I like to travel. I once heard of a group of roaming gypsies all with the name Marks. I figured I must be related because the pressure valve on my content-o-meter can’t pass halfway before I start to fidget restlessly wondering where to go and what to do next. Right now that meter is back to 0 and my pocketbook has warned me it better stay there for a while.
And that’s OK because what a grand adventure it was. To be honest, I still can’t believe we pulled it off. The trip was little of what I had expected but so much more than I could have imagined, if that makes any sense. Despite our slew of bike troubles, touring by bike is seriously fantastic. It heightens all the senses and brings your surroundings to life. If you’ve ever raced in a big event like a marathon, century ride, Spartan race or similar you understand the many stories that make up the race. It’s the same with touring, the mix of terrain, weather, scenery, rest stops, mishaps and triumphs along the way made for unique stories inside the ride each day. I love that nothing ever went like I thought it would. Our shortest mileage days were some of our most challenging and our longest, hardest days were some of the most rewarding. With so much going on, we both felt as though we were gone 3 months rather than weeks.
I thought the route overall was a home run. Okay, maybe minus some shortcuts! I loved the mix of rainforests, volcanoes, small villages, classic cities, unique beaches and yes even some remote dirt roads. Some paved roads were a bit dangerous, but riding early and wearing high visibility clothing helped offset those risks. We never felt in danger riding and surprisingly the Panamericanan Highway was far less busy than other roads in both countries. I wished we’d had more time in La Fortuna, Ometepe, and Granada. Those Tamarindo sunsets made it the perfect place to end in grand style.
While the scenery was truly breathtaking, the real highlight was the people. Despite communication that, at times consisted of little more than hand gestures, we always left those interactions with laughter, gratitude, and love for newfound friends. In both countries we found the people to be kind beyond measure, hardworking, simple, and faithful. I envy their Pura Vida (pure life) mantra. They seem so free of stress and so connected to family and each other in a way I haven’t seen since I was young. I particularly enjoyed meeting the children. They were always fascinated by the goofy Americans. Riding from La Cruz to Flamingo we encountered a long stretch of road without services, a kind man directed us down an offshoot route in search of a Pulpería for refreshment. Resting there for a spell, I struck up a conversation with a pair of wide-eyed 9-year-old cousins as we shared our snack with them. They were learning English in school and were so excited to use it with us and giggled wildly at my bad Spanish responses. It was simple, yet so amazing and brought me such joy.
I’m also glad we went during the rainy or (green) season as they like to call it. We certainly found ourselves under a faucet on many occasions, but it was often invigorating and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the lush and vibrant landscape everywhere we went. Going at this time also enabled us to see the popular places without many tourists and we never had trouble finding a room.
I asked Liam what his favorite parts of the trip were. He mentioned the time when he heard trees rustling and looked up to find the trees full of monkeys. He loved Toad Hall and its fried ice cream which was such a welcome relief after a hard day two. He loved getting to see fireflies, staring into a volcano and swinging from the rope swing at Ajo de Agua. He also enjoyed discovering new foods and has already begged his mom to prepare Gallo Pinto. He ordered beef tounge for breakfast one day because it was on the menu. I really admire that about him.
For me, some of my favorite moments were watching my son buy dog treats and carry them in his front bag to hand out to the skinny dogs he encountered along the way. I loved watching Liam pull himself off the ground and get back on the bike crash after crash and hill after hill. I loved singing to Abba in a car with 3 strangers who could barely pronounce the words as we went from bike shop to shop looking for a part. While riding, I loved catching up to an oxen cart full of men who let me hang on for a few moments to rest while we bantered about me pulling them. I loved the dark alleyways of Granada’s grand market where anything could be found. I loved visiting the Plaza Majores of each town we encountered. I loved riding that one wave all the way to shore. I loved rappelling off the end of a rope into the river. I loved witnessing a man take a chunk of aluminium and fashion it into a bike part for me. I loved the expression on the man’s face when we emerged from the jungle into his back yard covered in mud. I loved that it was hard and it had a little bit of everything in it but mainly I loved meeting new people and making new friends.
For takeaways, I witnessed Liam’s confidence increase each time he accomplished things he was sure he couldn’t. Hopefully that will spill into his future. For me, this was the first time in many years I found myself at the absolute mercy of others, and to witness the outpouring of assistance and compassion offered to us really opened my eyes as to how I can do better serving others.
I wrote this blog to let family and friends know of our progress and as a memento for Liam. Our updates have now been viewed over 3000 times and the comments and support have been absolutely astounding and overwhelming. Thank you all for coming along with us on this journey. If I have inspired anyone to plan a big adventure of their own then it’s been well worth the time. And as a reminder, I have all the gear now and am happy to lend it out so start planning. I know I already am.