Author Archive
Four's a crowd

Four’s a crowd

Ever the romantic, I hired a mariachi quartet to serenade Ruth over dinner last night. I thought it went rather well. from México, Distrito Federal, Mexico
The bit in the middle - Cycling through Honduras, El Salvador & Guatemala

The bit in the middle – Cycling through Honduras, El Salvador & Guatemala

When you fall ill with symptoms you don’t fully recognise, the worst thing you can do is search for those symptoms on the internet. Within five minutes, you’ll be seriously sick. Within ten, you’ll have developed a rare and lethal form of cancer. And within a quarter of an hour, you’ll have convinced yourself that...
Knowing when to stop

Knowing when to stop

On a long bicycle tour, some bike-free breaks naturally suggest themselves. There are cities in which to pause and explore (Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, La Paz, Quito and Medellín, among others). There are diversions, best visited on there-and-back trips aboard trains and boats and planes (Iguazu Falls, Argentine Patagonia, Santiago and Valparaíso, Peru’s...
The world's longest climb? - Cycling the Alto de Letras

The world’s longest climb? – Cycling the Alto de Letras

The internet has lent certain cycling routes in South America an iconic quality. Websites such as Cass Gilbert’s joyful While Out Riding, Anna Korschak’s faintly elegaic A Thousand Turns and Neil & Harriet Pike’s encyclopaedic Andes by Bike serve as renegade guidebooks for cyclists in search of the continent’s most breathtaking rides, marrying beautiful photography...
Houses of the holy

Houses of the holy

We cycled to the village of Lampa chiefly to avoid lingering too long in Juliaca, a shambolic city that had the previous day been liberated from eight days of violent road blockades caused by striking miners. (‘Incomparable,’ sighed the owner of our hostal in nearby Puno, shaking his head. ‘A chaotic, windswept shithole,’ reckons a...
The Voice of the Bolivian Andes | Listening in

The Voice of the Bolivian Andes | Listening in

Two nights spent listening to music in La Paz. The banner in the lobby shows a young man: tie pulled tight, face scrubbed clean, topped with a quiff and lit up by a Saturday-night smile. The look, Roy Orbison stripped of his sunglasses, is archaic; so, too, is the photograph, tinted by hand and probably...
Tango and cash

Tango and cash

As we counted the piles of 100-peso bills on the desk in front of us, keeping half an eye on the door to our left, we couldn’t resist passing comment. ‘To Europeans like us,’ we said, softly, ‘this is quite an unusual transaction.’ Peering over half-specs, the man across the counter looked us in the...
4,836, or, Cycling over the Andes via the Paso de Jama

4,836, or, Cycling over the Andes via the Paso de Jama

In any bike tour of South America, the Andes loom large. Every rider needs to decide whether to cross the cordillera; and, if so, where, when, how and how often. Some riders choose to avoid the issue, sticking on one side or crossing by bus. Others stay within the mountains as much as possible. Most...
Dem bones

Dem bones

A year ago today, I was woken at about this time with a nudge. A Miss Ruth Jarvis was on the phone, I was told; could I come to the desk to take the call? Although drowsy, I knew I couldn’t do any such thing. The telephone was in the Homerton University Hospital in East...
The obligatory tango piece

The obligatory tango piece

Along Calle Florida, a pedestrianised shopping street in the centre of Buenos Aires, two cries fill the air with the predictability of birdsong. ‘Cambio, cambio,’ goes the call from lone men dotted along the road, black marketeers offering bafflingly high exchange rates to those with US dollars in hand. The other advertisements are more predictable...
Gol

Gol

They’re everywhere. They’re where you’d expect to find them, of course: in towns and cities, their 90-degree angles set on regulation lines atop benign green carpet. But they’re also everywhere else. By the roadside, on corrugated scrubland. Next to one-room wooden churches, in place of a cemetery. In the gardens of smart houses, barely enough...
Wheels

Wheels

One of the dozen or so jokes that Ronnie Scott used to tell in weary rotation between the acts at his jazz club involved a drummer checking in for a flight to New York. ‘Could you send my bass drum to Berlin, my snare drum to Paris, my cymbals to Delhi and my suitcase to...