Flying down a hill enjoying the bright green patchwork hills littered with black and white dairy cows and local farmers working the fields, when a streak of brown fur latched onto the back of Ville's shoe and clamped down hard. When Ville tried to shake it, it went for his heel. That's when Ville lost his temper...
Hey folks! Ville here, I'm giving K.G a break from writing so she can enjoy her ice-cream here in Cuenca, Ecuador. Like she declared in the last post, we did go hike the 2 mountains Pasochoa and Ruminahui and what a fun, exhausting time it was!
The first mountain, Pasochoa, we tackled around noon after heading east out of Quito with our good buddy Freddy. We reached the summit using a different route than most of the people climbing it use. Freddy is like 'The Godfather' in the mountains, and he knew a farmer who let us hike through his property. The farmer was excited to see Freddy again and we tipped him about the location of one his runaway cows. Both K.G and I were a bit worried about how our bodies would deal with the high elevation (4,200 meters / 13, 779 ft ) but were happy to discover that our bodies had already acclimatized after a week and a half in the high country. The entire way to the top and back Freddy explained us things about the local flora & fauna while we bombarded him with questions about his expeditions to mountains like Denali and Aconcagua. And when we arrived at the summit, the clouds parted for us to look down into the giant crater of lush green native plants.
After reaching the top and spending few minutes soaking in the views and taking pictures we headed down. Freddy had reserved us tent sites at a nice hostel in the foothills of Pasochoa Mountain. From the hostel we had great views of one of Ecuador's highest peaks Cotopaxi ( 5,897 m / 19, 347 ft ). A couple of years ago the mountain/volcano became active again so at the moment you can't climb to the top. It's not spewing lava, but it's creating some pretty dangerous gases that could kill the happy climber, similar gases can be found in one of the gas station toilets along the Pan American Highway.
The hostel price included all the meals, which were fantastic. We've been eating a lot of chicken, rice and beans lately so it was nice to get dishes like quiche and hamburgers. The next day we took off to summit Ruminahui ( 4,721m / 15,488ft ), unfortunately the first few hours of the climb we were inside the clouds and could not see more that 60 ft in front of us. After getting closer to the summit it started to clear more and now we could see more of the amazing views. Getting to the top required some scrambling and on the very top we were almost bouldering. Reaching the top felt pretty amazing, we were happy to be there with a great friend like Freddy whom we owe huge thanks to showing us around in his country and taking us to these places that without him we probably would've never seen.
Getting down the mountain proved out to be harder than getting up it, as some of you know I've had 5 surgeries done on my knees thanks to soccer/football so to say the least I was the slowest one coming down. After getting back to the hostel, Freddy and K.G headed to the natural water jacuzzi while I took a shower and studied the guidebooks for Peru.
The next day was a rude awakening getting back on the bikes and continuing South, the last few days of intense hiking had taken it's toll and we were hurting on the uphills. Luckily day by day the views were getting more and more amazing enabling us to to forget our achy legs. The towns and cities along the way were almost as beautiful as the surrounding landscape they were in. We stopped in places like Ambato and Cajabamba where we were definitely the only "Gringos" in town judging by the looks we got, the looks were not negative like a lot of the ones we got in Central America but more curious and friendly.
One of our favorite places between Quito and Cuenca was the small town of Cunchi where we got to enjoy some amazing views of the clouds below us and the sun setting behind the mountains. The downtown area was beautiful and the people extremely friendly. Al the these amazing views did not come for free, it's been constant up and down. Some hills are steeper and some more mellow graded but none of them are small, they're all 5-20 miles in length. To add to the work out, Mother Earth has given us some intense and cold headwinds to battle with complete with mist and rainshowers! Oh boy!
Now that I've told you guys all the positive things about Ecuador I have to be honest and say that the dogs have been the worst on the trip so far. There is a lot of them around, some of them are stray and some have a collar. The stray dogs don't seem to care too much about us, they might have gotten beaten up too many times that they seem pretty timid, or they are too busy scrounging for food to waste energy on us. The worst ones we have problems with are the ones from people's yards, a lot of the times they chase us and try to bite our tires or even worse, they jump in front of us when we are bombing 40 miles per hour downhill. Most of them are not small ones either since they are used as guard dogs, they don't look like they ever get petted or loved a lot, just thrown in the yard to guard the place. Man's best friend here is something else, not the cute mutt in the yard.
Yesterday we passed a house while slugging slowly uphill and a dog took off after us, in a few seconds it was biting the heel of my shoe and it had a pretty good hold of it. I freaked out because if it would've gotten hold of my Achilles heel with it's razor sharp rabies infested teeth that would've been the end of the trip for me. I kicked the dog the best I could once it lost it's hold but that only got him more angry. I stopped the bike and picked up a rock the size of my fist, as soon as I did this the dog started running back to the yard. I ran after it with fury, once I got inside the yard there was a small girl looking at me with eyes wide open and full of fear. I tried to explain to the girl that the dog attacked me and now it was time for him to learn a lesson about biting passing cyclists. The girl ran inside the house and left me standing in the yard feeling bad about it. The dog was standing in the doorway and I swear it was giving me the middle finger.
The rest of the day I carried 2-3 rocks at hand all the time, I'm planning to make a stick out of some limber sapling so I'm ready the next time when overly aggressive Lassie wants to chew my leg. We've seen all kinds of protective gear against the dogs among the cyclist that we've met, anything from pepper spray to a full size whip ( or maybe that was for the bedroom?)
We made it to Cuenca yesterday and we are planning to take couple of days off here. It seems so far like a really cool city, we've heard that there's a lot of retired Canadians and US citizens living here. Like Cuernavaca in Mexico and Medellin in Colombia, Cuenca is also called the city of eternal spring due to it's temperate climate. We're staying with a warmshowers host Jacobo who is originally from Venezuela, his place is on the outskirts of the city but there's an awesome bus system here so right now we're sitting in a cafe sipping coffee and telling stories to you fine folks. We're planning to continue south to Loja on Sunday and after Loja we're heading to the border of Peru. Right now our bodies are aching from all the climbing we did on and off the bikes here in Ecuador so we'll be taking it easy here in the eternal spring. Until next time, as Ron Burgundy says it " You stay classy San Diego!"
Ville couldn't refuse the opportunity to pluck one of the giant, wiggling, 4-inch-long live larvae from the bowl of squirming critters and stick it in his mouth, biting off the head, chewing the meat and swallowing it down alive...
Pasto, Colombia was a great stop for a couple days rest. We stayed at the Koala Hotel in downtown and although on the high end of our budget, the couple that own and run the place are incredibly kind and made some tasty pancakes complete with diced fruit to give us some extra juice to continue the climb south. We also met a super nice French couple, Leo and Virginie, whom we ended up riding on and off with on the next stretch to Quito, Ecuador.
Riding out of Pasto was a short long climb, followed by a gigantic easy, "whatcycling dreams are made of", downhill for 15 miles! Where Pasto was rainy, cold and chilly, we dropped all the way down to sunshine and some warm weather again. The road then climbed ever so slowly up along a meandering river in a deep gorge and we took in some stunning scenery the entire day to Ipiales. Ipiales was another crappy border town with not much to see but a place to sleep. We and the Frenchies woke up early and were at the border by 6:30 am only to find that the systems were down and with a gigantic line already waiting to get in or out of Colombia. For those not following the news, Venezuela is in a pretty chaotic state right now and two days prior to our arrival at the border, Colombia granted temporary visas to Venezuelans, making for a complete chaos at Immigration and a complete shut-down of the systems. Really sad and sorry for all the struggles the Venezuelan people are going through and have been struggling through! To lose everything you have worked so hard for in your life and to have your money so devalued you can't even buy food, is a very sad place to be for so many of these people.
After 5 hours of waiting in an ever increasingly agitated line, ONE AGENT WORKING even though there were 7 booths (inefficiency at it's finest), locked gates to keep the hoards of people outside until they could be filtered into the line, we made it to the front of the line and got stamped out of Colombia. Yipee! And biked about 100 yards to the Ecuadorian Immigration were we were stamped into Ecuador in about 2 minutes. Loving Ecuador already. From the border we could already tell the roads were amazing, multiple lanes, recently paved, and decent biking grades. We stopped at the first overpriced restaurant we could find to get lunch together and then pushed on up the hill passing rolling hills of green checkerboard pastures littered with colorful cows. It was beautiful, very similar to the countryside in France the Frenchies said.
First night in Ecuador we spent in San Gabriel, a decent sized little town high in the mountains with a cute central square, beautiful old buildings and a long walking street market. With the change in elevation (hovering around 9,000 ft/ 2,750 meters roughly), we have been biking in pants, layers and rain jackets for the mist, but very much enjoying the biking in cooler temps. Nights drop in temps enough to get to sport our new puffy jackets (we picked up warmer puffies in Bend to tackle the Andies). From San Gabriel we continued southwest through some beautiful misty countryside and even had the return of pretty extreme winds (we haven't had wind like this since Baja!). As Ibarra came into view, we were confused but excited that the elevation chart must have been wrong because we were almost in town and had a decent day of riding, until the road took a sharp left turn into a switchback and we began to climb. Luckily, the climbs in Ecuador have been really easy grades with switchbacks so far and we were in Ibarra earlier than planned. Debating to push on, we decided to get a room and have time to put our feet up and relax a bit before pushing on.
From Ibarra we had a very scenic and easy day of oscillating hills where we came around a turn to see Cayambe's snow-capped Mountain reaching into the clear blue skies. We find ourselves stopping constantly to get pictures or video of the scenery here in Ecuador it's so beautiful. In the early afternoon we passed Otavalo, a small town in the Andean highlands surrounded by volcanoes and where traditionally clad indigenous twonspeople sell colorful textiles and handicrafts. We stopped and sat to have some coffee while the world walked by, but are always so sad to not have the room/space to buy anything to pack along. Somehow , with the roads easy riding and the climbs easier to tackle than Colombian roads, we managed to get all the way to Guayllabamba, one long climb (and only 15 miles) away from Quito.
With an early start, we pushed the long, slow climb to Quito and met our good friend Freddy, whom we met just before beginning this bike ride from Alaska to Argentina, in Myanmar while traveling. What a great feeling to see an old friend after so long on the road! Freddy took us to his beautiful home right in the heart of the city and convinced us to drop our stuff and head with him on an adventure. Freddy is one of the oldest and most fantastic trekking/mountaineering guides from Quito (http://sierranevada.ec/en/home), and who has traveled all over the country and world climbing mountains. Freddy had to drive over 5 hours to the Amazon to pick up some students and bring them back to the city, but had a great plan for us to drive up into the mountains to Papallacta where there was hot springs to soak and stay the night in a hotel, then continue to Puerto Misahualli the next morning to pick up the students in the Amazon and drive back to the city together. And who is not more down for a fun adventure than these two wackos?!
First, we headed out of the city to drop down an insanely steep road into a ravine, cross a river and then climb all the way up to 12,000 ft over the Andean Pass and then dropped down to a beautiful lake where we found a hotel with thermal pools in back all to ourselves to relax and soak our soar muscles. The next morning, surrounded by the Andes, we could see Cotopaxi covered in pure white snow towering high above us. Back in the car, we dropped far down along the river and eventually turned up another highway climbing up and winding into the cloud forest. Having loads of rain, many places in the road had been previously washed away or were still scattered with debris. Lucky for us, Freddy is a sure-footed driver and we dropped back down as the heat and humidity of the Amazon Jungle engulfed us.
In Puerto Misahualli, we stopped for a quick lunch and to stretch our legs, where one of the local ladies was selling giant LIVE larvae to eat. Apparently a local delicacy, Ville couldn't refuse to try something that crazy, and picked one out of the bowl of squirming, wiggling 4 inch long critters and popped it into his mouth! I was so disgusted by them, I try a lot of things, but there was no way I was going to eat one of those! I took the video instead. We managed to find the two students, pack up their things, and back up the way we came we headed, arriving back in Quito around 7 pm for a walk around the hood, a bite to eat, and crash.
While soaking in the hot springs, Freddy had mentioned he really wanted to get to go do some hiking with us while we are here, and so this morning we laid out some plans. We are planning to leave tomorrow morning up to the El Boliche National Recreation Area to hike and summit Pasochoa Mountain (4,200 meters/ 13,779 ft.) and then camp at the base of Cotopaxi, summitting Ruminahui Mountain (4,721 meters/ 15,488 ft) the next day. From there we will get ourselves back to the Panamerican Highway and continue south towards Cuenca, which will be our next planned stop. Freddy has to come back to Quito for an appointment, but is hoping to meet us on the road with his bike to bike a few days with us. Very excited to have such a fantastic friend in Ecuador wanting to show us his beautiful country! If you have any interest in outdoor adventures in Ecuador or beyond, we very highly recommend Freddy at Sierra Nevada Expeditions (his website). Until next time ya'll keep on keepin' on...
Here is is for your viewing entertainment. Part 1 of our Alaska to Argentina Bike Journey. This begins in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and ends at our halfway(ish) of Costa Rica. Please comment, email us, share us, let us know what you think! We hope to get feedback for Part 2...(click link below or copy and paste into browser)
I was cycling along, minding my own business, thrilled to be heading out of Medellin on a Sunday where the city closed down two lanes of an entire highway for over 20 miles for cyclists, runners, rollerbladers, etc. when all of a sudden, I see out of the corner of my eye at the last second something large fly straight at me and landed smack down on my tongue. I spastic-ally grabbed at it and realized it was a giant beetle with hooks on its feet clinging to my tongue and by the time I ripped it off and threw it aside, my tongue had been coated with some sticky, foul tasting gunk and my tongue slowly began to numb. Oh crap.
We stayed only a couple days to rest in Medellin, spending an entire day on the blog and then a day sightseeing at the Botero Museum, downtown and the trendy Bolivariana area for beers at a newly opened micro brewery (felt like being at home). Getting the chance to go to see some of these art museums in the home countries of these artists like Botero here in Colombia and Freda Kahlo in Mexico has been a very special experience for us. It just isn't the same to only see art in textbooks at school. Heading out of Medellin on a Sunday, we had a great time with thousands of other cyclists riding on a two-lane highway closed on Sundays only to cyclists for almost the entire length of the city. Apparently I ride with my mouth gaping wide open, because a giant beetle flew straight onto my tongue and left a foul tasting stuff that numbed my tongue. Luckily it wore off after a few hours, and I was probably just drooling on myself and talking with a speech impediment for a while. Big huge thanks to Pedro, Diana, Daniel, and Manuel Gomez (our Warmshowers hosts) for having us and showing us around your great town!
The climb out of Medellin was a slow easy climb of only 3,810 ft (an easy climb for Colombian standards) and when we reached the summit, we rolled in front of a restaurant to get a snack and were given a standing ovation by a few cycling groups out for their Sunday ride. It was amazing! And they all wanted to get pics on our bikes, try their hand at lifting the bikes (Ville's bike is so heavy most people can't lift it), and the staff threw down two giant plates of food for us. Only when we went to pay did we realize one of the cycling groups had already paid for our meals and left. Colombians! What a great bunch! Thank you so much Bicicletas Ramon Hoyos & Servibike!!
We knew we had a thrilling decent in front of us, but as a giant storm approached, we opted to get a room in Santa Barbara for the night and watched as an insane rain/thunderstorm blew through and washed rivers down the streets. Our room even had a giant naked pic of Kim Kardashian over our bed, what a treat. In the morning we had a nice breakfast, (in Colombia it has been usually eggs, rice, beans, plantains, and meat with a steaming cup of hot cocoa or coffee) and had a wild decent all the way down to a giant river where the road then slowly climbed along the river and thick, green hills and non-stop road construction. The plans for road widening were already underway, but the recent storm had also brought a bunch of debris into the road and we had to stop about every mile the entire day to wait to pass large sections of road construction. Although, we had lots of road workers to chat with, and were given some water by one guy.
We made it as far as El Rodeo for the night, got a cheap $6 room in a trucker motel on the river, and headed out early with the plan to make it to Chinchina where we would stay at a Warmshowers apartment. The day was yet another insane day of climbing back into the clouds, and by the time we cranked uphill into town, it was pouring rain and we were both beat. The climbs in Colombia have been steep and long, and it has not helped that since my sickness in Bend and taking time off, we have felt in a rush to get miles in to be able to finish in Argentina in decent weather so we have been pushing hard to crank out miles. We met a sweet group of boys on the street corner when asking for directions and Ville said three of them were trying to distract him while the one boy was hitting on me (they were like 10 years old mind you). Yep, I still got it!
We decided on a day off in Chinchina only for a day to rest the legs and do the much needed research for our travel route through Peru (mountains vs coast), and when leaving the coffee shop, Stephan, the owner, insisted we pick a meal off his menu he wanted to make us for dinner for free. Man, the love we have received here in Colombia is incredibly humbling. After a day of rest and trying to pick back up our spirits, we had a pretty beautiful day of riding the "road of coffee" surrounded by coffee plantations and made it all the way into Contente (a fork in the road with a restaurant and sex motel) where we got a room for the night, complete with mirrors on all the walls and even murals of photographers aiming their lenses at us like celebrities. "Only the best for my wife," Ville likes to remind me every time we get these super classy joints. Lucky me.
The next day's stretch was a very pleasant downhill through a very plush neighborhood into the wide open fields of sugar plantains stretching for as far as the eye could see. We were passed many times a day by giant semi trucks pulling 5+ trailers loaded full of sugar cane. The drivers here in Colombia have been incredibly nice for the most part and always smiling or waving so at least if the steep climbs get you down, the people bring you up. But on the flats, we rolled through some easy miles and made it early to our Warmshowers host, Jonathan's, home just south of Buga. A Colombian who has done a decent amount of bike touring in South America, he was a great resource for info and had a beautiful home he said they rent for $500 a year! WHAT?!?! In Bend, you might be able to rent a cardboard box under the Colombia Street Bridge for $500 a month.
At a lunch stop the previous day we had met a super nice couple, Jorge and Laura, who were motorcycle touring and headed home to Cali and invited us to stay if we wanted to make the trip into the city, but hearing the horror stories of bad traffic, we opted to bypass the city and continued south to Santander de Quilichao on flat open stretches of road through "bad neighborhoods" which we just made the assumption meant that they were towns made up of lots of black people so they were bad. So this happens not just in America, but Colombia too huh? All we encountered were tons of smiles from people who obviously have less than most. We also had a nice guy, Juan Carlos, pull over and give us water, chat a bit about the ride, and pull over a second time to give us bananas and mandarins. Colombians.
In Santander de Quilichao we had a delicious dinner of chicken soup, complete with chicken feet, neck, liver and heart, followed by fried half a chicken and rice. If I weren't on a bike trip biking all day, I would be the size of a bean bag chair from all the crazy food we eat. The next day we had a long day, lots of scenery but more climbing out of the flat land and into the hills to reach Popayan very late in the day, exhausted, yet again. Even though it was again a Sunday, the traffic became intense as we neared town and knowing that Sunday is a HUGE drinking day in all Latin American countries, it is unnerving to be on the road late. Just before town we passed a huge fairground where it must have been a motocross convention or gathering of some kind with lots of crowds and then just past it, as the traffic became insane, we rolled past a huge car accident where a car had turned in front of a motorcyclist and giant crowd of people were gathered to help. The guy appeared to hopefully be ok, and having a crowd already there to help, we passed and continued to town. We found a cheap hotel right off the highway and crashed for the night.
With another early start, (we sadly didn't realize Popayan was a city worth seeing until later down the road) we made headway south with an elevation chart for the day that was so far off base it was hysterical. We imagined a day of oscillating hills that involved a large downhill and flats but instead we found ourselves climbing straight up for 5 miles, white knuckled descent for 5 miles, lowest gear climb for 5 and found the first hotel in El Bordo after a 60 mile day, to crash. Although challenging terrain, it makes for some spectacular scenery, slow moving sparse amounts of traffic, friendly small villages, and rarely seeing tourists. While passing through a tiny town at the top of a pass, we passed a small group of kids on their way to school who decided to run with us for about a mile and asked a million questions about where we were going, our names, where we were from, our bikes, they were such kind-heart-ed curious kids it was heart warming. At the bottom of one hill we stopped to try an "Energy Juice" from these kind local ladies complete with fresh squeezed oranges, quail eggs, and mystery fuel. They even gave us a bunch of oranges to carry up the climb.
From El Bordo, after Ville had to change a flat tire, we were surprised to meet another cycle-touring group from France, 3 adults and 2 kids, who were biking some of Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. We chatted a bit in the morning and headed down the road where we had a really pleasant long, winding descent into another "dangerous area" of, again, towns of black people who were unbelievably kind, chatty, waving and cheering us on as we passed. The day was amazing, slowly rolling hills ever dropping, dropping, dropping until we found ourselves in desert surrounded by flowering cactus and temps reaching over 110 degrees by noon! And then we hit more tire troubles with Ville's front tire.
After sitting on the side of the road, twice, in the baking sun trying to dig shards of metal from the tire, Ville was able to pump it and hobble into Cumbitara where there was a tire shop where we ate lunch and worked on the tire for a couple hours in the heat before Ville finally found a giant metal shard lodged inside the tire. For those who haven't toured, or not long enough to wear down some tires, these metal shards are a nightmare. They are from old car and semi truck tires exploded on the road and the interior radial of the tire is left in tiny (the size of a needle about 1/4" in length) fragments undetected by the cyclists eye on the road. They lodge into our tires, put tiny holes in our tubes, and they can only be fixed with time sitting on the side of the road, usually with no shoulder and speeding traffic whizzing by, with pliers digging out these lovely metal pieces and patching the tube. A total joy.
We powered up past Cumbitara a ways, found a room for the night in a room the temp of your oven, and had an early start to an insanely long climb up, down, and up, up, up to Pasto where we reached it in the rain and checked into Koala Inn, highly recommended by other cyclists. Absolutely stunning views on the way up to Pasto and even past a town, Chachagui, with tons of giant homes with pools and gated communities. We are taking a couple days to rest, blog-up, change cassettes and chains (so it's been 5,000 miles since the last change) before we have about a 5-day climb over the border of Colombia into Ecuador where our next stop is Quito and visiting a friend, Freddy, whom we met while backpacking in Myanmar. Although very challenging for the mind and spirit, Colombia has been a great place to bike because of the diverse scenery and unbelievable outpouring of generosity of the Colombian people. Will be sad to leave, but excited to begin yet another country. Until next time ya'll, keep on keepin' on...
As the Tour de France rages on in Europe, and Rigoberto Uran from Columbia won in Stage 9, Chambéry, after a fierce battle in three Hors-Category climbs, these two sweaty cyclists climbed up and out of the heat 7,723 ft in one grueling day of 45 miles to realize just why the Colombians are so damn good at climbing hills on bikes.
As Ville and I exited the plane on our layover in Bogota, Colombia, we were thrilled with the reprieve of chilled refreshing air at 8,675 ft. and excited to be greeted by smiling, friendly, fashionable Colombians and even t-shirts with bicycles on them in gift shops. Rumors must be true, we were already liking Colombia and were still in the airport. But we caught another plane to Cartagena on the northern coast of Colombia because we wanted to bike as much of north to south of the Americas as possible, and once we stepped out of the plane in Cartagena we were depressed when we were swallowed by the heat once again.
We tooled the bikes back together in the baggage claim of the airport, and after frantically patching 2 of my tires in the airport, trying to get to our hotel before dark, we made it to the gate of the place being rushed inside by the caretakers telling us we shouldn't be in the neighborhood after dark. That's promising. The next day we ventured to the Old Town area of Cartagena (having sailed here in 2010, we had seen some of the city then) and it was so unbelievably hot we had to hunker down in a coffee shop with A/C to cool down. We did wander the streets to see the various murals painted on buildings and in ally-ways and enjoy the endearing Colonial architecture before making it back to our "hood" to get out of the sun.
The next morning, we were back to an early 5 am start out of town, and my rear tire had another flat before we got started and another flat a mile down the road. Struggling to patch a tire as the sweat is pouring into your eyes and some street kid is trying to riffle through Ville's frame bag almost put us both over the edge. Luckily, after pulling out at least 8 metal shards from my rear tire, it held until we got to the outskirts of town and a bike shop to buy more tubes and for Ville to get a new chain. The ride for the next four days was sweltering, fairly flat riding (aside from opting for a hilly inland route because it was more scenic and beautiful) and had a total of 7 flat tires to patch, a new record! Beginning to think that Avianca Airlines also bent my rear rim, we put on my new rear tire and that seemed to do the trick. Goodbye old Schwalbe tire, thanks for the miles.
Luckily, Colombia is beautiful, the people are out-of-this-world friendly and the food is giant heaping cyclist portions of soup, followed by a giant main dish of rice, beans, eggs, fried banana, sometimes french fries and a slab of beef. I imagine being a vegetarian here would be a bit challenging, but there are worse places to be vegetarian or vegan for sure. And after riding into Sincelejo, we passed heaps of cyclists out for their weekend ride and stopped at a cafe for cyclists to eat our breakfast and enjoy fitting in for a change. The wide array of wildlife and animals we have passed so far has been crazy; a giant dead python and alligator on the road, a giant pig jumped out of the bushes and almost ran smack into us, bazillions of different kinds of spiders, armadillos, sloth signs (didn't get to see any they were moving too fast), Macaws, numerous bright colored birds, water buffalo down in the marsh area close to the coast and even an iridescent giant blue butterfly that stopped both of us in our tracks it was so psychedelic.
The roads so far have been a mixed bag, no bike lane to giant bike paths through towns, but since there is an array of cyclists, motorbikes, cars, box trucks and semis, they all seem to cohesively work together on the road and no one seems in too much of a hurry. We have had numerous motorcyclists pull up alongside us and chat about where we are going, and even the police have checked in on us to make sure we were doing o.k. There has been the ever hair raising passing of oncoming traffic here that makes me catch my breathe as we are hurtling down-hill at a car coming full speed at us in the oncoming lane to miss us by a foot or so and wave with a thumbs-up. Oh Colombians, you silly bunch.
By day five out of Cartagena, we met up with the giant Cauce River and followed it's meandering uphill flow along small houses and businesses that were strung out along the roadside and built up into the hilly, thick vegetation along the banks. We passed numerous waterfalls and pipes shooting water into the air and stopped a handful of times to cool off in the refreshing spray. As we watched a big wooden boat one morning eating breakfast carry 20-30 people across the river, one of the local dudes told us they were heading to work up the hill on the coca farms. Now we know where to score the good drugs. Ironically, Ville had thrown his back out that morning trying to carry his heavy bike down the stairs from the Hotel and was doped up on heavy painkillers, so when we saw the butterfly cross our path an hour later, he thought he was hallucinating. Good times.
On our sixth day south, we had the climb of all climbs, 7,723 feet of elevation gain in 45 miles. When we started out the day, we were both very optimistic that we would get through it no problem and hopefully by mid-afternoon. Oh how wrong we were. We started out at 5:30 a.m. and did not get to Yarumal, a mile after reaching the summit until 5:30 p.m. and in a downpour of cold rain. And the climb had numerous stretches of lowest gear stand-out-of-seat climbing sections where even the truckers gave us thumbs up and cheered. Not planning for it to be so brutal, we had not taken snacks (Snickers bars melted and were a no-go through all of Central America and so far Colombia) and we ate like champs at a restaurant in Yarumel and passed out before our heads hit the pillow all swaddled in blankets (we had actually left out hotel with air-con that morning and finished our day freezing under loads of wool blankets).
The next morning we slept in a bit to rest and had a rough day of oscillating hills, although extremely beautiful littered with farms and dairy cows, our legs were spent from the previous day and by the time we got to our Warmshowers host's house in Rio Grande only 46 miles for the day, we were both spent. Dr. Lenin and his friend Willie were amazing! Dr. Lenin's home sat on a hillside with all kinds of animals roaming the gardens and every flower you can imagine hanging from baskets or flowing from pots around the house. They insisted we stay many days to relax, but we were on a mission to get to Medellin (in hindsight we would have stayed longer if we hadn't planned and written a Warmshower host in Medellin who was expecting us). There was a small climb in the morning and then the descent-of-all-descents to reap the rewards of all our hard work. It was a wild ride down! (check out the video below)
After the rush of an insane downhill, flying by semis on the left and getting the occasional bug pelting, the road connected with a busy highway that led us first through Bello and then in through the giant metropolis of Medellin. The highway was hair-raising and we both were stressed to the max when the shoulder disappeared and the traffic was zooming inches from us at high speeds. We rode by a guy in a wheelchair on that same insane thoroughfare and when we stopped and he asked for a ride home, Ville had him grab onto the back of his bike and the guy directed traffic around them as we chugged up the hill. He stayed with us a while and then thanked Ville as he let go and headed up a side road home. (Check out the video below)
We made it close to our Warmshowers host's home and had an ice cream to celebrate getting to Medellin and await our host. Unfortunately we had mistakenly wrote the wrong date on our email and they expected us a week later, but welcomed us in and were the kindest family of fellow travelers. Manuel, the younger son, welcomed us in and even made us dinner before his older brother Daniel, mom Diana and father Pedro came home. You guys are amazing and thanks a million for your hospitality! After being so good at filtering water, we somehow managed to both get stomach sick, and I even have a rash to go along with it, but are making the best of fixing bikes and catching up on this blog while resting. With a quick recovery (fingers crossed), our next stop will be Cali in about 5 days or so and thanks so much everyone for following our journey, commenting, writing us, supporting us, loving us, and helping to make this wild bike adventure happen. Until next time, keep on keepin' on!
In hindsight, it just might have been easier to illegally push bikes with a machete and mandatory guide to get through the mountainous and dangerous Darien Gap, try and illegally border cross with no border crossing into Columbia dodging military and police and continue until we somehow connected with a road on the Columbian side, instead of boxing bikes and flying north east to Cartagena, Columbia.
Ville and my handful of rest days in Santiago, Panama spent with old friend from Bend, Devin, and new friends, Kacie, Maria, and Yoxara, were awesome. Devin works in Panama for an NGO, Bridges to Prosperity (check out the article I wrote about his work HERE) and we were able to head out on the job with him to check out the great work he and his crew are doing building footbridges for communities cut off from the outside world when rivers flood. One of the nights we were there, Maria and Yoxara, both from Venezuela, cooked us all some Venezuelan food, arepas, and even got us cupcakes to celebrate our One Year on the Bike Ride! Thanks so much all of you for a great time.
When it was time to keep on, we rode an easy 35 mile day to stay in Aguadulce with a Peace Corp. girl, Vanessa. We were able to meet a fellow teaching friend of Vanessa's as well as a couple students and appreciated very much a shower and to crash inside and away from mosquitoes. Thanks again Vanessa for hosting us, come see us in Oregon. The following day we had no plan as to how far we would make it, but had a decently flat ride to San Carlos, where the skies opened up and it began pouring like it had never poured before and we made it into town and found a Bomberos (Fire Station) that allowed us to pitch our tent under cover for the night. Completely drenched, we rung out our clothes and quietly celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary together reflecting on what a wild ride this last four years of marriage has been like!! Thanks for keeping things interesting Ville. :)
The next morning, the rains had subsided, and when we asked for a good place to get breakfast we were directed to a hamburger and hot dog stand at the corner. Not quite what we were looking for for breakfast, so we decided to push on and found a bakery complete with tons of fried food and white bread. Needing to get on the road, we downed a handful of croissants and fried meat pockets and headed down the road. As we started into our big climb for the day, the fried food was wreaking havoc with our stomachs and we rolled into La Chorrera packed with afternoon traffic and made our way out to David, another Peace Corp. volunteer's house. David got a bit held up in traffic himself and so we sat on, what we thought was David's porch, for 5 hours waiting for him and watched a giant lightning storm pass overhead. Luckily when David made it home, we were on the right porch and appreciated very much another shower and bed to crash in. Thanks David for the hospitality.
Having only 25ish miles into Panama City, we started early and hit an unbelievable amount of bumper-to-bumper traffic almost the entire way into the city. And it was even Saturday! As we crossed the infamous Bridge of the Americas, the bridge over the Panama Canal, Ville and I were yelling and cheering the entire way across we were so thrilled to be at this milestone, heading into Panama City and the end of North and Central America! We did it! And timing was perfect with it being Saturday we ran into the Saturday Cycling Group who close off a lane of a major road on the way into the city. Now we felt like royalty cruising on into the city skyline like bad asses on heavy steeds. We were pumped to be able to ride the Cinta Costera, walking/biking trail along the water front. Until it ended, and we were forced into the worst city riding we have been in yet trying to get to a bike shop, Latin Bikes. After confirming they had set aside 2 bike boxes, we had to backtrack almost 4 miles back to our super classy Hotel Latino.
We had stayed at Hotel Latino seven years prior after crewing on sailboats and remembered it being decent with a pool. Apparently the years had been unkind to Hotel Latino, and although it still had the pool, the neighborhood was a bit rough around the edges and the patrons were young partiers in the city for the weekend or ladies of the night with their "friends". We did get the chance to meet up with a Couchsurfing dude, Leonardo, who treated us to tasty pints at Buenas Pintas and took us to a place with traditional Panamanian food for dinner. In the morning, we met up again for breakfast for some more fried street food where we realized that fried everything (not exaggerating, EVERYTHING) is how the Panamanians do food. After, we checked out some of the city, rode the single line metro, and met up with an old friend, Juan Diego, whom we had met seven years prior in the San Blas Islands and had spent time with him and has family in Panama City. Juan Diego was now grown up, married and with his wife, Claudia, and little girl, Alejandra.
They picked us up and drove us around the islands outside the city and into the Old Town part of the city with cobble stone streets and beautiful architecture. A stark contrast to the giant skyscrapers, banks, and malls of the rest of the city. After, we ate at Crepes and Waffles (YUM) and Juan Diego helped us out big time working through our issue of how to get a cab big enough the next day to get our giant bike boxes and ourselves out to the airport. He was kind enough to offer to pick us up the next day from the bike shop after we would box the bikes there. So most of the entire next day was spent in the front of Latin Bikes (they had no room inside there shop with air conditioning), breaking down bikes and packing them into 2 bike boxes. Having had to do this for our flight to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska at the start of the ride, we had a better idea what we had to do, but these boxes were much smaller and we had to take apart a lot more of the bikes than before and had far less packing material this time. Juan Diego, as promised, picked us up even at rush hour and we drove out to the airport around 6 pm to wait out our flight for 5 am the next day. Thanks a million Juan Diego for saving our butts with the ride and taking the time to see us with your family!
We met a super nice American couple we chatted with for a while in the airport before making a fort out of our boxes and gear under a stairwell and tried to catch some zzzz's. When we went to check our bikes in for the flight, we were informed that even though Ville had done a bunch of research into an airline that allowed our bike boxes for free up to the certain weight we so carefully packed them to, they discontinued that sweet idea in April and now charged $107 USDollars EACH to get our bikes on the plane. DAMN YOU AVIANCA AIRLINES! We reminded ourselves of all the great things that always come our way, and sometimes you just can't win it all.
First flight got us to Bogota, Columbia where we had an 8 hour layover and plenty of time to sleep on chairs, the floor, people watch and stuff ourselves with tasty Columbian coffee and cheap desserts. Bogota Airport was far classier than Panama, and we both reflected on how ecstatic we were to be finally done with hot and rainy Central America and our least favorite country, Panama. Aside from our awesome American, Brazilian, Colombian, Venezuelan and Leonardo the one great Panamanian friend, Panama was deforested, roads were shit, traffic was horrible, most people were unfriendly, food was our least favorite (fried) and Panama City was the most dangerous, deadly city we had to ride through. Colombian people were smiling, talkative, kind, the food was tasty, shops had t-shirts with BICYCLES on them, and this was all just in the airport! Man were we glad to be in Columbia.
Our last flight was delayed, but we made it before dark and after some eyelash batting and compliment throwing, the security guard lady let us assemble the bikes in the corner of the air-conditioned baggage claim. The assembly went fairly quickly, but we discovered a fair amount of bangs and bruises from the stellar crew at Avianca Airlines and were really stressing when we had my rear tire deflate twice as we were frantically trying to get to our hotel by dark. We rolled into a totally sketchy neighborhood, where a really kind man informed us we should NOT be here at dark and helped us find our hotel. The hotel turned out to be very mediocre, but was a roof over our head with a handful of locked gates and doors, and a bed to sleep. Anxious to get out and see the sights tomorrow (still hoping to find a new water bladder hose, guess they aren't as easy to find as we thought and being that I use it all day every day, I need one) and then head out south and back on the road the day after. Thanks all for reading, Happy 4th of July and until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
I'm at a party, not sure where, but there is a packed room, people everywhere. I discover a Pyrex pan full of a piping hot risotto of some kind. I hunch over the pan, pick up a spoon and start shoveling it into my mouth. It's so creamy and delicious! Before I know it, I look down and I've eaten over two-thirds of the pan. Shit! Now I'm trying to hide the fact that I ate so much, stressing that someone watched me or knows I totally pigged out. And then I wake up. It's early morning, I'm in a wooden windowless host's home in Costa Rica, my tummy is growling, and I'm so disappointed the risotto was only a dream...
Portland was a dream. A dream so long ago already. We went on a beautiful hike in the Gorge with my entire family on a very rare sunny day. We ate like champs, hung with family, walked around downtown Portland and got lunch with my brother. It was so great. Our flight went well, short layover in LA, and then an overnight flight to San Jose. We bused it back to our friend Edu's mom and sister's house in Herelia, San Jose and took a nap. The wifi was down and so we just hung around the house, biked to Olman Ramirez Bike Shop and they were kind enough to squeeze us in to get our new bottom brackets installed and a tune-up that would HOPEFULLY fix my shifting issue. Now in the rainy season, it was dreary, rainy, cloudy and grey, very much a representation of our moods trying to adjust to being back on a bike journey and away from home.
To get to San Jose, we had jumped on a bus from Punta Arenas (not wanting to bike into the busy capitol on a highway off-limits to bikes) and were able to jump off at the airport near our friend's home. Unfortunately, on the way back, we had to bike into downtown San Jose to the main bus terminal to catch our bus back to the coast. We managed all right, got a bus and were back on the coast with plenty of time to move south to Matapalo where there was a truck stop and a few small open air restaurants. We pulled over to get giant bowls of vegetable soup and Ville asked the young girl at the counter if we could possibly camp in the yard. She immediately said yes, and as we expected to set up our tent, her mom came out to sweep the porch for us. When we went to chat with her, she opened this door to a small room at the back of their home, with a bathroom, she offered for us to stay. And did not want any money. It was glorious to get a shower and bed to sleep when unexpected. Itzel (the daughter) made us tea and snacks. We chatted with Ilzel (mom) and discovered that she is the cousin of Keylor Navas, the goalie of Real Madrid who just won Champions League two weeks before! Crazy, we had been in Bend and were able to watch the game at my parent's house. Small world. In the shower, we even made friends with the largest spider either of us had ever seen (the size of your palm), I am sure it was hilarious to see me streak from the bathroom naked with my eyes the size of pancakes.
In the morning, they made us a giant omelette breakfast they again would't take money for, and we headed on our way. The sun was peeking out through the clouds and the road was nice and flat. Since being straight off a horrible bought of unknown mosquito ass-kicking virus, we agreed to stick to around 50 miles a day until we were both back in shape. Next stop, was a Warmshowers host, brother and sister, that was right off the highway near Ojochal. Before arriving at their place, a kind lady and her husband (bikes in bike racks on the top of the car) pulled over and asked if we were looking for a place to camp. When we said we were looking for our Warmshowers host, they offered us a cabin they had next to their house up the road. We were very tempted, but decided to stick to our plan with our host because we had already written to them we were coming. After struggling for most of the Central American countries to get even a response back from a Warmshowers host, we were both blown away by the unbelievable kindness that was now offered from everywhere we turned. So much needed now when we both were struggling to get back in the biking zone.
Our Warmshowers hosts, Aguero and Melania, were brother and sister and offered up their home to Couchsurfers and Warmshowers cyclists. Even though there was about 5 different families living in their home, one guy insisted on sleeping on the floor and gave us his bed. Incredibly kind people, who spoke so highly of helping others and making the world a better place. When we were sleeping, we even had a cat fight in our bed, claws and all, what a thrill! The next morning Aguero took us up the hill to the hotel he is a manager of to see the stunning view where the river meets the sea. Back on bikes, heading south, we pushed onto Rio Claro where the last hour to town was pouring rain and we rolled into town soaked. We managed to find a motel for not horribly expensive and the next day was Ville's birthday and I gave him the choice to do anything he wanted on his big day. And you know what he wanted to do more than anything else in the world? Bike! Ya, I know. I couldn't believe it either. So we got up early and hit the border after a couple hours, stamped out pretty easy and were bummed to have to pay $16 (there went our food budget for the day) to leave Costa Rica, what a complete rip off. Very ready to get to South America and quit crossing borders every few days with fees.
Once we crossed into Panama, the road became wider with a large shoulder and much faster moving traffic. After a few hours of cycling we both had noticed how few motorbikes we had seen and how many big cars (more similar to the US than any other Central American country). The road was still relatively flat and much more deforested than Costa Rica to make way for cattle and ranching. As we made our way into David, the shoulder disappeared and the traffic turned horrid! The drivers are obviously not respectful of cyclists what-so-ever and I was nearly hit 3 times in an hour from cars turning in front of me or pulling out right in front of me. My stress level was through the roof and we decided to pull over in town at a grocery store. After eating lunch and resupplying our food stash, Ville chatted it up with the security guard who recommended a decent motel nearby to stay. Because it was Ville's birthday and the only special thing we could do was get a motel room for the night instead of sleep in the tent in rain, we got ice cream and got a room. After a nice shower and Netflix movie, we got a good night's sleep and headed out early towards San Felix where we had been given a number of a Peace Corp. volunteer there.
We rolled into San Felix, a mile off the main drag, and Julia, welcomed us into her home and even did our laundry! We made a feast together and a couple other volunteers, Abigail and Frank, showed up to stay the night. In the morning, we made another big breakfast feast before leaving and heading out into the pouring rain. A massive thank you to Julia for having us and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and your kind gift and hope to meet again! The road ahead was brutal, the entire day it rained and we were soaked with mild chaffing and the hills were treacherous for our out-of-shape butts. Luckily, Devin, our great friend we know from a soccer team in Bend was kind enough to come out to the road and pick us up so we didn't have to bike out to his place in Santiago. But boy were we glad to get to his place and see a friend from home! And take a much need couple days off the bikes to recoup and book our flight from Panama City to Cartagena, Columbia. We had originally hoped to take a boat from Panama to Columbia, but our budget dictated otherwise and a plane will be faster.
We have to fly over the Darien Gap because for those who don't know about the area, there are no roads through it and no border crossing between Panama and Columbia. It may be very unsafely possible to trek through the jungle and pop out on the other side, but since all we have talked to do not recommend it, we will opt for a safe flight. From Santiago we have a few more days bike to Panama City and a few days there to box our bikes and see the sights before flying to Cartagena and beginning our South American journey! YAY!! A new continent! WiFi is always scattered, but we love to hear from everyone, so write us, and until next time, keep on keepin' on...
My eyes were so heavy I couldn't stay awake. I felt like someone had taken a syringe of liquid exhaustion and put it straight into my veins and it coursed throughout my body and laid me up on the couch where all I could do was sleep. I had a horrible pain in my spine and kidneys. I had a strange pain behind my eyes and a rash broke out on my skin. After a trip back to the doctor, more blood work, it was confirmed I had a nasty virus likely from a mosquito somewhere in Central America. Maybe Zika? Maybe West Nile Virus?
Sorry folks for the long hiatus without an update, but times have been tough. Last I posted from Portland, Oregon with our flight back to Costa Rica in only a couple days. My mom was kind enough to drive us to Portland and on the drive I could not keep my eyes open and slept the whole way there. Even Ville was concerned when I quit talking :) When we arrived at my sister's house, I crawled to her couch and stayed there. I couldn't eat or move. Ville called my doctor in Bend and she insisted I come back in. Ville called Delta Airlines (luckily all our flights were on one airline) and they were amazing in allowing us to push out our flights 10 days and not charge us anything. Poor Mom, back in the car and straight back to Bend and the doctor we went.
After some blood work, my doc confirmed I had a virus. After a review of symptoms, she confirmed a mosquito passed virus (they have an incubation period of 3 days to 2 weeks) and gave me an IV. I was in pretty bad shape and because my immune system was compromised, and the stress of packing in so much while in Bend did not help, I got a bad cold on top of it all. Damn! So I went back to my parent's house, straight to bed or the couch and have not left it until a few days ago. I am a tough cookie, and this nasty virus was the sickest I have ever been. It sucked!
I went back to the doctor a few days later and we did blood work to try and confirm if my virus was either Zika or West Nile Virus. We have since confirmed that it is not Zika, but don't have results back about West Nile. My doc is pretty awesome (Dr. Cooper at Center for Integrative Medicine comes highly recommended by me!!) and she said this virus would take at least 2 weeks to start feeling better and up to a month to get back to normal. UGH! And said no way was I well enough to fly back to bikes yet and we would need to push our flights out further. And unfortunately, there was nothing she could give me to make me better, I just needed to rest and build up anti-bodies to this crappy virus. So back to the couch I went and in case you all are wondering why you haven't heard from me, it was doctors orders to rest!! And I literally could not get off the couch or out of bed for weeks. Until now, I have started to reemerge.
And last week, my beautiful, gifted, talented, larger-than-life cousin Amie passed away. I wanted to just share with friends and family who knew her and those that didn't, Amie was an extremely talented actress, singer and entertainer. When we were kids, she was chosen as the lead in the play Annie. With her fire red hair and pipes of an angel, she put on a private performance for all us cousin's in my Aunt's living room, that knocked our socks off! She was very passionate, dramatic, and loved her young daughter Dylann more than anything. When Ville and I were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Amie made it up to some ski resort on the trail early one morning to have breakfast with us. Family has been so important to her and all of us, leaving us all with such great memories of Amie and making it so very hard to say goodbye.
Reaching out to all of you; friends, followers, and family, please just send some healing thoughts, prayers, and energy to my Aunt, Uncle, Amie's sisters and her daughter. My Uncle only recently has made it back to healthy from a rough battle with lung cancer (he is a Fire Chief in San Louis Obispo, CA and we were able to stay with them heading south on this ride) and this has been such a rough year for their family. Losing someone we love is so very hard, and they need lots of love and healing right now. Thanks for keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.
Ville and I are, for real this time, are on our way back to Portland this Friday. We are spending the weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and brother and then our flight back to San Jose, Costa Rica is Tuesday night the 13th. Thanks everyone who discovered I was still here and checked in. And thank you to all who follow our journey and realized they hadn't heard from us and reached out. It's so nice to know how loved we are! Means a lot to us. And a HUGE thank you to my parents. For driving us back and forth, for housing and feeding us when we needed a place to go, and supporting our journey in so many ways!! Love you both. Will be better about our updates, thanks everyone for following. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
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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K.G. & Ville
In Cuenca, Ecuador. Next stop, Loja.
“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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