Los niños y los bebés de América del Sur

We had just come down from Machu Picchu and were sitting on the second floor of a restaurant in Aguas Calientes, a kind of base camp for the final assault on the iconic ruin. A band playing a mix of Peruvian traditional and pop music started up in the street below and unbeknownst to me this little guy slid in behind my chair to watch them. A few minutes passed before I noticed him and snapped these photos.

I was snapping pictures on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco when this women approached me – with what I initially understood to be her daughter in tow – to ask if they could practice their English with me. I obliged, but it turned out her request was really just a ruse. Turns out she was a lawyer and a mid-wife, and had double-sided business cards to prove it. After about 20 minutes it became clear that what she really wanted was for me to marry her and take her back to Canada. I didn’t think that was such a good idea. After all, I’m already married and there’s laws against that sort of thing! She later claimed that her young sidekick was a cousin. Only the Shadow knows for sure, I guess… Returning from dinner after dark in Bucay, Ecuador – one of the most impoverished cities we have visited during our trip – we were approached by this young waif in the street who must have been all of seven years old. Curious about us, she struck up a conversation that tested our limited Spanish, inquiring as to whence we came, where we were headed to, and so forth. I was impressed by her inquisitive, precocious and un-self-conscious persona.

I was stopped by the side of the road to snap a picture of one of the artsy little black rock houses near Sillustani, when this woman and baby emerged from a house on the opposite side of the otherwise vacant road. I asked if I could take a picture of her with her baby and then gave her a small propina (tip) in appreciation.

We were sitting in the waiting room at the train station in Aguas Calientes and I had just finished drinking a plastic bottle of water. This little guy came up and quietly helped himself to it, then proceeded to play football and handball with it around the waiting room floor. I was impressed with his fun, rambunctious energy.

A couple of times I managed to get women with babies to agree to let me take their pictures. I was always impressed with how they were able to bundle up their little ones in what effectively must be a shawl, apparently in a fairly secure manner. Interestingly though, even after they agreed to let me take their pictures, I don’t think they really understood the idea of “posing” for a photograph, and usually just went on about their business, making the photographic outcome something of a chance event.

While waiting for the train from Hidro-electrica to Aguas Calientes, this troop of school kids, also on their way to Machu Picchu for a field trip, took keen interest in us, again wanting to know where we came from, where we were going, and to learn a bit of English.  The following day I snapped one of the young lads decked out in his school uniform while we were waiting for the return train in Aguas Calientes.  I think he was a bit disappointed that we didn’t remember him from the previous day, since he came over to Space Cowboy to show him a picture on his camera that he had taken of us when we had met them at the lower station.

As we were riding through the Peruvian desert approaching Nasca, we stopped beside the highway at the three-story lookout tower from which one can view the famous Nasca lines. A bus-load of high schoolers were just coming down from the lookout and were keen to check out both us and our bikes, with a few even trying out the pilot’s seat!

The Big Easy

Gang of Four Flies the Flag for UNICEF

Gang of Four members display the UNICEF banner at Kilometer 0 of their expedition in Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada on September 1, 2012

The Gang displays the same UNICEF banner in Key West, Florida on September 15, 2012 after having ridden 6,411 kilometers across America – diagonally! 

In the course of planning the Gang of Four’s expedition to Tierra del Fuego, we decided to do something “outside ourselves” to benefit folks living in the countries to which we would be traveling.  This led to a search for a suitable charity, something that was credible and which had operations in Latin America.  There are thousands of charities in Canada, and a surprisingly large number of these carry out projects in one or more locations in Latin America.

But on closer examination it became apparent that many were either very small operations or indeed largely inactive.  A significant exception was UNICEF Canada.  It is a program of the United Nations based in New York that develops community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children in hundreds of countries and territories around the world.  UNICEF raises billions of dollars every year from governments and more than six million individuals.  More than 90 percent of their revenue is directed to programs to help children, and staff compensation and benefits are based on a standardized UN “Common System”.  Another selling feature was UNICEF Canada’s on-line donation system, which allows donors to make secure on-line payments using credit cards directly through the Gang of Four’s fundraising page, which can be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/5rdfldh

I’m a tad embarrassed to say that when deciding on UNICEF we had forgotten that it was the same charitable organization that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman had elected to support for their famous “Long Way” rides.  So I was delighted when Olivia Klej, our helpful and supportive Community Engagement Coordinator at UNICEF Canada in Toronto, provided me with four black UNICEF hoodies and reminded me that they were “the same kind Ewan McGregor wore in Long Way round”.

Due to our collective efforts, but in particular those of Dogcow, we have succeeded in reaching our fundraising goal of $10,000 for UNICEF.  We are particularly enthused that UNICEF has agreed to direct the funds we raise to the Peru Micronutrient Project, which is helping to improve child nutrition in that country in ways critical to proper early childhood development.  While we have met our official fundraising goal, as this is a very worthwhile initiative we encourage anyone reading this to consider making a contribution – or perhaps even a further contribution – to our UNICEF fundraiser by visiting our fundraising page at http://tinyurl.com/5rdfldh  Those who may be reading this post on the UNICEF blog or anywhere other than the Gang of Four blog may wish to learn more about our adventure by visiting our blog at www.go4south.com

Thanks to everyone who has to date contributed so generously to our UNICEF fundraiser, as well as to those who may do so in future.

The Big Easy

Blog Post #1: Gang of Four Completes Dry Run and Gear Check

On Friday, July 27th the Gang of Four headed out on a dry run in preparation for their upcoming expedition to South America.  The team travelled “loaded for adventure” with full camping and riding gear, riding through heavy rains in the Coast Mountains to arrive four hours later at Space Cowboy’s gorgeous new lakeside property at Summerland in the Okanagan.  There they enjoyed a scrumptious black rice curry dinner prepared by the lovely Lady of the Lake, Sarah Boucher.  The weekend trip provided some valuable learnings for the group, including:

– “Say, these $800 technical riding jackets ain’t half bad!  I’m warm and cozy even though it’s raining like cats and dogs and I’m traveling through a winding mountain pass at 110 kph in awfully cool weather.”

– “Oh man, I’ve got way too much stuff.  I need to get rid of some of these clothes!”

– “Cripes, how do we dig out a 600 lb. motorbike buried in the sand up to its bash plate?!”

– “Hey! This modern camping gear is pretty cool!  Everything from an unusually-shaped UV water purifier to a skookum camp stove that runs on gasoline, to an electric camp light and sundry electrical charging sockets including Powerlet, auto cigarette plug, and USB.  Got to keep moving with the times, I suppose!”

All members of the team arrived safely home in the Lower Mainland with Hector the Pup and Dogcow returning together via the famous-for-motorcyclists North Cascade route in Washington State and Space Cowboy and The Big Easy returning separately on their own schedules, which in TBE’s case allowed for visits with some other good friends in nearby Penticton.

September 4th is approaching fast – Tierra del Fuego or bust!

Gang of Four

Hector the Pup at Space Cowboy’s idyllic Okanagan lakeside property in Summerland, BC

The Big Easy loaded for adventure and sporting his UNICEF hoodie – the same kind as Ewan McGregor wore in Long Way Round!  How cool is that?!

Gang of Four: South America 2012

Four longtime friends are heading out on a motorcycle adventure from Vancouver, Canada to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina in the late summer and fall of 2012.    To learn more, click here.

For info on our UNICEF fundraiser, click here.

We will provide periodic updates on the progress of our journey through the blog posts below.