When you travel unusually people ask you a whole lot of questions. Here are our answers to some of the more popular ones.
Why do you travel by bicycle?
Travelling by bicycle gives us the opportunity to experience the world at a slower pace. We can really take in the culture; see the sights, smell the smells, and hear the sounds of each place we visit. When we arrive somewhere new, people are eager to talk to us and show us around because we arrived in a manner different from other tourists. Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat whatever you want!
How did you train for the trip?
In all honesty we didn’t really. Beforehand we were really busy wrapping up things at work, getting married, and making all our worldly possessions fit in a closet at Jenn’s dad’s house. Also it’s a difficult thing to train for, as there is nothing in the world like riding a bicycle for 6 hours a day for 6 consecutive days, as doing just that. The most important things are to be comfortable on the bicycle and to have all your gear and how you plan to carry it sorted out; all of which can be done on a weekend trip. Therefore, most of the actual training and conditioning has occurred in the process of the journey. We started out slow, and now we feel unstoppable.
How many kilometres do you ride in a day?
This varies greatly depending on terrain, weather, attractions and the mood of the day. Our shortest day is around 25km while the longest is just over 150km. The average and a number we are happy to see accomplished in a day is 100km.
Don’t you get tired?
We sure do! We spend a few days exploring in each destination that we visit and this gives us a chance to rest up. The first month of the trip was tough, but by now our bodies are used to the hard work and it doesn’t take long to recover.
How can you afford to take so much time off work (in such “hard economic times”)?
Both of us are very lucky to be paid well doing what we like to do and we worked hard to save before this trip. And cycle tourists generally have a much lower budget than other travellers. We both had to leave our jobs but believe that our careers can wait for an adventure like this. There’s never a right moment to take the plunge and follow your dreams, and if you keep waiting for it you might miss your chance.
You went to such and such place? Isn’t it dangerous?
We believe that the vast majority of people are honest, kind, and welcoming. There are some dangerous places along the way but they probably aren’t the places that you’d expect. For example, Colombia is quite safe with the most helpful people we’ve ever met. However, the town of Paijan in Northern Peru is internationally known for cyclist targeted robbery. Through careful route planning, asking for local advice, and some basic safety precautions we can mitigate the risks to a very acceptable level. Also, most of the petty criminals are too busy hanging out at the bus stations and main tourist sites to notice us on our bicycles. And interestingly, most of the dire warnings we receive about places are from people who have never been there.
Do you carry a weapon to defend yourselves?
Of course not … our stuff is just that: stuff. We believe that it’s not worth the risk of escalating the level of violence of a situation over material goods.
Where do you stay at night?
We carry a tent with us and camp whenever it’s possible. There aren’t any organized campsites in most of Latin America so we generally start searching for a nice, hidden site in the late afternoon. Since a hotel room in Latin America will only run us between $5 and $20 we stay indoors when visiting cities or to escape the elements.
What do you eat?
We like to try the local food wherever we go, so we eat in a lot of cheap, family run restaurants. When camping we cook meals on our campstove.
What sort of bikes do you ride?
You can take a detailed look at our bikes in the “Gear” section of the website. In general, we ride heavy duty road bikes and carry less gear than most of our cycle touring peers.
Are those tires too skinny for touring in South America?
Well, yes and no. Our skinnier tires have definitely hampered our enjoyment levels on some sandy or rocky roads. However, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well they’ve performed. If we could do everything again, we would get wider tires but they’re definitely not necessary.
We originally left thinking that we would stick to the paved roads. But it turns out here that some of South America’s best cycling is unpaved. And the tires haven’t held us back at all when planning our route.
How much does your stuff weigh?
Dave is carrying about 20kg of gear and Jenn is carrying about 10kg, not including the bicycles themselves. Depending on the distances between towns we also carry between 2 to14 litres of water and up to 5kg of food.
Do you speak Spanish?
We didn’t speak any Spanish before the trip. So along the way we stopped for six weeks of one on one instruction at La Cooperativa school in San Pedro Atitlan, Guatemala. Since then we’ve been learning a bit more every day.
Aren’t you scared of crazy Latin American drivers?
Not really, most of them are pretty courteous to us. There’s more attentiveness while driving and more of a share the road attitude in Latin America due to wide variety of road users and potential obstacles. And because we are an unusual sight, most drivers slow down and give us space along with a friendly greeting. The worst and most aggressive drivers of the trip by far were those in the US who thought they owned the road.
How do you plan your route?
We read a lot of blogs like this one to get information from other cyclists on the road ahead. Some useful online tools like MapMyRide or PerfildeRuta help us choose the best road from the many on our paper maps and Google Maps or MotionX GPS on our iPhone let us know if we’re going the right way. Lastly, we get a lot of word of mouth recommendations from other travellers or locals on the best places visit.
You have such beautiful eyes … can I hav’ yo numba?
No, go away. I don’t even have a phone!