Exactly three years have passed since we started our trip up in Alaska. Sometimes, while relaxing in camp we try to think about where we were on that day exactly a year ago, two years ago. Last Christmas at a rafting commune in Guatemala, New Years in a Garifuna Village along the coast of Honduras during a tropical storm, year before that in Moab, Utah enjoying the slickrock canyon country. This year we spent New Years on top of Cotopaxi Volcano at about 19,347 feet. Somehow, every day seems to bring us new adventures and challenges.
We travelled from Prudhoe Bay, AK all the way through Canada and into the states in 3-4 months, but spent 6 in Mexico alone and maintained a similar pace through Central America. Our route through Canada and US was pretty straightforward, there were maps that easily communicated where the best routes would be. In Mexico, they became dangerously inaccurate; our hopes would rest on a desert oasis and weÂ´d find ourselves splashing around in a mud puddle to cool off, trying to filter water through t-shirts before the water filter could possibly work. We became more accustomed to dealing with the unexpected aspects of travel and slowly but surely, bike touring ceased to be our adventure or vacation as much as it became our lifestyle.
Within this lifestyle, we came to accept that good beer no longer exists, there is only one type of cheese: queso fresco, and that sadly, tortillas become extinct in South America. Yet, culinary sacrifices are easy in light of being separated from friends and family for so long; we become uncles, relatives pass away, and our friends have adventures of their own. Sometimes it`s difficult to appreciate the experiences we find ourselves in – each waterfall starts to look the same, each conversation with the locals repeats itself, and the vistas from the high mountain passes feel uninspired. Yet curiosity keeps us pedalling south, and though we canÂ´t always appreciate our experiences in the moment, time has a way of slowing down every once in a while, offering a glimpse of perspective into how extraordinary an adventure it has been.
We were recently sitting in a cafÃ© in Huaraz with two other cycle tourists we met, one of the guys commented on why more of their friends havenÂ´t joined them and why we donÂ´t see more tourists en route, “What else could they possibly be doing? How could somebody not want to be a bike tourist. It is just such a sweet lifestyle.”
And I couldnÂ´t agree more as I sat under a backdrop of the Cordilleras Blancas, some of the most impressive mountains in the world thinking about our recent experiences. A week before we were hanging out with bullfighters in a small country town, treated like rock stars, a day before that we were held at gunpoint by cocaine smugglers, and at the summit of the white mountains we were greeted be a fierce snowstorm. “Only while Riding the Spine” I thought to myself.
Now that weÂ´re approaching the border of Bolivia, we are for the first time imagining that we will actually arrive in Tierra del Fuego. We have escaped the tropical latitudes near the equator and are starting to reach familiar climates; we are seeing less tropical fruits, and for the first time in ages seeing peaches and apples. We no longer encounter daily and nightly rain storms, but will be passing through some fo the driest areas on earth as we ride along the Atacama Desert and the Great Salt Flats which rumor has it, some of the windiest conditions yet. From there we will drop into Argentina during spring and work our way down the Continental Divide, hoping to arrive in Tierra del Fuego during summer (reversed in southern hemisphere) towards the end of this year. Because we are basically out of money we are going to have to sort of rush through this last stretch of our ride. Please spread the word about our trip as we come into the final stretch.