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It’s been a long time in the coming, but the starter’s-flag has dropped and the proverbial tortoise is making a dash for the gap in the fence at the bottom of the garden. Beyond the fence lurks danger, and the shell on his back is heavy, but our intrepid hero is sure there’s an abundant supply of juicy lettuce waiting for him in Mrs McTavish’s greenhouse. All he needs to do is cross a dual carriageway, float across the stream on his back and look out for (and avoid) the scheming cat at 9 Acacia Avenue. He has a sneaking suspicion the anonymous email tipping him off about the lettuce-fest may have come from the same cat, but pushes those thoughts to the back of his mind and presses on.

You may be wondering if the altitude has got to me already, but I figure there has to be a reason for leaving a comfortable home with a… er… comfortable wife and heading out into the high desert with a bike and a ton of ‘stuff’ (although no Kendall Mint Cake). The tortoise analogy is not perfect (apart from the lack of speed, shell and wrinkly neck) but a yearning to find out whether Mrs McTavish’s vegetables are as succulent as they say, before the legs finally give out, is a strong one.  Am I going to get out and “just do it” or am I going to be the greyhound at the dog-track who, as the rabbit flies past and the trap flings open, adjusts his reading glasses, turns to the dog next to him and says “did you hear a whooshing sound?”

As I have used up my animal analogies for the next 4 years, I should probably get on and talk a bit about what “just doing it” involves.

Step 1. Meet up with Andy (who is still smarting from the “Cheap Medical Officer” jibe – see About Us page) and run through the kit list. After noting that we have two of everything and could probably get rid of about half of it, agree that, if half the gear spontaneously combusted, we would be glad we brought spares.

Step 2. Head off to Heathrow ready to engage in mortal combat with Iberia. Our bike boxes weigh around 30 kilos each, presenting an excellent opportunity for purse-lifting and flesh-extraction. Disappointingly, Iberia are charm personified and don’t charge us any extra at all.

Step 3. Smile winningly at security as you empty two packets of couscous and a solar charger from your bag. “Sorry sir,” says the security guard “but that looked like two blocks of Semtex and an ignition switch on the x-ray”. Resist the temptation to ask if the fact you are carrying Waitrose couscous makes you a better class of terrorist.

Step 4. Spend 9 hours staring at the back of the seat in front wondering if Boliviana de Aviacion is the last international airline in the world without in-flight entertainment of any description. Conclude that this is an entertaining thought and disappear in a puff of logic.

Step 5. Arrive in La Paz to discover that, once a year on the Dia del Peaton, no motor vehicles are allowed on the roads. We glue and sellotape the remains of our bikes together and head out for a surreal tour of the city dodging dogs and skateboards before heading up to El Alto in a cable-car and freewheeling 400m down the motorway back to the hotel.

Step 6. Complete the acclimatisation process with a cheeky hike up a 5,000m peak overlooking the infamous “Death Road” that winds for 60km down to the Bolivian jungle. Decide to celebrate the climb by doing press ups on the summit. Unfortunately there’s no-one around to admire our manliness.

Step 7. Send shirts and grundies to the laundrette, as this may be the last time we’re in contact with cleanliness for the next 5 weeks. Nose-pegs may have been a better investment. Observe gear strewn on bedroom floor with increasing alarm and pray for imminent spontaneous combustion.

As we’re heading out tomorrow, there could be a short delay before we’re able to post again. In the meantime, please give a thought to those out there without access to basic necessities such as a warm crate, bottled water and lettuce leaves…