As we’re about to get onto the sailboat later today bound to Columbia, it is amazing to look back to see how far we have come. We have a passion for travel, adventure and social justice projects but I wouldn’t have called us cyclists in Vancouver. Now we cycled to Panama and are about halfway in our epic journey cycling from Vancouver to Patagonia. Here are some top three bests and worsts of the trip so far!
Top 3 Beaches
3. Manzanita beach, Oregon, USA – great times with great company on a long beautiful Oregon beach. Said goodbye to Kirsten here who cycled with us from Vancouver through Washington state
2. Playa Santispac, Baja California, Mexico – surreal colours of water on the calm lake-like Bahia Concepcion where we went spearfishing on the reef and chilled in the hot springs in the mangrove
1. Playa Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico – clothing optional hippies, surf, sun and a great week spent with Rigel + Erin
Top 3 Chillout place
3. Santa Cruz, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua – magical twin volcano island in the middle of a giant lake with cloud forests to hike up to and warm beaches to swim in
2. On a sailboat crossing from La Paz, Baja California to Puerto Vallarta – just watching the ocean roll by from horizon to horizon with periodic dolphins coming to give us a show
1. San Pedro de la Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – good cheap accommodations and beautiful setting in the shadow of Volcan Pedro and looking out onto the beautiful crater lake
Top 3 Best Places for Food
3. Baja California, Mexico – fish tacos – huge portions of delicious fresh fried fish in a tortilla with onion, cilantro and other toppings
2. El Salvador – pupusas – stuffed tortillas heaped with sourkraut and a homemade piping hot tomato sauce
1. Oaxaca, Mexico – hands down this place is a food lover’s paradise. There are tlayudas (delicious burrito calzones packed with meat, cheese, veggies and refried beans), moles (rich chile based sauces), and the local specialities include a spicy cinnamon dark chocolate made before your eyes from cacao and amazing cheese.
Top 3 Best Local Festivals
3. the Semana Santa (which actually start during Lent) processions in Antigua, Guatemala where hundreds of black and purple robed men and women carry heavy wooden biblical floats through the old colonial streets
2. The Feast of Our Lord of Esquipulas, a grand finale of a week of celebrations in honor of the Black Christ crucified statue, at the prestigous Church of Carmen Alta in Oaxaca, Mexico. El Senor is celebrated with a beautiful procession and LOTS AND LOTS of fireworks!
1. The festive and colourful carnaval celebrations in Mazatenango, Guatemala is a local secret well off the beaten tourist track. As the only foreigners in town, we got invited onto the Gallo beer party bus in the Carnaval parade which turned into a city wide party and waterfight.
Top 3 Spectacular Mother Nature
3. the ancient giant redwoods in Northern California, USA
2. the crazy surreal Dr. Sueuss like Catavina desert in Baja California, Mexico with spiralling boojum trees and giantic cardon cactus especially all in bloom after a rare rain
1. the thick, dense tropical rainforest in Costa Rica by La Virgen with walking palm trees, little but deadly poison arrow frogs, singing birds and cascading waterfalls
Top 3 Favourite Cities
3. Cuautla, Mexico – great ice cream, great homestay with Katya and her fabulous family, historically important city to Mexican independence and revolution, surrounded by beautifully preserved cobblestone towns and historical sites including the ancient pyramid on top of a mountain and mummies in one of the oldest churches in the Americas!
2. Granada, Nicaragua – beautiful, opulent first city in the Americas
1. Oaxaca, Mexico – a historical gem that makes you feel like you’re walking through a living museum with a wonderfully preserved colonial centro and nearby ancient ruins of Monte Alban, great leafy centro where there is always something going on and amazing street food. The land of chocolate!
Top 3 Worst Roads
3. Ride down from Neahkahnie Mountain, Oregon – a fast descent with sheer cliff drops, unreliable shoulder space and lots of RV-ers who seem to not know the dimensions of their large vehicles. Vehicles seemed to be less than patient with cyclists in the lane and roar closely pass, revving their engines in a childish temper tantrum.
2. Crossing the spine of Central America in Panama’s Chiriqui Highlands – 12-14% grade ascents and up to 16% grade descents – apparently all the country’s engineers are preoccupied with the canal and don’t believe in switchbacking
1. Lake Atitlan to Antigua, Guatemala – steep ascents, pothole filled and cracked pavment 13% grade downhill, crumbing roads and washed out bridges
Top 3 Best County to Ride in
3. Mexico – it’s big so there’s a lot of variety but for the most part there is good, quality paved roads that are well graded. There’s so much to see and explore. The food is great and people are very friendly. Drivers are genuinely excited to see you and cheer you on. The big truckers are the best, especially in Baja California, and give us a lot of room, slow down and patiently climb hills behind us until a safe opportunity to pass.
2. Costa Rica – really enjoyed cycling in Costa Rica from Los Chiles to along the Caribbean coast even though we firmly hit the rainy season here. Super friendly people, potable water everywhere, fruit galore and the nature was just so beautiful!
1. El Salvador – there is a reliable 6 foot well-paved shoulder and grading is beautiful. Where it is hilly right by the shore, there are many tunnels to make the ride easier. The coastal highway is basically flat and very scenic visiting all of the best beaches. There is a huge cycling culture in the country so bike shops are everywhere. Combine all this with great, cheap food and it is a cyclist’s paradise
Top 3 Awkward Moments
3. Dogs chasing us on our bikes is a real concern though squirting some water from our waterbottles into their faces seems to be all we need to discourage them. However, in Mexico, we would get the smallest dogs chasing us. When a little chihuahua comes running out from their house barking like crazy, it’s actually a little funny since they don’t even come up to our feet on the pedals!
2. Getting desperate and almost basically begging for someone to take us in for the night in the REI just north of San Francisco, California. There was the ongoing national budget debate, closing down the only camping option close to San Francisco. Luckily, Joe, a staff at REI, took us in for the night. Thanks Joe!
1. Stared down by curious but shy silent children and adults in the indigenous villages in Bocas del Toro, Panama. They would circle our tent and just watch us for hours.
Top 3 Most Memorable Moments
3. Being healed body and soul by the shaman in the mountains of Oaxaca with a temazcal cleansing ritual
2. Giving talks to the school in Choluteca, Honduras and the kids coming out to the road to cheer us on the next day as we’re leaving the city
1. Ziplining with Pat and Bill in the cloud forests at Monteverde, Costa Rica
If you feel inspired by this trip so far, also be inspired by the amazing work of men and women in Kenya working towards social justice, gender equality and health for all. Consider donating to the cause at: http://theworldcan.org/donate_now.html