The Highlander

I did not finish the 1997 Hudson Highlander. In the shape of the day, the distance was too long and the altitude was too high. Maybe I had my reasons, and maybe the cancellation was an important step in my preparation for the US Champs. Anyway, I feel that somehow I have to show that I am not such a zero as some people may think.

Across the Mountains

If you have ever ascended from sea level to 3.5 km altitude using your own muscular power only, you know what it is. If you then have continued from 3.5 km to 5 km altitude, you know that the rules of the game change considerably on this leg.

I have a head-ache and I am running out of power. I know I will get sick and I will have to descend. The question is if I will be able to pass over and then descend to the other side of the mountains, or do I need to get back. It is raining and blowing, and I am about to freeze. After 140 km and 46 hours from Lima I reach an altitude marker of 4818 m. It appears that the road will now get down.

I have been told that people climbing high are unable to dream about anything but food and rest. Only after descending, sex reappears in people?s dreams. During the 20 km descending to La Oroya at 3700 m altitude, I realize that along the entire ascend, I have been thinking normal human thoughts, including sex and work. Thus, It is obvious that I have not been even close to exhaustion.

Make Friends

Chosica: darkness takes me by surprize. I check in into a seven-dollar hotel and look for dinner. Two frienly fellows, Alfredo and Arturo, would be happy to help my Safari any way they could. Alfredo speaks good English, Arturo good Qetchua.

Alfredo is a machinist: his family owns the block where the restaurant is. He is interested in machinist jobs in Finland. I am sorry to tell that such jobs have moved to more inexpensive countries like Estonia, Czech Republic, and Peru.

Afredo and Arturo want to know how expensive my airline ticket was, and did I finance my travel myself, or do I have a sponsor. I tell them. I also tell them that the wealthy history of my country is not very long.

My grandfather was killed 1941. Grandma was left with two small kids, and there was very little social security those days. She sold the little farm they had in a remote area, and learned a new profession as a dress- and shirtmaker. When it was time for my father to go to high school, they moved to a provincial town. In 1959, it was time for College, and they moved to the second largest city of the country.

I think Alfredo and Arturo understood that the incredible wealthiness needed to purchase flight tickets has not always been there, neither has it been dropped from heaven, and that my family had financially hard times just 50 years ago.

Physical Reality

The journey from Lima to Oroya took 50 hours. The road was good, but the time needed was much more than I had expected on the basis of map exercises. I realize that I have no possiblity to reach Cuzco in 9 days - I will have to use motorized vehicles.

My original plan, Lima - La Paz was destroyed already in the plane between NY and Lima, when studying a coarse map and some literature purchased the previous weekend. Well, this is just what Herr Salin told me already two years ago: the altitude, the elevations and the road conditions may be a tough combination. These also are the reasons why this Safari was long known to be a one-man rally. Maybe I should have made more preparation beforehand. Anyway, I believe that it is the willingness to face the uncertain which makes a man a Wiking.


36 hours later, out of the night bus in Ayacucho. It is 5 am and time to hit the road. Ayacucho is only 2700 m above sea level, but the road towards Andahuaylas corrects this deficiency rapidly. The scenery is fantastic, but the road very poor: muddy slime, even if very rocky.

After 8 hours of climbing, I reach an altitude marker of 4200 m. The road is much better up here, and the scenery incredible. However, the real problems are about to begin.

My head-ache is getting worse and worse. In the afternoon, there is no longer any thought of sex or work in my mind, all I care about are food and rest. Friendly local people meeting me seem a little worried: they would like to give me a ride. I explain them that this is sports, and I want to keep it that way.

An hour before dark, a road construction party passes me on their truck. They would like to take me with them: ?VAMOS!?. I know that even if I would join them and travel to the next village, where food would be available, I would not be able to eat because of the altitude sickness. It is better to stay up here and acclimatize.

Thus, I explain the friendly locals that I have a tent and a sleeping bag and I intend to spend the night up here on the mountain. The fellows seem considerably relieved: they are glad to notice that this Gringo is not in such a deep trouble as he seems to be.

The first two hours of the morning go slowly but fine. Around 9 am, I find myself from a very gentle slope uphill, and notice that I am making hardly any progress. My performance is now obviously approaching zero. In addition to the altitude itself, one factor possibly contributing to this is that I have not eaten for 36 hours.

A minibus passes me and offers a ride. I think two seconds: ?Si, Grazias!?

Christmas Leg

Two subsequent dinners and 9 hours of sleep in Andahuaylas change everything: ready to hit the road with the morning light!

Up and up. In one of the uppermost villages, an over-enthusiastic dog tears a hole on my pants. The skin is not broken, but I clean it with Iodine anyway. I clean only my own skin, not the skin of the dog. This event significantly decreases my loyalty towards Peruvian dogs, and from now on, I decide to use as brutal counteractions as necessary.

In the afternoon I am starting to feel that eating once in three days is possibly not enough. I am told that there is a restaurant on the other side of the next valley. True: there are restaurant signs on the wall of a house. When getting into the backyard, a very attractive lady asks me to take a seat in the dining hall.

The food is simple but delicious. When I finish my meal, it is 5.30 pm on Christmas eve. Two daughters and a little son are visible in the house. I am wondering where her husband is. Anyway, it was made clear that this is just a restaurant, not a hotel, and I hit the road. When I am leaving the village, a man and three older boys come across me carrying agriculture tools.

Friendly or Scared?

Christmas day: 7 hours of descending. The road is very rough. Most of the people I meet are very friendly, and on Christmas mood. I explain them where I come from, what is my nationality, why Herr Salin and Senor Kuusisto are not with me, how I crossed the mountains between Lima and Oroya, how I suffered from Soroche after Ayacucho, and that I am going to Cuzco. Everything seems to be understood, and many people like to try my kickbike.

Some people are not friendly because they are scared. This is a wild, rough and remote mountain country, where foreigners are rarely seen on foot or on bike. On a downslope, I pass and Indian woman with two very dark kids. I greet them politely ?Buenos Dias!? but there is no reply. After just 200 m, there is a water stream. I stop to fill my bottle. Treating the water with Iodine takes a couple of minutes. When I look around, the people have disappeared from the road. They must be so scared that they are hiding somewhere in the bushes.

10 000 Year Heritage

I frequently spot kids of 4-5 years age, carrying their little sister or brother on their back, and being accompanied by another sister of 2-3 years. The mothers of these kids do not have time to attend them. Once humans started cultivating crop fields about 10 000 years ago, they adopted a continuous slavery of work. There is always something what has to be done for the seedlings or with the animals.

This was true even in Finland 50 years ago. When my mother was 5, she realized that she will soon have to go to school. This was a very stressful situation, since she was unable to figure out who would then take care of her little brother, Antti.

Fly and Dive

Abancay, and then 7 hours of ascending. While the descending starts, it seems very difficult: the road is very rough. However, after a couple of hours down, there is a miracle. First, I do not believe my eyes: yes, it is Asphalt!!!

I start flying down. Some dogs of the village try to follow me, but they cannot make 60 km/h. Spirals down seem endless: down, down, down. How far? About at sunset I reach the bottom. I am on the shore of a river, now traveling upstream. I set up the tent on the riverside jungle, the vegetation giving a heady smell. The night is very warm, no need to get into the sleeping bag.

Potential Energy

My night camp was 97 km from Cuzco. The two first morning hours take me 15 km along the road and quite a bit up. In this village, Limatambo, I am told that the altitude is 1500 m. Thus, the hole where I slept must have been around 1000 m!

Cuzco is at 3300 m. Lifting 100 kg by 2.5 km produces 2.5 MJ potential energy. The energy-throughput capacity of a well-trained human in continuous work is about 20 MJ/day. Considering the inefficiency of the human engine, I can tell that climbing 2.5 km is a full day?s work!

Mama Africa

There is a human heritage of anbout 30 000 a in the New World. In East Africa, signs of humans extend 4 million years back.

An enthusiastic Safari Man might consider crossing the entire continent, from Casablanca to Capetown, for example. However, I believe that my own deepest roots are somewhere between Nairobi and Capetown.

The Ngorongoro Man