Help Emily & Scott make it to Colombia!
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By the Numbers
Last Seen: Bogota, Colombia
Total Mileage: 6,125 by bike; 801 hitching
Days Traveling: 547
Top Speed: 44 mph
Highest Mileage (per day): 81
Least Mileage (per day): .4
Greatest Elevation Gain (per day): 6540 feet - Espinazo del Diablo
Highest Altitude: 12,070 feet - Paso de Cortés
Total Flat Tires: 24 for Scott, 7 for Emily
Sequential Days without Yerba Mate: a desperate 28
Sequential Days with Snow: 6
Sequential Days off the Bike: 45
Earliest Time in Bed: 6:32 pm
Lowest Temperature: 4 Degrees F
Highest Temperature: we don't even want to know
Consecutive Days without a Shower: 15
Most Tortillas Eaten (in 24 hours): 38
Scott: Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala
- Sheila on “You know what really grinds my gears?” Part 2
- Heather on “You know what really grinds my gears?” Part 2
- “You know what really grinds my gears?” Part 2 | We Go Slow on Cooking on the Witch’s Stove
- Georgianne Gregg on “You know what really grinds my gears?” Part 1
- Erin on “You know what really grinds my gears?” Part 1
It doesn’t get more picturesque than two volcanoes surging out of a tropical lake.
Before we had even crossed into Nicaragua, we knew a visit to the island of Ometepe was a must. From Granada, it’s a five hour ferry ride into the heart of Lake Nicaragua, the largest in Central America.
Upon arriving at the terminal we were instructed that we had to remove all of our panniers from the bikes because they’d be on the lower deck during the crossing. As foreigners we were required to buy the expensive top-deck tickets, while locals rode in the economical lower level. The ferry worker told us that our stuff wouldn’t be safe with his countrymen.
While attempting to figure out a way to carry all four panniers and our camping gear (a nearly impossible task) I spotted another bicycle in the terminal. Not just any campesino bike, but a thoughtfully-equipped, custom-built touring machine. And with it, a spandex-clad man sporting the kind of tan that can only be achieved by riding in the same clothes for weeks on end.
Nate took off from Alaska in May of 2010, making him the only person we’ve met who tours slower than us!
He’d daydreamed of this tour for years while working from his London office. Little by little, he built a bike that would take him everywhere he wanted to go, and enable him to be as self-sufficient as possible (read: ability to carry an insanely heavy load on brutal dirt roads).
When we got to talking on the ferry, we realized that not only did we take the same dirt route through Baja California, the same climb up the Paso de Cortés, but that we happened to read his blog while researching if the Paso was even possible. Suffice to say, we had similar touring styles and decided to ride together after our time on the island.
Emily and I hadn’t ridden with any other tourists for more than a day, and his company was a refreshing treat. His patience and expertise were much appreciated as both Emily and I dealt with the most annoying series of mechanical issues yet. I won’t go on about our riding together because Nate already did it quite well. Have a look at his account of our riding together around the dusty roads of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Having the only hospitality option be an auto hotel.
It was near sunset, and there was nothing else around within 2 miles, no other options, only a strip of auto hotels to choose from. These kinds of hotels, common in Central American Catholic countries, are frequented by teenagers and promiscuous adults. Names of these fine establishments include, ”Forbidden Love,” ”A Night to Remember,” and “Endless Passion.” We were on the edge of huge Guatemala City, and this is all that we could find? Seriously? Definitely in the classy part of town! We checked several hotels to see their prices, and each one charged by the hour. Some wouldn’t even rent for the entire night, and for others, the prices were absurd! Finally, we found one with a reasonable overnight fee. They made us wait 3 hours until the “rush hour” was over to be allowed access to a room. After returning to the hotel, we parked our bikes in the highest security they have ever had, their own personal garage. Mysterious entities opened and closed doors for us, spoke from behind intercoms, and moved within hidden hallways. The room was incredibly immaculate, with towels, toiletries, and even room service, if we wanted it. However, the break down of available channels and a room service menu complete with sex toy options felt just plain wrong.
Continuously having stomach issues, for the past 15 months.
Whether it be giardia, amoebas, parasites, or uncategorical ”travelers diarrhea,” I have felt it all. I long for the day that my digestive system is readjusted to the States and its sterile environment. My digestive tract has gone through it all, and maybe it will evolve super-mega-extra-bacteria, but its still working on it, and not fast enough.
Being stared at, constantly.
Dear Central American residents:
Yes, we are foreigners. Yes, I ride a bicycle, for fun, and carry camping equipment, and do very funny, different, alien things. But I am NOT a zoo exhibit. Are you curious of who I am, where I come from, what I am doing? Then ASK me! I may look like a weirdo in fluorescent clothing with an armored hat, but I am still a human! I may sit on the sidewalk, (yes, on the ground), cut up and eat vegetables, and use shiny pots to store the food cooked from the night before, but that does not invite you to sit or stand within a 2 foot radius and stare. I want to eat my lunch, without thinking at any moment you may throw a tortilla at me to see how I react.
Similarly, I want to be treated and feel like a person, not an alien. I want to walk down the street and be approached respectfully, perhaps engage in a conversation. I don’t enjoy having any combination of English words that the particular person knows yelled at me. “Goodbye, where you go, hey baby, thank you, my friend!” Speak to me. And during those periods of time where I am wearing plain “American” street clothing and walking down the street, what are you looking at? I know that you have seen other “gringos” before, and that does not mean I want you to yell “GRINGOOOOOOO!!” at me. This also includes being sneered at, whistled at, yelled at, shouted at. With all due respect, I am in your country, and I enjoy speaking Spanish to locals, with the understanding that they WANT to speak WITH me. Almost daily, I feel out of place, because of the number of eyes that are fixed on me. At least once a week I have an incredibly awkward interaction with a local, and wonder, ‘did that just happen?’
Realizing that I hate nature, well, not all nature, but at least bugs.
I have lived and camped outside for the majority of the past 6 years. And I have just realized, in the past three months, that I HATE bugs. Yes, HATE is the right word. I don’t use it often, which means that it holds even more weight, strength, and truth. Mosquitoes, why must you bite and irritate me? What have I done to you? I understand that we are inhabiting the same space, but really, your incredible versatile adaptability is not fair, and not appreciated. Maybe, at least, you can work on varying your “taste buds,” and opt for some other blood types and hormones? As for the Little Black Sh*ts, as I so endearingly call you, can you please just develop a sound, so that I know that you are about to attack the hell out of my legs, any maybe have the opportunity to defend myself? Your bites and lasting stings are beyond that of a mosquito, which you may be unaware of, so I praise you for this, but ask for your help. Ants, I don’t even want to go there, and readers, you have already gotten the idea of my disdain for them. I hate ants. I admire them for their strength and abilities, but I do not want to interact with them. I guess its my own fault, since I like camping, and living outside, but I DON’T like the bugs.
Getting bit by a street dog in Mexico.
To make a long story short, here’s the idea: Scott and I were helping out at an off-the-grid homestead. We headed out late one afternoon, up the hill 2 km into town, with an empty wheelbarrow and large grain sacks in hand. We were off to get sawdust, to fuel the stove and to heat the water, in order to shower. We had both put off bathing for long enough, and sawdust was low, since the Estufa Bruja, our only means of cooking, demanded this fuel. So we made our way up towards town and the carpenter’s shop.
By the time we arrived in town, day had turned to night, and thick black rainy-season clouds hung over our heads. With directions in hand, we made our way through the narrow and unsigned streets. Unaware that we were within only meters of final turnoff, we looked around fiercely for the bakery landmark and payed little attention to the scraggly, skiddish, street dogs lurking around. Peaking into a promising home and establishment, we turned to ask for directions. Ahhhhhh!!!!! I turned rapidly as a little black dog scurried away from my throbbing leg. He disappeared before I could get a good look at him, but the little F-er had just bit me! Luckily, it was through my pants, but he still broke skin. The home on the corner heard my cries and exasperation. They offered alcohol to sanitize the wound, and poured tequila on my calf, repeatedly asking how I was doing. I thanked them for the tequila, asked for directions to the carpenter’s shop, and quickly made our way, biting my lip to hide the pain.
The next block over we found the carpenter, though with each step I paranoidly jerked my head around, searching for vicious dogs hiding in the shadows. With the mission half way through, we made our way back down the hill, still afraid of the looming clouds. Within minutes there were voices calling after us. They came from my rescuers, demanding that we have some tamales, as retribution. We couldn’t say no, as refusing food in Mexico is rude, but that we were in a hurry to escape the downpour. Without a second thought, they packed up a bag of 5 tamales, to go, and sent us off. Only in Mexico!