They did what? Monkey mayhem | Columns | Gassit Garage
So you reckon everything that can be done has already been done, eh?
There are no more peaks to be conquered; no depths to be explored. It’s all been done before. If you’re seeking stimulation take a trip to Disneyland. But you know better. Which is why you’re in Ayacucho on the western escarpment of the Peruvian Andes, looking at an elcheapo 50cc four stroke that vaguely resembles something Honda produced last century – and listening attentively as a bloke named Rich suggests possible means to overcome the obvious flaws – not the least its diminutive eight-inch wheels.
You’ve already signed a binding agreement to the effect that eight days hence you’ll return this machine to Rich in Atalaya; which is slightly less than 1000km away. The big challenge – and it is a big one – is that Atalaya is on the eastern side of the Andes deep in the Amazon jungle and, even though you’re currently at an elevation of more than 2700 metres – you’ll need to traverse almost 5000 vertical metres over the journey. But right now let’s all enjoy a bon voyage party. Because alcohol and altitude mix so well.
This is exactly the situation in which Nathan Little, his partner Bronte, and a score of kindred souls found themselves in at the end of summer in March this year. Adventurers at heart they’d signed up to the Peruvian Monkey Run on impulse. Their mission – if not impossible was certainly implausible – to get their Monkey Bikes from Ayacucho to Atalaya in eight days. The journey was unquestionably hazardous – some would say death defying – and the organisers actually stated unequivocally they would provide no assistance en route and, if necessary, would admit nothing and deny everything. But Nathan and Bronte’s enthusiasm knew no bounds. Their charity fundraising efforts had been renewed.
“We immediately loved the bikes but quickly learnt they were not built for speed. Or for fully grown adults,” said Nathan. “And with the steep ascents they’d wheelie every time you changed gears [not surprising given the weight in that backpack, Nathan]. Flat tyres were a daily occurrence, as were consistent fuel problems due to the altitude. Plus loose bolts from the sprockets and everywhere else.
“We traversed some of the worst roads I’ve seen in my life with ancient trucks battling with rickety tuk tuks (aka rickshaws) on the precipice of horrendous chasms. Yet there was something extremely satisfying about riding these crazy, stupid, miniature, incompetent bikes over a 4500 metre high pass through the Andes.
“Besides the nerve-racking roads, we had to constantly contend with rabid dogs which proved a real threat. And though there was the inevitable language barrier, the people we met were generally friendly; though we were bailed up at gunpoint on the Amazon on the final day and realised, on this occasion, we were not welcome guests.”
This tale would not be tellable had Nathan and Bronte not reached their destination deep in the Amazon jungle and, after further adventures on a pair of 250cc trail bikes, returned home safely to Australia. So the next time someone informs you that everything that could be done has already been done, tell them to think again. Nathan and Bronte are already saving for their next adventure – racing rickshaws across the Himalayas; or was that racing Ural outfits across a frozen lake in Siberia.
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