the flea ridden
Furthermore, there follow some other comments on
me by media publications and other opinion leaders:
Bright is a fascist. (Socialist Worker)
Too witty for our lot, you know. (Train Spotters' Weekly)
Great Testosterone; that man Bright has it all. (Hello Magazine)
I wouldn't buy a BMW either. (A Baghdad taxi driver)
CB likes latex because it's sweatier than a glass blowers a*se.
(Bright's)..... prose is exquisitely balanced and fulfils all
the hopes I ever had for him. (Warder at Wormwood Scrubs)
Well actually (Pause, flapping hand gestures) that man Bright
is wart on the buttock of the ozone layer; Camilla, pass me that
bottle of Pims.... (Chucky Windsor)
Hasta Luego Babies, CB
PS. Ted Simon, author of 'Jupiter's Travels', a
book that very much helped to inspire my journey will very soon
(age 69) be off on his second round the world motorcycle trip. I
wish him all the very best. He is riding a certain marque from Germany.
(Read more about Ted Simon's
journey)Ed’s Note: He’s now finished