Coming down, pushin up and getting clean in a flop house

By Emma

Matching wrist bands mark the best occasions

Matching wrist bands mark the best occasions

Last days with the Tozers

Last days with the Tozers

The term ‘come down’ is associated with an intense feeling of elation and the sudden loss of it. That’s how it was for us cycling away from the Tozers. It was a rough fall. The glorious weeks we spent together basking in their magnificent company while lapping up the luxury and relaxation of time off the bike, ended abruptly and with a precipitous thump. And of course, the day we left Pochomil was all steady climbing under intense sun with humidity that grew thicker as we climbed up an unexpected mountain. It wasn’t long until I fell apart.

Emotion has always come easy to me, and while I give the women of my family a hard time for crying at the slightest of incidents, I have found myself accessing this part of my DNA that would surprise even them.

Packing up all of our gear, that had easily spread itself into every corner of our chalet, was dreary. Saying goodbye to Tom & Chris was heart wrenching. Loading the bike and pedaling back to our life of cycle touring was simply confronting.

The incredible house keepers at DonCoCo in Pochomil; Marta, Sergio and their son Miguel

The incredible house keepers at DonCoCo in Pochomil; Marta, Sergio and their son Miguel

Final sundowners with our mates

Final sundowners with our mates

The 3 surfers at Pochomil

The 3 surfers at Pochomil

My mind roams under many startling influences as we ride. The more we ride, the better I am at controlling the directions of my thoughts. But after so much time relaxing, I forgot about the importance of guarding my chain of thoughts and before I knew what was happening, the demons had settled in for 1st course.

It was a hard day. The chain broke twice (thankfully The Tozers had dragged a new one across 4 countries for us) and Bren was able to replace it, but my lack of inspiration was out of his league to repair. The sun sucked up my every bit of resolve, and I had to sit on the side of the road with my head in my hands on more than several occasions. The honey-moon was well and truly over and reality was massive.

Replacing the chain we bought in Guatemala (that did less than 100km) with the chain the Tozers brought us from Canada.

Replacing the chain we bought in Guatemala (that did less than 100km) with the chain the Tozers brought us from Canada.

But the one thing I have learned since starting this trip is this; no matter what the circumstance, you will always find the strength to carry–on because there is, simply, no other choice.

We cycled 60kms that day and spent the night camped in the dusty car park of the Bomberos in Diriamba. I think we were asleep before 7pm.

Knackered after our 1st day back on the bike in nearly 3 weeks

Knackered after our 1st day back on the bike in nearly 3 weeks

As the days went on and the kilometers sped by, we got back into the swing of things and our fitness, both mental and physical, reappeared with vigor. So much so that we completely omitted to celebrate our 11,000th km! Can you believe that! The numbers just rolled over on the odometer and we didn’t even notice.

1111km! How auspicious! We expect by 2222km we will be on the east coast of Oz.

1111km! How auspicious! We expect by 2222km we will be on the east coast of Oz.

We rediscovered our touring selves on the Nicaraguan Island of Ometepe, and loaded Falkor onto the Ferry for a few days cycling around Lake Nicaragua and Volcano Concepcion. It was pretty spectacular. Easy, free beach camping and short days on the bike, albeit mostly uphill and into head-winds. Of course. But we reconnected with our purpose and settled back into the mission. Along with our natural state of stink, sigh. It had been nice to smell clean for a little while at least.

Before we started to smell again in our fab new Adidas gear. Muchas Gracias to our friends at Adidas Japan for their awesome support.

Before we started to smell again in our fab new Adidas gear. Muchas Gracias to our friends at Adidas Japan for their awesome support.

The ferry across Lake Nicaragua to the Island of Ometepe

The ferry across Lake Nicaragua to the Island of Ometepe

Our first night on the island at 'Jesus Maria' beach. I reckon my dad would find that funny

Our first night on the island at ‘Jesus Maria’ beach. I reckon my dad would find that funny

Sunset on the lake

Sunset on the lake

 

Santo Domingo beach, Ometepe

Santo Domingo beach, Ometepe

Volcan Concepcion

Volcan Concepcion

We spent our last night in Nicaragua at the infamous Bomberos of Rivas, and were saluted by a steady honking from the ‘Toña” beer truck just before we crossed the border. A fitting goodbye.

Rivas Bomberos

Rivas Bomberos

 

Fire station Dalmatian ' El Capitan'

Fire station Dalmatian ‘ El Capitan’

 

An infamous shot for touring cyclists, the big guy asleep on the pool table

An infamous shot for touring cyclists, the big guy asleep on the pool table

Sleeping on the 2nd floor of the Bomberos with a breeze to do some washing

Sleeping on the 2nd floor of the Bomberos with a breeze to do some washing

Everyone told us the roads would be better in Costa Rica. They said the temperatures would be cooler and that it would be mostly flat and down hill riding. We know better than to listen to any of this obvious garbage from people who have never ridden further than the corner shop on a BMX, but still, I was disturbed to find myself dripping with sweat and cycling up yet more hills.

Welcome to Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica

Country number 10….how are we gonna symbolise #11?

Country number 10….how are we gonna symbolise #11?

A classic border crossing scene, truckers chilling in hammocks under there trucks while their paper work gets processed.

A classic border crossing scene, truckers chilling in hammocks under their trucks while the paper work gets processed.

Not 10km after riding over the border into Costa, our back tire blew out. The side-wall of our Schwalbe Mondial tire just exploded. We have not had great luck with endurance from Schwalbe tires on our tandem Pino. This marked what was to become the craziest series of flat tire events so far. Without going into the incredibly boring details of each event, I will summarise by saying we had 9 punctures in 6 days (8 rear, 1 front) and had the rear tire off a total of 11 times in that period. A happy boy this did not Brendon make. And needless to say, we found ourselves in dire need for spare tires & tubes. Wonderful timing to need such things in one of the most expensive countries of the journey. Luckily though, our route has been timely, taking us through some bigger towns with decent bike stores and while the quality tires that we need for touring are not easy to find, at least we have been able to keep going. And each time there has been an incident that we haven’t been able to solve ourselves, someone has magically appeared to help us out. You gotta love that.

The tire exploded with an almighty 'BANG' and 'Juan' magically appeared to help us into the shade & drive us to buy a new tire.

The tire exploded with an almighty ‘BANG’ and ‘Juan’ magically appeared to help us into the shade & drive us to buy a new tire.

New tubes and a tire in Liberia

With Jonny in Liberia, new tubes and a new tyre…but we forgot the new tire levers on the window. Dow!

Mario in Alajuela cut us 10 new spokes as a gift. Legend!

Mario in Alajuela cut us 10 new spokes as a gift. Legend!

It’s not that I expect this entire journey to be flat and downhill. I TotallyUnderstand the need for balance in this crazy cycling game, but uphill riding requires a lot of focus. And that is always easier to provide at the start of the day. These tricky hills have a way of appearing in late afternoon.

We spent a lovely few days cycling/changing tires on the rolling hills around Lake Arenal and meeting some excellent folk.

View of Lake Arenal

View of Lake Arenal

at Nuevo Arenal meeting the very cool German, Nia & Johana

Escaping the rain at Nuevo Arenal & meeting the very cool German, Nia & Johana

The incredible Ayel, Chef and host at 'Gingerbread' http://www.gingerbreadarenal.com

The incredible Ayel, Chef and host at ‘Gingerbread’. THE BEST food ever! http://www.gingerbreadarenal.com

Hanging with Ayel

A great night hanging with Ayel

Our fantastic campsite, out of the rain and with a celling fan!

Our fantastic campsite, out of the rain and with a ceiling fan!

The next morning we met this cool crew - Hans, Kate, Kelly, Marie, Jason & Brandon - who were friends of the guys we met the day before - random!

The next morning we met this cool crew – Hans, Kate, Kelly, Marie, Jason & Brandon – who were friends of the guys we met the day before – random!

On the road with Volcan Arenal

On the road with Volcan Arenal. Do you like the way I plaited Bren’s goatee?

As we rode around the lake a strange noise kept haunting us, sounding as if we were regularly riding over bits of metal. Paranoid that we would get another puncture, or had broken another spoke, we kept stopping but discovered no tire intrusions or spoke failures. These regular ghost episodes kept eluding us until Bren saw a spoke leap up at his foot as we rounded a corner. The cylinder where we keep all of our spare spokes had come undone and our preciously stashed spares had been depositing themselves one by one along the road some 30km behind us. Dread.

Flat 1

Flat 2

 

flat 2

Flat 3

Another flat

Another flat

And another one

And another one

And another one

Aaaand another one….

You're kidding me! Another flat

You’re kidding me! Another flat

Making a beeline (3 days late due to hills and flats) to La Fortuna to stay with our host, Esteban, we took a well-earned day off having cycled 10 days straight since Pochomil.

A day off in El Tanque by the river with our cool host Esteban and Aussie Aidan

A day off in El Tanque by the river with our cool host Esteban and Aussie Aidan

Esteban shared some advice on potential routes we could take, and we decided finally to stick with the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and avoid the apparently more rainy Caribbean Coastal side. We could have headed straight down the PanAmerican Hwy to the coast, but instead decided on a 4-day detour through the centre of the country and some of the steepest mountain terrain we have yet encountered. Why do that, you ask. Good question.

We thought we would take a look at Volcano Poas, 2700meter high, inside one of the countries treasured national parks. Keen to take a break from the hectic road works and extreme heat of the PanAmerican Hwy, we expected the roads on this route would be quieter with less traffic. Well, that was wrong. The roads were simply narrower with little to no shoulder to ride on, and some of the scariest drivers we have had the terror of sharing the roads with. On several occasions, motorists actually went out of their way to endanger us, with a truck even braking in front of us and then down-gearing to deliberately cover us in exhaust fumes. Red Neck much? Chalk that up to a bad day, which was swiftly liberated by a wonderful local family who deposited us at their incredible farm, and provided us with undercover camping, electricity and a bathroom. Balance is rich on the road.

A narrow shoulder to ride on

A narrow shoulder to ride on

Shit sholder2

camping at 'the finca', again, with washing of course

camping at ‘the finca’, again, with washing of course

We knew the next day was gonna be tough and I awoke with the same sense of dread that had accompanied me to sleep. Bren planned it as a 30km day, and knew it would be constant climbing from San Miguel to Vara Blanca, so we got an early start. The 1st 10km weren’t too bad, and I allowed myself to think we might actually smash it. Ha! It took us 7 hours to cover 1600m of vertical gain in 25km, with over 5km of that pushing the beast up some seriously long and steep sections. It’s a strange juxtaposition to hate the journey climbing to 2000m while enjoying some incredible views and scenery.

taking a rest

taking a rest

I know it seems that with every blog I give the impression of how ‘this last bit was THE hardest bit we have done so far’, but I am not making it up. You would think we would choose routes to avoid all of this, but really, would you enjoy reading the blog as much if we did?

The day ended in the location planned and I collapsed exhausted, dripping wet with rain, sweat and tears. Better than blood though right? A quick hot chocolate to lift the spirits (AND the place we stopped sold blocks Cadbury’s chocolate! Cease exhaustion immediately!), we camped on the football pitch beside the café and slept like the dead.

It was a welcome change to be cold at that altitude, so burrito dinner in the tent

It was a welcome change to be cold at that altitude, so burrito dinner in the tent

Drying the washing on a goal post as we pack up

Drying the washing on a goal post as we pack up

The next day we left the bike at the bottom of the National Park and hitch-hiked to Volcano Poas. We took an easy trek to see the crater and lagoon, both of which were totally hidden in clouds and mist. Good thing we didn’t ride the additional 15km up there. But we were still somehow glad that we made the detour, despite the fact that we weren’t able to view any part of this apparently spectacular Volcano that we had gone to ridiculous lengths to visit.

Basically, stay at the visitor centre

Basically, stay at the visitor centre

Their is a lagoon behind us…..

There is a lagoon behind us…..

We stayed for over an hour to capture this glimpse of the lagoon in the clouds

We stayed for over an hour to capture this glimpse of the lagoon in the clouds

We were seriously attacked by squirrels. One even jumped on me. At least it wasn't a monkey

We were seriously attacked by squirrels. One even jumped on me. At least it wasn’t a monkey

And for once when we were told the route was ‘all downhill’ to the town of Alajuela, it was true. 20km of steep winding down-hill. What a perfect time for the brakes to fail. The quality of the road was so ferocious, that Bren had to use the brakes the entire time. Of course, the brake fluid in our disc brakes TotallyOverheated leaving us no choice but to ride short 5km sessions, then stop to let the fluid cool and wait for our braking power to return.

“So what’s the back-up plan if they fail while we are riding babe?” I asked.

“Unclip from your pedals and put your foot on the wheel.” Emergency braking system -Check.

The rainy season has indeed caught up with us. This change in seasons means muggy weather climaxing until it gets so hot, that the sky has no choice but to explode into huge rain drops. It makes for tricky camping and even stinkier cycling. But it’s a fun challenge predicting what the weather will bring and has provided another avenue for problem solving.

What sign? We didn't see no sign?

What sign? We didn’t see no sign?

The pace of life in Costa Rica is noticeably different. Being the only Latin American country without an army, they live by the phrase ‘Pura Vida’ literally translating as ‘Pure Life’. It has made for some great introductions and we have been enjoying some seriously chilled personalities of the ‘Ticos’ and their warm hospitality. We are used to having to ask/beg for a place to camp the night, whereas in Costa Rica, people are more likely to volunteer you hospitality before you even start to hinting.

Unless of course, you are in the town of Liberia. Or Alajuela. After receiving our first rejection of the journey from the Bomberos in Liberia, we headed to the Red Cross where I had to ignore their rejection and shamelessly beg them to let us stay there. Some people might call me stubborn, some persistent to a fault, but this was a matter of sheer desperation. After 3 flats in one day, we simply weren’t prepared to ride further.

I had to beg to stay here but it was worth it

I had to beg to stay here but it was worth it

And the town of Alajuela dolled out so many rejections (the bomberos, red cross, a super market, 2 police stations and 2 servos) we ended up staying in a brothel. Well, that’s not entirely true because a brothel is a place where you can exchange money in order to motivate a stranger to have sex with you. And while the strangers weren’t provided as part of the package at this classy joint, it was clear that this was where the major part of the transaction occurred. Needless to say, it was cheap (even though we booked a 12hour slot) and surprisingly clean. And while our room was smaller than our apartment in Tokyo, it had more mirrors than a disco ball. We slung up our tent to dry, did a load of washing, scrubbed 3 days of the sweat and dirt off and left that flop-house cleaner than when we arrived. And I don’t think many people can say that of their experiences in such places.

Outside our brothel room. I couldn't capture the interior in a photo from all the bloody mirrors!

Outside our brothel room. I couldn’t capture the interior in a photo from all the bloody mirrors!

So now where are we? Well, we are pleased to report that we have replaced the missing spare spokes, got new tubes, adjusted and replaced the brake pads and are taking a few days rest on the Pacific Coast at Playa Hermosa. Since arriving on the coast, we have ridden approx 25km in 3 days, pottering from beach to beach and just enjoying time relaxing. Never a better time to update the blog!

Resting at Playa Tarcoles 'Es buneo lugar por nadar?'  'no es peligroso, hay crocodilos'. Ok then, no swimming for us here.

Resting at Playa Tarcoles
‘Es buneo lugar por nadar?’
‘no es peligroso, hay crocodilos’. Ok then, no swimming for us

'You guys should camp down on the grass there, near the combi'. Well, alright we will.

‘You guys should camp down on the grass there, near the combi’. Well, alright we will.

Celebrating a few days off at Playa Hermosa, local stylie

Celebrating a few days off at Playa Hermosa, local stylie

From here, we have roughly 500km to the border of Panama, and we expect to spend 9 days riding straight through to Panama City, where we will organize our boat transport to Colombia.

Why make dirty dishes when you can tip the milk straight into the cereal packet

Why make dirty dishes when you can tip the milk straight into the cereal packet

The 10th of July marks our 12 month anniversary of our TotallyTandem journey. Can you believe that! A year of touring on our tandem bicycle! What a lot of reasons to celebrate eh! We predict we will be in Colombia – our 12th country – and will be close to our 14,000th km! As a part of this momentous occasion, we want to thank you all for supporting us on this journey. The comments on the blog and Facebook really pep us up and provide for some good thinking while we are riding. We are so grateful to everyone who supported us through Pozible in the initial stages of the trip, because it is with your collaboration that we have made it so far. We have so much love for you all.

A big fat MUCHAS GRACIAS to everyone who has contributed to our World Bicycle Relief page. It is incredible to think of what you have all achieved in 12 months by supporting this charity. So far with your donations, we have been able to supply 68 bicycles to students & workers in rural Africa. That is some serious life changing stuff people!

To commemorate our 12th months on the road, we want to encourage those of you who have been meaning to make a donation to get involved.

So we are launching a campaign to Donate $12 now to celebrate 12 TotallyTandem months on the road!

1 bike costs $134. If 12 people make this donation, we will be able to provide one whole new bike with $10 left over to add to a mechanics tool kit. You wanna be a part of that dontcha!

 

So leap to it and click that DONATE NOW button. Our overall goal is to provide 100 bicycles through World Bicycle Relief.

We are over 1/2 way there and half way through our journey.

With your help, we can reach our fundraising goals and transform the lives of so many with the power of the humble bicycle.

Our friends at World Bicycle Relief sent us some new gear and we love it!

Our friends at World Bicycle Relief sent us some new gear and we love it!

 

Some more random pics for you to enjoy from the last few weeks;

 

Camping in Tarcoles

Camping in Tarcoles

The beautiful and huge macaws of Costa Rica

The beautiful and huge macaws of Costa Rica

Camping at Jaco beach

Camping at Jaco beach

'Shannon the Bread Guy' in Hermosa, baking some if the best bread we have had in years! Jalapeño & Chedar bread! What The?

‘Shannon the Bread Guy’ in Hermosa, baking some if the best bread we have had in years! Jalapeño & Cheddar bread!     What The Delicious?

Hola Iganua

Hola Iguana

Washing day for teddy bears hanging on the barbed wire fence

Washing day for teddy bears hanging on the barbed wire fence

Bath time at Lake Nicaragua

Bath time at Lake Nicaragua

The other side of Vocal Concepcion, Ometepe Nicaragua

The other side of Vocal Concepcion, Ometepe Nicaragua

Anyone for a mini bum?

Anyone for a mini bum?

In our last night at DonCoCo the crabs came and took over the lounge room

In our last night at DonCoCo the crabs came and took over the lounge room

I can't believe we haven't thought of this. I mean our lilos are pretty comfy but this looks pretty stylish!

I can’t believe we haven’t thought of this. I mean our lilos are pretty comfy but this looks pretty stylish!

Finding shade is like finding gold

Finding shade is like finding gold

This was one crazy looking lizard. Costa Rica is full of mental reptiles

This was one crazy looking lizard. Costa Rica is full of mental reptiles

Syooping in the McDonalds car park to make use of their free wifi, we met these local mountain bikers who shared their snacks with us. Thanks guys!

Stopping in the McDonalds car park in Liberia to make use of their free wifi, we met these local mountain bikers who shared their snacks with us. Thanks guys!

Rio La Paz, Costa Rica. Finding gems like this on the side of the road is pure heaven

Rio La Paz, Costa Rica. Finding gems like this on the side of the road is pure heaven

 

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3 responses to “Coming down, pushin up and getting clean in a flop house

  1. I love your blogs! I feel like I am there, but without the pain. What an incredible journey!!! Stay safe!!!!!!!

    • So glad you are both safe and still riding on. You are such an inspiration. I look forward to your posts. I love hearing about your adventure and living vicariously through you. It is nothing but miraculous the way things always work out when a challenge is sent your way! I can’t believe it is getting close to a year ago that we met you.
      Weylon just took his securities test yesterday and passed. He decided to go in the direction of my field. He and Allie are still going strong.
      Looking forward to your next post. Be
      careful and take care!!! 🙂
      Yvonne Catton

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