Cycling the desert, the Atacama in particular, is a state of awareness, a way of living, a manner of being perhaps best comparable to be on a high. The swollen covering of such an opiate is simply all encompassing. Of course, such a state can not last, unless perhaps one sinks into it and finds himself unable to reach the utmost crosspiece of the ladder, instead hovering half way, at best, most of the time.
I’d like to say I live a slow life. A slow life in the sleepy countryside. We are relatively detached from negative influences and time does not have a play in our lives. A slow life.
Distance: 332 km. Days: 7. Average distance a day: 47 km. Maximum speed: 56 km per hour. First week of June 2021.
Time for a tour. The mountains in the distance surrounding lake Balaton beckon me. One hill after another passing a shade onto the one following up, the light crisp, the color of the lake a blue I can not describe. The hills are calling out for me for some months now.
My new experience of a winter in Hungary, for The ‘Farmer’ I feel, was challenging, to say the least. There was no soil to turn over (well… not that I knew of). There were no weeds to discover (well… not that I knew of). There was no comfort for a tour, not even a little one. I tried.
Thinking back about Atacama reveals it was the best ride ever! Reason enough to share this post. I had this short write-up done as ‘The story behind the pouch (my creative embroidery projects)’, so you’ll see some creativity pass by. Don’t let that withhold you, its really about the good old cycling lifestyle. Fully emerged and a total ball of bliss! WOOOOOHAAAAAA….
Total distance: 170 km. Average speed: 10 km per hour (fully loaded). Days: 6.
My patience paid off: the weather forecast showed more than 7 sunny symbols in a row. It is the second half of February and the temperatures at night still drop below zero. But it ought to be dry, so fires will warm me (and stretching too).
Daytime temperature: zero. Daylight hours: 7 AM to 4.30 PM. Distance: a stunning 13 kilometers.
A short tour in January stretching from east to west at the North Balaton in Hungary is a very plausible plan.
You have subscribed to CyclingCindy because you are interested in cycling. Yet cycling is the least that I can offer you now, this is no story about cycling adventures you are going to read. Instead it is what I am able to do because I stopped cycling (although this is old news).
We drove a 150cc motorbike through 5 countries of South America. The only reason to drive this little motorbike with so much luggage and two persons was that Geo had bought the motorbike 2 years prior in Paraguay to explore the continent by himself. But he never did. Now was the chance. And that was what we did.
So, a camping in Florida.
Can it get more adventurous than that?
Corona Circus is doing well, it attracts lots of people. The show is being followed on television and though its running behind on Europa, a large following grows steadily in the USA as well.
March: upon checking in at the airport of Guayaquil, Ecuador we were asked whether we’d been in China or Italy. Entering the USA we’d seen noticeboards warning for Corona virus. It’s a far away business for us, Corona, though not for our relatives in Europe, it seems the virus has gotten a hold there. It seems they all comply with what the government asks them?
A very short update about the Iveco truck which Geo and I fetched from Spain. In times like these, we´d waited for long to get this done. Mobile diary notes with Instagram snapshots on my creative weblog. 5 days of driving an overloaded truck through 5 countries, how´s that on the pshyche of one who passionately dislikes cars?
From Ecuador to the USA. From a motorbike to something very different. Geo and I each make a concession: Geo goes kickbiking with me and I am okay with starting our tour in Georgia. Back in Ecuador I spend lots of time connecting off-road routes to tracks with small town roads towards hidden gems in Carolina and on to the Appalachians.
It’s different than cycling. Obviously. The challenge, after cycling the world 5 years, had vanished and I searched for a new demanding way of transport and travel. Because our society allows me, I discovered something so amusing as the kickbike… and I knew instantly, intuitively, that I would love it.
This is the last post about our South American motorbike tour. And fortune has it that we are on one of the best roads ever. We love to be on these roads, it gives us the feeling we are battling with nature. That we are part of what we are busy with, a sort of self inflicted hardship. These sort of roads give me, even when I sit on the back, a notion that I am working too. This is pure off-road motorcross, and sure enough it’s fun.
We leave Vilcabamba with mixed emotions. One reason is because I do not look forward to camp in lousy abandoned structures where wetness reigns. Camping right along the main road in rainy season in a rain forest is just not that very desirable.
Our next stop where we hope to be able to take a longer rest is Vilcabamba. Not knowing anything about the town it turns out not to be much of a typical Ecuadorian village but an Ecuadorian village infused with heavy American influence. There are people who developed into Mother Earth-types, believing that the center is right here in Vilcabamba. In this town inhabitants consider to reach an older age than elsewhere because of certain minerals. Worse is that the prices went up drastically by expats who spread money as if sowing papaya seeds.
Over the years I transformed from a traveler going from city to city to one who’s avoiding them. Simply because cities are stressful, where nature is powerful. I guess age has to do with it as well?
The Kickbike was bought online while we were in Ecuador. We arranged it to be shipped to an address in Atlanta, USA. That was March 2020 and I am liking this way of transport, especially for shorter tours. Yet Geo and I tried to kick through several states in east of USA.
We drive from Tingo Maria to Tocache. It rains every day, and with each drop my mood sinks. With every passing cloud, I wish to be back at the Pan American highway, where it was at least dry. There is not much beauty to my eyes, only trees, green lushness, rivers and never very far to have my sight wander. In the jungle uninterrupted views do not exist.
An honest critique without negative undertone
By now, sitting on the back of a motorbike is no fun anymore. Neither is camping in the jungle of North Peru, it never really was. Yet, looking back, it is always less problematic than in the very moment. Sitting on a porch, writing under a roof while the rain falls, makes up for the dragging ongoing in a humid jungle. Let’s go back to where I was in my previous post.
When Geo and I were in South America we often ate bread which was not too memorable, not when it comes to quality. Soft, white, sugared dry bread is what South American countries often offer.
I try to give an honest critique without negative undertone, hope I succeeded…
Camping in the jungle? Is that fun? The word fun I dislike, so let’s call it interesting. Well, interesting it certainly is! I think on any long term travel fun only happens out of the blue, when an unexpected happening takes place. By now, sitting on the back of a motorbike for days on end is no fun anymore. It was fun when I met Geo, when we went on a short tour through the loose sand of the Chaco in Paraguay. Camping in the jungle could be fun in that way too, but by now, we find it hard to enjoy camp spots.
I knew Geo would get fed up with the ugliness of the Pan American highway at some point. I knew the time would come we would traverse the Andes again. I just sat quietly at the back of the Kenton, until the auspicious moment would arrive. Now it has.
A motorbike is more intense. Traversing and therefor absorbing goes faster. On average I have to process more motorized vehicles passing by, which adds up to more stress. Remarkable enough, the sound of our own motorbike does not disturb me. I also have to deal with more scenic camp spots in a shorter time lapse than being on a bicycle. This luxury position translates into the need to write and photograph. In short, I have more incoming imagery than a mode to digest. The route may contain less beauty in comparison to the Andes, I still see more beauty than ugliness.
A sort of opposite experience has been revealed: the motorbike shows a very different content of the Peruvian coast than cycling. Perhaps our negative feel is due to the fact that we choose to drive beyond Camaná. When I cycled the costanera, I deliberately avoided the stretch between Lima and Camaná. However, Geo does not want to be in the Andes anymore and I reckon he will change his mind sooner or later, as the costanera will become ugly. To such an extend he will seek his escape into the Andes, and I just wait until that happens…
Snorting like a dog with flattend face, the 150 cc Kenton made it over 4500 meter altitude. We are at salar de Surire, a bomb of beauty. Both muted by the sound the engine makes upon turning the key one single turn, we praise our Kenton for starting without hesitation.
The desert makes me sleep easier than usual, deeper than anywhere else and better on a whole. In fact, I go as tired to bed now as when I was cycling, which puzzles me. I hit the air mattress extremely satisfied, and it are especially those moments, when I lay down, that are the best of the day. Only rivaling with the moment of waking up. As I am equally eager to start exploring the surroundings of where my tent is.
A sky full of stars let me feel that I exist, that I am alive. All else falls quiet by witnessing dots of light against a dark indigo sky. The silence is everywhere. Around me, in my head and in my ears. Everything is being omitted; worries, dreams, thoughts, fears, hope, wishes, things, hassle.
‘It was a success given the circumstances’, says my husband. What does Geo mean by that? He has traveled a great deal. Lived in slums among drug abusers and visited homeless on garbage dumps. He has voluntary lived in misery with Bimbo bread and cheap Poloni sausages. Geo walked through the Zimbabwean savanna with a 2 euro compass. He has been lost and found. He has cycled through the dryness of Paraguay until he got a poisoning. He also roamed in Romanian villages a lot. In short, he did things.
Minimalism & Romanticism at an Altitude
I am not sure what exactly I was thinking when we primed for this trip? It could have been lightweight. Or perhaps it was minimalism, which is about the same topic. But maybe I was just all about romanticism? And when romanticism is at play, even an organized, wise and thought-through mind makes mistakes. Obviously.
Heike asked me for an interview. As always, I am very interested in her sort of questionnaire. This time over, it turned out to be an awesome post. Heike put a lot of effort into this very informative, great read.
Our journey can only start once we are reunited with the motorbike, so with pressed jaws, a backpack on my back and one in front, we set off in a city bus to the main bus station in Asunción. After a dull seven hour ride we are back in the capital of the Chaco, Filadelfia.
The view from the airplane says it all: small parcels of land, plenty of green, small villages and red earthen tracks.
There is no need to debate whether a truck is better in cold and wet weather than a tent. A truck has the advantages a house might give yet it has not the prison-alike feeling of a house.
Now, just have a look how homely and fantastic the inside of a truck can be! Without planning, drawing nor measuring Geo has built us quite an amazing home. The ideal mix between a tent and a house.
Want to add a bit of extra beauty to where ever your ride takes you? Or just when you are at home? My pouches and purses are made to add beauty to every day moments. That is why I started to create them. They are all made at camp spots, some marvelous, some less exciting but the pouches are always an enhancement to the senses. Click the photo to go to its relevant shop.