May 18, 2010 13:55:57 | in General
By Nancy Sathre-Vogel
|This family has biked from Alaska to Peru, and will continue to Argentina. Below are John Vogel and Nancy Sathre-Vogel, on top are twin brothers Daryl and Davy.
For every choice we make in life, we opt out of something else. Sometimes those decisions are easy; sometimes they are anything but. Choosing a route through Peru was one of the tough ones.
We are a family of four (mother, father and 12-year-old twin boys) riding our bikes from Alaska to Argentina on a world record quest. We pedaled away from the shores of the Arctic Ocean way back in June 2008 and have been slowly making steady progress southward ever since. When we reach Tierra del Fuego about ten months from now, our sons will be the proud holders of the Guinness World Record as the youngest people to cycle the Pan American Highway.
Decisions were easy up north. Throughout Alaska and most of Canada, there was only one road. We chose a part of the USA and Mexico we hadn’t seen before. The western side of Central America was a shoe-in. Colombia, Ecuador. The choices were easy. But then we got to Peru.
On the one hand, we wanted to stick to the coast. It’s flatter, faster and more direct. The desert would be a change of pace after traveling through mountains since up north in Colombia. But we would deal with relentless headwinds day after day after day.
On the other hand, the mountains were calling. The Andes – the lovely Andes – with their cool refreshing air, lovely vistas, and knee-torturing climbs. Other cyclists exhorted us to head for the hills for the wonderful people and unique culture we would encounter there. But the people and culture would come at the cost of agonizing climbs up and over passes so high they reach to the skies.
In the end, we had to make a decision. We had to choose for one and against the other. We chose the coast.
Was it smooth sailing along a nice, flat coastal road? Absolutely not. It was a battle – a daily skirmish against headwinds so stiff we could barely walk against them and blowing sands threatening to take the skin off our legs. It was a clash between Mother Nature and our own mental fortitude. Every morning we arose well before daybreak in order to hit the road at first light, determined to get as many miles behind us as possible before the headwinds became unbearable.
And yet, now that we’re in southern Peru and most of that battle has finally ended, I look back on those days cycling through the Peruvian desert with fond memories. Stark. Barren. Bleak. Harsh and desolate. And yet the desert is beautiful. In the early morning and late afternoon hours, shadows dance on the sand formations creating a kind of magical fantasy land that’s hard to even begin to imagine.
For days on end, we encountered no living thing other than the people in buses and trucks whizzing past. Not one single blade of grass. No bushes or trees. No beetles in the sand. Nothing but sand extending right up to where ocean waves crashed ashore.
As I look back on those hundreds of miles I remember the headwinds and blowing sand, but there is also a sense of wonder there. As I pedaled through the utterly austere surroundings along the Peruvian coast, I was astounded by how varied this planet of ours is. Just to the north of us lay the lush, green Ecuadorian coast; to the east rose the majestic Andes Mountains. And yet everywhere I looked, I saw brown sand.
It’s humbling to be so insignificant. To wake up every morning knowing you’ll battle Mother Nature; and to know you will never beat her. Peru has forced all four of us to reach down deep and figure out just what we’re made of.
Read more about the family's trip at familyonbikes.org or email the author at familyonbikes [at] gmail [dot] com.
tags : Peru travel Nasca bicycle
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