[lang_all]A solo bicycle trip of approximately 16,000 miles in 26 countries
Between 2005-2006, I completed a solo bicycle trip of approximately 16,000 miles in 26 countries. This trip started in Lisbon, Portugal and ended in my hometown, Aguas de Sao Pedro, Brazil. The trip lasted about 12 months and involved every challenge I could imagine. The trip was completed by bicycle but planes, buses and ships were used when routes were impassable by bicycle. I am proof that ordinary people like me can achieve great things. Go for your highest ambitions and see for yourself what you are capable of.
My name is Thiago Ghilardi. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1979, I spent most of my life in Brazil’s biggest city, Sao Paulo. I currently live in New York City after spending a year in Colorado, 2 years in San Francisco and 4 years at California State University, Fresno where I received a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
When I left for my first tour to Yosemite National Park a few years ago with only a bicycle and a sleeping bag, I couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to adapt to a simpler life. A trip of such nature freed me from work and school and every comfort that I had and made me realize how great life was without the wonders of a civilized world. Moving myself by bike makes me proud and allows me to experience things that would otherwise go unoticed. The bike gives me the ability to meet more people, the bike is friendly to people, the bike provides cheap and healthy transportation. Take a bike tour one of these days to see it for yourself.
Planet by bike map
Planet by bike numbers
Central Asia route
East Asia route
South America route
2005/03/18 – Arriving in Portugal
“Try to discover your way in this life. Nobody is responsible for your own destiny. We have to discover the road and follow it with our own feet. Wake up for your life, for your true life. And if you wish happiness, remember: You are the only one responsible for your destiny. Beat the hardships and fight the obstacles to build your life.” PP 90.
Life is about experiencing everything there is to offer and I am experiencing it in a very special way! Overlooking Lisbon’s green and windy coast from the airplane, I try to answer the same questions that have been pounding in my mind for the last 2 years. Will I be able to endure such a rumbling experience? Will I be able to discover how powerful and capable my mind and body can be? Will this voyage give me the confidence to try much bolder adventures? Regardless, I am living my ultimate dream. A dream that is now reality with no easy way out, no shortcuts and only one destination where my family and friends will be waiting for me. I expect moments of joy and rage, pain and glory, moments of peace and solitude, suffering — all emotions that I call a test of nature to better myself. Most importantly, I want the right to say “I want” not “I wish” for everything I set my mind to.
Sometimes, you just have to stop life in its tracks and just get away from it. Live free from anything you are doing to experience that invigorating freshness of a new beginning. I am stopping my current life now while I can, not because I am single and have no children but because I am healthy. That’s all that it takes really. Health is my biggest wealth and everyone should take advantage of it while it lasts.
I am still rehearsing in my head why I am doing this. It’s not just about seeing places, cultures, meeting people, riding a bike like many usual reasons people travel. It’s about the challenge at large. The overwhelming thought of traveling the whole world non-stop using my own power is incredibly invigorating, encouraging, motivating, intriguing at last. Doing something that only the exclusive few have done, doing something that brings an amazing sense of a fully accomplished life, doing something so incredible people will hardly believe me, doing something that will require unimaginable strength, determination and courage. Waking up everyday for a whole year not knowing where I will sleep, who I will meet, what I will see, where I will end up while getting plenty of exercise is a very exciting time to experience. Not to mention, having the opportunity to make my own opinions about the world and each country and continent rather than listening about them. That world map that I carry with me is now my new obsession and every time I look at it, I imagine a grain of sand on a beach. I am so small on that map yet powerful enough to cover its whole land length.
Arriving in Portugal
Time is always ticking. It will never wait for anyone including myself. The last month has been very busy and it all came down to the last hour when I had to rush to the airport using a taxi cab instead of the train because I was so late running errands and seeing friends until the very last minute. I shove my bike box in the back seat of the taxi driven by this young and thin Vietnamese man and $35 unnecessary bucks later, I arrive at the airport. I got to the Continental Airlines counter and I am greeted by the same arrogant employee that messed up my mom’s flight 4 weeks ago delaying her travel plans. She sees my one way ticket to Lisbon and tells me that I cannot board without an onward ticket or return ticket period. Manager please! After speaking to the manager, she tells me that I have to buy me a refundable ticket to Madrid that I later found out it will take me a year to get refunded. I am down another $400 bucks. I haven’t even started my trip and half of my budget is vanished in less time than it takes me to drink a cola can after a 100 mile bike ride.
With my luggage, I also paid another $80 to ship my bike to later find it in bad shape and buried at the bottom of many strangers bags. Apparently the airport handlers could not distinguish a large bicycle drawing that I made on the box pointing the right way to carry it. The results of the damage: the speedometer case is cracked, my front wheel and fenders are bent, my brake calipers are out of sync but overall I might survive just fine the rush hour traffic of downtown Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, a city also known as the city of seven hills, reconstructed almost from scratch after a major earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 60,000 in the 1700s.
I am finally out of the airport after spending some 2 hours to assemble and fix the bike trying to pump my tires and I discover that my top of the line, latest patented technology $38 Crank Brother full aluminum case, dual pressure mode pump is worthless to say the least. Even after sweating out liters of water using the patented pumping mechanism, I was only able to pump my tire to 80psi or 2/3 of my tire pressure. Now, I am risking flatting my tire on such low pressure. I really wished I had brought the one my sponsor Planet Bike provided. That’s a real pump but had no gauge.
I am now riding south to the center of Lisbon after booking a $20 Euro hotel at the airport’s tourist desk. The ride lasted about 5 rumbling miles. The airport was 500 ft from sea level so the way to the center was all downhill. I bombed down at 25 mph using the all exclusive bus lane and actually passing traffic and running red lights. Typical of a San Franciscan commuter and third world citizen. I was loving it until the second mile when an ambulance stopped right in front of me to help a man who was having a heart attack. He was laid down with his shirt ripped open and a tube on his throat. It was a message to be extra careful out there and to slow down. But man, did I have to see this on my first day! I kept bombing down until I reached the dreaded cobblestones (rua de pedras)…cable car tracks included. A ride on these streets is nothing but danger because you have narrow streets, mad taxis, buses and a train all within striking distance of you. A left turn here, two right turns there, a crosswalk later and I arrive at my hotel safely during my first day of riding. I am a happy man and exhausted too! I later took a nap, showered and toured the city. I keep telling my American friends how ugly some parts of Sao Paulo city is but Lisbon’s is worse. At least Lisbon does not have so many homeless people, street dogs or children ripping people’s pockets to buy crack. Brazil’s popularity is high here. Many Brazilian flags, restaurants, magazines featuring Brazilian artists made me feel proud. The question is: Will I find all this Brazilian love around the world?
Lisbon by night
Praia da Gale
Beach & bike
2005/03/31 – Cornering Windy Spain
Today, the 31st of March, 2005 was such a screwed up day that I had to take a long and deep breath before writing this entry. Please read it all to the end for the grand twist Mark Burnett’s style.
I left the hotel Malaga in Arcos de la Frontera around 9:00am, 11 hours later and I’d still be pedaling my bicycle. Today’s route was supposed to be plain and simple. A 65 mile downhill ride all the way to Tarifa on the coast of Spain. I easily cleaned up the first 15 miles averaging a blistering 16 mph pace and was already thinking how I’d write my fastest ride on my log tonight. At mile 16, a strong wind current shed my pace to a mere 8 mph. I was instantly devastated because the wind was way beyond 20mph and picking up. I can ride through rain, mud, volcanic lava, red hot nails but wind is definitely the hardest. The area in which I was biking was full of mountains and man made objects like buildings and houses that created a very gusty wind condition that can be extremely dangerous to ride challenging every skill that you have. The reason is simple, you are traveling against the wind and a wind gust hits you, you lean towards the wind so that you don’t fall, when the gust passes, your body is still leaning towards the wind instantly moving you and you loaded bike into either the middle of the road or the ditch. Not to mention, when trucks pass by you under windy conditions like this, a loaded bicycle swerves and as soon as the truck passes you, your front wheel is still slightly turned causing the headwind to blow through your panniers violently forcing you to the middle of the road. Try to imagine moving an umbrella against and towards the wind feeling the violent pull/push that it gives. I literally felt like I was playing ping pong except that I was the ball, the trucks were competing against the wind. I stopped many times hoping that the wind would settle but as of 10:00pm as I write this entry, the wind is still blowing just as strong. I thought the winds that I battled in Portugal were stronger but today was the windiest day I would ever see and I lived in San Francisco.
It was really intense, a cyclist coming towards me flyes by at 30mph and smiles. I give her the middle finger as my speedometer reads 3mph. It’s time to stop.
It’s already 1:30 pm and I now stand on the side of the road stranded by the forces of mother nature. As I look for shelter, I find a mattress by the side of the road. As I try to move it to the shade, a rat underneath is awaken from its afternoon nap and greets me furiosly. I tell him to get out of there before I squeeze it into soft patté for my dinner and it quicky does so. I find an 30m tall eucalyptus tree and lay my back on it. I could feel it flexing like if I was sitting by a bamboo tree. The grassy fields looked like green water shaped up by the force of earth’s most common form of expressing rage. As the wind hit the grass, it swirled and changed colors forming cool wave patterns…dancing to the tune of the wind.
In a few miles or riding, I saw an outdoor shattered into pieces, many road signs down, birds and their nests down. It was also a pretty day too sunny and all.
I stopped at a trucker’s stop to have a late lunch and cleaned that calamari and garbanzo bean meal so quickly I didn’t even use a napkin. I was out again, I was excited that tomorrow I would be going to Morocco for the day and relaxing by Tarifa’s beach, kitesurfing the next day and camping by the beach.
I pedaled for a couple of miles but I had to stop again. Every attempt to ride was denied by mother Earth. I decided to push my bike averaging 2mph an hour when a car stops to offer me a ride. Dude, are you kidding? I am having a blast here. My throat is dried and filled with dirt, I have no water, my knee is hurting beyond chinese torture levels and the sun and wind have just scorched me for the last freaking 8 hours. I barely wave him off as my arm and neck are so sore from holding my bike steady and shout no, gracias. I did end up walking for about 2 hours until the next city still 15 miles away from my final destination. I literally swallowed a can of cola and a tasty pastry and left again. This time, I vowed to not stop until my final destination. I pass a hotel and a mile later I think about calling it a day and going back. I say no! I learned to look forward and not back until I reach my final objective. As I approached the last mile, a wild fire had just started on the side of the road. The wind was sending chunks of flame across the road. Cars stop, visibility none, I go full speed across with my eyes closed ingenuously thinking that if I am going to burn to death or fall into a ditch, my corneas would be saved and transplanted to some poor kid. I pedaled the last 15 miles in 2:30 hours and finally made it.
As I was greeted by the campsite manager, he starts by telling me that there was no wind yesterday…nada. Great man, this really helps. Secondly, he asks for my passport. I look for it and can’t find it. I had forgotten my passport along with $250 USD worth of traveler’s checks in Arcos de La Frontera 65 wind infested miles back. I don’t have to tell you that tomorrow, there will be no Morocco, no kite surfing and no margarita by the beach either. I need to go back and pick it up.
Wow, the coast of Spain
Wow, the coast of Spain II
What a quiet day this was
A view from Altea
The city of Girona
2005-04-21 – France
Well, well, well, Spain is past, France is present. France greeted me yesterday with a mistral … bone chilling winds from the alps … and I am now waiting in Perpignan to continue the journey.
2005-04-28 – France
Do you know what’s like to say the word spectacular 1000 times in two days? I do after biking the stretch Marseille – Cassis – Cannes – Nice in South France. Wait for the pictures! Monaco is next and Italy is right around the corner!
In route to Cannes
Cannes beach, topless women included
The coast of Southern France
The city of Marseille
2005-05-04 – Switzerland/Italy
More than 2000 miles (3200kms) travelled. Hard to leave Switzerland behind but the trip must go on to other undiscovered places. I am back in Genova, Italy marching to Pisa, Tuscany, Florence, Rome and Pompei. Got any route tips, send them to me.
Zurich from above
2005-05-08 – Italy
What was heaven in Switzerland became hell in Italy. In 24 hours, I was robbed, confronted the robbers, lost 90% of my equipment, found my bike 100kms later, slept in a police station, went to court while learning a ton of Italian in between. But thats not all. The most scary moment of my life came the next day when I crossed a 2250m one way shouderless tunnel in pitch black dark on a timed green light. To top off, my back locked up and did not allow me to walk. But there is good news. I am almost fully recovered and now heading to Pisa.
The tunnel of death…at least for cyclists
Cinque Terre…In my opinion the best route in Italy
Monteriggioni …a city within a fortress
A famous view of Italy
2005-05-16 – Italy
My last leg of my first leg is about to start. Rome to Istanbul is my new route after being unable to secure visas for the eastern European countries. The odo reads 4000kms after 2 months on the road.
Rome – Piazza San Pietro. You cant ride your bike here!
Wow Rome Piazza Venezia
Rome – Foro Romano
Rome – Fontana di Trevi
Napoli and Vesuvio far away
Ruins of Pompei…destroyed by volcano Vesuvio
2005-05-26 – Italy
I am still stuck in Bari, Italy waiting for my equipment. As soon as it arrives…I will depart to Igoumenitza, Greece and cross the country. Aren’t you happy to be able to read?
2005-05-30 – Italy
A bird has been set free from its cage. Seven days waiting for a package that never arrived was the most painful experience of this trip so far. I am free to conquer Greece today!!![/lang_all][lang_all]
2005-06-04 – Greece
Today, I just climbed the biggest road of Greece. To me, this is an amazing feat to others not so much. Regardless, I did something amazing today. What are you doing today that will make you feel the same way!!! A donation to Room to Read is a great way! I am in Thessaloniki after 3200 miles and 5 days away from Istanbul, Turkey.
Almost at the summit…the highest road in Greece…just 5500ft high
Amazing Meteor City
Can you see me climbing this wall…look closer…
2005-06-14 – Turkey
Turkey welcomed me a couple of days ago with an euphoric vibe. Children followed me, people waived and screamed from top of buildings, from across the streets, many friends made. It’s the three month mark and I can’t wait to continue the journey. I am catching some air in magical Istanbul before heading to east Turkey. Don’t wait and don’t wish until it’s too late, go after your dreams now!!!
2005-06-21 – Greetings from Istanbul
Over the last three months, my life has gained significant meaning. Moving east without the aid of any land vehicles, I conquered nine countries, swam on eight different oceans and seas, pedalled 3300 miles and made dozens of new friends along the way. In this email, I’d like to share some of my stories and have you take part on this great adventure.
New developments have been made to my route. Because of a possible conflict in south Pakistan and a possible bus ride, I will head to central Asia covering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Northwest China then entering north Pakistan through one of the most beautiful roads in the world, the famous Karakoram Highway.
Nightlife in Istanbul
The Bosphorus, Istanbul
Drinking apple tea and posing
2005-07-01 – Turkey
The hospitality of the Turkish people continues to push me forward to Central Asia. I am now in Cappadocia (central Turkey), a prime Turkish tourist attraction sleeping in a cave hotel watching baloons fly by over thousands of caves and rugged cone shaped landscape created by this 4000m volcano nearby.
Incredible Cappadocia II
Finding a camp spot
Tired of so many beautiful views like these
2005-07-07 – Turkey
I am in Malatya recovering from a brutal session of mountain passes that puts the Tour de France to shame. Number of Turkish tea cups served to date: 42 and rising quickly. Thank you Turkey for the hospitality.
Cycling around Mt. Ararat – Wow!!!
2005-07-17 – Iran
I am making my way into Iran today. Turkey was a blast. Here are some stats from Turkey. 1441 miles ridden, 37 days of riding, 8 euros a day (thanks to all the food and shelter provided), 0 number of flats, 139,053 tea cups served, 5200 miles since Lisbon.
2005-07-20 – Iran
I am already in Tabriz, 600kms from Tehran. The boring desert landscape, winds and summer temperatures will put me to the test physically and psychologically. Wish me luck! Some interesting findings from Tabriz. 1. If you wish to cross a major street, throw yourself in front of the car or bus, if it stops, you will make it. 2. Don’t come to Iran without money. No banks will give you any. 3. All women above 17 must cover their bodies from head to toe. 4. The Internet has a huge national filter that does not allow access to many international web sites. Sign up for my newsletter to read more interesting facts of my trip.
2005-07-27 – Iran
After 620 miles (1000kms) in 8 days, I finally arrived in Tehran, the capital of Iran. The relentless hospitality and the disgusting amounts of food given to me slowed up my pace quite a bit but I am now relaxing and tackling 5 embassies in 5 days to start my Central Asia trip. More interesting facts from Iran: 1. Eminem is king. 2. Thumbs up has a completely different meaning here. 3. Public bathrooms signs are so difficult to read or memorize, you eventually end up in the wrong stall seeing the wrong people.
2005-07-31 – Five Days to Tehran, Iran
Crossing the border into Iran under the watch of Mt. Ararat, the 5100m giant from which it is believed Noah’s Ark is hidden was nothing less than spectacular. The mountain was the biggest I have ever seen and definitely left a powerful impression raising up to the clouds all the way from its green grass plain. Before crossing the border into Iran, Gin (a friend who I met in Istanbul and also known as the cycling barber shedding hair of many cyclotouring icons like myself) and I had a last strange encounter with the Turkish people. As we were leaving the last city before Turkey, a kid throws a knife at us. We figure since we are leaving, lets go back and chase the kid and teach him a lesson. As we approached the kid, we started screaming at the little boy who got so scared, he started crying still throwing things at us. Gin chased him and found his mother who gave Gin a stick to let him hit the boy. Gin rejected but I am sure the kid got beaten later by his mom.
After cycling past a convoy of military vehicles including several tanks with their own license plates we entered the Iranian border and after a few introductions and paperwork at the border, an outdoor of Ayatollah Khomeinni and his son welcomed us to Iran, my 9th country. From far, we could see the sandy air of the desert, and the next city Bazargan. While getting there, we were approached by money changers and the like crooked crowd of merchants selling things to fool tourists. Some money changers tried to fool Gin giving him checks that looked like Iranian money but Gin noticed because he’s been to Iran before and yelled police police. The crowd started looking and gathering around so I firmly told Gin to forget about it and move on before the whole city sees the stack of money in his hand and start chasing us or even worse ambushing us later. Iran does not have bills larger than 20,000 rials which is equivalent to about $2 so it’s likely that you will get a 2 inch stack of bills if you change $100 USD.
Some 40 miles from the border, we found a camp that allowed us to stay there until dawn only enough time to be awaken by a herd of cows and a boy who was walking them next to our tents. We moved on to tackle the semi arid desert to the city of Tabriz and the scenery and boredom got to us in such a way that Gin and I didn’t even speak to each other. The depressing wind and heat, the atmosphere of poverty and mud shacks, the flat roads provided us no inspiration to move on. Mel Gibson’s movie Mad Maxx must have been filmed here. Everyone looked filthy dirty, some used goggles to protect their eyes against sand, frame only cars and double seat motorcycles carrying 5-6 people at a time. We encountered no gas stations sometimes for more than 50 miles and going to the cities required major detours. We were only saved a couple of times by tiny villages that gave us water so chlorinated and gassy, they were white for a couple of seconds.
We arrived in Tabriz, the first big city in Iran and once the capital and stayed at a hotel to rest after clinching 170 miles in two days. The next day my partner for the last 30 days gave me a farewell since the next 400 miles would be full of nothing to see except for the boring desert landscape and traffic all the way to the capital. I took off the following day late around 3pm to follow my path and clinched 45 miles climbing out of Tabriz before finding shelter by a dried creek bed. The next day, I experienced the relentless hospitality of Iran full force when a family saw me coming out of the woods. The father, a mullah, asked me questions and gave me bread, honey and yogurt. He invited me to his home in Qom but I refused since I am not going there. Another man shows up as I came back from doing my business in the woods, he wanted me to shake my hands but I made a squat gesture and he understood. I ended up leaving two hours later after all the socialities.
Continuing on, I accepted Gin’s challenge to cover 460 miles in 5 days. The following days were marked with encounters with the Iranian people. A police officer stopped me. Does he want to see my passport, am I riding a non identifiable object, too slow. No the officer just wanted to shake hands and drink some tea with me. With the noon heat approaching, I refused sitting in his Mercedes and moved on only to get stopped again by a Pakistani who wanted to see foreign money. This guy was so overweight his face was covered with fat in such a way his eyes looked oriental from so much fat around his eyes. He kept insisting in seeing some money and even reached my pocket to get my wallet. It didn’t look good specially because he had 4 guys in his car, I was polite enough to be cool and told him I had only traveler’s checks even though I had none and was carrying over $1000 to cover the next 4 cash only countries.
That day, I found shelter under a bridge so low it cut the roof of my tent but it did hide me from the brutal wind that completely destroyed my morale in the last 6 miles. The wind around here starts around 11am, starts picking up slowly with small gusts until 4pm when it rocks you out. At least the roads are all flats or long climbs and long downhills that you don’t even feel them.
After more boring roads which are in fact in excellent conditions, but many sholderless stretches riding around a creek with plenty of water fountains from underground, I continued to get stopped by locals. They would offer me anything from fruits, coke, water, vegetables and even money. What a hospitable crowd. Because of the cities and people that gather around the river, I was not able to find many hidden spots to eat and take breaks so everytime with no exception, I’d be approached by the locals. The older ones would ask me whether Iran was good, whether Brazil had ties with America, the younger ones would ask me about sex making silly gestures and laughing all the time. Boys and girls cannot have sex before marriage so most boys ( I heard in the figure of 60%) practice intercourse among themselves.
After cycling for 99 miles, still another 100 miles from Tehran, I stopped at a mosque for the night but it turned out to be quite a social task. I arrived at 6pm and immediately was invited to have tea with the workers. Three cups of tea later, I set up my tent next to the mosque and two tombs of people who I later found out died there victims of crime…and a police officer with a very crooked face shows up with a friend. He starts speaking farsi and from what I understood from his gestures (he crosses his throat with his finger and drew an X over my head) I could get killed and robbed here. He wanted me to go to the city mosque and sleep next to the police station where it was safer. By his fake laughs and his irritating friend’s behavior, I thought I was going for trouble so I stayed and the workers of the mosque moved me inside a separate building where I could store the bike and sleep. Already in bed, I was awoken by a man who earlier introduced himself and invited me to sleep at his home 20kms back. He wakes me up and brings me one day worth of Iranian food prepared by his wife. We eat a little and as I returned to bed a few minutes later, another family shows up for a night picnic and brings me two cups of tea and another loaded delicious looking dish of pasta and olives. I refused kindly and had one of the mosque workers degust the dish. I quickly went inside to my bed before the other family gave me more food.
Arriving in Tehran could have been easier if I had followed my instincts instead of asking for help from the locals. I had to jump on the freeway where I saw every rule on the book, being broken, cars passing on the shoulder lane, driving on the wrong way, backing up after entering the freeway, cyclists like me riding the freeway in front of many police stations who did nothing to stop me and even helped with directions, merciless truckers and their even more merciless exhaust pipes discharging black smoke on me all the way to my hotel in the south suburbs of the city near all the car and mechanic shops and where the masses live and breathe Tehran. I made it to another capital, I beat the challenge.
Traditional Iranian Shepard
Mountains of Iran
Jameh Mosque, Esfahan
Eman square, Esfahan
Camping in the desert
2005-08-04 – Turkmenistan
The dream must continue, after spending 10 days getting 5 visas I am following one of the most ancient roads of this world, the silk road, all the way to the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan. If you think that your life is rush-rush, let me tell you what the Pakistanis did to me. They gave me only 25 days to arrive at their border. Some 3000kms or 2000 miles will have to be covered until there including several 3000m passes and a giant 4600m pass. I am ready to ride the giants. The last fact from Iran: Need a nose job? Come to Tehran, it’s cheap, easy and you will look great with that big cast on your fine new nose.
Human cooking…Karakum desert
Enjoying a break
2005-08-17 – Uzbekistan
Following the footsteps of Genghis Khan and Alexander the great I conquer another nation, this time I am in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. But it was not as glorious to get here. I arrived two days late in Turkmenistan and even after pedalling 375 miles (600kms) through the unforgiving Karakum desert in a mere 3 days, I was unable to arrive at the border in time. I got a big “DEPORTED” stamp on my visa and pedalled away.
The Registan, Samarkand
2005-08-26 – Kyrgyzstan
Salom Aleikum…My Central Asia trip is almost wrapped up. I am in Osh, Kyrgyzstan and despite two attempted robberies, 22 headwind days straight, more diarrheas than you can possibly imagine, I managed to average 130kms a day living a very rural life waking up with sheeps and dunkeys next to me, bathing in rivers, filtering water from underground streams, using pit toilets and camping among villagers. Now comes the mountain stages where I will spend the next three months chasing the biggest mountains in the world.
Kyrgy nomads and their yurts
The roads were not so good but I love mountain biking
Climbing the 3615m pass to Sary Tash
Enjoying the view, what a view
Pik Lenina, 7134m (23,400)ft
The Pamir Alay mountain range
The Pamir Alay mountain range
Beautiful green valleys
2005-09-03 – Kyrgyzstan – China
After a self-destructive pace, I ease up and go from rural Uzbekistan to wild Kyrgyzstan where I had the opportunity to watch wild horses galloping on huge grass fields, drink yogurt and sheep milk with Kyrgy nomads and take a peak at the Pamir’s biggest peak (7134m) in a place where I felt all four corners were there for me. Now, I rode 12,000kms to Kashgar, China to eat some real chinese food but the truth is that they all taste the same.
2005-09-05 – China, Central Asia
I find myself inside this internet cafe here in China where I am the only one who is actually using a computer for good among dozens of Chinese men who waste their times (and money) playing all kinds of computer games just thinking how different this place is. The guy next to me spits on the floor, I go to the restroom and this guy is having a loud bowel movement without bothering to at least close the door (Chinese hygiene at its best), I go for a bike ride and I am overwhelmed by the traffic, that is bicycle traffic. The bike lanes here are bigger than the car lanes!!! This taxi driver is excessively honking behind me. A woman is on the wheels! I take the road less travelled … because I got lost trying to hopelessly understand Chinese road signs … and find a village where I buy some bread and green bean cookies. As I leave, this man makes this strange sign. He offers me a woman and the whole village bursts in laughs. Welcome to China, welcome to my number three newsletter.
I crossed Central Asia and by now most of the silk road starting with the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan where I had to take a detour because I was on the way of the president’s daily commute. I then rode to Uzbekistan where the food was plain and boring unless you consider rocks and human hair special spices. Tashkent’s beautiful beautiful women awaited for me and my now bald head but I had to leave many of them in screaming in tears because the Uzbek police was following me and my expired visa. Kyrgyzstan greeted me with gold teethed women which I found rather sexy and charming being 5 months on the road.
It’s been a long road so far but the road within myself has been the most rewarding one. I have learned so much from the people and their daily gestures. Like a silk road trader who brings back goods to his people, I will bring back attitudes of gratitude and hospitality to everyone I meet back home.
There are some shock and awe photographs of Turkmenistan where I got cooked in the desert and metal melted, Uzbekistan where the archtectural highlights of medressas, mausoleums, mosques and minarets will make you wonder for minutes about these ageless monuments, and then photos of Kyrgyzstan where you will have a good idea of what heaven looks like except for the picture of a twister developing just 500ms from me.
Past: Central Asia (the silk road), sparkling water, plov, shashilik, russian thiefs and their sticks, gold teeth.
Present: Kashgar, China contemplating whether it’s wise to eat spicy deep fried spiders some 12200kms or 7000 miles away from Lisbon.
Future: Pakistan, inumerous 7000-8600m plus mountains to explore, rock throwing kids, lots of milk tea and chappati.
Where do I go now?
View of Muztagata Mountain 7546m high
My first images of China, where are all those people?
My first images of China
2005-09-13 – China
The most dreaded day of my trip finally arrived. I was forced into a bus for the first time after getting caught trying to cross the Chinese border on a bicycle (currently illegal). Pakistan is currently holding my hand as I go through this rough time by giving me the coziest guesthouses and stunning views of sugar topped mountains.
2005-09-26 – Pakistan
I am now in the green and clean city of Islamabad, Pakistan catching my breath after crossing the tip of the Himalayas through the scenic and hard Karakoram highway. Consider a generous donation to Room to Read! I rode past 8000 miles but raised only $3095. Are you that new fuel I need?
Carnival cart by day, Christmas tree by night…Pakistani truck
Photos from the road
View from Rakaposhi base camp…Diran Peak and glaciers
Landmark of the three mightest mountain ranges in the world
Pasu suspension bridge. Fun!
View from the other side of bridge…the cathedrals
2005-10-08 – India
I am already in the capital of India … well past 14,000kms … but to get here I had to pass through many servants of hell…rickshaws, buses and car drivers whose only purpose in life is to do damage to you. Passed by one elephant already but the beast had more bells and whistles than a Pakistani truck.
Dream: wishing a vacation in the Alps. Reality: Will soon by thrown into the Ganges
The Taj Mahal
Not the tropical beach I was expecting. Ganges river
No, its not madness, just a casual day on the roads of Varanasi
One of many pilgrims that flock Varanasi
2005-10-08 – China, India, Pakistan
Greetings from New Delhi
If you ask any Pakistani how many siblings they have, they will always say 4 brothers and 3 sisters. Like magic, they seem to procreate at this exact ratio every single time. Some men even have multiple wives to speed up the process. Their laid back no problem attitude made my experience in Pakistan absolutely memorable. I am so saddened to know that less than a week ago I was at the epicenter of a major earthquake that killed many people I have probably seen on the road.
There are many stories to tell but so little time to write them all… The Central Asia stretch added 3000kms to my initial route and depending on the quality of the beach bungalows of Thailand, I might not come back so soon. I am cutting corners here and there though. For example, I drafted off a Pakistani truck and covered a ridiculous 23 miles or 38km in only 55 minutes. The fun lasted until I hit a huge pothole that sent my water bottle into deep space and softened two spokes of my back wheel.
My route is changing daily depending on my mood. I am now going to Calcutta, India and will skip Nepal and its tiger infested national park … my dad likes this idea a lot … and from Calcutta, I will either bike to Bangladesh’s capital and fly to Thailand or fly to Thailand from Calcutta, whichever is more economic on my somewhat stretched budget. The reason of my unplanned flight is because the borders of Burma are closed to foreigners on bicycles and lone tourists. I had enough bureaucracy at this stage to fancy around Burma anyways.
The road from Kashgar to the Pakistani border was full of emotions. Bicycling 300kms on dirt roads of all kinds over the tip of the Himalayas on a rigid bike makes me wonder if I will ever be able to have a child. Hard and bumpy! Some of you may know that the 140kms stretch between the Chinese and the Pakistani border is off limits to cyclists so I had to take a bus for the first time after being caught 50kms into it. The day before, I tried to avoid the bus and even managed to skip two immigration checkpoints by crossing some knee deep snow creeks parallel to the road. Later, I found a cozy hidden bush to spend the night but it was so cozy that my biological clock woke me up just before sunrise so I had to ride the final 140km to the border during the day. The soldier who caught me told me to ride back or face jail. The thought of facing jail is not so bad but using a toilet in a Chinese jail made me turn back right away. It was only a 225kms bus ride but a bus ride indeed.
I am now resting in Delhi after experiencing the Karakoram Highway in which I met many cyclists. No one told me that going down the Karakoram from 4700m to 700m high would feel like going up 4000m. The KKH is hard work either way and after 900km of it, the KKH gets nasty and not pretty with kids throwing rocks at you from up in the mountains. They got me a few times and I was lucky I had my helmet. Another important thing no one told me was that in the 1200kms of this road, one could have the best ride of their lives but also the worst. The northern stretch provided amazing views of sugar topped peaks, wild trekking, cozy guesthouses and crispy clear views of many famous mountains in the world including Nanga Parbat (8126m). The road after Pasu some 900kms later gets nasty with traffic, pollution, trash, human and animal waste mixed with several generations of the same stuff at several points. At one point, it got so bad that I had to stop by the side of the road to vomit from so much disgust. Some said India would be worse but so far India has been a blessing. No wonder I contracted giardia somewhere along the way having to blow my valves on too many occasions.
There are many great shots of Pakistan on my site. By day, they look like a carnival cart, by night they look like a Christmas tree, the Pakistani truck decorations are sensational and only found in Pakistan. There are other pics there as well from people I met on the road all friendly and even a bull’s ass to be seem by those who haven’t contributed to my efforts to fight illiteracy among poor children specially girls in South-east Asia.
Past: The 8th wonder of the world known as the Karakoram Highway, Nanga Parbat, the Killer Mountain, rock throwing kids and lots of milk tea, Sufi festival held in a graveyard, Lahore’s red light district (watching only), pet monkeys, riding by an elephant.
Present: Delhi, sitting in a cyber café destroying the world’s best selling cookie…the powerful Parle-G gluco-milk biscuit.
Future: Taj Mahal, the holy city of Varanasi, watching open air cremations and pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganges, taking a boat ride on the Ganges river bumping into occasional floating corpses.2005-10-25 – By the time you read this update, I will be in Thailand. India’s main road was hard on cyclists like me and I am glad that’s over. Check out the new photo gallery of India.
2005-10-29 – Thailand
If you don’t believe in love at first sight, come to Thailand. I am situated in Chiang Mai for an undefinite period of time enjoying my new home for the next couple of weeks…months perhaps…
Memories from the floating market
Memories from the floating market
2005-11-08 – Thailand
I am here in Bangkok celebrating over 16,000kms / 10,000 miles on the saddle. I will certainly never find a girlfriend again after trying delicious barbecued rat but I just thought you would be curious to know what I have been eating lately.
2005-11-17 – Thailand
Now to paradise! After enjoying the nightlife in Bangkok … without spending a dime on women … it’s time to head to the most paradisiac islands on earth.
Memories from the Grand Palace in Bangkok
2005-11-30 – Thailand
It’s not exactly paradise but it’s as close as it can get. I am in the very south of Thailand now on my 14th island visit. Below, life is gooooooooood!!!
Fun on the beach but many hard days to get to it
Look at the color of this water
Beaches & Beaches & Beaches
Raylay Beach from vista point
Sunset in Ao Nang
2005-12-08 – Thailand
Reliving my childhood past time, I am now armed with a 5 meter foldable fishing pole and frying fishes right on the beach. Remembering how to fish took some time though. The first catch cut my hand and escaped, my pole folded during the second attempt and eventually after a broken nail and almost falling into the water, the third catch became dinner.
2005-12-17 – Singapore
I am in Singapore one of the safest nations in the world where spitting is strictly forbidden and people get death penalty for drug smuggling and carrying fire weapons. Plain and simple. It’s my last contry in Asia after spending 6 months in the continent. In two days, I will be bound to Australia where a new set of challenges will welcome me.
In front of the city of the lion
2005-12-17 – South East Asia
Greetings from Singapore
I would say Thailand, the land of smiles, was a modern place if they at least had a proper flush and pipe system in place. Flushing is a tedious and manual process that involves a scoop and a bucket of water. When you finish your business, you wash your hands and the water from the sink lands right on your feet. There is no pipe under there! But that’s not all. Thai people are tiny, I am tall and many hotel and business owners find me screaming to the Pope every time I bang my head on their goods, poles, doorways or beams. Thailand’s Bangkok was the city I chose to party the night away. By the time I left, I was butt-slapping the go-go girls, running away from lady boys and watching cabaret and fetish shows finishing off with a traditional pad Thai on the streets of the Patpong district. Despite the piping and architecture problems of Thailand, I enjoyed the excellent roads, the consistent tailwinds and the 7-elevens along the way.
After spending several days cycling in the rain (it’s monsoon season), my ciclocomputer, panniers, watch all waterproof stuff on the brink of extinction, I made my way to the cool high mountains of Malaysia’s Cameroon Highlands and tea plantations where I spent my first day in which I did absolutely nothing except…hmm…nothing…nothing. I them followed the compass south to the modern Asian capital of Kuala Lumpur where I could care less about its touristy sites. I spent all my time wondering around the skyscrapers of the golden triangle district, watching a movie under the highest towers in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, surfing the web using many of the city’s wi-fi spots, window shopping a whole street of malls and watching the melting pot of Malays, Chinese and Indians go about their business.
Crossing the heart of India was one of the most humbling experiences of my trip so far. My route (Amiritsar, New Delhi, Varanasi, Calcutta), the busiest road in the country, perhaps in the world shook me constantly as I slowly cranked my pedals towards Calcutta, on the other side of the country. The worse and most dangerous drivers you couldn’t even begin to imagine, the staggering amounts of people, the piles of trash in which I bicycled through, the incessant smell of rotten trash or the way people … and animals live and die there (I witnessed), the poverty, the lack of electricity and water are just a few reasons I got the hell out of India sooner by taking my first voluntary motorized ride to Calcutta. The guide book says that if you can manage to get over the images of poverty, India can be a beautiful place. It’s true but if you jump on a bus and close your eyes and arrive at a great place, you don’t see all that is in between. As a cyclist you live and breathe it! How did I managed to cycle through this country has a lot to do with the special way Indians treated me. Like in many places in the world, the bike provided the medium to touch and be touched by the locals and their gestures of gratitude from waving hellos to escorting me to hotels under moon light, black outs and tension areas where children pointed toy guns at me and almost every civilian carried a gun or rifle proudly. Many went out of their way to help me out and I could not have crossed 800 miles of India without such help. Lastly, let’s not forget I did one of the poorest and most inhumanly route of this otherwise beautiful country. Depending where you go, India could be a completely different experience from mine.
Well over 11,000 miles on the saddle, I am 5000 miles away from home. One side of me wants to continue exploring the unknown landscape and cultural challenges, the other side wants me to go home and get on with my life again. To your eyes, I might be getting tired but to mine I feel like I have lived through so much I am not as excited to cross a new border as I was back then. Perhaps, I should find me a beautiful Thai princess and kick back here for a while. What makes me lean towards the former side is the sheer excitement of rounding the world on a bicycle along with the thought that I have been able to help poor children along the way.
Past: Beating every single Indian when they decided to race me on their hero bikes, fast floods, pick picketers in Delhi, crashing into a tractor, bodies floating on Ganges river, amazing Hinduism, riding at night in Thailand’s moonless sky followed by bats and other jungle creatures, nightlife in Bangkok and Chang Mai, arthritic elbow and wrist, spicing up my diet with grasshoppers, maggots and barbecued rats, the world’s biggest religious building, Angkor Wat (Cambodia), Paradisiacal islands where Hollywood’s “James Bond” and “The Beach” were filmed, hotel rooms shared with rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes, ants, bed bugs and who knows what.
Present: Singapore reunited with the infamous cycling barber. Remember him from Turkey?
Future: Screw the budget, I am spending new year’s eve in Sydney. Exploring the tiny metropolis of Singapore, New Zealand’s, the Lord of the Rings tour.
Angkor wat in the background
Boat ride to Battanbang!
When nature meets the temples
2005-12-31 – Australia
Australia is not expensive, it’s outrageously expensive to my taste after coming from Asia. Thanks to my bush ‘n’ noddles way of living, I managed to cycle 1100kms of the east coast spending $11 USD a day. Enjoy the Australian spirit.
Sydney from the cheap manly ferry
Five minutes to showtime
Mandatory skinny dipping area!
View from lighthouse
Almost every trip starts like this!
2006-01-13 – New Zealand
I am located in Queestown, New Zealand, the adventure capital of the world with no money to do things like parajumping, heli biking and other cool outdoor activities. But I find my own adventures in the land of the kiwi.
The road to Queenstown…shhhh… it is a secret back road
The road to Queenstown…shhhh… it is a secret back road
Typical lake view
Ceasing the day with a swim
Lost in the woods!
A unique glacier advances within a forest
The remarkables mountain range
2006-01-28 – New Zealand
The tour of New Zealand is now over. I am here in Auckland waiting impatiently the time to fly to Santiago del Chile where the home stretch will begin. Two thousand kms were covered in New Zealand over some wicked natural challenges bringing the total distance so far to just over 21000kms (13050 miles). Unbelievable!!!
A shot of inner Auckland
2006-02-02 – Singapore, Australia, New Zealand
Greetings from Santiago, Chile, 16th capital, 23rd country, 13 thousand odd miles, 100 kilos of bananas consumed give or take.
So I am in the final stretch home. Only 2500 miles separates me from a traditional Brazilian barbecue with my family and friends. I am hoping to be home by late march! Aleluya!!! Come visit me!
I arrived in Singapore, a country that takes less than 60 miles to cross from every direction. I was very lost when I got there without a decent map trying to find my friend’s home in the suburbs I spent a few minutes talking to the locals who always said “very far, very far”. Do the locals lack a sense of distance? You bet! Singapore left a strong impression because it’s the smallest country in South East Asia but the strongest economically dominating the region with financial and IT
services. Its high rises, modernized wireless car toll systems and transport
infrastructure prove that the country takes efficiency serious therefore forming a high tech culture of its own. Carrying a gun or drugs will get your head hanged and spitting and littering will bite your pocket badly.
I once considered myself rich financially speaking but then I decided to travel to Australia and New Zealand and things changed. Bananas for a dollar, Chinese takeaways for $7 makes it difficult to afford much. Arriving in the high season did not help either. Everything was beyond-belief-darn-too-expensive. Even the Germans were terrified. At least in Australia I was able to camp in “carpe diem” beaches
and forests accompanied by clouds of mosquitoes and flies on steroids whose sting arpons were bigger than an intravenous seringe. Cooking could only be done during the day to avoid the mosquitoes at night. In New Zealand I was caught twice in the middle of the night by storms that left my tent, my dear tent, folded to nature’s
forces. Patching it up with over 4m of ducktape did not work so I relied on
efficient campgrounds and YHA hostels throughout NZ. New Zealand has spectacular landscapes with a culture cattered to tourism which did not attract me nor my pocket
very much. Having said that, I picked up the pace and cycled 1250 miles from
Invercargill well in the south to Auckland in a brisky 20 days through difficult terrain that gave me enough confidence to challenge Lance Armstrong on a name-place-and-date mano-a-mano duel.
New Zealanders are very friendly but you cannot say hospitable. Hospitality to me was demostrated in Turkey and Iran when people offered me tea everytime, a place to stay everyday and drove 40kms to bring me food lots of it. Because New Zealanders have been so used to tourists, they can’t simply be hospitable to everyone, instead many change their lifestyle and cultural traditions to more profitable things such as take a guess…tourism. For example, many transformed their sheep farms into hotels, sold their
lands to tourist helicopter landings or converted their homes into homestays charging hefty rates. Many places in the world share this short vision unfortunately.
Past: Getting another master haircut by my friend Gin in Singapore, staying with Arno and Sarah at their forest house in Sydney, back to the past with a 16 hour plane ride to Santiago, skinny dipping on long and deserted beaches of Australia, magical forests of New Zealand, Christmas alone, New Years with thousands.
Present: Santiago, Chile puking from eating so much for so little.
Future: Crossing the second highest mountain range in the world, the mighty Andes with its 29 gut twisting switchbacks all the way to the clouds, Argentinean steaks, Uruguay’s hilly interior, home sweet home.
2006-02-02 – Chile
I am here in the Chilean capital which can easily resemble many southern european cities except for the prices of goods. The Andes shall be tackled tomorrow!
Above the smog of Santiago
Contrasts of the Chilean capital
Almost at the top of the road
Part 1 of 4 equally agonizing sections of the Andes climb
2006-02-07 – Argentina
Mendoza, Argentina, post Andes. The Andes blew my expectations away specially the Argentinean side. Gorgeous! I am constantly getting goosebumbs everytime a Brazilian truck passes by. I am so close to home but I cant quite say mission accomplished yet. Argentina is absolutely cool and cheap.
A view from the Andes!
I was there!
Aconcagua in the background and a very tired man in the front!
My second night in the Andes was spent here
Comfy pedestrian streets of Mendoza
2006-02-17 – Argentina
I am in the land of Tango. Arriving in Buenos Aires after 1000kms on the dangerous ruta 7 was a very tough mental challenge. Riding here was like asking to die but managing to survive. Most of the road had no shoulder and I had to fight my way with trucks from the Mercosul. The good news is that I am alive and 2200kms from home!
Something different in the Pampas
Colorful Caminito en la Boca
Tango on Calle Florida
2006-02-23 – Uruguay
I am in the riches paradise of Punta del Este, Uruguay not making much success with my silver taped bicycle, holes in my shoes and my sun bleached shirts. What matters most is that I am 200kms from the homeland.
Cool hands in Punta del Este!
Punta del Este puts a show
So I make it to my last capital of this trip. Montevideo
2006-02-27 – Brazil
I crossed the last country border of the trip yesterday when I arrived in Brazil under a blessing rain just in time to catch Carnival here in Santa Vitoria do Palmar some 1900kms or 26 days from home.
Rich land … sugar cane fields
From the biggest beach in the world
On the Estrada do Inferno … road of hell
2006-03-10 – South America
Greetings from Florianópolis, Brazil
Now little over 500 miles remain to greet my mom who always supported my plans occasionally pulling her hair, my dad who spread the word to so many of his friends, my sister who always worried about my health, my friends and relatives who kept in touch and wore my shirt. I was once counting the days to start, now I am counting the days to the end. But don’t get me wrong, my trip has been everything I wanted it to be even without getting Ronaldinho’s autograph. The 25th of March, the day of my arrival (knock on wood), if I don’t get sick (knock on wood again) or bit by a dog (k.o.w.a.) will be the happiest day of my life because I will have achieved the biggest and most audacious goal of my life. The second happiest day was when I left almost a year ago when I simply told myself it was possible to pedal 16000 miles across 26 countries and so I left with many doubts not knowing what I would experience but knowing that I would arrive home alive and on my bike. Such confidence in myself can only be attributed to my faith in God who always shows me the way even if it is the harder way because the easier is not necessarily the best one. I believe I went after whatever I believed to be a fulfilling life experience as crazy as it may have sounded and made it an obsession until realized. Try it yourself!
Now I am finally in my own backyard sort of after crossing the Andes, the Argentinean Pampas and the flashy ‘n’ cozy beaches of Uruguay. The Andes was a very easy 200 miles that took me from 500m to about 3200m high through a series of steep inclines on the Chilean side (no, I did not hold on to any truck … ever in this trip) and a long and smooth downhill on the Argentinean side where I was able to appreciate Aconcagua and camp among giants once again. It felt good crossing the Andes border pass and hearing a fellow murmuring “that’s what it means to be strong”. The real challenge in South America so far has been the Pampas crossing. An area of about 600 miles in central Argentina that is flat, dull and full of agricultural fields and pastures. It was common to go 20-35 miles without a single turn! The boredom of this stretch, the wind, the lack of shoulder, mechanical problems, truck traffic from 5 countries made my experience in India sound easy. The cool part was that I was able to meet truck drivers and live the way they do by camping, eating and using their facilities on many of the convenient Mercosul truck stops. If you call cold showers and dogs pissing and sleeping in your tent convenient! It was typical to find Argentineans carrying 5kgs of meat especially on Sundays for their traditional barbecue as they call it “parrillada” followed by sips of herb tea as they call it “yierba mate”. I then decided to head a bit south to Uruguay’s Montevideo and discovered a real gem of a country. Under populated, safe, good roads, cozy sea villages made my 210 mile planned stretch swell to 280. The Uruguayan women were just too beautiful so it was common to see the Uruguayans looking at the women’s behind often. Yes, I felt obligated to join this perverted tradition as well.
The 25th of March it is! If you wish to see my legs after some 16000 miles, show up in my town or ride your bike through the rolling hills in the direction of Piracicaba and ride back with me for the olympic lap around my town. Autographs will be given but cannot be sold on ebay unless funds go to Room to Read! Meet at 9:30 at the Piracicaba Shopping Center parking lot (main shopping entrance) to bike home with me or 12:00-ish at the Municipal Indoor soccer arena in Aguas de Sao Pedro.
Past: Fighting my way among buses of Santiago’s streets, Mendoza’s Parrilladas, watching Tango in El Caminito, people watching in Buenos Aires, flashy Punta del Este, Carnival in Santa Vitoria do Palmar.
Present: Itching to go to the nearest Padaria “bakery” to gain weight on all those wonderful made only in Brazil pastries.
Future: Is there an European side of Brazil? Holding my tears on my last mile. Can I do it?. The end.
2006-03-12 – Brazil
I am here in Florianopolis sharing this beautiful island with retired people and Argentinean tourists. The young and the beautiful are back in school or work, something I ought to be doing after being a bum for the last 12 months.
2006-03-18 – Brazil
I am entering my home state tomorrow trying to get all the attention I can because on the 25th of March, 2006, there will be no more. A year has gone by since I left.
2006-03-27 – Brazil – Aguas de Sao Pedro (end of the trip)
It came true! I made it home safely on my bike on the 25th of March, 2006. Applauded by the best crowd I could imagine and escorted by the best cyclists in town, I crossed the finish line after 25,345kms in 373 days. I am proof that ordinary people like me can achieve great things. Go for your highest ambitions and see for yourself what you are capable of. Good stuff is coming up on this site. Keep checking back.
Same man … 25,345kms
Same crank … 25,345kms
The grand arrival
2006-04-24 – Brazil
Greetings from Aguas de Sao Pedro, Brazil
15,752 miles / 25,345kms cycled. No more cycling for now!
When I spoke to my mother with much excitement back in Spain and told her I had just cycled 500 miles, she said with a surprised voice “still”. Some 15,600 miles later, I told her I was 150 miles from home and guess what she said…”still”.
I enjoyed riding in Brazil more than I thought. I was scared of the bad roads, the coastal wind, the rolling hills of the south, thieves but as I progressed I realized that I don’t know my country as good as I thought. At least from a tourist standpoint. Brazil was a blessing so was South America. It was good to know the language to spend time talking to the locals about their lives. Most of the conversations involved God at some point. We are people of faith! Brazil has the best under 10 dollar hotels I have seen during my trip. Many of them had a killer buffet breakfast, roof fans, tvs, private bathrooms and spotless rooms. The best were the motels which in Brazil has a very intimate purpose but for single travelers like me, I could enjoy the huge rounded beds, roof mirrors, spas, room services and even erotic channels. The downside was having to wake up at night because of the loud neighbors screams. If you ever come to Brazil, make sure to taste the following traditions of the southland: caldo de cana, suco de caju ou maracuja, guarana com pizza, acai na tigela and chulapa.
Like some of you could see during my grand arrival, my legs continue to look like two toothpicks but my mind has completely changed. I have seen, lived, learned too much. My bike exposed me to my emotions continuously, challenged my soul, mind and body beyond limits I never thought was possible. I did not leave to travel the world, I left to travel within myself because there is no point of knowing anything outside of me before knowing what’s inside. Seeing the world became just a consequence. I thought I was a simple man with a simple life but for the past 12 months, I learned to live a much simpler one. Depending on my tent to spend the night beside the road, begging for water of all sources (well, tap, potable, stream, river), using pit toilets, eating bread, milk and pasta, and pedaling from point a to b day after day from sunrise to sunset proved to be a real lesson of simplicity, humility and boldness. I am sure what I learned on the road will make a positive impact on my professional and personal life.
If you think I am tired of cycling, you got it wrong. I love cycling but during the last two months, I must admit that I finally had enough of butt sores, hotel stairs, food with hair, dropping my towel at gas station showers, using pit toilets, stupid drivers, sleeping with bugs, drinking hot water of all tastes, fixing my bike, being dirty, cheap hotels, shared bathrooms, 10-bed hostels, crooks, etc. You can only be comfortable being uncomfortable for so long! It was time to stop so I did exactly on the 25th of March, 2006. Applauded by the locals of my town, I was absolutely shocked to see such a reception at the city gate. That day, I realized how much my trip meant to others. I made many grown man cry and I almost did but I kept saying to myself during those final meters. “Be strong, be strong”.
Past: Cycling in the biggest beach in the world here in Brazil, cycling through Chui, the southernmost point of Brazil, riding on the road of hell where you hear stories of cars getting sucked by the fierce sandy roads, watching carnival for the first time in 7 years.
Present: Enjoying my hometown, Aguas de Sao Pedro, like never before.
Future: Receiving the prestigious “Citizen of the City” award, visiting schools to motivate kids to study and to practice sports. I’ve had plenty of time to think about the future and I did but don’t ask what I will be doing because so far I have no clue. Do I write a book? Do I go back to my old job? Do I get a new job? Do I move definitely to Brazil, USA, beyond? Do I start my own business? Do I cycle the world again?
Everyone should have a minute of fame