in february 2016 my partner and i began riding our bicycles from mexico. by april 2017 we made it to peru, and flew home. we plan to return to peru in june 2018, to finish riding to the southern tip of south america. these are photos from the first leg of the journey.
Corcora Valley, Colombia
We set out to climb the central cordillera of Colombia, knowing we wouldn't reach the 11,000 foot pass until the next day some time. When we finally did, we couldn't believe the incredible views of the wax palms awaiting us on the other side. This is why we do dirt roads. Five days in the mountains and we had the road to ourselves. It was Thanksgiving and we were feeling pretty grateful.
On our last night in Colima we were treated to an incredible sunset lighting up Volcán de Colima in the distance.
Finca la Perla, Colombia
Business as usual, getting chased by a dog in the beautiful Colombian countryside. Two days prior to this, my guitar broke in half and then we spent our entire morning cycling up a steep, rocky road that made me feel like it was physically impossible to ride. It wasn't, of course. It was only my anguish over the broken guitar that made the hill so tedious. It was the perfect end to a hard and emotional week. This day, though, I made the conscious effort to laugh as much as possible and I have to say... the hills we climbed that morning did not feel so impossible. Attitude is everything.
Playa Dominical, Costa Rica
It was one of our last nights in Costa Rica. We spent the evening updating the journal, looking back at photos of wildlife and sunsets and waterfalls, writing songs about the idea of home, whittling spoons, changing brake pads and getting ready for our final stretch through Central America. Sunsets rarely disappointed around here.
Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
We were cycling up to Cotopaxi National Park on a rough cobblestone road for a couple of days. It had been raining and the small dirt patches of our road were very muddy. After a particularly difficult push, we found an abandoned building where we were able to hang out our tent and ground fly to dry. We pitched the tent on a beautiful grassy field, overlooking Quito in the distance -- where we had just come from a few days prior. This view of Cotacachi Volcano in the distance was extraordinary in the morning, as the clouds had settled in the valley below. We were so thrilled to have earned this beautiful view over a couple of hard riding days.
Desierto de la Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia
It was a hot ride in the Huila Valley – complete with swarms of mosquitos, enormous sandstone formations, giant cacti and a variety of unpredictable weather in a single day. It reminded us a lot of home in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
Playa Garza, Costa Rica
Camping in a postcard.
Under the light of the moon.
Concepción Bamba, Oaxaca, Mexico
The coast of Oaxaca was extremely hot. I struggled with headaches almost daily, stuck in a seemingly endless loop of drink water - cycle - drink more water - repeat. I was exhausted after a long day of cycling when, late afternoon, we rolled into a small village south of Huatulco. We found a hostel to pitch our tent for a couple of nights, and in the day we swam in the warm waters. South on the peninsula was an enormous sand dune, but our bikes were not suited for them. We enjoyed them from afar.
Volcán de Masaya, Nicaragua
Peering down into the earth and watching lava churn inside the earth's crust was one of the highlights of our time in Central America.
This lovely Ecuadorian women came to say hello shortly after we pitched our tent in an empty field just before arriving at the rim of Quilotoa in Central Ecuador. We thought she may have been coming to tell us that we couldn't camp there, but it was quite the opposite – she came to welcome us. She was knitting a beautiful scarf as we all watched the sun set together over the small village. It was a perfect, quiet little moment. Before she left, I asked her for a photo, and she happily obliged.
Rio Tárcoles, Costa Rica
When we got to Costa Rica, we quickly realized that lake beds were no longer a good option for camping. We cycled over a bridge one afternoon that we’d heard about. Local tour guides threw raw chicken over the side of the bridge to get crocodiles to emerge from the river’s waters. Tourists would coo and take photos. We waited for the crowds to disperse, watching the crocodiles for well over an hour. We preferred them in their more natural state, just hanging out. I noticed how they appeared like perfect formations of the yin and yang – water reflecting off their scales made those in the water appear darker, while the dried crocodiles appeared lighter against the dark colored sand. We made sure to keep our balance as we gazed at these majestic creatures from above.
We had been cycling the high altitude páramo over a few days, taking shelter in chozas (thatch-roofed huts) and chatting with dozens of friendly locals along the way. The riding has been very challenging through most of Ecuador, suffering with altitude sickness when we are pedaling hard around 12,000 feet. Despite many opportunities to take a bus over high passes, I chose to stay on my bike and pedal through it. On this day we cycled over 13,000 feet. Fog engulfed us for most of the day preventing us from seeing the epic mountain views we'd normally get at this altitude, but with these cute little faces popping up over the páramo grasses to get a peek at us gringos rolling through on our bikes, who could complain? It felt like a dream. Just glad I wasn't passing by in a bus.
The hardest rides are always the most worth it. After a long day and a half of climbing, we reached Laguna de Quilotoa's edge and had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch with an incredible view. We then proceeded to push and pedal our bikes around the rim of the crater for the next two hours. We read that it was a "challenging hiking trail" -- but it wasn't exactly rideable on a bike. Exhausting, to say the least. There were many points where Mehedi had to put our bikes on his back one at a time and walk them up the trail because it was too steep and rocky. But where there's work there's always reward – at dusk we were treated with the most magnificent view.
Ecuador presented some of the hardest days on the entire journey. We had two accidents that resulted in us both busting our knees open, a dog bite, a migraine, and met a road of wet asphalt that covered our bikes, bags, clothing, shoes and hair – and that was just in a span of 48 hours. Then we hopped on wifi and read about the many protests back home, travel bans, walls. Sometimes peaks, sometimes valleys. That's life. But our wounds will heal, some of the wet asphalt will wash off, and headaches will fade away. We're learning from people here, people who have been colonized, oppressed, enslaved and resettled, that there is hope. There is always hope.
Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico
This is where the caption goes....Taking in the exquisite, sprawling 2,000 year old ruins of Monte Albán in Oaxaca.
It's hard not to fall in love with Mexico – there is so much color on every block, down every alley, even in the backseat of random cars you pass on the street.
El Tuito, Jalisco, Mexico
I never would have guessed how much traveling by bike through Latin America for over a year would make me consider my place in the global food economy. I never would have thought that riding my bike through 10 countries would open my eyes so much to every mile of land and its' uses. It was ten countries of land being used for cattle, to satisfy the demands of the global meat and dairy industries. And if it's not being used for cattle, then its monocropping... palm, coconut, fruit, you name it. Seeing 6,500 miles of land from my bike made me realize just how big Big Agriculture really is. Suddenly, things look different.
About two weeks into our trip, we were riding south out of Manzanillo, Mexico. We navigated through heavy traffic and construction, only to find some smaller side roads to take us out of town and further south down the coast. We stopped at a restaurant to refill our water bottles and take a rest. Some construction workers struck up a conversation with us, and after hearing about our travels so far (only 2 weeks in!), insisted they buy us lunch. It was arroz con pollo, the house special. We couldn't refuse, so we sat and ate with them. It ended up being the last time I ate chicken. I realized I did not need to accept food from strangers just to make a connection with them. If anything, it could provide an opportunity to teach someone about how delicious vegetarian/vegan food can be.
Over the next year + I thought a lot about my connection to the earth, to Self, to Other, to all sentient beings, as we rode through farmlands and deforested hillsides. I met cows who wanted to be pet like dogs, snuzzled up to me when they sense I respected them. We heard two pigs being slaughtered at a farm one morning in Colombia, only a few feet from where we were sleeping. A terrible sound you can never un-hear. We sat with a dog who had just been hit by a car and was dying on the side of the road when we rolled up to her. We sat with her while she left his world, comforting her. These experiences made me realize I wasn't so different from any of these animals. We all want and need love, safety and comfort. I made the connection between these encounters, and my daily choices, and the well-being of our planet. Over time I realized, as long as there are alternatives to eating meat and dairy, why not make a better choice? Not only for me, but for all of us, and our planet.
Playa Peñitas, Jalisco, Mexico
We first started cycling in Puerto Vallarta, on the Jalisco coast of Mexico. It was so, so hot. About a week into our trip, we came to this beautiful, empty beach, completely devoid of tourists and only one or two locals. We had it all to ourselves. It was the first taste of what hard work on a bike could bring if you just stay motivated and keep going.
Punta Perula, Mexico
In Punta Perula, we stayed at the home of a couple who ran a community center out of their house. In the evening, we walked to the beach and made tea by the ocean.