My last mock-post about brushing our teeth on our bikes got me thinking: we haven’t written a lot about our daily routine in while. Just thought I’d fill in some of the details of our daily grind so you can “see” us better when you wonder “what in the name of Jiminny Cricket are those two doing right now?”
Well, it’s like this (or at least it was like most of the way through Mexico).
At around 6:15, the sky gets light. If we’ve crashed in somebody’s field or orchard at a rancho, dudes with machetes show up around 6:30 and say “Buenas Dias!” The Mexican workday begins muy temprano.
I fly out of bed and make 4 shots of espresso with our little stainless coffee maker. I try to get through a short story or some poems from my massive American literature anthology and take a few notes. I’m trying to keep alive whatever literary instincts were mine upon leaving Montreal so that I can teach the stuff once this trip is over (anyone with leads on college teaching gigs for September 2010, feel free to drop em my way). While reading, I make some oatmeal. Lucie packs up the bedding and we eat.
We usually hit the road around 8:00. We point our portly war ponies southward and stomp on the pedals. The beasts shudder to life.
We reset our speedometers to record the day’s mileage. Within seconds, a pickup skidding along the highway passes by and the five or ten people riding in the back yell and wave at us and giving us the thumb’s up. Awesome.
We ride till we hit a gas station (the nationalized “Pemex” in Mexico, which I’ve rechristened “Poomex”). We use the washrooms, wash a pair of shorts and a pair of socks in the sink, fill up our bottles and the bladder and treat the water. If the stove is low, we get some gas too.
Then we ride, ride, ride. Through jungles. Over mountains. Across deserts. By the edges of cliffs that drop to the ocean. By cattle ranches and coconut palm plantations. We hit an internet place if we pass through a town, send one or two E-mails and update the map. Get some bananas. Stop and eat. Stop and eat some more. Get some mangos, eat em. Pick mangos up off the ground, eat em. Stop at a tortilleria, get some hot ones and shove em in our mouths. Eat some refried beans. Pour some cajeta down our throats. Get a litre of yogurt drink and gulp it down. If it’s been a while and the timing’s right, we splurge on tacos. Sometimes I get a cookie. You get the idea.
If we see a beach along the road we stop and jump in the ocean. There were dozens of gorgeous empty white sand beaches along the central coast of Mexico, but since Puerto Escondido they’ve kind of tapered off, as the road no longer follows the coast.
We ride about 100 km a day. If there’s a big city in our way, we try to camp about 15 or 20 km on our side of it; that way we can ride into town the next morning and take care of whatever tasks happen to be on our list (usually groceries and internet-related stuff) and then get clear. It’s harder to find good camping near a city.
Once we’ve reached our magic number and the sun starts getting low, we look for a hole in a fence, an abandoned mango orchard, a side road with some cover, or, if we’re feeling social and energetic, a rancho or family farm. Sometimes after a long hard day we’re tired and just want to rest and not talk to anyone. And sometimes we enjoy being stared at by an entire family as we pitch the tent. Actually, it can be a real blast, and some of the best nights of the trip have been chance encounters with hospitable strangers, the details of which I’ll cover in future posts.
To have some kind of mental life (or speak Spanish) after 6:00 p.m., I have to slam back an espresso right after we get off the bikes. Otherwise I start fading right after we make supper and eat. It’s often a mad dash to get the tent up once we find our spot, especially if the ground is carpeted with tarantulas, giant red ants, rattlesnakes and scorpions and the air is thick with mosquitoes and no-see-ums. After my coffee, we get some water on the stove for rice or pasta. While it boils, we take turns “showering” under the drizzle from our water bag hung from a tree and then change into clean-ish clothes. No bears down here: we eat most meals in the tent.
After supper, we transfer the day’s photos onto the netbook and enjoy a little slide show. We work on our next photo gallery (selecting and deleting from thousands of images), try to finish a post or article, work on job applications, look at the map to plan our route and then make a list of the next day’s tasks.
Somewhere between 9 and 11 p.m., it’s lights out.
I usually wake a couple of times in the night to yell at jaguars, armadillos, wild boars, iguanas, mice or whatever else is crashing around in the trees or sniffing around the tent.
There you are! A day in the life of Team Pedaling South!
Our routine changes along with the local climate, geography and culture. By way of a sneak preview, I can definitely say that our average day in Guatemala is a different animal altogether… stay tuned!