“Hello? This is the Andes calling…”

I have to say that deciding where to go for the next big adventure caused me a wee bit of strife. When the idea to travel through South America on a giant kick-scooter fell through, it became a toss up between the two elements of the journey. What was more important – travelling by scooter, or exploring the Andes? After a conflab with friend Faye and a celebrity death match style rumble between Scooters (in the Blue corner) and The Andes (in the Red corner), the Andes won by a clear K.O in the first round. Largely because there are Llamas in the Andes. And I’ve never met a Llama before. 

llama

One of the many Llamas I hope to meet along the way. 

And really, with scooters out the window and me having recently discovered that walking is rubbish, the only way to see the Andes has to be by bike. Straight away the little voice in my head piped up: “But Anna, you’ve done the cycling thing. Don’t you think that’s a bit… easy? Have you gone soft?!” It was an inner monologue that played like a broken record for weeks on end, until I realised something….

I hope that this doesn’t come across as arrogant when I say that honestly, after the New Zealand run I feel that I have nothing left to prove. To myself or to others. I pushed myself so close to the edge on that run, that I know if I wanted to, and if I was willing to, I could put my body through anything. One day I’ll gather the strength to do that again, but for now, and when you have nothing left to prove, then life becomes about choice. A choice on how to spend those precious days before the Grim Reaper comes a-callin’.

THE HEAD, HEART AND GUT TRIANGLE

In a bid to encourage the vicious inner monologue to pipe down, I whipped out the greatest decision making tool I have: The head, heart and gut triangle.

FullSizeRender 21

The king of all decision making tools – the head, heart and gut triangle.

Most of us will be driven by one or two of these elements, and frequently ignore the third. Me? I’m a head and heart kind of girl. And often when my gut tells me things – like the fact that my ex-boyfriend was actually a bit of a knob at times  – I would ignore it. I’d override it with head-driven ‘I’m sure he doesn’t mean it. I can fix this’, and heart-driven ‘But I love him.’ When my gut was screaming at me to stand up for myself and walk away.

So what did this tool make of my adventure dilemma? Here’s what the three triangle amigos had to say:

Heart: “OhMyGoshOhMyGosh. Yes Anna! Let’s go cycling! Wheeeee, I LOVE cycling. You know that cycling is the closest you’ll ever get to flying. Oh pleeeaaassseee can we go cycling, Anna? Pleeeaaaase?

Head: “Are you sure that’s enough of a challenge, Anna? I mean, you know you can ride a bike. And lots of people go cycling in South America… don’t you think you should do something more… original?”

Guts: “I know you would do this trip if no one else was watching. It’ll be hard, you’ll be challenged, and you will absolutely love it. Go get em’ tiger.”

The result? Jog on head thoughts. We’re going cycling bitches!

THE PLAN

So here’s the plan. On October 10th, my good friend Faye and I will board a plane to La Paz, Bolivia. From there we will head slightly north into Peru – to the highest settlement in the world at La Riconada. From there we will begin a journey south along the Andes mountains to the ‘end of the world’ – Ushuaia. Instead of taking of taking the shortest, flattest, most direct route (because apparently this is what sensible people would do?), we’ll be on a mission to take on as many peaks and passes of the Andes as we can, by bike. Given that most of the climbs are between 3,500 and 4,500 metres above sea level, we’ve got it pegged at around 60 peaks/passes and 89,000m of ascent so far. That’s a whole lot of lung burning. Around about 10 times the height of Everest to be precise, which sounds nuts, but hey – we’ve got 6 months….

pikes on bikes in bolvia

Paso de Condor, Bolivia (4,730m high). Image courtesy of http://www.pikesonbikes.com – two friends who are a huge source of inspiration for this trip.

We were going to call the journey ‘Gettin’ high in South America’, but that seemed childish and crude. So instead we’ve called it ‘Gettin’ high in South America.” SMILEY FACE. The good news is that both Faye and I love going up hills, and we both hate coming down them. Interesting, eh? And so, my chumlings, this adventure shall be like life. With highs and lows and not much else (except the Atacama desert) in between.

Hopefully at the end of the 6 months we’ll make it to Ushuaia, but then again we may not. We’re easy (like a Sunday morning) either way.

 A NEW APPROACH 

I’ve always done ‘A to B’ type adventures. That is, the challenge has been to make it from one set point or another, usually in a timeframe dictated by visas, and with a feint hope of arriving at the designated ‘finish line’ in one piece. But if the last few years have taught me anything it is that there is nothing waiting at that finish line you do not already have. The only difference between the me at the start of the New Zealand run, and the me standing alone at that lighthouse at the end, was that the girl at the end knew she could do it. The one at the start sincerely hoped she could but wasn’t sure. I was still the same person.

As Polar explorer and adventurer Ben Saunders puts it so perfectly in his TED talk: “Happiness is not a finish line, and if we can’t feel content amid the mess and the striving, we might never feel it.”

So I hope that the more unplanned, flexible nature of this journey allows Faye and I to embrace the every day. To immerse ourselves in the true nature of adventure and to fully explore what the Andes have to offer. 

The reality is, it’s a very stupid idea. I have no doubt that we’ll be halfway up remote mountain pass number 30, feeling slightly altitude sick, running low on water and surviving on dry crackers, and I will think: ‘What the hell am I doing? Why am I cycling up yet another sodding mountain pass?’ But what’s the alternative… to race to the end at Ushuaia? To be ‘done’? And then what?

andes map

A highly detailed route plan from La Paz, Bolivia to Ushuaia, Argentina.

WITH T-MINUS 9 WEEKS TO GO…

…And the added complication of being apart from the boy I love beyond measure for that amount of time, yes I’m nervous. I’m wondering what in the world I’ve gotten myself into (again), and I’m feeling like I’ll never quite be ready… again. But the world just keeps on turning. The future will come whether I’m ready for it or not. So all I can do is saddle up (on the bike I haven’t yet bought) pack the equipment (I haven’t yet sorted), get on that plane (I haven’t yet booked) and embrace the crap out of what will no doubt be another journey of a lifetime.

So strap in for an armchair adventure kids, because I cannot wait to take you all with me.

Until next time,

Big love,

McNuff xxx

LOS CAROCOLES Pass

Switch backs a-go-go on one of the mountain passes on the hit list between Argentina and Chile.

24 thoughts on ““Hello? This is the Andes calling…”

  1. Gillian Fellows says:

    Well, we’re also off to South America, for the whole of October, and doing it in rather more comfort than you. We’ll be ticking off Peru, Chile, Patagonia, Argentina and Brazil, and I’ll let you know how Cape Horn is as we should be there on OUR BIRTHDAY!!

    As usual – lots of luck. You are a star!

    Like

    • Anna McNuff says:

      Hahaha, oh now why doesn’t this suprise me Gilliano!! I shall look forwards to following your pics in all those places I won’t be getting to. I can only hope that your Spanish / Portuguese is better than mine! Much lovvin’ to you! xxx

      Like

  2. Coralie says:

    I was not expecting less of you! Proud that your next adventure is on the bike. Yes it is very close to flying. So it will be awesome. No doubt it will be hard. There will be rewards. Small and big ones. Go Fille! Xx

    Like

    • Anna McNuff says:

      Allez Les Filles!!!!! Stoked to be back on bike actually…. I am hoping the rewards come in the form of food, and improved Spanish. And in that case it will be ‘Vas de Chica!!!’ Hope you’re riding’s going wel. Big love Coralie, big love xxx

      Like

  3. Amy Baker says:

    You are quite literally the coolest woman in the whole god damn world. Massive respect. What an inspiration. And I love your writing. I’m a friend of Lindsey Cole, and have been following you for a while. Mate – I can’t wait to hear what happens. Best of luck. This is awesome. Amy xx

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    • Anna McNuff says:

      Ah come now, I think Linds might actually take the prize on that one… how proud of her are you?! She’s doing amazingly! Thanks for the kind words Amy, sometimes I read what I’ve written and think “Oh my days, I am literally mental.” But then I remember we are all mental and so it’s good to make sure others know that!! Big love xxx

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  4. Kate Tomlinson says:

    Go Anna, just the getting out there, seeing the world, doing whatever adventure, is the point. Hope you have a fantastic time, and look forward to reading your stories.

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  5. stokesh says:

    That is an awesome looking adventure that you have planned. Looking forward to all your llama updates! Also, if you’re heading right down to the bottom of Chile you should encounter the world’s largest colony of Rockhopper penguins!

    Have a great time 🙂

    Like

  6. Hannah says:

    Amazing. Team Kiwi will be staying tuned Anna! Have a blast and keep the updates coming. See you in a changing room somewhere, sometime soon

    Like

  7. royden49 says:

    A chance to be the Tortoise and the Hare again perhaps. Tis my intention to cycle SA someday but thought I’d take the time to learn Spanish first. Thoughts of spending this winter in Equador doing that. But now you have me thinking if I was on the low road while yous was on the high road … a few months to think about it. Great that ur able to take flight again so soon!

    Like

  8. sophiescott1 says:

    Amazing Anna. Wishing you and Faye a completely awesome adventure. I love following you, your attitude to adventure and how you define success inspires me and I cannot wait to see how this one goes. Sophie x

    Like

  9. Gemma Nixon says:

    You will have a fantastic time. My husband and I cycled Ushuaia to Cusco in 08/09 and it was incredible. We’ll definitely be reading! Enjoy- some of those passes are great fun.

    Like

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