The Plan

People always ask us where we are cycling to. Normally we lie and make something up. Sometimes we think we know and tell them, but then change our minds the next day. Now things are different though! Now we have A Plan. We bought the cheapest plane tickets so can´t even change it. We will: 

1. keep cycling and adeventuring round Central America till the end of May.

2. fly to Portland, Oregon, USA. 

3. cycle to San Francisco. 

4. fly home (to Wellignton) (then me (Andrew) a few days later to Chch)

5. resume normal life in the Wellington winter. 

Cool eh? By the time we get home we will have sucessfully have flown all the way around the world, with a few minor legs cycled as well. The other option we considered was to keep cycling into South America and then fly home from Chile. This would have meant going in one direction for more than a month or two at a time, which wouldn’t fit the rest of our trip, so we decided to go for the direction reversal to the USA instead. 

See most of you soon, hooray! 

 

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Talking to the locals – Graph #2

We’ve finally found it. A country where one of us can talk to the locals, and they want to talk to us! Mexico!

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(by Andrew)

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Mexico es Mas Bella en Bici, by Kath

Our first day cycle touring in Mexico was a complete gong show.  We had chosen a steep, supposedly quiet road that climbs between two 5000m volcanoes just outside of Mexico City.  Unfortunately, so did 5000 Defeños on their Sunday drive.  This created a giant traffic jam on top of the mountain, that we had to squeeze our way through.  It was still beautiful though, and meant that there were lots of little old ladies selling quesadillas with special mushrooms that only grow on corn plants.

 

The tranquility

The tranquility

 

Down from the mountain, we cycled for about a week through hot, dry, hilly cowboy country, staying in little colonial towns with pretty colonial churches.   Whenever we stopped for vitamin T (tortas or tacos or tlayudas), we would practice our Spanish with the nice chatty Mexicans, many of whom who had lived in the States at some stage.  Some of these guys spoke about paying $3000 to a Cayote who smuggled them across the boarder, others about walking for 10 days in the desert or swimming  the river.  One man who invited us into his house for coffee, was arrested twice and bussed straight back into Mexico.  He still went back  – to earn $4 an hour for a racist boss – and said that it was worth the effort.

 

If I was a plant I would photosynthesise with my trunk too

One night we asked if we could camp in a town square, and the president kindly let us pitch up next to the jail.

 

We finally arrived in Oaxaca City, and liked it so much that we stayed for two weeks, living in our new tent (Hugh) on the roof of a hostel, and studying Spanish. 

Our Spanish course also involved cultural activities. I learnt how to make tamales and tortillas and Andrew wove up a storm.

Oaxaca is the land of the seven moles (sauces, not animals). This one is mole negro and contains fifty ingredients including chocolate and four types of chiles.

The Friday night group bike ride "Oaxaca es mas bella en bici", where 200 cyclists ride through town, yelling "bici si, coche no"

 

To finish off, we spent four days missioning through the mountains down to the coast.  Inspired by some other cyclists, we took some incredible, tough roads through tiny towns and lonely pine forests.  When we hit the coast it was ridiculously hot and humid, so we hopped on a bus for twelve hours back into the hills of the state of Chiapas.  Tomorrow we are back on the bikes and heading towards Guatemala. 

Kath´s new highlighter pink top, which is currently battling with Andrew´s pale blue "Mexico" cap with neck flap in a fight for dorkiest article of clothing

Cap

 

I heart Mexico, says Andrew´s hat

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Mexico City, Yum

Two weeks eating in Mexico City.  Did you know that tacos are not normally crispy?  And that they taste like limes and coriander and chilli and salty slightly greasy meat and probably a little bit like smog?  So tasty.   We also cycled the paseo, where the main road of the city (of 25 000 000 inhabitants) closes to traffic on Sundays, went in search of Frida Kahlo, visited pyramids, ate cactus, attended a lucha libra fight (think WWF in masks) and  tried to ignore the gore in the “news”papers.  And ate more tacos.

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Andrew is Cool

Fruity

Andrew lost his prescription sun glasses so bought these really awesome new ones that go over the top of his normal glasses

Crikey

Have you ever seen a photo of a statue of a giant shrimp

Posing as Che Guevara in the cave he hid out in (Che, not Andrew) during the Cuban missile crisis

PS We are in Mexico City, about to start cycling to Guatemala, then ? for the next few months…

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What we did on holiday in Cuba by Andrew (updated)

Hullo.

As most of you know, our plans to stay in Spain for a bit didn’t work out, as it was going to take months for me to get a work permit. Luckily we made a good Plan B: return home via cycling some more. So after Kath finished work in December we did a quick goodbye tour of Europe and hopped on a plane to Cuba. We were sick of ham anyway and cycling is way more fun than working.

We started off in the south east of the country, heading west from Santiago de Cuba.

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and had a whole road to ourselves…Image

because there aren’t many vehicles in Cuba, and this is bridge is too scary for them anyway:

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It was awesome. Cycling is best when there are reasonable roads, few cars, beautiful landscapes, and an interesting place. This part of Cuba provided all them and is apparently in the best ten cycle rides in the world (I believe anything in The Guardian). We loved it.

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There was no advertising in Cuba, which was a very pleasant absence once we noticed it, but plenty of propoganda:

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And even more exciting, a crocodile farm! We got to pick up the little ones and throw fish to the bigger ones, which caused a writhing mess of tails and teeth.

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After a long slog across the plains in the centre of the country we found the coast again, and made it to the famous Bay of Pigs. That wall is in case the Cuban-Americans try and land here again, and spoiling a lovely beach.

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We were drawn to Cuba to escape the European winter, and to try and understand the place. But Cuba is a really hard place to understand. It’s a funny mix of 1st world and 3rd world, and a tropical paradise with some Soviet style architecture. Everyone gets a good education and healthcare, but no money, or not enough to buy stuff with. Even if there was stuff to buy, which there is not, thanks to the US embargo and etc. It is changing though:  for a few years now small private enterprise has been allowed, (which meant we got to eat lots of pizzas and other treats from roadside stalls), tourism is encouraged, which brings in foriegn currency and a sometimes unseemly battle amongst touts who try and get it off you; and now you can even buy and sell property, apparently. We were told that this economic liberalisation is becuase of Raul Castro who has taken over from his bro Fidel.

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After crossing through to the north coast, eventually we made it to Havana which has some sweet Spanish colonial architecture and old American cars. The cars are awesome. So awesome that even cyclist blogs say they are awesome. They are all old American things, still running, or old Soviet ladas, still running. Some probably have no original parts left. Some have been converted into stretch ladas. Havana also has lots of music venues and art galleries and museums and all sorts of stuff to make it fun to explore, but was the only place in the country where cycling wasn’t really fun.

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After Havana we finally found some mountains on the way to Viñales. Kath got a flat tyre here, her first since we left Wellington. Don’t judge me too harshly for feeling very happy about this. As far as I am concerned, the world is now a much fairer place.

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With a few days to spare before flying out we went back to Havana for some more mueums, mojitos, and progoganda…

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and Kath drew a map:

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The food in Cuba was pretty good and hearty, but was bland and always the same. We ate beans and rice, fried pork or chicken, and a pile of starchy veges (potato, yuca, green bananas, or a Cuban kumara) for more or less every meal.

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And that was Cuba. This blog post is lame, but we’ll write something either funny or interesting soon, promise. This just in: a new witticism from Ms. Haines: Cuba is a mix of Tonga, Eastern Europe, Spain, Just Juice Ads and Southwards Car Museum.

Andrew

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Cycling in Kazakstan; Finished

Our trip finished with a three day ride across the edge of the Kazakstan steppes and into Almaty. It was nice to end with some easy cycling and beautiful campsites. Despite the flat roads we couldn´t beat Tony and Steph´s best so they still hold the world record for longest cycle in one day ever.

Flat road towards Almaty

Beautiful Campsite

We thought we´d finished after we´d arrived into the center of Almaty, and enjoyed a well-deserved beer on arrival. The ride into the city was the most dangerous of our whole trip, but Almaty seemed like a nice city to relax in for a few days. Our mad host Tas had other ideas however, and we spent our remaining time riding mountain bike races and scrambling up the sides of mountains.

Kath tries to keep up

…and then flew back to Spain. Ukraine International graced us with a wonderful example of that famous cuisine “airline food” and deposited us and bikes safely and soundly in the land of ham. Goodbye and good riddance to boiled mutton fat! Here is the long-awaited graph of our weight changes during the trip: The red line is my weight, and the green is the size of Kath´s calves.

Graph: The red line is my weight, and the green is the size of Kath´s calves.

Perhaps aided by her super-calf muscles, or perhaps because she didn´t carry enough of our gear, Kath rode the whole 7336.3km of our trip without getting a puncture. This is unfair. Otherwise it was good. We will be in Madrid till Christmas or so, and won´t be doing much interesting, so this is the last blog post for a while. Here is a cheesy photo atop a ridge near Almaty to finish. Thanks for reading. Andrew.

Hooray! No more cycling

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