Our Current Trip

CLICK HERE for Travel Journals and Information on our current trip cycling from Alaska to Argentina, June 2010 - ?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Eating (and a bit of and cycling) our way from Alaska to Argentina

  I was eating a chocolate bar the other day, around about 8am, and came to the shocking realisation that when I get home to the 'real world' that indulging in my favourite cocoa-based sweet before 9am might be frowned upon. This got me thinking as we peddled on again, now powered by chocolate, about returning home and what time would it be acceptable to start eating chocolate in the real world. I had a panic that it was in fact later than 9am. I had almost managed to reconcile myself to the fact that when I got home I wouldn't be snacking on a chocolate bar at 7am on my way into work on the bus, but what if people looked at me strangely while I sat at my desk stuffing down multiple Snickers bars while everyone else was on their morning coffee?
See that's one of the joys of cycle touring, the idea that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want and as much of it as you possibly can! In fact if I'm honest with myself that's probably one of the reasons I love it so much. We burn up so much energy during the day that we must continually feed our body, and since eating is one of my favourite activities it is the perfect sport for me!
Early in our trip, in Alaska, we met a wonderful lady, Kris, who also happened to be a nutritionist. We were absorbed and pelted her with questions about our nutrition while cycle-touring: “What food should we be eating while touring?”, “How much?” etcetc . She replied with the satisfying answer that really we should eat as much as we can. She also said that while doing extreme exercise most women put in the effort to stock up on carbs; however, it is often the proteins that they end up lacking in their diet. In my cheese and chocolate-obsessed brain I equated proteins with “cheddar” and “Snickers” and used it as my excuse to add the above to everything that I ate. “More cheese with my macaroni cheese?”, “Yes please!”. Chocolate for breakfast – totally allowed.
Kris and friends were also the first to introduce us to that American favourite 'peanut butter and jelly' which we had never tried before but which quickly became one of our cycling staples. In Australia we eat peanut butter, and we eat jam, but we never eat them together. I'm not sure why we don't though because it is an inspired taste sensation, and of course a great energy source.
In Alaska, we also discovered the other great American institution – the cinnamon bun. Even at random roadhouses deep in the Alaskan spruce you can be sure to find a warm, syrupy bun of deliciousness. We spent our time through the US and Canada searching out cinnamon buns whenever we could. These were not so prevalent in Latin America but thankfully we found the delights that the Panaderias (bakeries) had to offer. Panaderias are spread throughout Latin America, and while they vary in quality and variety from country to country (Colombia has been one of our favourites so far!) they always provide the fatty goodness we need. In Latin America they also love to fry things. Empenadas, balls of cheese, balls of potato and meats you name it they can fry it... and we can eat it.
People often ask us what we eat and ,while we try to explain our general diet, really the correct answer should be 'whatever we can get our hands on'. However, here is a general breakdown: our first breakfast of the day is always oatmeal with either banana and honey, brown sugar and cinnamon or sultanas, plus a cup of tea. We usually only get about an hour and a half of cycling done before we need second breakfast – usually some sort of baked good plus coffee. Lunch is usually a picnic of sandwiches (with some sort of protein, such as cheese, boiled eggs, tuna), fruit, chips, etc. Dinner is usually either a pasta or a rice dish. Of course, interspersed throughout these meals we also eat chocolate and other snacks.
What we can eat also depends on what we can carry in our bags, or find in shops. Sometimes in remote areas our nutrition is fairly lacking as we eat mainly dried food. However, we try and make up for this when we reach big cities and towns by stuffing ourselves with fruit and vegetables. This is something that you definitely have to watch as a long-distance cyclist. While you also need energy-rich foods to sustain the cycling, it is also important to make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals required. As fruit and vegetables are not always available we often have to stock up when we can – and we certainly did this in Central America and Colombia where the selection of delicious and unusual fruits is outstanding!
The problem with all this eating, of course, is that once we stop cycling our body is still going to be craving our family-sized portions but is not going to be able to use all that energy. I dread the day when I have to go back to eating normally and to training my body out of its constant demand for food.. but that's a long way away so for now I am off to the local Panaderia to eat as many fried balls and custard filled donuts that I can find!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why Bike?

Our friends' responses when they first heard we were planning on cycling the Americas were mostly along the lines of “You know they have buses that go there right?”. To most people the idea of cycling across countries is completely foreign. A bicycle is something that you ride around town, or on a Sunday ride along the river. Packing everything up onto a bike and peddling thousands of kilometres is not something that most people would consider when planning a holiday.
I was once one of the non-believers. I had never heard of the concept of cycle-touring, until I met Sonja, a Aussie chick with the spirit of adventure, in Kathmandu. We hiked together for a month and over this time she slowly managed to wheedle the idea of travelling by two wheels into my brain. We ended up in Bangkok where I bought my bike and where my first experience of cycling touring almost killed us both. Sonja was sitting on the back of my bike and I was trying to dinky her through the traffic of Bangkok - straight into the line of an oncoming bus. However, we managed to survive this ordeal, and many others where I wobbled around the roads of South-east Asia (co-ordination not being my strongest asset), and this was enough to sell me on the joy of travelling by bike. I was hooked and instead of spending money on a plane ticket home to Perth, Australia, I flew to Darwin and proceeded to head home on the treadly. Now here I am, about eight years later half way through cycling from Alaska to Argentina.
But why is cycle touring so appealing? You spend most of the day puffing, panting and sweating and at the end of the day you aren't really that far from where you started. But when you do manage to slow down your breathing, wipe the sweat out of your eyes and actually look around you, you realise why you are doing it. I believe that when cycle-touring you are travelling at the ideal pace. Unlike zooming by in a car or bus you actually have enough time to look around and appreciate what you are seeing. It also makes it very easy to stop if you want to check something out, or just to have 'a moment'. While I still love to hike, travelling by foot is certainly a lot slower and, unlike hiking, your bike carries the weight for you which is a real bonus for the back!
There is also that feeling you get when you are actually in the landscape, as opposed to separated from it by the windows of a car or bus. When I try to explain this I end up sounding a bit like my old hippy mother when she starts raving on about mother-earth and the cosmic forces. But really there is no other non-hippy way to explain it... you start to feel as one with the landscape.
Another joy of cycle-touring is the places that you get too. Most people when travelling end up in the same places, some may get off the beaten track occasionally but most of the time you follow the general trail of other tourists, or where public transport takes you. When cycle touring you will inevitably end up in some small town where tourists are rarely seen and where you otherwise would not probably stop. Travelling through smaller places inevitably brings with it an interest from the locals in yourself and your gear. I love the children's response the most as it is usually with abandon and without thought. We have had kids run away from us, run alongside us, line up to high-5 us and of course my personal favourite- roll around laughing at our appearance. Once you get over the neuroses--forming idea that you the funniest thing that these kids have ever seen it is refreshing to see yourself through their eyes.
And this brings me to what I consider the most important reason to cycle-tour... The people you meet. From American city dwellers to Costa Rican campesinos, to Mexican police officers and Colombian extended families - we have met so many amazing, interesting, kind and generous people in our travels. People that stop for a chat, that invite us to stay in their house, or that just give us a beep or a thumbs-up from a car that passes. Cycle-touring is enough to rekindle your hope in the human spirit and the kindness of strangers... but that's another whole blogs worth of stories!