The scenery is as breath-taking as having to out-run a stray dog that has no sense or sympathy for the struggle of walking a bike up the Andes.
And yet, against that physical torment, the landscape, the people, the food, I’ve found every aspect of Peru thrilling.
Starting the final Andes day I felt some reluctance to complete that final mountain and be the other side of such a beautiful landscape. Any nostalgia had gone, along with the feeling in my legs once I reached the summit.
With just 75km left until land meets Pacific Ocean to mark the end of this 10 month-long expedition, Peru has provided a huge high to end on.
A late and unexpected entry into the prestigious ‘best baking’ award. I’d gladly put the Meringue at a café in Puerto Maldonado against anything sampled in France.
It was a fond first culinary experience in Peru, and since then the Jugos Naturales (blended fruit) are a Peruvian specialty found in markets and small pop up stands in Plaza’s. Outside of Cusco, 5 Peruvial Nuevo Sol (£1) will buy soup, a main meal (usually rice and chicken) and drink.
There’s a freedom to try anything but that culinary licence hasn’t extended to Roasted Guinea Pig or Pig snouts, as seem to be popular in most markets,
The artisan options of Cusco and the wonder of Machu Picchu were incredible, but a couple of days felt like enough before being perfectly happy to fit back into the small town life.
In Ocongate, the first real day when neck was craned upwards to the Andes, overlooked by a snow-capped mountain, a procession moves through the narrow streets to enliven my exhausted trundle into town.
Cusco is amazingly framed against the surrounding mountains, and the Plaza de Armas a beautifully preserved ensemble of religious buildings, but local life here is only on display at a price. It’s a bombardment of offers of massages, Macho Picchu tours, souvenirs and pictures with lambs. Not enough to spoil the experience of the city, but a more genuine Peru is welcomed.
Already feeling a sense of adulation mixed in with a splitting headache from having reached 4,1000m for the final time, earlier in the day, the Interoceanic Highway plummeted down to 600m through a series of switchbacks, all of which with mountains, and sand dunes the size of mountains, a succession of shadows along the horizon as backdrop.
I’d hoped for a quaint free-wheel downhill for half the day, instead my hands gripped the brakes so hard that I could smell the rubber of the brake pads.
If we give France the majority of the doubt for baking, there’s no competition for the best cycling during the trip.
All of which coincided with receiving donations for Macmillan that reached £250,000, and Peru just seemed like the perfect place to receive the news.
Lucy Hiorns deserves about 99% of the credit for contributing the vast majority of the fundraising and please do congratulate her. Choosing to help the journey was one of the most amazing things anyone has ever done for me.
And a few quick thank-you’s for people who have been especially selfless in their support. Louise for showing one of the most brilliant displays of endurance I’ve ever seen in Le Tour de South of Spain and generally being a brilliant support from the moment I met you.
Jack ‘Spielbergo’ Wilson for being official re-tweeter and inappropriate joke-teller when times were tough.
Jon, Liam and the Halesowen boys for helping kick-start the expedition – you’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the intermediate-hill points I’ve racked-up in South America. And Pat for introducing me to Dudley canal cycling. Several years on and still cholera-free.
To Heather, Hannah, Noriko, Vickie, who either dressed as, or spoke on behalf of, a bear in a tube station, shaking a collection tin.
The Scott’s and the equally crazy gang Eustaces for all the quizzes and work-collections and generally the lovely messages of support.
Simon and Billy at Halesowen Gym for helping mould a scrawny 11 stoner into an ocean rower.
Charlie and Angus at Rannoch Adventure for being so considerate and helpful when there didn’t appear to be enough time to ready a dinghy for the Atlantic, let alone a boat as great as Nelson. Can’t thank you enough for stepping in at the last minute and putting together miracle work to get us ready for the Atlantic.
Jim, Tara, Nick and Ralph for working tirelessly for 51 and a half days and for the sacrifices of weekends, concept2 sessions, and the all-consuming effect an ocean row tends to have, and for all the friends and family of our rowers who it couldn’t have been easy to watch head off to sea, but showed unconditional support for.
Pete at Sandwell cycles with the much needed bike expertise to ready the Dawes through mountains, desserts, jungle, and for doing so in such a selfless way.
Natural Power, Grass Roots Group, Dawes, Riemann, Rotatrim, Freeplay. For all my personal savings, this journey wouldn’t have left Halesowen without your backing. I’m indebted to you and if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.
To the long suffering work colleagues who have supported the journey for years, I promise you’ll never have to put up with me talking about this journey or arrive into work with a sponsor form on your desk, again.
To Moira for showing such an inspirational amount of compassion.
And finally to my parents. I don’t know where I get this travel-thing from either, but I promise this is the last time you’ll have to worry about me being away in some faraway place and for putting up with the worst side of me when pressures got really tough. Love you both.
This time tomorrow it will all be over, and I hope I can show the same level of so many of you have shown me.
Oh, and visit Peru!