An idiots guide to the Mototaxi Junket part 1

According to the sensible majority you need this lot to drive 3000km across Peru:

A reliable off-road vehicle;
Mechanical knowledge & spare parts;
A detailed map;
A pre-planned route;
A guide book.

The majority of people are wrong. My Idiot's Guide to the Mototaxi Junket starts by proving you don't need any of these things. It will go on to explain how you can take on Peruvian mountains and jungles in a crap sofa-bike with very little preparation or knowledge. Here's to willful ignorance in the name of adventure...

Why you don't need a guide book or proper map

The Junket is a two-week adventuring slap in the face, but in that strange way where you get to the end and want another slap. The vehicle is shite, most of the driving is off-road on jungle or mountain tracks and there's no back up. You're on your own. When the task ahead is intentionally designed to kick you right in the nuts there's a temptation to over prepare.

Don't deny it. I'm guilty of this myself and I've seen you do it too while I was working on the Rickshaw Run, the Mongol Rally and the Junket. You want the glorious mayhem but the temptation to reach for a guide book and an oversized map is strong.

I got round the map temptation by choosing a team mate who is a Professor of Mathematics. He brought the wrong map. Instead of the detailed map of Peru I had carefully stolen from The Adventurists' office, he picked up a map of the whole of South America. Peru was one tiny section and it was a decade out of date so we used it for occasional references to the big jungly bit (the Amazon) or the mountainous bit (the Andes) rather than actual navigation.

There was less to worry about because it didn't give us enough information to form much of a plan. Our early morning discussions about the day ahead were rapid and vague and we ended up speaking to a lot more people along the way to find out where we were and where to find our next bed.

Not taking a guide book was an easy decision. Blindly following the recommendations in guide books reminds me of toilets. If everyone is heading for the same toilet why follow them in there? You'll have a more enjoyable shift on the porcelain throne if you find one the crowds don't know about or can't be arsed to find. Even better, get your knees up round your ears and take a dump in the woods.

This series of Mototaxi Junket posts will include a bunch of situations that only came about because we ditched the guide book, but for now check out the honeymoon suite we ended up in deep in the Huancabamba mountains, bizarrely tacked on the back of someone's house. No guide book would've led us here and it was so romantic it even cheered Dan up after he'd had the shits for 48 hours and turned green.

Detailed route planning is pointless

The Mototaxi Junket doesn't need an exact pre-planned route for these three reasons:

1. In the Amazon jungle section there is one road in to Tarapoto, and one road out. No route planning needed. 

2. In the Andes mountains there are so many winding mountain-side ledges that call themselves roads you might as well take a compass and guess.

3. If you somehow successfully planned your route you might miss out on lonely tracks like this one which probably wasn't the main road we wanted to be on at the time:

Mechanical knowledge & spare parts

I lied. You will need some very basic spare parts so future installments of this idiot's guide will include some mildly helpful suggestions. But you should limit yourself to the absolute essentials. The raw power of the mototaxi is already going to struggle carrying you and your bags up those Andean hills so buy what you need from mechanics along the way (as and when things break or fall off your bike, which they will).

And yeah, OK, technically speaking some mechanical knowledge would be useful but that's not the point. Useful is not the same as necessary and my professor team mate and I are proof that you can be mechanically challenged and make it across Peru on a sofa-bike. You'll find mechanics in every town and nearly all of them know how to fix mototaxis. Spare parts are common or usually no more than a town away. When you break down in the middle of nowhere the mototaxi can be easily towed or chucked on the back of a truck if you run out of ideas. Other less obvious but effective coping strategies for being a mechanical dipshit include:

Drop in to the local bicycle shop

There was no mechanic in this town and our mototaxi was not happy. The only place resembling a mechanic was for pedal powered machines but that didn't stop them taking our engine apart and working out how to put it back together again as they went along. At this point my team mate Dan was experiencing some bowel-related mechanical problems of his own but the bicycle boys couldn't help with that one. I took some photos to document his suffering. That always helps. 

Look even more clueless than you thought you were

Random people will take pity on you and help out on the side of the road even though you didn't ask them to. On the day this photo was taken we were trying to change a tyre after a puncture, something even we should've been able to crack. Rhys and his mate Luciana were building a house a few feet away and seemed immediately unimpressed with our efforts. They took over and wouldn't let us help, possibly for our own safety:

Why you don't need a reliable off road vehicle

The mototaxi is not reliable. It's designed for short trips on flat bitumen roads. But it is a thing of beauty and just about capable of crossing mountain ranges. 

It's a standard 125cc motorbike, cut in half with an extra wheel and a small sofa stuck on the back. Stopping requires considerable advance warning. It's powered by one chain attached to the rear left wheel so driving it in a straight line is a wrestle because it always wants to turn right.