local people

Desert Solitude

About two months ago I descended from the Peruvian Andes down to the coast and started my »romance« with the desert. After almost 3.000 km I have reached La Serena, Chile a few days ago. Here is where Atacama, the World dries desert, ends. On average there is only 15mm of rainfall per year and there are some weather stations that have never received any rain. In some areas they were even unable to find any signs of life, not even bacteria.
On the outskirts thou, first signs of life do start to appear. So in the days approaching La Serena I have started to see more vegetation around me. Small shrubs and cactuses were gradually winning the battle with sand and rocks. My eyes are starting to get used to greenery.

Regardless how much I love deserts, I do have to admit that the past two months were tough. Desert is an extreme environment. Kilometres and kilometres of nothing, emptiness. The sun is already high in the sky at 8h and it doesn’t get weaker until about 19h. The wind picks up around noon and doesn’t rest until sunset or it keeps on howling into the night all the way until morning. And all the time without any possibility of running away from the elements. No shade, no shelter from the wind. All that you have is a bicycle and turning the pedals hoping you make it to a shade that can be 60-70 or even more kilometres away. A lonely house of a roadside inn which around here is called posada. A location where you can stock up on water, refresh yourself with a cold drink and treat your body with some rest in a shade. Providing of course the posada is open. But if you go into this adventure with some of my trademark brightness, then you leave the comfortable and cosy city environment of Antofagasta on January 1st and you make sure that you will go through the most empty stretch exactly when everything is closed for two days. I did stock up on water before leaving Antofagasta but the next day I made it to a posada that was closed. Normally in Chile only January 1st is a holiday, but this year the president of Chile probably knew that I will be wandering around so she made January 2nd also a holiday. How lucky am I?! This meant I could only use the shade of the posada. Surely welcome but it doesn’t quench my thirst. Fortunately there was a camp for workers building a new power line about 30km further ahead. There I was able fill up my water bag. One of the workers caught up with me on the road about an hour later and he gave me an extra bottle of water. Also Chileans proved to be a hospitable and friendly nation. The way they have been on many occasions in this month that I have spent in Chile. Sometimes I was given a cold drink somewhere beside the road when a car has stopped and waited for me to drag myself to it and they were able to give me a cold drink. Once it happened that a car was unable to stop so they just slowed down to throw a bottle of water into the desert. I have stopped, picked it up and drank it.

At the same time, this is an area of the clearest night skies. After the wind calms down, when the Sun is saying goodbye and with its last rays escorts the da into night, small lights start to light up on the sky. Usually this is the time when I have already finished my first dinner and with a cup of coffee in my hand, speechless, I watch the Universe and this magic transformation of light into dark. All the effort I have invested during the day to reach this magic place is gone, like it has never existed.
The show actually never stops, but at some point you find yourself surrounded by silence and the starry carpet. Its clearness and immensity have always enchanted me. And so I have, in moments of infinity, where Time and Space do not exists, often just sat there until my neck started to ache. At the same time I was there, anywhere in the World and nowhere all at the same time.

Most of my time I have spent in kilometres and kilometres of emptiness, solitude. The only sign of life were spars trucks and buses overtaking me. In their absence I’ve listened to the sound of silence, only a hushed buzzing of the tires being bitten by the tarmac. Nobody in sight, just me and Lou.
In all this solitude I never felt lonely. I just was and I was alone. Alone with my thoughts and feelings. Hours and hours “walking” through the remotest parts of your own consciousness (or thinking about more practical stuff like how to repair a big hole in your front pannier). There is no society that would force you to put on a mask that is more socially acceptable. The kind that slowly, bit by bit robs you of your own identity, of your own Being. No need for that and the immensity and roughness of the surroundings in a way also do not allow you to waist your energy on these kind of things. You just are the way you are and you have to accept yourself like that. Sometimes I like myself more, sometimes less, but all of this is Me.

Andres and I went our separate ways just before entering Antofagasta. I wanted to go into the city, nothing urgent, just profiting for a while the benefits of civilization like running water, supermarket and the option to connect with the World. This meant about 25km of a detour and also one not so nice climb on exiting the city. He wanted to avoid all this. After months and thousands of kilometres he had behind him, he felt that home is practically within reach (true, still about 2.000 km away, but at the same time so close). So close to home he did not want to make an unnecessary stop and additional kilometres and climbs. He stayed on the by-pass road and continued south towards his family and friends waiting for him in Argentina. I on the other hand turned off and descended into Antofagasta and only virtually connected myself with my family. But the goodbye was “Hasta la proxima vez!” (Until we meet again).

Not only the separation but also all the kilometres of emptiness, solitude, brought to the surface the sentiment of homesickness in me. I miss my family, friends, familiar surroundings, I have never denied that. The down side of travelling is that I’m not home with familiar, dear people. That I cannot have a cup of coffee on a balcony with my brother, that I cannot go to my mother for a lunch, that I cannot go for a beer (well, two since it’s never just one) with a friend.
Since a few months ago I have decided to prolong my wandering in South America for about a year, my reunion with my dear ones has been postponed for the same period of time. And this aspect of my otherwise brilliant plan of discovering what lies behind a corner is something I have never really liked. So in the kilometres of desert solitude I have decided that I’ll return home, temporarily, just for a visit. With the help of internet I managed to find an affordable plane ticket and with some help from my family I have also bought it and am now ready to return to Slovenia end of March to enjoy the springtime over there.
With this I’m officially announcing that from the end of March until mid-May I’m open for invitations for a cup of coffee, a beer or straight to a picnic. Just let me know where and when.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

On Education

Not going to write about how important it is to go to school, listen to the teacher, do your homework and all in all be a good student. No, what I will write is about the lack of education and how sometimes it is delivered in improper manner in some parts of the World.
In Peru, where I’m currently located, the lack of education can be seen on a daily basis. Just so that there will be no confusion or mistake, it’s not only Peru where this occurs. And that it is delivered in an improper manner was very explicitly demonstrated to Andres and me on one sunny day when we have reached yet another small town by the road.
After visiting several shops we managed to buy bread and butter so we decided to have a short break and have our lunch on the main square. In all Latin America the main square is reserved for a small park and it is surrounded by a church, usually the municipality building and sometimes some other very important public office.
This town was no different so we have searched for the only shadow that was available to us. While I was parking Lou I turned my head away from Andres and when I have turned it back once again, he was already surrounded by about ten kids aged on average around 10. Great, there goes a peaceful lunch. Countless questions were inevitable. So we sat, kids all around. We were trying to put butter on our bread without putting it on any of the heads that were curiously, annoyingly prying into us. The conversation soon touched the theme of God, his miracles and similar. The kids were able to dictate everything by heart.
I will not go into sensfulness of the education provided (forced!) by the Church since that would be more like a battle with windmills. The interest of capital here is just too strong. The sheep needs to be straighten out early, very early. Best if it is yet unable to read or write and later on any potential access to information needs to be cut off from it. Uneducated it can be more easily manipulated. And here in Peru (again, not only here but all over the World) they seem to be quite successful in doing so.
We have received lots of stares full of condemnation of heresy from the kids that have started to argue with us as we have said that our mothers gave birth to us and that we were not created by the angry dude with a grey beard that is hiding somewhere up above. It’s no surprise that we are meeting 15 year old mothers with babies.
But the purpose of this post is not just to be grumpy about it all. No, I actually have some constructive suggestions that I would like to share and to the best of my knowledge I will not be in any conflict with what the Bible is teaching (fuck it, I haven’t really study it so I cannot be sure).
Let me put some concrete ideas here (all references to the Bible are based on my vague memories, so there will not be any exact quotes):
1. When you are teaching them Genesis and how God created everything on Earth, do tell them that God’s idea did not include piles of shit and plastic on every step. And that he wants it to stay that way! – Maybe this way we can keep the countryside clean.
2. When you are describing to them the Last Supper. Do please put some emphasis on the fact that there is no mentioning of there being more than 13 of them in the room. That they had peace while they were eating and that nobody was asking Jesus why he talks so funny (e.g. “This is my body given for you…). – Maybe this way future cyclists passing through here will not get the feeling of being an animal in a ZOO. Maybe they will be able to avoid the situation where the municipality does provide you with an empty meeting room for the night. Just that you then end up sharing it for at least 3 hours with a night’s guard and two of his buddies, Them sitting at the table, observing you how you are repairing a bicycle, preparing yourself dinner, how you eat and wash dishes. Somehow we than managed to make them go away before we unrolled our sleeping bags and have fallen asleep. To avoid nocturnal observation we blockaded the door.
3. When you are teaching them the teachings of Jesus, in particular about loving thy neighbour. Do explain them this more in details. It seems that the current explanation does not have the desired effect. If it would have had, then we would not receive several times a day shouts of “Gringo!” with a very negative tone.
I will stop here so not to be too long. There are more ideas that I have. Maybe something in line of logical thinking as to avoid stupid questions. An example would be when they are staring at you with a bicycle, probably all sweaty and in the end they ask you: ”Don’t you get tired?” “No, you dumb idiot! I’m some sort of a special species from another planet that gets tired only if it lays still!”
Obviously there is plenty of other, way more useful knowledge than knowing the whole story about a madman that has heard voices in his head, built a boat on top of a mountain into which he put two specimens of every species on Earth (by the way, today, a few thousand years later we are still discovering new species). Maybe they could do something in the direction of general knowledge. This way people (e.g. police) would not be asking Andres where is Argentina. The whole continent has 12 independent countries. And maybe he would not be congratulated by the locals on how good he speaks Spanish.
I will not go into the fact that some of them have no idea that Europe is another continent when the debate comes to a point when they ask me where I’m from.

It could be that I have high expectations, but we have to aim high!

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

a_more_representative_photo_of_the_landscape
Surely a more realistic photo of a Peruvian landscape

It Is Never Boring In Peru

As usually I have problems starting this text. I’m sitting behind a table in a backpackers in Huaraz, listening to music and drinking coffee. Behind me is more than 1.300 km of Peru, a land that is all but boring. Diversity comes on many levels from the countryside to people and events that have all impact on my every day.
One of the first surprises after I left Ecuador in company of Safia and Andres, was the countryside. Generally I try to wander around the World with open eyes, free of stereotypes in my head that subconsciously affect one’s perception of a land, people, events… They build prejudices or some expectations that are inevitably shattered by the reality that inevitably leads to disappointment, a feeling of being robbed of a true, authentic experience that was actually sold to you through photos, movies, book,… That is why I prefer to leave these images outside and venture into uncovering the unknown with an empty head and open eyes (obviously when I’m not sleeping).
But I do not always succeed in this effort. At least not in fullest. Whether I like it or not, over the years an image of Peru was carved into my head. An image of white Andean peaks, high mountain steppes, solitary houses with herds of lamas grazing outside. And then this image collided with reality. Hot river valley with rice paddies of intense green and palms. As if I woke up in Vietnam. A few days later I was amidst clouds where we were being washed by the rain making our way through green pastures and woods over 3.600 meters high pass. And the same day found me in yet another hot oasis by the river, surrounded by mango trees and thousands of small, bloodsucking flies.
And those were not all the landscapes that I have managed to encounter so far in Peru. No, there are also the coastal desert with wind sweeping sand across the road (that evening I got about half a kilo out of my right ear. Apparently the wind was from the side since my left ear was clean). Or the narrow Cañon del Pato where on a winding road, sometimes narrower than some cycling lanes I have rode on, and through 35 tunnels you get lost amidst the infinite majesty of vertical cliffs towering to mindboggling heights. And there is more and more of this, probably somewhere there is also the landscape of the images in my head.

For diversity there are also everyday events that break up the “monotony” of the evening ritual in front of the tent. If this used to be time when all was in order and I was able to indulge myself in solitude and peace, this is also slowly changing here in Peru.
Once I got this brilliant idea to change a little the music I’m listening on my mp3 player. And then the next three evenings I was fixing the mess my little player managed to mix up. After those three evenings have passed, it was about time to wash a load of laundry. To take the advantage of having access to running water on our campsite. The next evening I was patching my air mattress. It’s been a while since I managed to puncture it just by the seam so that, just in case, I had a bit more of a work patching it. And then there are evening I pay more attention to Lou. It’s wise to clean a bit the chain after a day when the road took us through mud. And if there is nothing to do, then I invent something. Since Andres and I were camping on a stadium and there were pieces of wire for a fence I took pliers in my hands and made an improvised adapter for my camping stove. I can now lift my pot a bit above the flames so that I can calmly cook rice without the fear of burning it. There’s always something to do.

And obviously there are also the people that I meet. The part of the story that brings life to the backdrop of the landscape. What I have learned very early on (actually in the first hours of Peru) is that when word comes down to people, here in Peru this is a story of extremes. Practically there is no middle way. They are either incredibly friendly and kind or completely cold. Obviously there is far more of the former, but the latter also have an impact.
When we crossed the bridge from Ecuador into Peru, we had to wait for the Peruvian immigration starts to work. Since we were all hungry we went to the first restaurant. The kind that serves a menu consisting of whatever one dish is on offer that day. Angry looking lady reluctantly came to us and showed us our table. Her short and murmured answers made us quickly realize it is better not to ask too much. So we’ll have soup, rice and chicken. Andres tried asking for a beer, but the lady almost killed him with her look when he desired to be a cold one. He did not get it! Safia had an empty battery on her phone so she ask if she can charge it for a while. Negative! I had no desire for a new dose of negativity so I ate in silence what was put in front of me.
Than we made it across the street to the incredibly kind, relaxed and talkative policeman that did not complicate our lives the way border officials sometimes can. And that evening the municipality in the nearby town provided us with a place to camp with access to toilet and shower.
And then there are moments when I simply don’t get the people here. Let’s leave aside the fact that I will never, and I mean never understand the uncontrollable desire to hunk their horns. I “adore” it when a truck hunks it right behind your ass. Not to greet you or to show that he’s mad at you (at least I think so) it’s just a way to let you know he is there. BUT I know he’s there. There are this little thingies called side mirrors if I completely ignore the fact that I can actually hear him from a distance on an empty road. Obviously this is a moment when you really cannot afford to get scared. If you twist your handlebar just by a little you can end up under the wheels of the same truck. It seems beyond the driver’s capacity to pass you by with ample space. No, he turns just enough not to hit you. Providing you do not divert 15-20 centimetres from a direct line.
The only time the drivers here do not hunk their horns is when there is a sign they should. Like in front of a narrow, one-lane tunnel in Cañon del Pato. Go figure!
There are also moments when you get to a gas station. Camping stove works on gasoline and every now and then you have to fill up your fuel bottle. It’s just that this is not always a straight-forward procedure as we manage to reaffirm yet again the other day. A lady was observing us from a distance as some sort of an attraction but only approached when we went to search for her and ask her to attend to us. Since they are used to filling up motor and car fuel tanks, they seem to have troubles adjusting to the fact that a one litre bottle that I’m carrying with me gets full much, much sooner. So you have to warn them to fill it up slowly and not all the way. This does not always help. That time I manage to stop here just in time to prevent a fuel shower since the lady was incapable of stopping the pump in time. Sometimes you are not as lucky.
Also shopping is not always a simple and stress-free task. If you do manage to be lucky and you are the only customer, meaning that the vendor is only attending you and not four other persons, then you have managed to eliminate a common cause of a stressful situation in shopping. This however does not guarantee you a simple procedure. What can happen is the following:
“What do you want?”
“Good day to you too. Do you have cigarettes?”
“No!”
You look around and you notice a display with an entire row of cigarette boxes in it.
“What about these ones here in the display?”
“Oh, these. I do have!”
Obviously you have to pay an exact amount as the lady either cannot be bothered to calculate or count the change she has to give back. I come out furious – again Peru!
And as was writing these lines, Andres came to me. He just went outside to buy some rice. He puts a can of fish in front of me. To my confusing look he answers, it was a gift from the shopkeeper where he was buying rice. Still confused I look at him and he explains that he basically went to the store to buy about half a kilo of rice. The shopkeeper asked him where he’s from, what he’s doing here and so on. And after he told him that he’s traveling on a bicycle and that there are two of us, the shopkeeper first put a bit more than just half a kilo of rice in a bag and added the two cans of fish. As a gift! – again Peru!
I would be able to turn this already long post into an even longer if I was to write down all the moments when I experienced the kindness of the local people. From places to sleep when a family accepts us into their modest home and basically vacates a child’s room just so that three cyclists have a warm place with a roof over their head that they can sleep in whilst outside it’s pouring rain. Or when… No, I really cannot write down all the kindness. I am however extremely grateful for it.

I’m finishing this text behind the same desk in the same hostel, still in Huaraz. Still listening to music it’s just that the coffee has been by now replaced by a tea from coca. Apparently it helps you adjusting to the altitude, beats the weariness and so much more. I like it because it’s hot.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

Coffee, coffee!

Let me first address the obvious. It has been a while since my last post and all I can say to that is – I’m lazy!

The last time I checked in was from Casa de Ciclistas in Medellin. A place where I intended to stay for 2 nights but left over a week late. It’s just the kind of place where you just really enjoy the atmosphere which somehow drags you in. Together with other cyclists who currently call this house their home you are sharing moments, ideas, meals and time. There you can also find travel companions. And so I left the house in a company of a Uruguayan couple, Mauge and Seba. Together we have then went on discovering the incredible popularity of cycling in this country.
Nowhere on Earth have I seen so many recreational cyclists on the roads as here in Colombia. Cycling here seems to be almost as popular as football. We were overtaken by at least 5-10 cyclists on daily basis.

The route took us south towards the area known as Eje Cafetero or the region where the most Colombian coffee is produced. The best is obviously exported so what is left is not exactly the best one you ever had but at the same time it’s not exactly bad. Though it is better if you have an option to prepare your own. At least in my case there are two reasons for it. The first one being that they make coffee with “agua panela”. Agua panela is water that has pieces of hardened sugar cane juice dissolved in it. This obviously adds some particular flavour to the coffee. The flavour itself is not that disturbing, but it does have a side effect. A coffee prepared in this manner could sometimes be more accurately addressed as liquid caramel. Too sweet for my taste.
But one could get accustomed to this. For me a more disturbing fact is that they are skimp on coffee itself. It is not rare that, due to the meagre amount of coffee in the drink itself, you can see the bottom of the coup. It’s more like a coffee-flavoured tea. And this is something that I cannot get used to that easily.
But to get back on the track. The more we were getting into the interior the more it was becoming obvious to me why Colombian cyclists are renown to be such a good climbers. After leaving the coastal plains a flat road in Colombia becomes almost as rare as a unicorn. It is all more like a constant rollercoaster with endless ups and downs. And as if the topography of Colombia in itself would not be enough we ventured into a region where coffee is grown. Come to think of it, I cannot really remember if I had ever seen a photo of a coffee plantation that was not taken on a steep slope. And so we sweated into climbs and tortured our brakes on descends.

But the efforts were worth the struggle. Yes we did voyage through a beautiful landscape, but after cycling more than half the way around the World (including my first wandering in the East I made more than 25,000 km – Earth’s circumference on Equator is 40,075.16 km) the landscapes normally do not capture my attention that much. What still keeps on surprises and inspires me again and again are the people that I meet. Their willingness, so natural and so human, to help a fellow human.
So whenever we have asked for a place to pitch our tent we got it. Sometimes even more. On one occasion an elderly men Oliveiro just outside of La Pintada offered us a place adjacent to his house. It was some kind of a studio that was not really used and it became a very nice home for one night for three cyclists.
Or on another occasion when in Chinchina we were all exhausted and tired sitting next to our bicycles in a park. Just before we stopped by the fire station but were declined a shelter since they had bad experiences with cyclists before. They directed us to the nearby park. There we sat down thinking about not really appealing option to camp there. We were instantly surrounded by about 10 kids (not sure about the number. There were actually more of them but they constantly rotated between who was next to us and who was distracted by something else) aged 5 to 15. To my luck there were Mauge and Seba next to me. They are waaay better in Spanish than me. Something that is very useful in moments where there are curious children’s questions flying your way from all directions. Somehow through the questions, comments and facial expressions of the kids and some adult passer-byers we managed to sense that the park seems not to be the safest option around. And then out of the blue comes Marlon, a boy short of 10 years old who came to tell us that we can leave our bicycles and stuff in the house of his mother Sandra. And we can also go and take a shower there. This gave us some sense of security (no, no the shower but the option that we can leave our equipment someplace safe). And later when we all had our shower and basically were just waiting to get late so that there would be less of a crowd around and that our setting up of tents would not draw too much of an unwanted attention, Marlon appears again. He tells Muage that his mother would like to talk to her again. So Seba and I stay holding the fortress while Muage goes to talk to Sandra. Meanwhile Felipe, a talkative teenager offers to fill our water bottles.
Upon return Mauge has difficulties holding back a smile across her face. “Sandra says the do not really have a lot of space but if it is OK for us, we can sleep on the living room floor. We just have to wait until 10:30 p.m. when she puts away her street vending foot cart.” Not only are we OK with sleeping on the floor, we enjoy it. And we also buy dinner from her.

Yes and there are many more stories like this. They seem to be more and more like an everyday occurrence. And it is experiences like these that keep on confirming my faith in Human.
I know, some of you will say that in my faith in human kindness I’m naïve. That I can let myself give into this naivety only when travelling that the real (?) world back home is different. That in the everyday individualism and more and more consumer society where I have to have it all there simply is no room for this kind of naivety. That this kind of selfless kindness to a stranger (fellow human) just stands in your way in your perpetual struggle to have more. And that the fear of others (foreigners) that can only take away not only this more that we strive for, but also what we already have (which cannot really be worth that much since we “need” more) is a completely acceptable and in some way the only acceptable way to deal with the modern World. One could also say that is the only human way to go.

Well, it’s not!
It’s not the right way and should not be acceptable. Since it is not our natural response to a fellow human. It’s a response that is being on every step more and more successfully instilled in us by the capital and the consumer society.
And it’s because of that that I’m even more grateful to all the Oliveiros, Felipes, Marlons, Sandras, Davids, Lupes, Jaimes, Hugos, Mauricios, Julietas, Alejandros, Hectors, Walters, Isas, Alfredos, Rebens, Wilmas, Oscars, Maris, Miguels, Droyses, Paolas and all the other unknown (the name list represents just a few that I have met on the route from Medellin to Pasto) that you are here! That you are a part of my Journey! That you are maintaining your (and with it so also my) humanity!

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

Coffee

Coffee

Coffeeland

Coffeeland

Cofee Plantation

Cofee Plantation

Climbing Out Of A Canyon

Climbing Out Of A Canyon

On The Value Of A Shower

For the first 10 days I have tasted Colombia gradually, somewhat restrained. I was very fortunate that through couchsurfing I got in contact with some warm and hospitable people. This way I had had my first taste of true Colombian coffee in Barranquilla accompanied by Daniel, Lili and Wilburto in Puerto Colombia made sure I got acquainted with local food while Cielo, Marta and Salomon enabled me to get a proper rest in Cartagena.
Based on the first impressions I would say Colombians are happy people that like to laugh. Sure they do have their own problems but they seem to disappear with the first sounds of salsa. Every small shop, not to mention bars, of any importance has at least one, evidently oversized loudspeaker from which rhythms of salsa come screaming normally in the afternoon hours. And it is not rare to see a couple or two outside on the terrace dancing to this sounds.

After ten days of heat and humidity of the coastal plains (35°C mixed with humidity give a feeling of 45°C) it was time for me to head inland. Somewhere in front of me lay hills and with them a promise of more bearable temperatures. But the initial few days will still be marked by the heat. It is going to be tough!
On the first day I managed 85 km before reaching a roadside restaurant whose owner, Jhon kindly allowed me to set up my camp somewhere behind it. Anywhere will do.
I looked around for a while before settling for a decent location on a patch of dirt which is a kind of mixture between clay and fin sand. It is the flattest area and I seem to be the least in the way.
Once I start to set up my tent it starts to rain. This rain feels so refreshing!
It only rains for about 20 minutes. Not really heavy but enough to make everything wet. And my decent piece of dirt becomes very decent mud.

I was furious with myself. As if it was for the first time in my life that I was picking up a location for setting up my tent. The next morning I did however confirmed to myself that there really wasn’t any other better option available around here, but this did really help in the given moment.
Besides turning everything around to mud the short-lived rain also contributed to an incredible rise in humidity in the air after it stopped raining. Inside the tent it was like sauna. Just entering and I was covered in sweat. Even my glasses got all misty.
The night was humid. No, outside it was not raining anymore but sweaty as I was I managed to thoroughly soak the silk liner I use as a sheet. It was just short of needed to be drained. All the clothes from yesterday that were wet partially by my sweat, partially by the rain, were as wet in the morning as they were when I left them last night. And outside there was still mud that I have, in surprisingly low quantity, managed to get on quite a few of my stuff.
I wasn’t feeling very olympic (for those of you that have no idea what I mean by this, here’s a link. For the other, you can still click on it) when Jhon came around.

“Did you get a good night’s sleep?”
“So, so!”
“Mosquitos?”
“No.” (and surprisingly they were not biting during the night, nevertheless they were way more successful in the evening and also early morning)
“Have you had a shower?”
“Yes, in the evening!”
But wait, I can have one now as well. Given the fact that this restaurant has a toilet with a shower water is no problem. And why wouldn’t I take another shower?!
I grab my towel, soap and straight for the cold shower. I turn the handle and from the pipe in the wall comes water. Cold, pleasant, refreshing. I’m enjoying it!
All that anger and negativity with which I have started the day and came here to the shower, is slowly disappearing as if it was being, with the help of this refreshing water, slowly rinsed off.
From the shower I come smiling, ready for another day of Dreams.
Coffee that Jhon offered to me was great.

Interesting how a “small thing” like a cold shower can change your day.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

Rich Coast (Costa Rica)

I was entering Costa Rica with mixed feelings. Equally strong as I wanted to go there due to the promise of new options for scuba diving, I wanted also to get it over with since I have heard from several travellers and also cyclists that experiencing Costa Rica can be expensive. It is a country with the highest standard in Central America and I soon found out that those stories were not made up. Some of the prices can easily be compared to European and that can be a considerable shock for a cyclist that got used to pay 1 EUR for a dinner at a street vendor in Nicaragua. Here the same amount of money can only get you a cold coke in a store and sometimes not even that.
And as if these kind of prices were not enough on its own, I wanted to go scuba diving which in itself is an expensive activity. Since I’m not really well stocked up on money I had to come up with a different approach if I wanted to dunk my head underwater. What I’m lacking in my wallet I can make up for with the excess that I have in terms of time. Having this in mind I headed up for Playas del Coco where I have visited several dive centres. A Swiss owner of Summer Salt was receptive for my proposal and so we made a deal (with the help of Alexis, a French divemaster intern). I clean up the back yard of all the leaves and branches and other stuff, help with everyday tasks at the dive centre and in exchange I will be able to go scuba diving. As an extra bonus I was able to camp behind the centre so I managed to save some money also on accommodation.
I’ve stayed for almost a week with Summer Salt and since I was a good helper I actually went diving twice. The world of silence and bubbles never seize to amaze me!
The first day back on the road in the evening I headed for Cruz Roja in Nicoya. There I was treated with a bed and an air conditioned room. After almost two weeks in a tent, sleeping in a bed is a special pleasure.
The next day I was stopped by the side of the road by a motorist, Elbert. A quick small talk and I got an invitation to his house in San Jose. Since I was not overexcited by the prospect of climbing to the city (over 1000 meters of altitude difference) he came the next day half way towards me (actually to the foothills of the climb itself) with a pick-up. Then he took me, Lou and all my luggage to his wife Norma that took care of me for almost a week. First and foremost she made sure that I was not hungry which is a demanding task when you are taking care of a cyclist. I have also received and escort for shopping in the city as well as many other little, important things. Incredible kindness and hospitality that will surely not be forgotten!
But I have received hospitality in Costa Rica also from Eddy and his parents that hosted me in Liberia in Cost Rica’s north-west. Eddy first overtook me on his bicycle but later I managed to catch up with him and stop him. I was in need of his help. Already in Nicaragua I lost my front breaks and I needed a replacement. Given the fact that it was Semana Santa when all is closed, Eddy’s help made all the difference. He first took me to his friend, a bike mechanic who has opened his shop just for me and fitted a brand new set of front breaks. Then Eddy came back for me and took me to his home for a dinner, camping in the driveway and I even was able to do a load of laundry.
Then there was also a warmshowers host Melany, her family and her brother Gerson. All of them hosted me in Punta Mala. And to make the experience even more family like, Melany and Gerson “sent” me to their parent’s home in Rio Claro. There I spent my last night in Costa Rica. The day after I was already headed for Panama, the last country in North America.
And yes, last but not least, there were again firemen. They hosted me in La Cruz, Puntarenas and Quepos. The kind of people that never fail to provide hospitality without any strings attached.

When I look back on Costa Rica I can easily say it really is a rich coast. Let’s leave aside all the overpriced goods and tourist places with an everpresent feeling that they want to squeeze the last dime out of you. The real richness is hidden on the sideroads and in the locals that haven’t been yet spoiled by tourism.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

Bienvenu à Nicaragua!

This time the title is in French. Why? The answer is hidden in the following lines.
In El Salvador I somewhat befriended with the heat. No, Far from being thrilled about it, but I do accept it. Somehow it comes in a package with the countries I’m currently wandering through and exploring more or less hidden places. And is definitely part of the package in which you can fill yourself up on the street for 2 USD with delicious pupusas (tortilla filled with beans, cheese and pork rinds). And I did fill myself up. I have especially enjoyed the extra veggies in the form of pickled cabbage mixed with other vegetables, preferably chili, so that you get hot also on the inside a bit.
On my last afternoon in El Salvador I got an unsolicited gift in the shape of small pieces of wire coming from blown up car tires. The result – patching twice!
On the next day a short adventure of Honduras. There is so little of it on the Pacific side that I managed to stay there for entire 29 hours. Oh, and yes, had to do some more patching after which I have decided the time has come to use those brand new tires I brought with me from my vacations.
Here for the first time in Latin America I was denied hospitality at the fire station (bosses orders), thou they did pointed me in the direction of Cruz Roja (Red Cross). There I got a spot on the floor under a fan (luxury), cold shower (refreshment), washing basin to wash my clothes (work), dinner (spoiling) and access to WiFi (speechless).
Next day I said goodbye to the welcoming hosts and headed into the progressive heat. Kilometres were turning nicely and I was making good progress. But there was about 80 km to the border. I had tasked myself with leaving Honduras on that day. All nice and well, but I would have to cycle the hottest part of the day. And that was not all, the artist in me managed to catch a cold when it’s 35°C outside (probably the luxury of the fan). I was starting to develop a headache and my sinuses went into an overdrive.
Every kilometre I managed to get closer to the border, the roads were transforming into a mine field of potholes. A static danger. Trucks avoiding them turned out to be a moving danger.
Exhausted I reach the border where after more than an hour of formalities and waiting in line, I manage to enter Nicaragua (oh, and 12 USD tourist tax lighter). Slowly getting tired I do managed to make another over 5 km to the first town. I sit on the sidewalk next to a stand where I buy myself a cold coke. The effort of the day catching up with me. All my thoughts run towards sleeping in a bed. After unsuccessfully locating the fire department or Cruz Roja, I pay a visit to the police station where they direct me towards the town park (camping) or the only hotel in town. I decide to check the hotel and after short bargaining the lady agrees for 8 USD. Just as we are polishing the details someone talks to me in English. I turn around and see a man that does not quite fit to the local environment. After we establish that I come from Slovenia and he is from France and that I can speak French, he invites me to his home. He has seen me on the road as I was making my way from the border and then again while I was wandering the town streets and then he tracked me down to this hotel.
A move to his house, parking Lou on the back yard while I seek the comfort of the armchair, get a cold beer in my hands and with every sip of it the weariness in me is transforming into comfort. After gathering my strength I take a shower to wash off the dust and this is followed by a tasty dinner to recuperate the energy.
We start a conversation about the life here in Nicaragua. How handy it is to know someone in a position. For example, when you order a parcel of something from France and you do not want the content to disappear. You address it to the colonel whom you personally know in charge of this area.
Also interesting is driving around here. Once you go a bit away from the main road, a 4×4 drive becomes indispensable. Thou the roads here are, when comparing them to other Central American roads that I have travelled on, a big step up. Still it is not wise to drive during the night. Lots of people drive without their headlights on and there is a good chance you will cross paths with an odd cow on the road. Another option is there will be an overly exhausted men lying across the road, half on a shoulder, half on the road. Spotting him in time increases chances of survival for both of you.
Sometimes it would appear that a car is a fairly recent invention in these parts. In particularly when he mentions to me that when he first came here (about 6 years ago), it was not uncommon that people would rather walk for more than an hour than to catch a ride with a car. If he was going faster than 5 km/h people would rather jump off. It was going all too fast.
The conversation goes on well towards the midnight before sleepy and satisfied I head for bed.
How the Universe makes sure that you encounter just what you need at a given moment!

Merci Frederic & Anais

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

Fredo_And_Anais
Fredo & Anais

Puffing_volcano_Nicaragua_Style
Puffing Volcano

Minibus
Minibus

Not_Only_Me_Cycling
It’s Not Only Me Who Is Cycling