Never The End…

Well, another trip is over. Eight months and 11,600km cycled, 725km sailed and 250km packrafted on the North American continent.

But my journey, continuing down the road around the world continues. Who knows where it will take me, but that is where the fun (and fear) lies.

But for now, here are some highlights from the last eight months…

Pushing up the Heckman Pass…
Top of Heckman's Pass
Top of Heckman's Pass

To cycle across the Chilcotin Plateau…

Chilcotin Plateau
Chilcotin Plateau

Cycling the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff in beautiful British Columbia…

Icefields Parkway, British Columbia
Icefields Parkway, British Columbia

Over the Elk Pass and into Montana…

Spray Lake Trail on way to Elk Pass
Spray Lake Trail on way to Elk Pass

Over the Lolo and Whitebird Passes through Idaho…

Whitebird Pass, Idaho
Whitebird Pass, Idaho

Biking the backroads of Nevada…

Off the Beaten Track...
Off the Beaten Track...

And facing snow in Utah…

Summit in the Snow
Summit in the Snow

Seeing some of the most stunning landscapes in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks…

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon

Crossing the Mohave desert and Joshua Tree…

Joshua Tree...
Joshua Tree...

Through Southern California and into Baja, Mexico with it’s abundance of cacti…

Cacti in Baja
Cacti in Baja

Sailing the Sea of Cortez with Kevin on board Alex II and sighting whales, dolphins, turtles and a shark…

Sailing Sea of Cortez
Sailing Sea of Cortez

Cycling Mexico’s coast…

All up and down along the coast...
All up and down along the coast...

And inland and over hill to Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas…

Oaxaca Cathedral
Oaxaca Cathedral

Visiting the Mayan ruins of Palenque and Tikal…

Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal, Guatemala

Cycling through Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras…

El Salvador, a small country of many volcanoes
El Salvador, a small country of many volcanoes

Packrafting the Rio Bocay and Rio Coco in the Moskitia border region of Nicaragua…

Packrafting the Rio Bocay in Nicaragua
Packrafting the Rio Bocay in Nicaragua

And finishing it all off with some back-road biking through Belize…

Backroads of Belize, Through Rio Bravo Conservation Area
Backroads of Belize, Through Rio Bravo Conservation Area
I am now back in the UK and looking forward to the rest of the year exploring a little closer to home… our little British island has just as much to offer!

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A Wild Night to Remember…

Wild camping

So what do you do when you are seen wild camping in a not-so-stealthy spot? Where three teenagers, a cocky lad and two girls, walk past with a bottle of rum to be drunk down by the river, just 30km outside San Salvador near the main road?

Well, we said hello as they went by and stayed where we were.
But half an hour later the three return, inebriated.

The lad was staggering and slurring his words. Barely understandable. But he is asking for a phone. We don’t have one (so we say), but soon he gets aggressive and starts demanding our phone. And the girls are peering through the tents looking to see what they can take. Time to get serious. Take a stand. Make clear there’ll be no messing with us. How exactly they thought they could steal from us in their intoxicated state I don’t know. I suppose they weren’t really thinking at all!

But as they leave, we immediately start packing up. Time to find another place. We don’t know if they will come back, or bring others, or if someone else will see us.

And that’s how, at 8pm, in darkness, we push our bikes back to the main road and hesitantly cycle on. But being on the road after dark in these areas is not safe either. So we ask if we can camp in the yard of the first home we see.

Although it is difficult to understand all that the father is saying, he eventually tells us go follow him across the road to another house.

The gate is locked, but it’s only wood and barbed wire, so it is bent and we carry our bikes over. And up to the front door of this simple single room, corrugated roof house. The door is locked, the curtains drawn. The father and son knock on the door. No reply.

The son raises up one of the glass slats on the window, pulls back the curtain and calls inside. No reply.

I peer through too. The TV is on and a man is sat in an armchair with his back to us, watching it. The son calls again. No reply.

Maybe he is sleeping.

I feel guilty for not only disturbing one family, but now waking up another stranger having broken through his gate and pulled apart his window.

I say that perhaps it is better if we carry on and look for somewhere else to camp. But the father will have none of it.

I think the man must be drunkenly unconscious not to hear our racket outside. But his left hand is up in the air.

Now the father has a 3metre long stick from the garden and is starting to poke it through the window. I hope the man inside isn’t startled and have a shotgun close to hand. Seriously, how can he not have heard us? We have been here a good fifteen minutes trying to raise the dead…

Actually, it turns out we’ve been trying to raise the deaf.

So there we are, calling to a deaf man in the darkness and waving a long pole through the window to get his attention.

Finally he sees us.

He opens the door, wide lop-sided grin on his face, pleased to see his neighbour, even if it is nighttime and there are two strange gringos with bikes there too.

Now we know we are in a safe place. He wants us to stay in his home, but we insist on camping in the garden. We have intruded enough already.

The father and son leave us to put up our tents. The happy deaf man offers us fruit and gives us a bottle of ice cold water. With a few hand gestures he shows us the toilet and explains what time he must go to work in the morning. Not only is he deaf, but he doesn’t speak either. Surprisingly though, it is easier to communicate with him than with some locals who speak Spanish very fast and no English at all.

What a night and we haven’t even cooked dinner yet! But at least we are safe it. And so I sleep well… until the roosters start calling at 5.30am, which apparently is enough to raise even the deaf, because our man is already sweeping the yard when I emerge from the tent.

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The Grass is Greener Down the Road

So often I find myself wishing I was somewhere else. Or at least, that the someplace here (wherever that may be at that time) was just some little bit different….

Cycling in British Columbia

When I was in rainy Montana, I longed for the dry desert. After a month in the forests of British Columbia and I dreamed of barren lands. The cold, snowy passes of Utah and freezing nights in the high valleys of Nevada and I was looking forward to speeding south to warmer climes.

Freezing hands in the snow

While rushing along the busy interstate to Las Vegas, I pictured empty dirt tracks down the Baja peninsula, but when I got there, the corrugated paths and loose sand were not so fun afterall.

Las Vegas Strip

And now I’ve come south to a low land of sun, the sweltering heat and endless sweating find me once again looking forward to the interior highlands. Although I know that whem I get there I’ll be cursing the hills!

Dirt roads of Baja

Of course, all these places are great for a while. But familiarity breeds contempt and the road ahead always looks better. Perhaps that is what keeps me moving…

Fun cycling through the Red Canyon

I just occasionally have to remind myself to enjoy the here and now too, while it lasts. Because the here and now can only be had once and it’s a pretty darn good place to be, all things considered.

Cacti at sunset

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Plans Are Made To Be Changed

One of the best things about travel, is the part before you even leave home… the planning. Whether you are shortly off on your annual holiday, going away for a short weekend or even embarking on a ‘journey of a lifetime’, it’s great fun to pore over maps, peruse guide books and google away contentedly about your upcoming destination.

But the best thing about making plans is changing them. Sponteneity is the key. Especially on long trips. When life on the road is getting monotonous and dull, or just plain hard, that is the time to change your plans. Suddenly you will find enjoyment and a new interest.

Muddy Feet!
Muddy Feet!

The original plan, for my latest trip, was to bike the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. But it seemed a shame not to see more of Canada before starting. So we added on a bike loop of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. A mere 2,000km extra! We knew we were already starting late in the season, but by the time we arrived in Banff for the start of the GDMBR, there were far more cold and rainy days than sun-filled ones.

Gravel roads of the Great Divide
Gravel roads of the Great Divide

We had a fun few days after leaving Banff, but both of us were looking forward to getting south as fast as possible, just so we could get to the better weather. And that just wasn’t fun. So, sat in a small cafe in Eureka, Montana, drinking coffee, delaying leaving…. one of us jokingly said, ‘why don’t we head to Idaho instead of Wyoming?’ and the other said, ‘Well, why not?’ This would mean no longer following the Great Divide, but it would mean heading to Boise where we could meet and stay with other cycle tourers. The idea of having somewhere to stay for longer than one or two days, was a big draw. In six weeks, we’d had only six rest days. We were both tired of cycling.

So we ordered another coffee, dug out the map, replanned our route. In twenty minutes we went from tired and unenthusiastic to raring to hit the road.

Welcome to Idaho
Welcome to Idaho

We are now in Boise, Idaho state’s capital; the biggest town since we started the trip. It was the right decision. It was a beautiful journey here and now it’s time to dig out the maps again and plan ahead.

Beautiful Horsehoe Hill, Idaho
Beautiful Horsehoe Hill, Idaho

Next up is Utah and Arizona. Let’s hope we pass through before the snow arrives!

The Great Divide will just had to wait for another time, when I can leave earlier in the year.

(if you would like to follow my journey, you can do so on my blog, Helen’s Take On…)

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