WHY CYCLE LATIN AMERICA?
A bicycle really is all you need if you want to meet people in another country (disclaimer: these pics don’t really look like it, do they?). And I’m not saying this solely out of my own experience, but also from the experiences of those who have cycled around the whole world. So, why cycle Latin America? Because A bus or a car is great if you want to go from point A to point B, but a bicycle is what takes you to all those middle places between point A and B.And imagine pulling up in front of a farmhouse with your motorcycle helmet and leather clothes. Do you honestly think you would awaken as much trust in locals as a humble long-distance cyclist? (And don’t get me wrong, I love motorcycles, but when it comes to meeting locals, bicycle just is the ultimate thing.). And yes, walking would definitely bring you closer to people when such are around, but you’d have to be prepared for some very long, solitary stretches when in the wilderness.
What I love about cycling is that you have to trust strangers. There’s just no way out of it. Your bike breaks in the middle of the road, you’re robbed, you need a shower or a place to sleep. And most probably, everyone around you is a stranger. When you’re just starting out this can be intimidating (as it was for me), but once you get used to it, strangers will become your best friends.
Case: cycling in Latin America
In November 2015 I landed in Ushuaia, Argentina – the Southernmost city on this planet. I had very little knowledge about the place and even less knowledge about long-distance cycling. Yet, I had decided to cycle my way all through the continent of South America with my Pelago Stavanger as my only companion. And not in a straight line but crisscrossing quite illogically from central Argentina to Uruguay and from Southern Brazil back to the Pacific coast. From there, I was initially to continue cycling until Barranquilla, Colombia, but by now, the “end destination” has turned into Mexico.
But why Latin America? Why not Africa or Asia? Because I had just been to Africa and although I definitely want to explore it more at some point, right now I feel a need to communicate in the native language of the people (which was not the case in Mozambique where all locals spoke BiTonga instead of Portuguese). Although non-verbal communication is very functional and sometimes even more efficient than words, I want to discover cultures through locals and thus through the language they speak (hmm…my Spanish was actually quite a funny mixture of Italian and Spanish before getting on my saddle.). English speaking countries did not appeal to me this time, so there we go: Latin America! Not least because I want to dance salsa in the Caribbean.
For more about my experiences on cycling and people in South America, check my previous blog (you need to scroll down A LOT for cycling or go to the archives and click on any of the pictures before April 2016.). I spent the European summer of 2016 in Europe and am heading back to Latin America in a bit over a week.