People often ask us “how do you plan your routes?”
And I have to admit, I have very little to do with this part of our journey. Its Bren’s job, and he is bloody good at it. I am known for my geographical & directional dyslexia which has made for some interesting discoveries while I am navigating from the bow, but at least that there has been some improvement on these skills. Planning a route though? Not for me. Bren spent years researching our TotallyTandem route plan; which places to go, the many possibilities of how to get there, the definite roads to avoid, not to mention investigating the best seasons and climates to ride through each country.
Naturally, the plan changes pretty much daily. But the basic route remains the same; ride south. My contribution to the route plan by adding Cuba, was clearly made with a lack of geographical understanding. It’s clearly a job best left for Bren.
We keep changing our plan based on the stories we hear from other cyclists and travellers, expiration of our visas, dates to meet friends and our general health.
Our most recent goal was to make it by April 15th to the coastal town of Pochomil -Nicaragua, to meet up with our mates ‘The Tozers’; Tomoko & Chris. In fact, all of our time goals have pretty much been to meet up with travelling friends. Marvelous goals indeed.
We had time on our hands to make the distance, but we like to keep some extra up our sleeves….just in case. We have suffered some nasty stomach bugs and Falkor has been wearing out running gear, and all of these things can cost days. Oh yeah, and you gotta allow for unexpected conditions like dirt roads & wind. Bloody head winds.
Leaving El Salvador on April 8th, we rolled across the border into Honduras, ready to cover some serious ground. The ‘plan’ for Honduras was simple, ride for 3 days and cross the border into Nicaragua. It’s not that we have anything against Honduras, but we had no plans to visit any major sites, with our sights truly set on making it to Nicaragua and having a 2 week ‘holiday’. We’ve literally been riding our bums off and were desperate to chill out. We knew this shining oasis holiday was just ahead of us, and we couldn’t help but race toward it. Until of course, we met with more head winds.
There are all kinds of different winds that can have many pleasant effects for those involved in the outdoors. For a cyclist though, only a tail-wind is of any benefit, and all other winds do nothing but make life miserable. We seem to have made great acquaintances with all of those. Head winds suck. They just suck. They are painful and boring and dusty and demoralizing. And they can last for days. But the worst thing of all is that they stop at night so you are left exhausted and sweaty in a hot tent. Fist-shaking stuff.
For us, Honduras was a country of head-winds. 140.09km of head-winds that caused us to lose our Aussie flag! Devo’d! Luckily, my wonderful Aunty Chezza had sent us a fold-up shopping bag with the Aussie flag on it, so Bren whipped out the sewing kit and fashioned us a new one. He is very handy with a needle and thread.
Honduras was a hard slog but we enjoyed the change of scenery, new style tortillas and the marvelous hospitality of the Bomberos. We really love Bomberos. They work bloody hard, but always have time to welcome us. And they love growing fruit trees it turns out.On our first night in Honduras, we stayed in the small town of Nacaome, and were directed by the Bomberos to camp under their prized mango tree. The winds died down as soon as we got off the bike, so it seemed like as good a spot as any. The night grew humid and sleep was impossible, so I just tossed and turned and thought about my washing. Slowly, the wind started to pick up allowing an hour of sleep before abruptly being awoken by mango bombs. A hot gale had broken loose and was causing absolute havoc. Our washing was making a dash for it, the tent was filled with dust and we were under serious mango attack. We had no choice but to pack everything up in the middle of the night and seek refuge at Bomberos headquarters.
Imagine our delight at discovering that the winds had increased in strength over night and would indeed, blow in our face all day, no matter which way the road turned. Ah well. Some days, that’s just how it is. Images filled our heads of meeting our mates, having cold drinks, a fan and a toaster and we just kept pushing on.
We crossed into Nicaragua at the Guasaule border on April 10th. Bren had planned a hike up the volcano Telica in San Jacinto, and after a brief interlude with a magnitude 6.2 earthquake, we made a beeline for the little town and prepared ourselves for few days off the bike with a nice hike. Oh plans.
Bren read that is was possible to do the hike without the aid of a guide and, despite the dozens of offers we received upon arriving, off we went, solo. Initially, Bren had planned it is a 2 day hike, taking the tent and spending a night at the bottom of the volcano. We hadn’t been able to glean any info on exactly where it was possible to pitch the tent, and for some reason, I decided that we needed to be sure. Why this day had to be different from all the others, I have no idea, but I managed to convince Bren we could do it in 5 hours return. So we left Falkor safely with some locals, slept 6 hours in a hammock, woke up at 1am to the sound of boiling mud pits and started our hike in the dark. When I write it out like this, I can clearly tell it’s a bad idea. How we failed to see that at the time is a mystery.
I truly thought my Spanish had improved as I explained earlier that day to the ‘camp site owners’, that we intended to set-off at 1am in the morning. But when we discovered a securely locked gate, I was forced to admit that perhaps my explanation was not as stellar as I believed. Selecting the appropriate furniture for ascent, we climbed over the high brick fence and dropped onto the road still certain the plan was golden.
With small day bags crammed with food and water, we started past the mud pits, our head lamps lighting the way. As I already mentioned, my sense of direction is somewhat lacking so I was pretty much useless in helping to locate the path. Also, the path was very well hidden. Also, we had no map. Did I mention that it was dark?
How Brendon found any path at all is a true wonder. How he managed to avoid the huge coral snake slithering across the path is incredible. How we managed to make a few wrong turns though is really quite obvious. The ‘path’ was sometimes long grass over our heads. The sound of the bugs screeching and humming was intense. We had to break through dense scrub, scramble up loose dirt and traverse rocky valleys. The night was still and hot and we were covered in sweat and dust. Tiny owls flew across the beams of our headlamps and we hiked through the night.
We ‘planned’ to be at the foot of the volcano by 3:30-4am, and at the top to see the boiling hot lava by 5am with sunrise at 5:30. As the sun started to rise to shed some light on our location, we began to make out the shapes of different volcanos around us. Hmmmm. Which was the one we were aiming for? Armed with our $2 compass, we had nothing much to go on but gut instinct. Bren’s, not mine obviously.
We were knackered. It had taken us 5 hours to get this far and there was no chance of seeing the red lava or reaching the top for sunrise. And as the sun climbed higher, we realized there was still some way to go. Missed the left turn at Albuquerque you see.
I lost the will to go on. I had pulled all sorts of muscles and I just wanted to sit down and eat Oreos. But if I let Bren carry on without me, the truth is, I would still be out there lost on my own. Sometimes there is simply no choice but to carry on. And really, who walks 5 hours through the night to consider giving up at sunrise? I mean, come on!
It actually wasn’t that much further. Certainly it looked as though there were hours more to walk, but we were at the top by 6am. And it was spectacular. So I cried. I do a lot of crying on this journey, and most of it is related to exhaustion. But check out the views and tell me if you reckon your eyes would be dry after hours trudging through the dark to find this.
Strangely enough, the path was even harder to find in the light of day and we got even more lost on the return journey. Although Bren will tell you we weren’t actually lost, “the path was just hard to find”.
We arrived back to Falkor around midday and collapsed into the hammocks dirty, stinky and spent. Lucky we only had to ride 25km that afternoon…….
And miracle of miracles, we had a tail wind all the way to Leon. It’s like getting upgraded to 1st class when you’re only flying from Melbourne to Sydney. You never have the high life for long!
But in 2 short days, we were in Pochomil and even a day ahead of schedule to meet The Tozers. The idea of showering daily and using a flushing toilet ensured that we somehow rode faster than we thought possible.
It’s funny the different things that inspire us all eh? During the tough kilometers leading up to our meeting, we kept thinking of being able to make ice, keep drinks in the freezer to make slurpies, and sleeping in a bed with sheets that smelled like clean laundry. And in a room with a door. What has motivated you lately?
We are feeling well and truly spoiled now. We have all of these luxuries at our disposal and the most difficult part of the last 2 weeks has been deciding whether to swim in the ocean or the pool first, and how many showers is too many in a day. We are very water-logged and loving it.
Tozer made this sweet movie using the go-pro. Suss it out.
It’s been Totally Incredible to meet up with Tom & Chris and share this part of our journey with them. They have treated us to so much fanciness (including our own room with AC and a house keeper that cooks fantastic meals for us) that we hardly feel like cyclists at all. In fact, I was worried it would be too long off the bike, but now I know I could easily have survived if it was a bit longer.
There has been so much relaxing, eating, swimming, surfing, laughing, dancing, chatting the nights away, partying and cooking, it’s just been unbelievable. They have treated us to the most amazing ‘bike holiday’ and we feel incredible lucky to have spent so much time in their marvelous company.
We even got a visit from Aussie Kurt and managed to swing Bren’s 40th birthday celebration in the company of people who understand what celebrating really means. Cocktails.
Our next day on the bike will see us smash our 11,000th km! Can you believe that!?! Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could match our km tally with our fundraising tally. Spread the word about the awesomeness of World Bicycle Relief and see if your mates want to sponsor us $1 a km.
Our total so far is $9,108. Only $1,982 more and we will be matched dollar for km! Wouldn’t that be TotallyAwesome! As you can see, every dollar counts and every bike we supply has the power to change a life. Now who doesn’t wanna be a part of that?