A blissful week of rest, meaning a week of sightseeing, buses, tourist shopping opportunities, meeting new people, eating new food and not running.
Day 78 – Peru, rest week, bus to Ica and then on to #Huacachina
My second lie-in of the trip. Thanks to the Marriott Hotel here in Lima I have been able sleep well, eat well and this morning, pack my washed clothes ready for a week of exploring around Peru. It’s my first little treat of the expedition. It’s strange, really, after such a busy back-to-back trip that I am now staring down the barrel of a week of no running – a combination of excitement and loss, which is very odd. I’m sure this week will be super fun, and my legs will thank me. Due to the nature of the trip it’s also a good idea to rest my mind, too.
After a lazy breakfast I boarded the bus to the middle of the desert. A chilled five hours napping on the super comfy recliner seats of the Cruz del Sur coach was a treat in itself. Maybe plane seats should be like this. #RichardBranson, please?
Tonight I am staying next to a very special natural oasis in the Peruvian desert, south west of Lima. With a population of just 100, this valley village is basically a small, shallow lake hugged by huge, steep sand dunes with a few small hostels dotted around the lake. The bus took me to Ica and then a short taxi to this beautiful place. It’s late and dark, but the stars are already a treat. The stars I’ve seen so far haven’t been stars at all; the lights of landing strips or the departure boards are the closest I’ve got… I’ve not been so far out for a while. It’s so peaceful here. No air con, though, so I’m lying on the bed in my underwear hoping I’ll nod off to sleep soon. Tomorrow I explore, watch out for the photos.
If you like the photography so far, there’s a lot more where these came from. Have a look at the Kickstarter campaign to get a coffee table-style photo book printed and published. Thanks for the continued support everyone.
Day 79 – Peru, rest week, exploring the desert and a long bus ride to Arequipa
Memories of the Sahara desert make me smile (which I never thought I’d say). For those of you who are seeing my posts for the first time, I am at the beginning of an 18-month expedition to set the world record for running a marathon in every country in the world. My aim is to raise £250,000 for Prostate Cancer UK and to help raise awareness to stop men like my mate Kev dying. I met Kev in the Sahara desert. It’s a long story since that meeting three years ago. The short version is that Kev has terminal prostate cancer and will die from this disease. I wanted to do something for Kev and for all the other men out there, pointlessly dying. So why not go big – let’s do what’s never been done – a marathon in all 196 countries on the planet in less than two years.
I want everyone to know that prostate cancer may have no immediate symptoms and any man over 40 could have it without knowing. If you catch it early, your chances of living are high; if you catch it late, the chances of you dying are extremely high. Kev is a prime example of how not being aware can kill you. Please tell all your friends and family. If you’re a man and over 40, go and get checked, please.
So today is my 79th day on the road. I’ve run 34 marathons in 34 different countries, and I only have one more country to run in until I ‘complete’ all of North, Central and South America. Please get involved, run with me, share my journey, and if you want me to visit a school or cancer unit on my journey, please get in touch.
Day 80 – Peru, rest week, a day in Arequipa
Yesterday I arrived into the city of Arequipa after a great day roaming around the dunes of Huacachina. I’m on my first rest week after marathons every other day for nearly three months. In Huacachina the noise of dune buggies whizzing around the distant mountains of sand was kinda nice, really. Not as peaceful, but nice. Paragliding, sand boarding and rowing around the lake – Huacachina is a weird place. Imagine a little garden lake with a few gift shops and a restaurant. This is basically a smaller version of Kew Gardens, dropped randomly in the middle of steep banks of sand dunes looming overhead. It feels like one big gust of wind and the surrounding sand will consume all that is below.
I left the desert oasis at 9.30pm on a 12-hour overnight bus. I’ve never been on a bus where I could lie completely flat. It was basically a hotel on wheels, albeit a very basic hotel. Food, occasionally, tv, blankets and proper pillows. Really cheap too! The only difference being I had a strange guy snoring next to me. (The guy was most likely not strange; he just didn’t move the entire 12 hours. Not even a stir. His snoring was the only assurance he was still alive.)
Today was chilled; my first day of feeling like a tourist and not a madman on a rampage to run everywhere. A day full of volcano photos, stretching the legs out, and a nice long shower before packing for a two-day hike into the second deepest canyon on the planet. Mmmm, photos. This rest is great, but man, I’m looking forward to getting a sweat on tomorrow. I’ll be up higher than 13,000 feet, so let’s see if the altitude hits me this time. Fingers crossed. Let’s get sweaty again. Runners amongst you will know the endorphins are so addictive.
Day 81 – Peru, rest week, Day 1 of 2 trekking through the Colca Canyon, alpacas, llamas, new friends, and a tour guide who refers to himself in the third person
An early pick-up and I joined a group of fellow travellers on a mini two-day exploration of the Colca Canyon and the surrounding mountains. The most conflicting part of the day was petting some very cute alpacas. It was a rather weird feeling feeding the cute, furry, round-faced goats with long necks straight after tucking into a tasty meal of, um, alpaca. Sorry anti-meat-eating people. One day I will become vegan, I’ve always wanted to, but clearly not enough. I love meat. Sorry. We have 4 Swiss, 3 Swedes (fave), 2 Germans and 3 Mexicans on the tour. If the alpacas were in a different place in the food chain they would have had a feast.
The day was warm, sunny and very mountainy (that should be a word). Most of the morning was spent ascending up through the barren desert-like wilderness passing mini-markets, oddly cute bathrooms, and many, many cactus(es)? Eventually, at 16,000 feet, we could see a mesmerising array of steep blank faces (mountains, not people), and the clouds rolling over the horizon. It was a set of an adventure movie, that’s for sure.
In the evening we were taken to small shack-like hotels to rest before morning. We found an Irish bar. Typical, eh, blooming everywhere. Pizza, Peru vs. Iceland on the tv and some very tasty chips. This is the life. Let it be known, however, that I’m not a football fan at all. But nation on nation I can’t seem to take my eyes off the tv. Peru put the bit of circular leather in the net thing three times and Iceland only once. Peru was happy. The lovely lady in the hotel was very Peruvian. Big smiles, and so welcoming with her bright gown of heavy fabric draped around and over her. A small rotating heater, an old wooden bed and a view of the mountains. Simple. Love it. Tomorrow we search for condors. The birds, not the Portsmouth-based ferry liner.
Day 82 – Peru, rest week, Day 2 of 2 trekking through #ColcaCanyon
Today’s post is entitled: ‘Sexy birds and brilliant views!’
5am – drizzle and flat light at 14,000 feet. Our loveable, eclectic mix of 10 made its way up through the valleys of southern Peru on the second and last day of our little excursion into the clouds. Our mission for the day was to snap a shot of the legendary gliders in the sky, the condor. With a wingspan of up to 10 feet, and weighing about 11kg, this would be a real treat and, let’s face it, add to the ever-growing photography collection.
8am – three hours meandering up and up, and stopping a few times to take some shots of the locals, more alpacas and spending virtually nothing on some great Peruvian clothes. A little bag, a wall-throw thing, and other bits, all of which will make it to the expedition’s closing gig in March 2020.
10am – high above the small tin shacks of the villages, and poised at the lip of the Colca Canyon looking down 4,000 meters to the canyon floor, I was ready for my shot. Now time to wait, and not for long. The gang and I were spoilt with five huge birds, effortlessly defying gravity above us. Swooping near and far. You’ll have to wait for the photography exhibition to see all the best photos.
2pm – after buying some more unnecessary but local tat we made our way down the mountain and into a huge light show of fork and sheet lightning, backed up with loud and aggressive claps of thunder directly overhead as the heavens opened.
8pm – I met up with a super lovely bunch from the tour group– Swedish and so friendly. New friends. Hot stone-cooked meat for dinner in the infamous zigzag restaurant in the centre of the city. We spoke about everything and anything. This included the rather over-talkative guide, Peter. Small, dark hair, stocky (in a really small way), with a frustratingly straggly goaty that I couldn’t help but stare at. His phrases and expressions were hilarious. Not intentionally at all, but wow, we laughed. Sorry Peter. You were great and adorable, just please talk less.
2am – before I knew it, it was the next day. A great day. Thanks everyone. Lucky once again.
Day 83 – Peru, rest week, travel from Arequipa to Cusco
Today was deadly – crucifixions in the street and a really old mum. I had the entire day exploring the busy city of Arequipa. I met up with new friends and enjoyed the best roof-top rice dish of my life – lomo saltado, yum. This, however, was to a rather bizarre backdrop. Sitting on wicker (actually plastic) chairs in a small restaurant overlooking the main square, we had the great view of a huge snow-topped volcano in the distance. What was shielded from our view, however, was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Yep! What with it being Easter and all, the people were putting on a theatrical re-enactment of the Easter proceedings. This appeared to be in real time, with the emphasis clearly on ‘theatrical’ – real whips, a real thorn crown, a real cross and hundreds of Roman (Peruvian) soldiers. Needless to say, they went all out. We had our dinner to the sound of groans and pains from Jesus being beaten. Not able to see this incredibly intense scene, we finished our food and went down to see how Jesus was getting on. Bleeding and tortured we saw a very real-looking figure hunched and chained over a stone pillar. No music, no dialogue, just this extremely real event taking place in front of us.
With this on our minds, we did what any sane person would do. We went to get ice cream. If my memory serves me right he wasn’t killed until Good Friday. They had another day to go, so plenty of time for a Mr Whippy. After a delicious, yet hard-to-find, ice cream, we made our way to learn about the Incas and their traditions of human sacrifice. Yes, today wasn’t exactly rainbows and unicorns. We heard of the incredible feats of endurance, pain, suffering and faith these people went through. We saw a 500-year-old mummy frozen in time, which had only recently been found in 1995 atop a local 20,000 ft mountain. The tales of their belief and dedication, although tough to hear, were pretty inspiring. Skipping ahead 15 hours, we had finished the tour, taken some more photos, and jumped on a bus to the penultimate stop of my ‘rest’ week, Cusco. It’s now 7am the following day. A long bus ride.
Day 84 – Peru, rest week, photography day, Cusco
A little nap after my early arrival into Cusco and I was ready for a day full of photos and admin. Yep, sadly this trip isn’t immune to admin, even on rest week. Although I’m at 12,000 feet, and have been for a while, my legs and body are rested but my mind is still pretty spent. Lots of planning for future countries, emails, business stuff, and, of course, blogs and bits and pieces like that. I love it, but I think I need a detox. Nahhh.
I went out to sort tickets for Machu Picchu entry today, my final little treat before back to normality and another 162 marathons in the remaining 162 countries. Thanks for the continued support, guys and girls. I’m looking forward to donning my trainers again and getting back into a manic routine.
Dinner with friends followed by more admin and it was time for bed. The food is pretty damn awesome in Cusco and South America generally, and tonight wasn’t any different.
If you’ve not been to Cusco, it’s well worth a visit. It’s similar to La Paz in Bolivia but less steep, less busy and super-chilled. Bright colours, llamas and alpacas roaming around, and a beautiful square. Narrow streets with the entire city cobbled. It’s basically a South American version of any Italian village. Maybe that’s a sweeping statement. But true.
Lastly I want a big shout-out to a few key players. The Marriott Hotel chain has given me a lot – free rooms for many countries so far, laundry services, free food, and more than anything, a safe place to sleep and leave my bag of cameras and gear while I run. It makes a big difference. The other two companies that have supported greatly are Red Bull and Pulsin – both providing energy, and ultimately fuel, to get me through the 45,000 steps each marathon day. Here’s to another 26.2 miles, my next marathon in just a few days’ time, in North Korea.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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