Going from the simple meditation of pedaling our bikes all day, to standing on a stage in a massive high school auditorium in front of over 150 freshman was a rough transition to say the least. Even if Ville and I gave off an air of calm and confidence, we packed in 8 presentations in only 5 days, left with no time to rest or see anyone, we headed back to Portland to continue the journey back to our bikes and were completely exhausted! A handful of students that came to share with us after our talks, made all of it worth it. This is why we did it...
We left off in Granada, Nicaragua, still baking in the scalding Central American sun and yearning for a reprieve we felt would soon come in our trip home to Bend, Oregon. It became mandatory to wake up at 5 am to get the miles in when it would be at it's coolest part of the day (the lowest it ever dropped was 85 degrees at night) and try and quit before 11 am. Even spending a day in Granada, trying to walk around to see the city, my skin was melting, and this was standing in the shade, so I was pretty miserable. Since taking a bunch of different antibiotics, I had struggled to get my body temperature to regulate and when I would check out Ville (who was normally the hot-blooded one) and he has a healthy glow, I was a continual sweaty mess. I was very ready for the heat to be turned down.
We left Granada early, and climbed away from the lake shore and south heading towards the Costa Rican border, deciding at the very last second to bike the extra 20 miles and drop out to the coast, where we should get some cooler weather. The road out to Playa Gigante was really scenic, rolling hills with local ox-pulled carts and herds of horses passing us as we dropped to the ocean and camped in front of a hostel right on the beach. Ville woke me frantic in the middle of the night because there was a giant pig (yes, a real live pig) rooting right next to the tent. Having grown up around farm animals, I was just annoyed to have been woken up in the middle of the night and just rolled over and back off to sleep I went. I think poor Ville still has nightmares. The following morning we headed back to Rivas and took a 5 hour break at the local Burger King (it was the only place with air conditioning) to wait out the heat before continuing on. We met the nicest couple and their kids (he originally from Mexico and she from Nicaragua, but now living in the US) bought us our lunch because we told them how amazing we were treated in Mexico and loved the country and he wanted to continue the tradition. After it had cooled down a tad, we headed south and just before dark and the border, we asked a farmer to camp in his yard and were snoozing by nightfall in a barn.
Back on the road early, as we came up to the border, even at first light there was already a 3 mile line of semi trucks waiting to fill paperwork and cross the border to Costa Rica. We passed them by on the left, being that we would just be walking/biking over, but as we passed all the trucks, we smiled and said "Buenos Dias" to all the truck drivers waiting in or outside their trucks. We had so many of them smiling, waving, and wishing us well it was such a great start to our day! The border crossing was a breeze (somehow we didn't even get charged an entry free) and as we climbed into the humid tropics of Costa Rica, and the trucks started to make it over the border and pass us, they gave us room, honked, waved, and it was at these moments that the thought of real life world peace, in our lives, was becoming a reality. By simply opening our hearts to them, instead of just flying by, we had made the interaction personal. And for the rest of that day, the next and many days following, as the drivers passed, they made our day better.
Our route through Costa Rica was much more mountainous than our route through Nicaragua, but was very scenic to be back in the jungle. Sweaty and humid, but scenic. It was necessary for us to stop for multiple breaks to pound water because the threat of another bladder infection for me was ever imminent. We rolled into Liberia in the evening and were directed by a few different people to the Red Cross there in town who allowed us to camp in their yard, next to a few unused old ambulances. Early the next morning, we made our way back out to the main road and continued south on the roller coaster of a 2-way road under towering green trees and thick forests. We made it to around Canas, where a farmer directed us to the town soccer field where the neighbors confirmed it would be safe for us to camp. As the sun set, we watched a flock of Macaws screech back and forth overhead and Ville was greeted by a horse this time, next to the tent, first thing in the morning. I think they even shared a morning poo together. How romantic.
Knowing this was our last day on the bikes before our journey home, we both anxiously rode the last push to Punta Arenas, where we found our super kind Warmshowers host in the ghetto and went to the beach to watch him surf. We pitched our tent on his front patio, but were still mauled by mosquitoes and were up with the sun, packed, and to the bus station where we stowed our bikes below and bused it to San Jose (Heredia to be exact) where we would catch our plane. Our friend Edu (our fantastic Warshowers host and friend from San Cristobal De Las Casas) is from there and connected us with his family for a safe place to leave bikes when we went home. We were spoiled by Edu's sister, Silvia and her daughter and will meet his mom when we return. We had a day off walking around town and watching the Costa Rican people of WalMart (this was pretty epic), before catching our flight to Portland and getting picked up by my sister. It was quite the culture shock to be going from our bike tour straight to family and friends still living lives with jobs and kids and stuff.
We spent a couple days building a presentation, a video, filming a segment on KGW News Live at 7, visiting with family (my sister, Lisa, and brother, Jordan, both live in Portland and my mom was there already watching my nephew) and then my mom brought us back to Bend with her. We made it to Bend late after our news gig and had an early morning presentation at Mountain View High School to get to. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but the freshmen seemed to be into it and we were just hoping to get even a few kids pumped about travel, inspired, or thinking about maybe a different path out there as even an option to follow. We ended up doing 3 presentations to the MVHS freshmen (a new great program called Foundations), a Bio class, a giant group at High Desert Middle School, and a big presentation in downtown Bend at Crow's Feet Commons. And those were all in 3 days!! It was insanity.
Our Crow's Feet Commons Bend Presentation was scheduled to be outside with a giant screen for our presentation and when the weather chose not to cooperate, we were last-minute pushed indoors where there was maybe room for 60 people and we were SO bummed to have so many great friends, family and followers show up and couldn't even get in it was so packed. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for trying to come, for showing up, and for showing your support in so many ways. We love you all and will make sure next time to have a large enough venue, that no matter what the weather does, all of you can be there! We just had no idea how cool we are :)
For Mother's Day weekend, my brother Jordan came to visit and Ville and I were gifted tickets to Tedx Bend that ran all day Saturday. I was thrilled to be sitting in the audience and not up on a stage for a change! Sunday, my mom, dad, brother, and Ville all headed out to Smith Rocks and hiked over Misery Ridge together. Ville slipped on loose gravel and twisted his knee all goofy and has been icing it since so we can get back on those bikes. Our first day outside since arriving in the US, guess we were rusty. Monday we had a small presentation at Tin Pan Theater with family and a handful of close friends and tried our hand at Facebook Live (it's dark, and low quality, but you can hear our voices at least) so others near and far could catch our presentation. Tuesday we were roped into another, and final, presentation to a group of junior and seniors at Mountain View High School. I had assumed seniors would be boisterous, but they were so shy to talk and after the bell rung, we realized they were just waiting to come up and talk to us after their friends had left.
Both Ville and I want to give a giant thank you to all the students and staff at MVHS and HDMS who made it possible for us to come and speak, but more importantly, for those of you that came to tell us how much it meant to you. For sharing with us your dreams, your goals and your plans. For those that did, and those of you too shy to do so, please follow up with us either in a comment, email, or message us. We want to hear from you. No matter where your paths take you, make sure you are on the path that is true to yourself. No matter what society, family, teachers, or otherwise may steer you, be true to you.
After saying some very quick goodbyes to those we were able to see, my mom drove us back to Portland Wednesday for a day to spend with my nephew, sister, brother-in-law, brother and then we have a horrendous flight (we have 4 legs all overnight and into Saturday) before arriving back in San Jose. We plan to take a day off organizing our gear and to take a bus back to Punta Arenas where we left off not long ago, and continue plugging away south. Thanks for the memories Bend, until the end of this road, see you in a year. Until then, we will keep on keepin' on...
A HUGE thanks to Mountain View High School, High Desert Middle School, Crow's Feet Commons, Tin Pan Theater and all the Bend community for listening and coming out for our presentations here in Bend to mark our "Half Way" of our Alaska to Argentina Bike Ride! We are so grateful to all of you that came out last night to Crow's Feet Commons, sorry the weather did not cooperate and we had to pack indoors and so many of you didn't get inside. We appreciate all of you for following us and supporting us and coming to show your support! Thanks for being a part of this journey.
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We ended up on a slide-at-your-own-risk water slide. It was 0-60 mph in a half-second, not sure our bodies even made contact with the slide on the way down and we hit the water at 4Gs shooting my bikini and Ville's shorts to the four corners of the pool as we skipped along the surface of the water at the bottom of the slide. What a ride! But first...
After a roller-coaster of ass-kicking hills of Guatemala, followed by sweltering temps in the hundreds through El Salvador and Honduras low-lands, we coasted into Nicaragua where the temps dropped into the 90's and our spirits lifted. With the soaring temperatures, Ville and I were pounding water like crazy (drinking over 8 liters of water a day), but watching it pour out our pores before it ever made it through our bodies. I had to tackle a super painful bladder infection, "staying out of the sun" (actually biking all day IN the sun), waking up at 4 am to try and beat the heat, struggling to find accommodation during Easter party no available affordable lodging celebration week, riding nasty patched together shoulder-less pavement packed with high-speed aggressive drivers, and all while also struggling with food allergies I haven't been able to eliminate since Mexico. It was rough folks. We took reprieve from the mid-day heat in American fast food chain establishments because they were the only places with consistent WiFi and air conditioning (my refusal to enter a fast food joint went right out the window when we had hit our lowest lows). Our saving grace was the Central American people.
When we were on the side of the road, me in heaps of pain, a family took us into their restaurant and took Ville on their motorbike to get antibiotics. Again when the infection came back on the side of the road, another family gave us a ride to the pharmacy and refused to take payment. Where Americans live in their cars and roads are only for travel, Mexicans and Central Americans live on roads; walking, biking, in horse-drawn carts, waiting for buses, sitting on porches, lying in hammocks, pushing carts, pedaling rickshaws, motoring moto-taxis, sitting in snack stands, selling fruit, soda, water, gas, you name it. Our entire days are filled with passing people, smiling and saying hello. There is the occasional person who looks past me or through me, but most everyone smiles. And says hello. And safe journey. And for that moment when we look each other in the eye and smile, I hope it makes that moment, their day, their week a bit better. It makes this whole ride worth every mile.
Once we crossed into Honduras, we noticed that where the fields stretched out for miles on either side of the road, loads of people had built shacks in the 7 meters or so of land between the road and field to try and sell fruits or vegetables that came from the fields to people passing by. Where stable (or as stable as can be) governments bring investors, which in turn bring tourism and money to some of Honduras's surrounding countries, Honduras has not found the same stability and more of it's people in the rural areas between towns, seem to just be surviving. One would expect (especially if you follow news), Honduras to be super dangerous and many cyclists opt to rush through or skip it altogether. But we found the same kindness from people as we did everywhere else we have traveled.
Once we crossed over into Nicaragua and the roads became beautiful, freshly paved roads with a giant shoulder, we cruised into Chinandega and were tipped off by some locals about a sweet water park complete with a slide-at-your-own-risk water slide. It was 0-60 mph in a half-second, not sure our bodies even made contact with the slide on the way down and we hit the water at 4Gs shooting my bikini and Ville's shorts to the four corners of the pool as we skipped along the surface of the water at the bottom of the slide. What a ride! The next day we rolled out early and had a pretty easy day to Leon. Leon is a colonial city, fairly touristy being close to the beach and volcanoes, but we enjoyed walking the streets and seeing the sights. We were able to catch the Barcelona vs Juventus Champions League Quarter Final game and although Barcelona lost, was nice to sit in a bar with other tourists excited to see the game. On our day off there, we made it out to a shop for me to find a new bra to replace my busted (no pun intended) one. For those following our ride, you may remember the goat trail from hell we ended up skidding and falling down on at Lake Atitlan. Well, on that same glorious day and moment of suffrage, my beloved bra, which had a zipper down the front, decided to pop open thanks to all the sweat rusting apart the zipper and leaving me flopping in the breeze WHILE skidding on my ass down the hill. Oh times we look back on now and laugh at.
While out bra shopping, Ville and I ran into Marie-Eve, a friend we had biked with a bit on the northern California coast and whom we had no idea now lived in Leon! What are the odds we happen to run into her the day before she was flying back to Canada on our one day off in Leon in a bra shop?! Was nice to catch up with an old friend and take some down time before hitting the road early again heading for Managua. We had the plan to find a cheap motel outside the city, but after many failed attempts, we found ourselves in the city, patching Ville's flat tire, going from full hostel to full hostel before the kindest German man, Manfred, at La Pyramide Hotel, took us in and gave us a beautiful room for two nights. He even drove us up to the non-active volcano in town to show us the city. We walked down into town through a park where we watched a full court of guys in wheel chairs playing basketball and a women's basketball game. Was really inspiring!
After our much needed rest day in paradise (thank you SO much Manfred for your kindness!), we were back on the bikes and decided on an easy day into Laguna Apoyo, where we were excited to finally get to swimmable non-polluted water south of the American border! We climbed up to the crater and had a steep decent to the water where we, again, went door to door at "obscenely priced eco hostels" that wanted over $40 USD and up a night, and only allowed camper vans, not tents, to stay at their places. Lucky for us we ran into David, hitchhiking backpacker from Germany, who helped us to find a no-name place that quoted us $10 a night for a closet with a mini-fan. As soon as all our bags and bikes were jammed into the closet of a room, she told us it would be $10 each, and as we packed up to leave, she felt sorry for us and allowed us to stay for $10.
Sundays are family days in Latin American countries and since it was a Sunday, the locals beach was packed with drunks and families and we thoroughly enjoyed our refreshing dip in the lagoon (although give it a few years and that place will be completely unswimmable and dead for sure). It was pretty depressing to see how the handful of hotels and hostels have claimed the beachfront for only tourists in their establishment, pushing the locals to the one completely separated beach we swam at. We could feel the resentment from the locals and who can blame them? We did enjoy watching the wild howler monkeys swinging from the trees above hucking mangoes at rooftops, feeding the baby squirrel at our place and even Ville enjoyed conversing with a Giant Macaw who was able to say, "Hello."
Since our closet room only had a tiny bed, Ville slept on his blow-up mattress on the floor and at dawn as the howler monkeys started growling like lions, we packed and had a very humid, sweaty couple mile ride up to the rim of the crater. We did pass a bunch of locals walking down the hill dressed in resort shirts on their way to work and because we made the move to say Hello, most of them were really friendly. It was a short easy downhill into Granada this morning and after watching a school parade, we are staying out of the heat and catching up with all you fine folks out there. Because Costa Rica will be quite a bit more pricey than Nicaragua, we are planning to spend a few more days here in this country before crossing into Costa Rica and making our way to San Jose where we will fly to Portland and Bend for a couple weeks to celebrate our making it to the "half-way" point of our journey. YAY! And for those not in the know, May 11th, Crow's Feet Commons, Bend, Oregon, 6-8 pm. Be there or be square! And until then, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
Such as life, there are hills and valleys. We are in a valley. Antigua, Guatemala to Chinandega, Nicaragua
When the physical challenges are hard, but you add massive heat, sleep deprivation, bad roads, a tight budget, and health problems it gnaws at your spirit and are the true test of your will to keep going.
Guatemala was beautiful, but ass-kickingly hard. Lots of the steepest climbs and drops we have yet encountered. After the rough terrain and chaos of Lake Atitlan, we made it to a hotel just outside of Antigua. Having been to Antigua before, we were not heart-set on spending a lot of time there, but then finding out it was the biggest, craziest Easter week holiday with the epicenter being Antigua, we opted to take roads around the city and climbed up, southeast, and continued on our way. Partaking in festivities would have been a fun time, but navigating through the city on bikes through the chaos, unable to find a hotel on our budget, is just not an option for us. We did, however, pass a bunch of ritzy gated communities as we passed through southern Antigua, and quite a few American and European tourists or expats who live there. Being one of the "safest" Guatemalan cities with mild weather and beautiful architecture (not to mention a booming coffee trade) must bring a lot of foreigners to this area.
After a decent climb the road seemed to drop in elevation substantially, until we came to the south of Villa Canales and decided to listen to a local police officer who directed us up a hill climb that was THE hill climb of all hill climbs! Not joking, the grade is not found in Western countries. Ville said he greatly appreciates Western Engineers when it comes to building roads after climbing it. It's as if they had such a limited budget, but needed to get the road from the bottom of the mountain to the very top and just slapped the road straight up the side without one switchback. It was three and a half miles and it took us over two hours to climb, profusely sweating and taking multiple breaks on the way up (we were asked by 3 different super kind Guatemalans if we wanted rides, but were stubborn enough to refuse and keep pushing upwards). My speedometer quit registering speed we were going so slow! At the top, we met the highway and coasted down to Cuilapa where we found out the city was named "the halfway point of the Americas"! Yahoo! We have ridden our bikes halfway of the Americas!
The next day we had a giant drop in elevation and rode through a lush, vibrant green valley complete with palm trees and roadside vendors selling bananas and pineapples. We had a pretty easy border crossing into El Salvador; our 5th country. Completely depleted of liquids after days of Guatemala climbing, and after stopping at a roadside eatery, realized I had a pretty serious bladder infection and was in a load of pain. The family there was nice enough to take Ville on the back of their motorbike up the road to a pharmacy for antibiotics (so many acts of kindness on this journey from everywhere) and we pushed on the 9 miles to town. The next day we had a decent climb into the mountains and a beautiful, easy twenty miles of Ruta de las Flores (Route of the Flowers) where we stopped at a lot of the tiny towns along the way to eat mangoes and coconuts.
Dropping down out of the mountains, we hit the wall of heat on the coast and after the thrill of finally seeing the Pacific Ocean again (it had been since Baja), we climbed and dropped the hairpin turns as the temps rose over a hundred. By evening, I realized pretty quick that the antibiotics were not quite strong enough and as I sat doubled over in pain by the side of the road, Ville stuck out his thumb to get us a ride a few more miles to the next town and a pharmacy. As our luck would have it, a super kind family in a truck pulled over also on their way to the pharmacy. The pharmacist recommended I take 3 days of the strongest antibiotic they had, Ville told her we would take 9 days worth (in case I needed more on the road) and the pharmacist looked at Ville very skeptically like, "Um, are you trying to kill your wife?" Oh, and I am not suppose to be in the sun on these antibiotics either. Ya, right. Like that's possible on a bike tour in the Central American blazing sun. So now, even with sleeves, the sunscreen sweats off in seconds and I am fried like a lobster to boot.
As we scoured La Libertad for a cheap motel, we were super deflated to realize this is the vacation place for Salvadorians AND it's still the wild, crazy Easter week holiday! So we found the biggest dive motel in town and were charged double because of the holidays. When we went to sleep around eight with the plan to get up early to beat the heat, a family of nine and their wild children rolled in and parked in the room adjacent to ours. Luckily they headed out to the bars to party, kids in tow, but then came back to after-party at the room around 2 am until we left at 5 am to start riding. It was awful. And as we rolled out of the room, the women were passed out all over the room with the door open and the dudes were passed out in the back of their truck in front of our room. But one guy woke up to stare at us with a look of "if I had a shiv, I would stab you in the face" as we kicked their beer bottles out of the way so we could get our bikes past and leave. Good riddance to La Libertad on Easter Holiday. Any other time, we heard it was a fun surf spot with a decent break, but we had poor timing.
In the coolness of the morning, the miles were easy and pleasant. And the people we passed along the road were incredibly friendly. The beauty of a bicycle as our mode of transport is that we see and experience so much of the countries we pass through. When taking a plane or a bus, you pass by, see views from the bus window and experience the towns/cities, but we get to really experience the in between. I thoroughly enjoy smiling and waving at as many people as we pass as I get the chance to. I get so many heart-warming smiles, "Good Mornings" , "Good Afternoons" and "Safe Journey", and even a few "I love you"s that it makes all the hard stuff melt away.
We spent a total of five days traveling through El Salvador and quite enjoyed the easier riding (compared to Guatemala) and the kind people. We crossed the boarder into Honduras, and had an open mind that even though Honduras has had a turbulent past and current challenges, it was likely similar to all the other countries we were warned about and proven wrong. And that was true, we did meet a few very lively, kind, and generous Hondurans. In San Lorenzo, we met Jose at a cafe and he let us stay in a room in his house for $10 when it was just too hot to push on. Thanks Jose! But for every ten people we passed who smiled or said "Buenos Dias," one would ignore us, look at us with a horrible look, yell something really mean, and we heard more "Gringo" in this country than anywhere else south of the US boarder we have been so far. Not to mention most of the roads were complete shit with no shoulder and we were literally run off the roads by buses and trucks.
That being said, we did only have the time to travel through the very southern part of the country on this trip, spending two full biking days, and have heard great things about so many other beautiful parts of Honduras. Not to mention, we know some very kind Hondurans (Alex Rivera) and plan to see more of the country someday, likely not from a bicycle seat! This morning we had a 30 mile ride to the boarder crossing from Honduras into Nicaragua and after reading all the horror stories from other cyclists, we had another very smooth crossing. There was a huge thunderstorm last night and the humidity even at 5 am when we started our ride was intense, but very easy miles and thanks in huge part to Ville's ever-improving Spanish, the Immigration Officers treat him really well and we pass through quickly without paying bribes we hear so much about. It did cost $12 each to get into Nicaragua however, so the expenses have really been adding up. Sadly, since we have had no luck at all getting a Warmshowers place to stay or a safe place to camp, our standards have been ever lowered at cheapest of the cheap motels and my bent bike frame and inability to shift properly will have to wait until, well, maybe the end of the ride to be fixed.
Once we crossed into Nicaragua, the pavement became a real, nice paved road again, the temps dropped from over a 100 to only 90's and the people went out of their way to come talk to us about our bike and our ride. We pushed a 73 mile day today and are staying in Chinandega, where we were told about a pool and giant waterslide and I was finally able to dig out my bikini after carrying it since Baja! What a treat. From here we will head south towards Leon and then on to Managua. We have a flight booked back to Bend to celebrate our "Halfway" and hope to see everyone at our presentation at Crow's Feet Commons in Bend, Oregon on May 11, at 6-8pm. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
First day in Guatemala, and we had a serious butt-kicking day long hill climb! This kid passed us with the bed of his truck stacked obscenely high with massive bags precariously roped on. A while later, we ride up to where a few bags have come loose, busted open on the pavement, and he is trying to scoop up the remnants on the side of the road. Of course, we pulled over to help. And that is how we ended up with about 7 lbs/3 kilos of unroasted coffee beans.
, on empty Leaving San Cristobal De Las Casas and Edu's place was rough. We enjoyed the time off with a cool guy in a really neat town. Was like ripping off a Band-Aid. But easy-peasy rolling hills, lot's of elevation dropping into Comitan where we camped a night at a Warmshowers host's yard, complete with a pack of dogs, chickens and even ducks, oh boy! We rolled out early and had another pretty hot, but easy day into the border town, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, where we got a cheap hotel to spend the last of our pesos before heading to Guatemala.
The next morning we rode to the Mexico Immigration to stamp out, and was the first time we were yelled at and treated poorly by any Mexicans! But it was fast and then the hill climbing began, immediately leaving Mexico. And since we waited to get breakfast until getting to the Guatemala side after finding an ATM, the climb was straight up hill for three miles and even passed the city garbage pile before finding Guatemala Immigration, we were pedaling on empty growling stomachs. But Ville came out of Immigration all smiles because the man working there was super friendly and had a great sense of humor. Good start to Guatemala. We found a working ATM somewhere in the chaos of the border and a nice place to grab breakfast before the climb commenced.
The climb was intense, but incredibly scenic and we climbed through numerous small villages where all the women were out in front of their homes weaving on looms and in the yards were hundreds of varying ages of coffee bean plants. When we rode up to the kid who passed us in his pick-up, trying to scrape some white things into a broken bag, we pulled over to help. I pulled out a bunch of Ziplock bags and Ville pulled out his knife to help sew the large broken bag closed. As we said goodbye and rode away, he insisted we take two of the giant Ziplock bags full of unroasted coffee beans. He said they were really expensive, on their way to be sold to Starbucks and we would surly be able to find a coffee roaster in Quetzaltenango. With still a long way to climb, we gladly accepted the bags, stuffed them into our panniers, and climbed up to just outside Huehuetenango where we scored a not super cheap Auto Motel.
The next day, we had a lot of very scenic ups and downs on a very deteriorated road, littered with potholes, and crazy traffic. My shifting had been off the entire previous day and now was continually getting worse. We pulled over to adjust it numerous times, with no luck, until finally not too far away from Quetzaltenango, I hear a loud SNAP and look down to see my chain on the ground. Damn. We dig out the Quick Link to fix it, and no luck. My chain was shot and so we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride really quick (everyone in Guatemala seems to be incredibly kind) with Celestino. We strapped the bikes in the back with the trash and crammed into the front bench seat. As we hit the road, we both quickly realized we must be riding with a professional race car driver, because no one corners like Celestino. I mean, NO ONE. I don't know how my pants stayed dry. It was completely terrifying! We almost killed 3 dogs, 2 motorcyclists, and had near head-ons with multiple giant trucks and buses. Very nice man, appreciate the ride, but not sure if I was happier to know people like that are on the road with us. After a quick stop on the side of the road, Ville got out to help with the trash, and realized after packing every piece of his own garbage to a garbage can, he was helping this guy just chuck giant plastic bags of garbage down the hillside (not in a designated garbage site). And then after Celestino drove the truck tire into a giant hole, floored it squealing out and back on the road, we were back heading for town. My fingernails firmly planted into the dashboard and Ville's arm.
He dropped us outside town and we walked our bikes to a safe spot for me to sit while Ville rode around town to find a bike shop (unfortunately these bikes take a special size chain), and then we walked a ways to the shop where we were greeted by some great guys at BiciCasa. They had my chain, put it on, and even gave us a discount. Thanks BiciCasa, great stop for bike parts in Guatemala folks. We then headed to a friend of a friend, Lucy's, house. After planning to only stay a couple nights, we stayed three. Lucy and her daughter, Leah, fed us, walked us all over the city, and I even was given a Spanish lesson! Thanks so much for all the hospitality girls, plan on another visit soon! We also found a great coffee bean roaster, Tostaduria Grano de Cafe, where they kindly let us help roast the beans and explained all the steps. And now Ville is carrying four and a half pounds of coffee until we can bring it to Oregon. Will be the best dang coffee in the world.
We had been warned that climbing up to Lake Atitlan would be rough, but we had no idea what we were in for. We left early from Quetzaltenango, and started a slow easy climb that turned into a very steep climb, but had a spectacular view and rode through more villages full of very friendly indigenous Guatemalans. A cop rode by us and invited us back to his house to give us some avocados and play us some tunes on his guitar. After the climb, the drop down into the lake was extreme. We had to take a few breaks our hands hurt from gripping the breaks and we happened upon a car that had lost control on the downhill into a concrete wall (everyone was ok). And then, we took a wrong turn.
Google Maps has been awful in Guatemala, and boy did we really learn a lesson on this one. After heading straight downhill a few miles on the wrong road, everyone we asked said we could not continue the way we were heading. But we were sure they just didn't understand what bad-ass cyclists we were and we decided to forge ahead and rely on Google. We figured the dirt road was what they meant was not passable. Then the dirt turned into switchbacks straight up hill. Then we came to a giant overlook where Google told us the "road meant for a car" went over the cliff and landed in the town about a mile and a half down. For about 30 yards, the trail appeared to be a really rough mountain bike trail, and then the boulder field started and the trail turned into, at best, a goat trail of boulders, burning plants, where we took turns helping each other lift the bikes over rocks on the cliff. We honestly debated tying rope to the bikes and lowering them down the hill it was so steep.
Three and a half hours later and nearly dark now, we were both completely drenched in sweat, madder than hornets, and covered in bloody wounds, but luckily no irreparable bike-trip ending damage. When we finally made it into a town, past the town's garbage dump, we were told not to go that way. Uh, ya, noted. And then back on the bikes we still had a mile over the hill into San Pedro and up some steep hills to a hotel. After the best showers of our lives, we were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow at 8pm. We took a mandatory day off to explore the very touristy town and agreed to leave the next morning heading to Antigua. We had beers with Nile and Andrea (another cyclist couple we met up with again after seeing each other in California whom also started in very northern Canada) over looking the lake with the surrounding volcanoes towering around us. Lake Antigua really is a beautiful place, touristy, but beautiful.
We got up early this morning, all four of us loaded our bikes on top of a boat taxi, tied them on, and once we arrived in Panajachel, began our insane climb up and out of the lake. The views from the top of the rim were stunning, and as the road turned to a cratered mess straight downhill, we realized were in for a roller-coaster day of the steepest roads we have been on so far, for just about the entire 45 mile day. At one point the road was completely washed out and we rode through a cute waste-water stream to get back to a road. By the time we hobbled into this cheap hotel on the outskirts of Antigua (there is a giant week long pre-Easter festival going on in Antigua, filling all the overpriced hotels and we are gladly going to stay away from) we are both so sore we can't climb stairs or bend over. I feel like I'm 90. So this is what I have to look forwards to? Except how I abuse my body on goat trail cliffs with a fully loaded bike torpedoing downhill, I will be dang lucky to make it to 50.
Tomorrow we are heading through Antigua, will plan to stay somewhere at about 50 miles. And should have another day to the border before we will cross into El Salvador. After Mexico, I feel like we are flying through countries now. Well kids, I am off to bed. Thanks for reading, following, and supporting us. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
Check Out What's New! - Also, Free Oranges : Zanatepec, Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas
Hello again faithful friends, family and followers! We have added some cool new gadgets to WE LOST THE MAP, that we think your really going to like.
First, we gave it a face lift. But don't fret, the blog is still there. You can get to it by clicking on the GO TO BLOG button on the HOME page. Or, you can click BLOG at the top of the screen and there we are! Same great blog, updated weekly for your action-packed reading enjoyment.
Next, you will see a MAP button on the main page or if you look to your right of this page and click the VIEW MAP button and an interactive map will open in a new window outlining "roughly" our route. From the start in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska all the way to where we are now! Updated as we go.
And last, if you scroll down on the main page, we have added zesty, thrilling, informative, page clicking articles for your reading pleasure. Gear reviews, tips, travel advice, short stories and soon to be loads more...so keep checking back as we add to the pile.
Now on to the next update from Ville, enjoy!
Zanatepec to San Cristobal De Las Casas
One safety issue both of us have been very firm on is not to ride at night/in dark and we've been able to avoid it until a couple of days ago. Here we were riding in pitch black on a busy highway on the outskirts of the Chiapas state capitol Tuxtla, big trucks flying by us and honking & flashing lights. My rear light is flashing but not bright enough for them to notice us from a large distance while flying at high speeds. With intentions of camping before dark at around 60 miles for the day, we found ourselves with nowhere safe to camp and in the dark terrified that we would be run over and we are now at 85 miles and counting.
Early that morning, we left the Warmshowers host Rodrigo's place in a little town called Zanatepec almost at sea level right when the sun was getting up. We knew we had a big 20 mile climb over the coastal mountains heading towards the interior of the state. The climb went fine even though there was no shoulder and even at 7 am the heat was already turned on high, we got to the top and had lunch in a small village while feeding some of the local street dogs with our leftover beans. After the lunch we had lots of rolling hills with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The locals were very courteous driving around us and giving us tons of space. Even the wind was on our backs, how perfect was that!
We made it to our goal of 60 miles around 1:30 pm, had some tacos for lunch while having a little pow wow about what to do. Should we keep going or call it a day early and rest our bodies since we knew that we had a big big climb in 2 days to get to San Cristobal De Las Casas? We decided to keep going since both of us felt fine, we made a vague plan to do 10-15 more miles and find a camping spot on the side of the road. After about 15 miles of riding we started looking for a spot, I walked off the road at least 5 times to see if there was a hole in the barbwire fence where we could sneak into the trees. Nope. Nada. Not only was the fence always there but also the terrain was very challenging with thick thorny brush that would rip you to pieces and puncture your tires in the process.
It was getting dark and we were starting to get really nervous, we knew we still had another 15 miles to the next town, and both just off getting sick were really lacking the energy to get that far. The sun slowly set and now we were riding in complete darkness. All of a sudden I saw something, thanks to the headlights of a semi passing us, that I thought might be a break in the fence. I yelled to K.G, "I'm going to check the fence for a break!" I thought that she slowed down to wait and so I stopped my bike and ran to investigate the fence. There was a hole big enough for us to squeeze ourselves through with the bikes into a cow pasture. I was excited and ran back to the bike, K.G was nowhere to be seen. Then I realized her taillight was not flashing and not only could I not see her, but there was no way the passing traffic could either! I jumped on my bike and started riding like there was free beer in the next town screaming until my voice was hoarse, and it took me a good mile and a half to catch up with her. I told her about the break but at that point we decided not to bike back because I wasn't even sure if I could find the spot again in the dark. At this point our only real option was to ride all the way to the next town, so on we pushed.
It was really hard both physically & mentally on both of us, riding in the dark with traffic zooming past is no fun. Finally we made it to the outskirts of the town and saw an auto hotel (some of you might remember what they are from our previous stories). They are the places where you can get a room by the hour and the TV channels are not Disney or Nickelodeon material. I think at this point we would have taken just about anything! The young man at the entrance asked me how many hours we needed, I smiled and said we needed 12 hours. I'm sure he was impressed. We took showers and crashed hard, slept through the night like a baby even though the neighbors were expressing their love in a very loud way. So romantic.
The next day we had a hilly, hot 20 miles to get to Tuxtla. Once in Tuxtla, all we needed to do was to find the bike shop where our friends had sent us spare tubes from Puebla. Would through the sprawling city, found the store and got the package, wrong tubes! Miscommunication/lost in translation was the reason, but no worries the store said they could order the tubes and have them shipped to our next stop, San Cristobal de Las Casas. I needed those tubes really bad, I had no spares left after I blew out 2 in Oaxaca. They both broke right next to the valve so patching was not an option, plus one of the tubes was already patched 5 times so it was time for him to retire anyway. I didn't want to tackle Central America without spares since we knew they would be even harder to find there (I ride a size 700x40 with Presta valves, which is not common at all here in Latin America).
After ordering the tubes we rode 10 miles of downhill to a small town of Chiapa De Corzo. We found a nice and cheap hotel close to the highway, the owner was really nice and talked our ears off about Chiapas and the history of this beautiful and rebellious state. The room looked nice the first time I checked so we went to bed confident that we would get a good nights rest for the big climb the next day. Not the case, the room and the bed were infested with ants. There were so many that I had to check in the middle of the night if there was an anthill under the bed! Not only did I have problems with ants all the way in my butt crack but the room was also hot as an oven, needless to say we both slept like crap.
We woke up at 5am to beat the heat and brushed the ants of our bodies, ate a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola. I was so delirious in the morning that I even forgot to tell the owner about the ant problem, he seemed like a nice guy so I doubt he knew about it. The previous night we had discovered podcasts, I know it's old news and no we did not grow up in caves but it's just something we haven't tried yet. They're freaking awesome! They made our 30 mile climb to San Cristobal De Las Casas go by really fast, 6000 ft of elevation gain has never felt so easy.
In the middle of the climb a truck full of oranges passes us and pulls in front of us, the driver climbs on top the truck and asks us if we want oranges? After I said we'd love some he starts throwing them down to me and tells me he thinks we're crazy, I agreed and thanked him. These are the moments that make our day and they're not rare in Mexico, people here are extremely friendly and nice. They do nice things and expect nothing in return. We ate half of the dozen or so oranges on the spot since we didn't want to carry all of them up the mountains, plus they were really delicious. Two thirds of the way up we took a lunch break at a roadside restaurant and got to enjoy the views of the climb we had done from their patio.
By around 2:30 pm we rolled into San Cristobal De Las Casas and made our way down to the house of our Warmshowers host Oscar. Oscar showed us around the town and we had a mean game of ping pong in a bar. Thanks so much Oscar for hosting us! We've been here in San Cristobal for 5 days now (waiting on my tubes to show up), right now we're staying with a different Warmshowers host Edu from Costa Rica. Nicest guy ever, we have his apartment pretty much to ourselves and we've enjoyed some quality time with him sharing stories and beers. He has traveled extensively in South America by bicycle so we've been picking his brain on routes and he's been adding new places to our list of places to see. Thank you Edu for everything!
Finally my tubes arrived last night and now we're ready to head out. The plan is to ride in 2 days close to the border of Mexico and Guatemala and cross it early in the morning. Peace out Mexico, you've been awesome! Central America here we come!
Ville and I were weaving between busses and traffic heading south on the main artery heading for the central/downtown Oaxaca, when we flew past the rerouting of traffic straight into the center of a giant protest in the middle of the street.
But before even heading to Oaxaca, let me tell you a little bit about staying in Puebla for two weeks. When we left Toluca to begin heading south, we had no intention of even riding through Puebla because it was completely south east of Mexico City and we wanted to head south, but our good friend Pedro, from Morelia, had a couple friends in Puebla and we thought, "why not?" We have always been pleasantly surprised by the towns we least expected to be surprised by. Puebla was of no exception.
Luis and Ari welcomed us into their apartment without knowing us at all and only by the referral of said friend, Pedro. But welcome us they did, and for a solid week of bike fixing, quinceanera, birthday and Mexican wrestling festivities. And the night before we were planning our goodbyes and heading back out on the open road, I, K.G., ate something that didn't sit right and was laid up for another week at their place. And did they roll their eyes, stomp their feet, and kick us to the curb as I would have done, no! They made me breakfast and lunch I could stomach every day before leaving for work. They harassed me with text messages to make sure I was still breathing. They tracked down a naturopathic doctor because I didn't want to pump myself full of antibiotics. And STILL they were sad when we left! These two win the gold star for true friends! Can't thank you both enough and excited to see you both again after the ride :)
So after a long two weeks, Ville and I packed up, said some teary goodbyes and got back in the saddles heading south towards Tehuacan, where we stayed one night with Job and his roommate. Thanks boys for the tasty tacos and a bed to sleep. We pushed on into some decent hill climbs back into pine forests and some beautiful camp spots for a few more days into Oaxaca City. From about 25 miles outside the city, the road turned to shit and there was broken glass, garbage, and graffiti (and not the cool to look at kind, but the tagging your name everywhere in dirty parts of cities kind) where we ended up with multiple flat tires and were happy to get into the city and off the road. On our way into downtown, we found ourselves right in the middle of a giant protest against recent changes in education reform. Ville was reminiscing of when he was here back in 2006 and they were protesting then more violently for teachers. Mexico is not the only country where governments make cuts and it appears that education is always the first to go. Children are the future of Mexico, US and the world as a whole. If we want to progress, we cannot wallow in fear, but rise above fear through education and knowledge and only then will we accept others as they are and discover true happiness. My words of wisdom for the week.
After cycling right through the demonstration, we found a cheap hostel in the downtown and walked around looking at the artisan textiles that are so famous for this area (made by the the natives in and around the state of Oaxaca), watched a graduation celebration/parade, and decided to push on the next morning heading south. I had picked up a nasty cold in Puebla and was in dire need of rest, but didn't want to take more time off the bikes after already being out for 2 weeks, so on we pushed. After so many tire punctures (2 of which were Ville's tubes right at the valve rendering the tubes useless) and leaving Ville with only the two tubes in his tires and no back-ups. We scoured every bike shop for tubes to fit his tires, but came up empty handed and realized we might just have to cross our fingers that we make it all the way to Columbia where there is a big cycling culture and possibly more tube sizes available. Luckily, Lois and Elvis, came to our rescue again and are mailing the right tubes to Tuxtla where we will pick them up in a couple days ride.
From Oaxaca, we rode south to Santiago Matatlan, town of Mescal, where I bought artisan chocolate, we ate beef tongue tacos, got a hotel room for the night and headed south into the dry, windy, hills on Highway 190. It was a really tough four days of ups and downs in very gusty, dry hills and when we were to drop out of the hills close to the coast and get some flat land to cycle, we hit the worst winds we have experienced since Baja. So intense we had to pedal to try and get downhill and from Tehuantepec to Union Hidalgo, we rode through garbage ally where the entire stretch of road was covered in garbage and gnarly winds. Once we reached Union Hidalgo, we decided pushing so hard when now both of us were sick was a bad idea, and asked the local police a safe place to stay. They were a great group of guys that let us sleep in the town open-air gymnasium, we were able to watch the local high school kids volleyball practice for a few hours before bed. And as they shut the lights and we locked the door, the bats came out to feed as we fell off to wrestles sleep.
With one day of push left before a planned rest day in Santo Domingo Zanatepec at a Warmshowers host's house, we rose at first light and turned north for 8 miles heading straight into the wind to La Venta. We had breakfast there where outside we caught a big parade of the local elementary school kids celebration of the first day of spring. They were very cute adorned in animal costumes and marching down the street. The rest of the day was spent pushing on through the winds surrounded on all sides by hundreds of wind turbines. It was very exciting to see that Mexico is investing in green energy and a young local guy we chatted with is studying engineering to work generating energy with the wind turbines. While some countries are regressing back to dirty coal mining, Mexico is moving forwards in the use of clean green energy, also creating jobs. Good job Mexico!
As we rode east, we slowly pulled free from the wind vortex where the winds were blocked by mountains and by late afternoon we finally reached Santo Domingo Zanatepec where our Warmshowers hosts, Rodrigo and Lupita welcomed us to their home. Yesterday we decided to take a much needed day off the bikes to rest and recuperate and went to the local highschool where Rodrigo is a teacher and spoke to two of his classes about our ride and practiced English and Spanish with the kids. Then yesterday evening, a group of the girls from one of the classes came by to take Ville and I to dinner to try some local food and interview us. We have felt so incredibly welcome by this town and so many of the people here it feels very nice. Sadly, Ville woke up this morning when we had planned to hit the road early to beat the sweltering heat, and is sick. DAMN!
With all the best intentions of making it all the way to Oaxaca in 6 or 7 days, we got stuck in the middle in Puebla. For a week! Here's how it went down...
Justin Bieber, aka Ville, and I made it back from a few days in Mexico City to our Warmshowers host that lives in Toluca and had a great night with them, and 2 other cyclists they were hosting, Luz and Sylvain. We had some fun nights of board games, shenanigans, and were able to get a lot of tips about the journey south, as Luz and Sylvain were traveling north by bike. We packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out of Toluca (city at the highest elevation in Mexico) dropping way down to Cuernavaca, where we stopped for a night to see the sights. From somewhere outside Toluca a ways up in the forested hills, we began passing hundreds of Mexicans walking the road going east on a pilgrimage or camino to a sacred sight i n the mountains where there is a church wedged into a canyon. We understood that from the end of February through mid March is the time for the pilgrimage and people begin where they live or as far out as Puebla, walking anywhere from 5-200 miles. Their belongings carried by trucks, but carrying large crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary along the way. Even though those we passed did not know about our own pilgrimage by bike, it was a special experience saying hello to so many people we passed sharing a common goal of learning more about oneself while on a journey with a set destination.
Leaving Cuernavaca in the rush hour morning traffic was intense, and for almost the rest of the entire day we rode through a series of towns that seemed to have blended into Cuernavaca, and we never really felt as though we got out of town and traffic until getting onto a cuota (toll road) just before dark. After two days of dropping extreme amounts in elevation and riding in the chaos of city traffic, our shoulders and backs were locked up and I had a decent raging headache. We rode through a small village, in the hopes of finding a safe spot to camp in a yard, and after asking a bunch of farmers and townspeople, the police said we could camp in the town's square. After imagining what it would be like to get out of the tent in the middle of the night to pee on the concrete in front of the police station in the town's square, we agreed agents it and continued on as the sun set. On our last ditch effort, we asked a very poor family on the outskirts of the village if we could camp in their yard and they were super kind in allowing us to camp. Kindness has come to us in all forms and from all kind of people.
At first light, we packed up, thanked the family, and headed back to the toll road to cook some oatmeal on the side of the road (not wanting to fire up a stove in the yard of the family) and continued on the toll road where we passed a bunch of day cyclists from Mexico City on training rides, us heading for Puebla. Our good friend, Pedro, from Morelia had sent us some contacts in Puebla and we were planning maybe a night off in town to check out the sights. Once arriving in Puebla, we called Luis who met us in the city center and we biked back to his apartment with him where we were given our own room and had beers with his wife, Ari, her sister, Sele, and her boyfriend, Elvis. Our one day of visiting Puebla has now turned into nine days of hanging out with this crazy group that we now call our friends.
We spent a day riding bikes out to Cholula, where there is a pyramid with the largest base in the world and even a church at the top. A couple days we spent at Urban Bike, where Elvis the Genius works and was nice enough to add extensions to both our handlebars so we don't have to lean over so far (this will hopefully greatly save our backs and wrists!) and cleaned our bikes just because he is a great guy. He was also able to fix my shifter, which had stopped working after leaving San Diego and I had to set to friction to keep working. My frame had bent slightly, he bent it back a little and adjusted the shifter back to microshift, and I blame all the tacos and good Mexican food for the bent frame.
Luis spent all the time he was not overworking himself as a chef, showing us the sights of Puebla (these lazy Mexicans all work 6 days a week and only have Sundays off, man do we really feel like slackers, we don't even have jobs). We tried artisan beers at Sele's restaurant (where she works as a chef) and got to go to the museum there to see hand carved skulls, bones, pots, and relics dug up when they had done a full renovation of the building dating back to 900-1500 A.D. The history here in Mexico is just so mind-blowingly old! We drank pulque (fermented maguey plant) at a bar where a kid walked in off the street with his guitar and riled up the whole place singing Mexican pop songs. Check out the video below!
We ate fried grasshoppers and tried all kinds of local eats. Elvis joined us for a Group Night Ride for all ages and types of cyclists to come together and take over the streets for an hour ride around the city. Was a fun place to meet a bunch of locals who like to bike, and stop traffic with hundreds of bikes at night with music and lights winding through the streets.
We stayed through the weekend because we were invited to join Ari, Luis, Sele and Elvis at their cousin Caitlyn's Quinceanera party on Saturday evening in Cholula. It was an unbelievable experience! The festival was unlike any wedding I have ever been to in my life, around 200 guests dressed to the nines, tables set ready for a Presidential dinner, a massive lit dance floor where a choreographed show of young boys danced with the girl who's birthday it was, followed by another choreographed show with the girl and her Dad and guys from the family. There was a wild band throughout the night complete with balloons and cowboy hats passed out by people on stilts. There was a photo booth with props and a professional photographer. A dulce (dessert) table set for a king and she cut a cake that rivaled a wedding cake stacked 4 tiers high. A waiter for every table who literally refilled your glass of whisky/coke every time you took your last sip. And it felt as if the entire room of people, kids to elders, all knew how to dance, and not just dance, but really well! I was SO jealous. In Finland and U.S. we might get invited to a wedding a year or every other year and you shuffle around the dance floor and try and look like you didn't break a hip, but everyone in Mexico makes it to tons of these parties and all of them learn how to actually dance. Like where they shake and thrust everything from their hips to their chests to their feet. Dang! Ville and I have a lot to learn!
At about 3:30 a.m, as per tradition, breakfast of chilaquiles was brought out for everyone and then the party finally ended around 6 a.m. And almost all the guests were still there until then! And before everyone left, they were sent with gifts of drinking glasses full of candy with the birthday girl's name engraved on it and tank tops with her name and date printed on it. Like I said, I have never experienced anything like it. I can only imagine what this girl's wedding will look like! And after a few hours sleep we were all up again, had lunch at the nearby indoor marketplace, and dressed again to go to a baby cousin's first birthday party. Ville opted to sleep more, but Ari, Luis, and I made it to a rented hall where there was the most elaborate one year old's party I have now ever been to as well. The theme was all Monsters Inc. and the party was catered, with a band, lots of dancing, 3 pinatas, candy baskets for all the kids, and lots of alcohol and Grandma came around all night pouring shots of Mescal for the guests. To end the night there was a massive cake and another dessert table complete with a chocolate fountain.
By the time we made it home, I was the walking dead and Luis and Ari had to hit the hay to work the next day. Tonight we are going to see a real lucha libre match (Mexican wrestling) here in Puebla with Ari and we are opting for the cheapest seats because they said there are LOTS of people chanting and yelling obscenities at the wrestlers and it's the most fun place to sit. But tomorrow, Tuesday, is our big day. Time to get our fat butts back on the bikes and continue this party train south. We are already sad to leave such great friends and are hoping that we will be able to get them visas to come visit us in Bend so we can return the favor and show them our home and town when this ride is complete.
Thank all of you for following our journey and until next time, keep on keepin' on...
Dear Diary, it's me Ville. Let's give K.G a break from writing and let's let the idiot loose on the pages of this blog.
Exciting personal things that have happened to me after Morelia :
1. I got a haircut
2. I got to play football/soccer with a fun group of guys in Toluca
3. I got a slight black eye from hitting my head on a branch while playing soccer
with a 6 year old.
4. K.G told me I look 10 years younger after my haircut (positive)
5. K.G told me I look like Justin Bieber (you figure out if this is positive)
Enough about me! Let me tell you what our new friend Pedro "The Godfather" did for us in Morelia. When we were leaving Morelia, Pedro felt that on our way out of the city there was a curve that was too dangerous for us to ride without support. The Godfather showed up in the middle of his work day to drive behind us with his car to block the traffic coming from behind and possibly hitting us at the blind curve, after we reached the straight portion of the road he pulled over and let the colony of honking cars and trucks pass us. Thank you Pedro!
After 25 miles/40 km of fairly flat riding we started climbing like it was going out of style! The next 30 miles were intense climbing towards the pine tree covered mountains passing Agave fields left and right, the thing about climbing for 30 miles straight up is that it puts your body in a new position on the bike. Problem with new positions on the bike is that your butt rubs on the seat in a new way and the spot that you have already worn to the level of tough leather is not anymore the spot getting the action. A new saddle sore is born, Hallelujah!
The view and the fresh air was worth the sore butts, all of a sudden (in 5 hours) we were surrounded by pine trees galore. It felt like we were riding over one of the passes crossing the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. The air smelled like home. We truly enjoyed riding in the cool air of the high altitude in this beautiful setting but the day was coming to an end and the sun was about to set. Just when we were bombing down the mountain, I spotted on the side of the road an old man smiling at us in front of his house. I quickly yelled to K.G to reduce the speed from the speed of sound and to pull over. I made my way back up the hill a bit to talk to him and ask if we could camp in his yard, he said we could and started showing some spots to pitch our tent. After multiple options we decided to camp on the patio of his brother's house since he wasn't home. Oscar was the man's name and he and his family owned a little store attached to their house to cater for the people passing by on the busy highway leading over the mountains between the cities of Morelia and Ciudad Hidalgo. One thing to consider when camping close to a road in Mexico is to avoid the downhill sections, trucks here have incredibly loud air brakes, it's almost like they have Metallica's sound system attached to them. Just when I was in full sleep mode dreaming of shiny bike parts I was rudely woken up by what sounded like a machine gun the size of a Walmart, I could see the driver in my mind grinning at us and saying " Wake up suckers!"
The next morning we thanked Oscar and his family and finished the rest of the downhill, all the way to the city of Ciudad Hidalgo, this was also the first time since Alaska that we were wearing our puffy jackets due to the cold morning high up in the mountains. In Ciudad Hidalgo we stopped to grab a bite and ask for directions on what route to take up to the mountains to see the Monarch Butterflies, we got quite a few directions that seemed to all be very different from each other. Every time we talked to someone they would ask us where we're from, I tell them I'm from Finland and most people don't have a clue where it is and Kristen is from Canada due to recent "tensions" between USA and Mexico. This is something she doesn't do lightly, by no means is happy not to tell where she is from.
I was desperately hunting for a Oxxo ( Like a SevenEleven ) for a coffee and once finding one and pulling in to the parking lot we met Javier, Javier turned out to be a great source of information on how to get to the butterflies and insisted on buying us coffees. After we had detailed directions on how to get to see millions of flapping wings we headed up the mountains, climb was intense but beautiful. I guess you have to work for the view. Once we reached our destination, Ocampo, we had already gotten a message on our phone from our friend Javier, he met us downtown and helped us wheel and deal with the owner of a cheap hotel in town. He rode his bike 30 miles just to help and hangout with us with no hidden agendas. That's Mexico.
The next day we woke up early to catch the first minibus at 7am to the butterfly sanctuary, it turns out that the first minibus leaves at 8am. Classic Mexico! Once we got up to the Sanctuary we still had good 45 min hike up in cold mountain weather to find the hiding butterflies. It was worth the shivering cold jaunt up to 9 400 ft/2865 m to see the Monarch Butterflies that have made it all the way to Central Mexico from Western Canada to meet up with their homies and make babies, yes that it the official National Geographic's description. We were bummed we couldn't see them flying around since it was too cold for them to do nothing else than great massive clusters of butterflies hugging each other to stay warm. Just seeing that was awesome so we left feeling happy to have climbed all the way up there to see these beautiful creatures that have traveled almost the same distance as we have. Have a great journey back to Canada buddies, may the currents be at your back!
Gee gully whiskers we had a blast flying down the mountain, passing logging trucks that were loaded up so full you couldn't fit a hair between. Here's a video of the rollercoaster!
After the down hill came the uphill, this one was 17 miles long! We got almost to the top when the sun was setting and I asked a farmer if we could camp on his field. He said no problem, pitch the tent wherever. We found a spot that we liked, pitched the tent and crawled in to hide from the cold night. We were almost asleep when 2 men with flashlights woke us up, they were telling us we were camping in a bad spot and should move. I asked what was wrong with the spot and they told us there were some bad hombres wandering around and that we should camp closer to where they were camping since they had guns. Telling a stranger that you have guns doesn't always make them feel safer, that was the case with us too but we still decided to take down the tent and move to a safer area code. It turned out that Enrique and Antonio were hired by the farmer to guard the tractor and rest of the equipment on the field. We ended up sleeping just fine but I was so restless that I woke up every time a cricket farted. In the morning before taking off we thanked the guys and gave them Snickers bars for snacks.
By late afternoon we reached Toluca, we did get thrown out of the toll road first time in Mexico but ended up riding just fine on the free road even though it did have substantially smaller shoulder for us. We had written to Warm Showers host Guillermo (from Mexico) and his wife Janelle (USA) about staying with them, we wrote them from Guadalajara and estimated that we would get to their house on the 11th. We ended up getting here on the 18th due to the kindness of Mexicans along the way. We did keep them updated on our progress and luckily since they've done a lot of bike touring they understood exactly what was going on. Guillermo (Memo) and Janelle live in a beautiful house a little outside of downtown Toluca with their 2 kids Anna and Mito. We've had a great time hanging out with them sharing travel stories and getting lots of good info for the road ahead.
From Toluca we made a 3 day trip by bus to Mexico City where we got to see all the sights we were hoping for, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Museum of Anthropology and Diego Rivera's murals in one of the government buildings. We stayed with 2 different Warm Showers host in the city. First with Tomas (Argentina), he is doing his PhD in Mexico City on renewable energy, thank you for thinking and working for future generations Tomas! He lives with his wife Ursula (Mexico) and we had a blast staying with them and had a great dinner laughing our worn out butts with their friends brainstorming on business ideas on how to make Pajarete the national drink. The next 2 nights we stayed with Nelly and Erik in the southern part of the city, Nelly is a teacher and Erik drives Uber. They made time in their busy schedules to show us around the cool & hip parts of the city and we got to taste more traditional dishes that we would've never found out on our own. I could describe you the city but it's better to see our pictures, or even better come and see it yourself. It is awesome! The public transportation system works like a charm and there is enough things to see for multiple weeks.
Yesterday we returned and we held a speech at the local university for one of the classes Memo teaches. The students seemed to enjoy hearing our stories and no one was sleeping while these 2 yahoos were ranting and raving about the beauty of traveling by bike. We had fun sharing our stories and hopefully inspired someone to jump on the bike for even a short ride to the next town.
Tomorrow we're heading towards Cuernavaca and from there to Oaxaca. I attached a Google Map with a route that is not quite like ours (instead of 5 758 miles we've actually covered 7 100 miles) but it gives you a pretty good idea on where we are and where we've come from.
Yours Truly, Justin Bieber.
But before we jump to Morelia, we had two very eventful stops first, San Juan Cosala and La Isla. We arrived in San Juan Cosala to visit with Peter and Madeleine and ended up staying a week dancing, eating, learning to play pickle ball, swimming in their club pool, hiking, and just plain relaxing. It was such a treat, big thanks to you both for having us in your beautiful place! We also took a bus for one day into Guadalajara to walk around and see the city, much easier than trying to bike through the city. Ville met a guy near the Cathedral in the city center to juggle a football/soccer ball with and we ate the best chile rellenos plate (so good we had 2 plates) in the largest indoor market in Latin America, Mercado San Juan de Dios. When it was finally time to leave, Peter joined us for the ride east to Chapala and up the climb out towards Guadalajara. We had the plan to camp a night and head the rest of the way north to La Isla, but decided to push through the 90 miles and arrived by dark pretty wasted and without even having an address, in front of our friend Samuel's home. What luck!
Samuel is a friend from Bend who happened to be down visiting his family in La Isla, a very small town in the farmland and hills near Ayotlan (about 80ish miles east of Guadalajara.) Since only corresponding with his daughter, Denise back in Bend, and niece, Isis who was in La Isla, we were not sure how convenient our visit would be for Samuel and his family. What a fantastic stop and time we had with the entire Segoviano family that made up almost the entire town and their friends! We thought we might stay a day and every day we said we would leave they had another party, get-together, fiesta, sigh-seeing trip, tequila drinking fest planned. Not only were we given the royal tour by everyone, we have been completely taken in as family and have promised many returns. We send many many warm hugs and thank yous to all of you that made our time in La Isla special and look very much forwards to seeing you all again after this crazy bike tour.
One of the mornings in La Isla, vaquero (cowboy) Oscar and his wife Sol had us over with a group of friends to have a taste of our first pajarete. Oscar mixed coffee, sugar, chocolate, and alcohol in our cups and then after locking one of their cows in a chute with grain, filled the remainder of the glasses with fresh warm cows milk straight from the udder. It was so delicious we had 2 for breakfast! And still tipsy, we headed by car with Samuel, Isis, Chuy (Isis's little tyke) and Gabriel (Isis's dad and Samuel's brother) to San Juan de Los Lagos and Arandas for a day of sighseeing, eating ourselves silly, and being showered with gifts for the road. When we finally had to pull the plug and keep on keepin' on, we had some sad goodbyes, but were very grateful for coming. And an hour up the road we stopped at our new friend Alex's butcher shop for a bunch of dried meat for the road.
We had a rough patchwork of roads, very bumpy roads, dirt roads, most with no shoulder, on the way into La Isla and much of the same all the way back south east heading towards Morelia. After a night of camping in a cow pasture surrounded by cactus, we pushed on a full day to arrive just outside Morelia to discover it was a massive city (around a million people) and as the shoulder ended and it was getting dark, we decided better to get a motel and ride the last few miles into the city center when it wasn't dark with zooming traffic going by us. Ville scored us a super cheap auto motel; you can pay hourly or stay the whole night, pull your car into a garage no one can see, the reception is behind mirrored glass, and a whole channel of free porn and the rest of the channels were sports. Although, they are very clean and a killer deal for a spacious room complete with shampoo, soap, and even towels.
After late checkout, we rode the few miles in a bit less chaotic traffic into the city and just as we pulled over to check the phone for directions, a cyclist rode up and asked if he could help us. Ville asked for a cheap place to stay (maybe a place without a free porn channel) and he told us to follow him. Pedro, took us to a couple places and found us a hostel right in the heart of the city center and then after dropping our bags, we followed him to his restaurant to have breakfast. Pedro has the coolest little Italian restaurant, Restaurant Palermo, just south of the city center, and when we arrived, he made us fruit and yogurt and eggs with garlic olive oil and toast. And as if we weren't already beaming with gratitude, he insisted that he was so happy to meet us. That he was suppose to have showed up to open the restaurant earlier, but overslept and just made it in front of the passing train to meet us. Destiny! Still in amazement almost daily how we meet these people that are all so incredibly special and we are able to be on this journey sharing our time/lives together. That is what life is really about for Ville and I, the people. The bikes are only the cheap transportation to get us to these people and moments we are sharing.
After breakfast, Pedro took us to a great bike shop, En Eje Del Ciclismo, where the owners were so thrilled to hear of our journey they gave us a discount on Ville's chain, installed it, and threw in a free patch kit. This bike shop is awesome for any cyclists out there heading through Morelia, thanks guys! And Ville and I left bikes and headed out exploring the city center by foot before heading back to Pedro's restaurant for an authentic fine dinner of a special cilantro sauce on jicama followed by homemade pesto pasta, bread, sangria and a fruit/nut/cheese desert! What a treat! And after, he took us on a wild sightseeing tour of the city by bike. Pedro is the happiest most positive bloke we have met (o.k. there have been quite a few, but he is at the top of the pile), and always smiling, put a positive spin on everything. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide. We stopped at a trendy new beer and food warehouse for beers and then after leaving bikes at our hostel, walked to his friend's restaurant/hotel/home to have beers and chat.
Victor and Josue are engineers that have lived in the city most or all of their lives with some of the most incredible stories to tell. Victor gave us a tour of his hotel and home that puts many multi-million dollar Bend homes to shame. His attention to fine detail and construction is unreal and well worth a stay at the hotel, La Casa De Las Rosas, when you are in Morelia. Victor had an assortment of bull fighting photos hung behind his bar on the wall, which we then learned they were of him. We also spotted a photo of Victor on the set of a popular t.v. show set on the same wall.
Josue, after we had a few mescal shots, spoke of his experiences as a professional bull fighter, where the animal and man truly come together in an even matched fight to the death. He had been gored by a bull and broke his neck in three places where somehow he miraculously healed from and is back to good health. He has changed professions to owning a construction company and teaches classes on bull fighting instead, but spoke of how crazy one feels when in the ring with a pissed off bull. And how your fear, and how to harness that fear, is what keeps you alive to fight another day and another bull. Victor used to be one of the highest judges of bull fighting in his day and we couldn't have been more pumped to meet all these great people and hear their stories. We are hoping to get to go learn how to bull fight from Josue before we leave town.
After a few beers and tour, we all headed to Pedro's friend's restaurant and bar, Dos52, where we listened to booty-shakin' live toons, chatted, laughed, drank mescal and beer until we all stumbled home at five this morning! Throughout the night, the band had joined our table, other patrons, the owner and her sister, and we had the most welcoming night of friends in Morelia. These two old farts should not be staying up drinking until five in the morning anymore, and it took a full day of recovery after. Last night Pedro took us to get gazpacho (very popular chopped fruit cup mixed with cheese, hot sauce and salt/pepper) and this morning to his friend, Leonorilda's restaurant for a phenominal breakfast of meats, beans, tortillas, salsas, and we even shared shots of mescal and sweet corn cakes. Marceva Fonda is another must visit restaurant when in town! Thanks to destiny and Pedro, we are enjoying our stay in Morelia with new friends and will keep on keepin' on...until next time. Adios.
People of Morelia peacefully protesting against the recent immigration regulations and import tax implemented by the new US government
K.G. & Ville
Left off in San Jose, Costa Rica and will continue south from there.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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