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.
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.
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!
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….
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?
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,