Cycling whilst learning-Learning whilst Cycling
So, what does a day of bicycle touring entail?!
Well, here’s what it’s like for us..
Our alarm is set at 5:30am, and by 6/6:15am we have usually packed up the tent and other sleeping stuff and started riding. Yes, without breakfast!
We ride for about 2 hours before stopping for breakfast -these hours are preciously cool in the tropics, and it is quite wonderful to wake up while cycling along.
A short (half hour) breakfast break, usually oats and fruits >mmmmangoes, bananas, papaya and guaves, yum!
And we’re back to cycling until it gets too hot, then we stop for a long lunch and siesta snooze of 2-3, sometimes 4 hours if the siesta spot is particularly lovely, for example in nature on a beach, along side a river, or the shady plaza of a town where we can string up our hammock.
After the siesta, the last 2-3 hours of day light, we ride again, until we find a nice camp spot or reach the town we were aiming to get to for the night, and set up camp.
We have slept in many different places, the one common feature being that we do not pay to stay some where. This way we manage to afford travelling by bicycle as long as we have. And it is a great way to meet and learn from people, and appreciate people, as people are amazingly accommodating when we ask if we can stay; we hardly ever get turned down when we ask : )
Many times we’ve stayed with the fire fighters (trans. bomberos) who are mostly volunteers, but we also stayed at school grounds, in people’s garden or we just put the tent some where on a quiet beach or along a river.
Next day we wake up and do it all over again.. : )
Critical Mass/riding a bicycle with many others
We’ve been fortunate to join some big bicycle rides in both Guatemala City and San Salvador.
In San Salvador the ride was on international womens day (March 8th) and the slogan was; ‘No a Machismo, No a Feminisma, Si a Cyclisma!’
(No maschism, no feminism, but cyclism! : )
During these rides cyclists occupy the streets with their bikes, claiming space and attention for bicycles in urban traffic.
On this trip we’ve had our share of stomach aches, as happens in places where there are ‘exotic’ parasites and bacteria introduced in our delicate western digestive tracts. We’ve also learned a fair bit about herbs found in subtropical climates to cope with these, such as the young leaves of the neem tree and eating papaya first thing in the morning, including some seeds! Another are the leaves and abundant purple flowers of the Jacaranga tree; when these are used to infuse a tea, which has to be drunk for 10 consecutive days (4 days 4 times a day, 3 days 3 times a day, and so on) it serves as an anti parasite elixer.
Bamboo Project ICTA
We’ve had the opportunity to stop in at ICTA, a project initiated by the Taiwanese government that aims to stimulate the cultivation and practical uses of bamboo.
More information via www.icdf.org.tw
Friends of the Earth El Salvador
We volunteered at Friends of the Earth El Salvador aka. CESTA;
with their project ‘Eco Bici’ we fixed up some bikes from Canada and the USA and re-organised their amazing bicycle museum.
We also did a research of alternative uses of tires, as CESTA wants to launch a campaign for alternative uses of tires and against burning tyres, which is thee practice of ‘Holcim’ a multinational that produces cement by -among other things- burning tyres.
Below the result of our research, an essay and presentation in Spanish, typed up by Alex and Ina.
And a document about something else we learned at CESTA: how-to-make empanadas! yum!
Climbing volcanos with officials
We have been able to climb a good number of volcanoes the past month! About climbing the first one, named San Miguel in eastern El Salvador, we read in an on-line tourist guide it can be very dangerous, as people have been mugged on their way up to the top, and the recommendation was to ask for a police escort. So we did.
The 4 of us ended up walking up the volcano with no less than 7(!) police men who had a ‘fun day out’ escorting ‘turistas’ in an area that they vowed was not dangerous at all! We felt a bit ridiculous, but the hike was -though strenuous- amazing, and the police proved to be surprisingly good company.
Next we cycled up to Alegria (trans. Happy), and hiked into the crater of an inactive volcano with a beautiful lake that smelled of sulphur. We happened to have a policeman accompany us on this time as well; without us asking he volunteered to cycle up with us, loving the opportunity to exercise ; )
A few days later we loaded our bikes and bodies onto a boat that took us from El Salvador to Nicaragua in two hours, and the next volcano we climbed in Nicaragua;
When inquiring about the possibilities of climbing volcano San Cristobal the commander of the fire department of the city of Chinandega drove us in the big red fire truck out to a small town 3 hours from the base of the volcano, and commanded the chief of this small town fire department to guide us to the start of the track up the volcano. We hiked up next morning at 5am(!) in a thick mist in the company of the chief. Lots of wind made the last bit to the top very challenging and the chief told us that ‘the volcano is very angry, we should not go on!’ We did reach the top in spite of superstitions and forces of nature challenging us, but besides fog and sulphurous fumes we did not see anything at the top : )
Isla de Ometepe
We spend a few days on a magical volcanic island named ‘Isla de Ometepe’ where we camped out on quiet beaches, and visited 2 interesting sustainable projects; InanItah and Bonafide farm.
InanItah calls itself an ‘earth based spiritual community’ and has a set of beautiful earthen buildings, including a temple, yoga space, library and various residential buildings. The initiators of this transient community are Gaia (USA) and Paul (Germany). They host a variety of workshops and activities. For more information: www.inanitah.com
Bonafide farm is an inspiring project, practising permaculture, and experimenting with growing different crops -they test what sustainable practices work in the climate and soil on the climate, and what not, and support local farmers growing crops in a similar sustainable manner. It is a true testing site for sustainable living, and we felt very tempted to stay here a bit longer.
We may be back, on our way up north, to the USA.
More on Bonafide farm: www.projectbonafide.com
Presently we are in Costa Rica, where we have been enjoying spending time in beautiful nature with plenty of wildlife and breathtaking views!
We are planning to visit some projects and volunteer time building in a grass roots community close to the capital San Jose.