The beautiful Huasteca, breath taking. Not just the views but also the climbs. We did 1200 altitude meters since yesterday morning. Hannah had her first crash of the trip after slipping into a shoulder on our way up to Xilitla. Reason enough to make it a short day we thought and the friendly paramedics of the Proteccion Civil offered us a room for the night in their base. We got a little disturbed in the night when the same paramedics brought in a handful of village drunks (mayors orders) to keep them out of the rain. We were awoken to drunken cries, screams and song throughout the night. I'm glad I had a shower in the night because one of the drunks rolled a huge turd in the shower, despite the toilet bowl right next to it. Maybe he hadn't seen the toilets because of all the rubbing alcohol he drank. A BIG thanks to Protection Civil in Xilitla, you guys work too hard! Below some more pictures of the spectacular ride.
After a few short bike tours in Canada and Belgium and definitely after our first longer bike tour in The Netherlands, David and I were dreaming of taking off for years, traveling by bike to exotic destinations. I love numbers so I started to crunch them. We wanted to know how much money we would have to have in the bank in order to go on a 2 year bike tour.
My calculations included paid camping sites and lots of store bought food and restaurants. As a super low ball estimate that, at the time would not have covered our expenses, we gave ourselves $50 CND daily or over $20,000 CND before the inclusion of 1 cent of emergency money, insurance, savings, cell phones, or rent back in our home countries. We didn't have that money.
So we kept on the 9 to 5, dreaming of one day being able spend our time actually doing what we wanted to. It wasn't until fall of 2012, on a bike tour of Ontario that David and I found that the realization of our dream did not depend on how much money we could make but how much money we could save! Let me tell you about it.
My family had planned a reunion in Central Ontario, about 300kms north of where we lived. We wanted to visit with everyone but we do not have a car and couldn't catch a ride from anyone else. Regretfully we had to decline our invitation. To console my family, who I hadn't seen in far too long, David and I decided to take a week off of work to bike to their homes around Southern Ontario and catch up. The problem was that we had just finished paying off my credit card debt (yippe!) and were without much cash. We would try to suffer with only $30 a day by cooking our own meals and wild camping if possible.
Totally new to the concept of wild or stealth camping, we asked and asked Uncle Google what he knew on the subject, very little. So we biked out of Toronto, a lot green and a little unsure. Your can imagine our surprise when we started looking for unused places alongside the roads we were biking and found more free camping sites than we could use! A good wild camping site does not have fences, no trespassing signs or any signs of recent use and is also not visible from the road. We camped in a new place every night and were never bothered or asked to leave. We found that we could take $30 CND off of our previous estimated daily tour budget as camping just became free.
My first few trips to the grocery store left me wondering if we could stretch our $210 CND to last the whole week. I should explain that in Canada, drinking and driving is illegal but not non existent. Instead, Canadian drinker-drivers drink and throw, littering the sides of the roads with empty beer cans and bottles. At the Ontario Beer Store, you are rewarded 10 cents for the return of each and every beer can and bottle and up to 50cents for larger liquor or wine bottles. We capitalized on this. David and I would each grab cans every time we felt like it, this frequent stopping also improved the selection of wild edible plants that we were consuming as they could often be found along the roads strewn with returnable cans.
Our wild camping, money making and wild food eating GREATLY increased the quality of our trip. Not just because we were eating better or saving money but because of the sense of achievement that our new found self reliance provided.
Treading water in Georgian Bay on the coast of Owen Sound, David and I both expressed our dread of returning to the city. That's when we came up with a crazy idea, calling our clients from the beach to say we would be out of town for another week, and biking all the way to the family reunion to give everyone a surprise (and ourselves more vacation). It worked!
Biking through Ontario was a great pleasure, we arrived at the reunion and really enjoyed gloating to our car driving family about our bike riding proficiency. Together we celebrated the anniversary of my Grandparents and had a great time. We biked back (with a ride part way, kind of stifling our future gloating) and arrived in the city to find that we had MORE money than we had left with! It was time to recrunch the numbers this time without paid camping, restaurants, cell phones, appartments, insurance or ludicrous amounts of money for food. We had enough.
We got rid of everything and left 4 weeks after we returned home from our trip to Central Ontario, the rest is history. Since acquiring a few more kms on the bike, we have figured out even more ways of saving and we just keep getting more efficient with our money.
So this has been a little story about realizing and living your dreams. I guess if there has to be a moral it is this: Figure out what you want to do, how you will do it and then do.
More about our lift off here
We biked 75 or so kms yesterday in what te Mexicans call chippy chippy (light rain), to arrive with our friend John in Papantla. Along the way we stopped to score some road side nopal from the fence line of a beautiful ranch. They had peacocks that were frightened by our arrival and flew away! It was the most beautiful thing I have seen! I didn't even know that peacocks can fly. So we got to Papantla and searched for our friends new house. In town we asked some chavos (teenage boys) where the steet we sought was.. They laughed and sent us to the steepest street I have ever seen I thought it was some kind of a joke but apparently no, our friend just lives on a mountain. I will upload photos of the climb to John and Diana's house once I have access to a computer.
After a delicious lunch made by Diana we spent a lot of time catching up. It's so nice to see a familiar face on the road, we can laugh about the same old things and celebrate each others successes and just be together, it was really nice.
Just when we thought our day couldn't get any better, I got an email from our friend Carlos who came with his charming mother, Adelaida and took us out for a night on the town in Poza Rica (the name means rich well, rich with crude oil) but they should change the name to comida rica (rich food) because boy oh boy did we eat well!! I will not rest until I have recreated the recipe for pinchos which are like corn dogs only cheesier and crunchier and ohh I'm getting hungry again! Carlos dropped us off in Papantla (much faster by car) and Carlos, his Dad Don Carlos and us exchanged Mexican legends about the poor heartbroken princess who was turned into vanilla by the God of celebration and of mountains and volcanoes. Beautiful traditions and histories that I am proud of as I feel a bit Mexican. Fun fact courtesy of Don Carlos, the name Papantla is totonaco (a native language) for town that will perfume the world. This because Papantla is where vanilla comes from.
We parted ways in Papantla, it is always hard to say goodbye to our new friends because often it's a year or two or three before we cross paths again. I wish much love, joy and friendship to Carlos and his beautiful family. May we meet again. Xo H
We departed from the beautiful beach in Santa Ana quite late today because the crabs were keepin us up all night. They beach was filled with these tiny baby crabs that snuck into the little tears still in our tent from Milo the terror and crawled on my legs and my face and my arms all night. Luckily they hadn't developed enough pinching power to really be a nusence. So we got up late and totally SCORED when we found all these beautiful green limes beside the road. So we grabbed all we could carry and headed into the next town were we sold them for a very reasonable $10/bag which would be 2 or 3kgs. So if that wasn't enough our first customers gave us each a beer so we could relax and watch a bit of the Mexico vs holland World Cup game then they cut us off a giant hunk of the most delicious cheese ever so we thanked them and headed down the road another minute and scored a pop and free lunch along with the sale of more limes! But that's not it, a minute later and we were gifted another 2 pops and a pineapple! So after making $80pesos in lime sales we bike some more, overflowing with joy from our fellow man. scored some road side mangos. Shortly after Casita, Veracruz we stopped at a Pemex station (gas station) and were given permission to camp for the night under a roof!!! I then scored free Internet (which I am now using) and electricity which is powering this upload. So sitting here a family asked if I would like to share their sandwich. Yes I would! We got to talking, super nice family. I really enjoy meeting interesting, educated people and just enjoying coming up with common interests and that. We parted ways and they handed me $200pesos with their business card!! I am overflowing with love from my fellow man! You guys make life worth living. So show a little love today because who knows, that scruffy traveller just might be ou one day! It's bed time for us. We will try to bike to Papantla tomorrow. Hope you are livig your dreams. Xo H
David and Hannah - cyclists extraordinaire