Tag Archives: Around the World

What I Learned from Traveling a Country by Bike

I learned that the physical act of riding my bicycle was only the beginning. It was hard, yes, but I was preparing for that. I knew I’d be slow and tired and then beyond tired…physically.

What I didn’t realize was how exhausted I would become mentally. And emotionally. Spending all day then all night camping with the same 2 people can really start to dig in. We got at each others throats, and usually not because they actually did anything bad or wrong. Usually it was each of us dealing with our own bodies pain and exhaustion and our patience was just worn out.

I became good at apologizing. And accepting apologies. We all learned how to talk through what we were going through in an open, supportive way. We learned we were %100 on a Character Building Tour. And I learned and grew SO much I can hardly believe it was only 3 months.

I learned how to get over my pride. Sometimes…

I didn’t know Spanish and was afraid of messing up…I was not a serious biker before this and was embarrassed at my lack of strength and know-how…I didn’t like being told I have qualities that are less than acceptable, and then having to apologize for acting out…but all of those things were overcome and worked through. I learned to laugh it off.

I learned that I still suck at packing. We all waaaay over packed.

I learned that I can do way more than I think I can.

And most importantly I learned that the occasional impromptu dance party can make the worst of days infinitely beautiful again.

Goodbye, Colombia

The moment after we jumped in the ocean on our first days’ ride where everyone was drying off in the sun daydreaming about what was to come.

The moment of arriving at our new camp site and all having rituals of setting up tents, jumping in the river, playing music and eating cookies.

The moment of reconnecting after a fantastic downhill where despite whatever else happened on the ride, in that moment we were beyond happy.

The moment of hearing a really good song and we’d all start singing.

The moment of hearing a really, really good song and we’d all start dancing no matter where we were.

The moment(s) of funny situations occurring from not understanding Spanish.

The moment of trying to act cool, but really we all wanted more dessert.

The moment of feeling anger and exhaustion and self-doubt and deciding to push through it for myself, and for my friends.

The moment of sitting around a campfire playing cards like this is just totally normal everyday life.

The moment of getting to the top of a climb or hike and feeling so tired and so awe-inspired at the same time.

The moment of realization that I’d rather be camping with these two people than in a hostel.

The moment of sunsets and sunrises.

The moment of realizing this is something I can, and want to do.

The moment of finally letting go.

The moment of knowing things about the people your with in a way that’s indescribable and then learning from it.

The moment of making friends with dogs more often than humans and not feeling bad about it (…duh it’s an adorable puppy why wouldnt we be happy).

The moment after moment after moment of feeling like all of this is too good to be true and there’s no way this is actually happening.

These moments and feelings are what I already miss fiercely about my first bicycle tour. I cannot express enough how extreme everything felt in every moment; the good and the bad.

I’d like to thank the academy, my travel companions, everyone I met along the way and most importantly, Colombia for this amazing trip. My heart is full and my head is light as I head off to my next adventure.

The Magic of Minca

Having been on tour for about a week at this point, Team Siempre Perdido made their way to Minca; a small town up the mountains about an hour drive outside Santa Marta for some much desired R&R. We stayed at a hostel called Casa Elemento. An oasis in the mountains. A place to rest tired legs and exhausted bodies.

This hostel is known for its massive hammocks. And by that I meant three different hammocks fit about 12 people each and hang off of the side of the mountain. They have a wooden deck that leads out to one and that’s where we three sat for about three days.

imageIt gave us the best view of the valley, straight to the ocean. Everyday at least once we would be completely engulfed in clouds. The bar had local beers (Happy Toucan and Happy Jaguar. Yum). The bathrooms were what we call “a loo with a view”, which had open walls to enjoy the nature. And our meals were family style with everyone at the hostel mowing down delicious food. And after long days of sitting, we needed our nourishment.

image
Loo with a view!

There is a hike you can take to some waterfalls. And to the local brewery. And in general, beautiful hikes anywhere you go.

But we did none of those. And I do not feel bad about it. I loved staying in one place. I loved the view and just spending the days in peace and reflection. I got some solid “girl time” with friends made at the hostel. I even played a little Cards Against Humanity.

Our second day at this hostel we were surprised to see our old friends, The Yucky Boys! Our paths surprisingly crossed again. It was great to let them know how we’d been doing since we spilt- how much lighter out bikes were and where we’d gone.

I was also surprised to run into someone from our hostel in Cartagena. He recognized me as the girl that asked him to turn the light off in the dorm at 11pm when he was trying to read. Four of us were trying to sleep, but he wasn’t happy at me for making him move to a common room. Sorry not sorry. Good to see you again, buddy.

At night I heard what I later learned were howler Monkies one night far off in the distance. We saw crazy cool looking birds. And one morning we had a large swarm of bees rise up in front of us, hover overhead for enough time for us to wonder if we needed to run for it, and then fly away. The sound of that loud buzz haunts me to this day.

image

Anyways, those days were beautiful in their simplicity. We were still figuring out so much about bike tour, it was nice to take a break from all that.

 

Colombian Bike Tour Necessities

As we reach 1 month of bike touring, I’ve compiled a list of the things we pretty much always need. Some things were obvious from the start and others we learned along the way. I hope it gives you a little insight as to what we live everyday. In no particular order…

1) Working headphones: because how else do you survive biking into strong headwinds, deserts, marshy peninsulas, and up hills/mountains with out good tunes?

2) Empanadas: because flaky pastry crust filled with meat and veggies are the best fuel for the day

3) Cocacola: because it comes in a glass bottle with a really long straw and is made with real sugar. And it’s ice cold

4) Aguila: because a cheap cold beer is the best way to reward yourself after that ride

5) Festival cookies/ice cream: I don’t know how to explain this one. They are just mind blowing

6) Bike clothes vs Non bike clothes: because you bike in one outfit and wear your other outfit when you’re clean. Or at least slightly less sweaty. Maybe…

7) Baby powder: to help stay dry

8) Hard candies: to help you get up the really big hills

9) Tortillas: and anything we have available to put in them. Peanut butter, jelly, cheese, avocado, lentils with potatoes and little hotdogs and any combination of the above mentioned items

10) Water from a bag: because that’s how fresh water comes down here and you have to rip it open with your teeth and try not to look like an idiot spraying water everywhere, but it’s cold and refreshing so just go with it

11) Dance Parties: at the campfire. On the side of the road. In our hotel room. Basically anywhere will do

A Closer Look at Bike Touring

Being on a bike tour and spending virtually all my time with the same two people is teaching me a lot more about myself than I expected. Bike touring is hard physically, yes, but also emotionally and psychologically.

Im learning that I like to keep things barried deep down, ignored, forgotten, and blissfully unaware of how what I do affects other people. And then when I’m told I’m not perfect it’s like, wait, WHAT?! How could that possibly be!

Turns out that at the ripe old age of 27 I still don’t know what I’m doing. About anything. Dealing with people, dealing with myself, dealing with people dealing with my self. It’s hard. And I give myself a hard time about it which probably makes me even harder to deal with.

I’m lucky to be traveling with two people that are patient, honest, open, and most importantly, caring. We hadn’t known each other for too long before we decided to take this trip together and it only hit how true that was once things started getting hard. And things have been harrrrd.

This whole trip has been a HUGE learning experience. After a long or hard or hot day of riding no one wants to do anything. I especially just feel like collapsing on the ground wherever I happen to end up. I want off my bike asap. But I can’t. We have to find a hotel or set up camp and start cooking and I have to try to not be a cranky child tagging along. We have to work hard all the time to basically fight our natural reactions in that exhausted state so we can work together to get whatever needs to be done, done.

I feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. It’s hard for me to process so much so quickly. Not only am I learning to deal with riding harder than I ever have before and finding that deep down whatever in me that believes I can even do what it is I’m doing, I am learning to have a more open communication about what I need/ want (something that is surprisingly difficult considering how much I like to talk), trying to be aware of my mood affecting others, I’m trying to learn Spanish, stay hydrated, apologize- a lot, save money, plan ahead, have opinions even when it’s too hot to think and of course, have fun. My brain is on overload.

I love Colombia. A lot. And we are already looking back at those moments that were tense and stressful for one- or all- of us and laughing. Ish. We’ve all had our moments. What we are learning is how to handle them within ourselves as well as what to do when it’s someone else. Do they want help? Do they want to be left alone? Do they just need some cookies to feel better?

A few days ago we started off riding as usual. The ride was decently beautiful and all was well. Early on in the day we had two options- go 2k, see the largest lake in South America and camp for the night possibly someplace really awesome, but then ride 110k the next day to get to our destination: Mompóz. Or, we could keep riding towards Mompóz and not camp near a lake.

We chose the lake. And it was not what we expected. We were told the water was not safe to swim in which was a huge let down. We went to the place we were told to camp and Sams bike got infested with red ants. We were hungry. It was a million degrees out. No one could decide what to do. We were biting heads off left and right. Food and cold drinks didn’t help this time. We decided to go find a different place to camp by the lake… Then we were going to leave town… Then we decided to stay.

We stayed. We sat in chairs by the water, still in bike clothes, drinking a beer and not talking to each other. But after we had cooled off a bit we started chatting with some locals and a young kid asked us randomly if we wanted a picture of all 3 of us by the lake. It turned into this mini photo shoot of us being silly having to act like we liked each other for the picture. And they ended up being the best pictures of our trip so far. We look so happy. And it perfectly depicts us at our best. Which at the time, we weren’t.

I’m not sure that that actually has a point, it’s just a moment that gave us perspective. In the time it took us to stand up and take those photos, we were right back to our usual bubbly, teasing selves. And now that horrible day is captured forever in a series of amazing pictures. I guess what I’m trying to say is Bike Terrr is serious business, but it’s also insanely awesome.

 

 

The Tales of Siempre Perdido Part 2

The morning of day 4 Team Siempre Perdido rose early full of determination to ride their biggest day so far. Despite Steves gps leading them on a small and unnecessary scenic tour of Barranquilla and after only slight frustrations the team crossed the bridge out of town.

And then Nürph got a flat tire…

…Which ended up being a great stop at a gas station with AC, a super friendly security guard, and cheese sticks.

The ride really kicked in then, with a slight head wind and unshaded marshlands as far as the eye could see. The Team teamed up and rode single file to help break the wind, but it was still a grueling, long day.

With only about 6 miles to go, they stopped and had the best papas (potatoes) con carne ever and as usual, a Coca-Cola.

image

Arriving in cienaga the team found a place to sleep. beers were bought and a magical sunset on the beach finished out the day.

Day 5 of bike terrr began in search of breakfast- and an iguana fight to near death in the middle of the town square. Typical Colombia, amiright?

image

The ride to Santa Marta was uneventful. The hostel search ended with the discovery of the Mango Tree. Beautiful, clean, quiet and basically the best hostel ever. At this point, all three team members had come down with a cold so a few days a rest were well received by all. Yummy street food was eaten, lots of naps were taken, and beautiful sunsets were watched.

**the tales of Siempre Perdido, shall henceforth be told in a more normal format. Tips of Bike Terrr, what it’s like biking Colombia, and more coming soon!

New Ways of Adventuring: Cycle-Touring

If someone had asked me a year ago what I would be doing now- I think I’d have said something like “I don’t know, maybe moving to Portland?” or “I don’t know, maybe going to travel Australia?” or “umm, I don’t know…” **awkwardly changes subject**

What I wouldn’t have said was “Bicycle touring around Colombia with 2 people I just met a few months ago who, like me, have never done anything like this before”.

But hey, life is full of surprises! In less than 2 days I will be off to South America to explore Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by bike for 3 months. Things I’m feeling right now: excited, nervous, ready, unprepared, pumped up, freaking out, scared, and SO HAPPY.

Since I have the “I Want To Go Everywhere” version of wanderlust, South America was of course included in my To-Do List. But seeing it by bike? Not even on my radar. Not until my friend essentially told me that’s what we were going to do and I surprisingly agreed.

After 2 months of planning and researching and purchasing, I have my bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) all supped up with racks and panniers, loads of new gear including SheBeest cycle shorts (the best most comfortable shorts ever), and for the first time ever bike shoes with clip pedals. And yes, I did fall once while clipped in. And yes, it was near a busy intersection where plenty of people got to watch. #winning

GLbikeride

It was difficult for me at first to fully commit to doing a bike tour. I am used to traveling by bus/train/plane and living out of a backpack ready to move and adventure at a moments notice. Adding a bike to the mix complicates things. What if I want to go on a trekking tour for example, where do I leave my bike? I don’t want to miss out on the experiences I am used to having…

…On the flip side, there is a whole new world opened up to me by traveling by bike. All of those little villages and towns my train zooms past are now available to explore at my leisure. All of the beautiful nature I miss by being in a plane? Now I will be right in the thick of it! And all of the locals I’ll get to meet by camping out in farms, or fire stations or having to ask for directions..they will surely add to my positive experience!

And that’s basically as far as my thought process has taken me. There’s only so much reading other people’s blogs and looking at maps can do until I am actually down there. The plan is to stop someplace after a while to find a farm or school or hostel to work in, partly as a cultural experience and partly as a rest for our bums.

So cheers to new adventures!

**wish us luck!

 

BRbikerideyoga