Apr 15, 2009

We cycled 15 months in a world of Spanish; literally a world of Spanish. As cycle-tourists, spending most of their traveling BETWEEN one touristy place to another, we were forced into this world.
The food is in Spanish ("Perro caliente" – hot dog), the music is in Spanish (non Spanish music doesn’t exist), even the movies are in Spanish (Schwarzenegger speaking Spanish – "Hasta la vista, baby"). The only English word that all Latin men know is "Baby". We even survived the terrible Nicaraguan accent and the infinite Chilean slang.
"Che", "PoquiTITO", "Mi amor", "Precioso", "Claro!", "Yo" (pronounced "Jo", in funny countries), "Aqui no pasa naaaaaada" – in a slow-singing west Mexico accent, not less funny than the heavy Russian accent, of central Asia & the Caucasus. It will always make us smile.
P.S. – the language is Castellano, not Spanish.

"Latin America is dangerous" – well, it is.
We recall, while crossing the border from USA into Mexico, near Tijuana, receiving an SMS from home about an Israeli cyclist who was robbed of all his gear, just south of us.
One of the first words we learned was "Peligroso" – dangerous. We are currently 4 months in India (10/08/09), and we still don’t know that word in Hindi.
In most places we felt totally safe, but, still, there are too many dangerous places. We tried to avoid most capitals, which are extremely dangerous. It's sad, because, on our Silk Road chapter capitals were destinations… we were excited to enter them.
Here, even small towns became dangerous after dark, and we were frequently warned about "going through this neighborhood".
We still remember the night in Barranquilla (Colombia) and the 'escape' the next morning, the entrance to Puerto Tejada (Colombia), where 2 motorcyclists escorted us through the 'hood' and all the 'white boys' hid in their houses at night, while we enjoyed the African-Colombian (the local black community) Salsa dancing, the entrance to Trujillo and Chimbote (Peru) are well known for their crime, the time we were misled to a secondary road (Guatemala), when passing cars warned us to return to the main road, the mugging attempt in Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica), the thought of entering the harbor in Colon (Panama), in search of a cargo boat, the warnings of drunk/junky homelesses in Tocopilla (Chile) and Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Ecuador is safe.
The big advantage was that it caused us to camp near people (near a secluded ranch, on a roof of a house, in the fire station, schools etc.), resulting in meeting the people, learning from them Spanish, tasting their Ceviche, dancing their Salsa, listening to their Ranchero, drinking their Chicha and living their culture.
After less than a week in we felt totally safe. We comfortably left everything we had in their houses, strolling off.

We cooked almost everyday on our MSR Whisperlite petrol stove. Food is either expensive or not tasty. There were a few exceptions: fruit shakes (Colombia), pies (Guatemala), ceviche and black olives (Peru), asado, ice-cream, wine and cold beer (Argentina), fish tacos (Mexico), black coffee (from South Mexico till South Peru), fried plataos (Costa Rica, Panama and especially Colombia) and mangos & avocados, competing in size (manly Central America). We always kept an eye open for cheap seafood (causing Gal to laugh and lick her lips writing these lines :-)

Easy cycling
Cycle touring in Latin America is generally easy. People are very friendly and helpful, happy to host you in their houses or their garden, offering an open-air shower and their kitchen, if you want to cook. In each of these countries you meet modern, educated people, for a sane night every now and then. People are happy, enjoying life, if it's a beer after work, lying in a hammock, dancing in every opportunity, or surfing and enjoying the beach.

In Asia we somehow managed to miss out on beaches.
The weather was gloomy when we visited the beach near Vinh (Vietnam) and on the way to the Mediterranean coast (Alanya, Turkey) we passed in "The furthest place from any beach" (in Xinjiang, China).
Here, in Latin-America, we tasted a bit more of beaches: over 2 months, in west Mexico, through the remote beaches of Baja California, to the coconut filled bays down south, the Caribbean atmosphere of Costa-Rica, Panama & Colombia, with their endless banana plantations, Chile with its' rugged, dry coastline and "the most beautiful beaches in the world" (objectively speaking) of the San-Blass archipelago.
In between, we enjoyed cycling through endless jungle, around pointed, smoking volcanoes and into cloudy rain forest.
And the endless, monotonous, boring Sierra…

Last and least, we'd like to say goodbye to the man-eating Zancudos (the deadly brother of the mosquito), which we still haven't encountered in Asia.

Hasta la proxima…