Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bellingham WA US -Southbound

Start: Bellingham, WA US

View Going South in a larger map

Rig: Cannondale 24speed Mountain Bike
Without being able to stop in Yakima to visit Kenneth Haugland, my Jujitsu instructor and friend, (long detour for a bicycle) I started my southbound journey on the pacific coast...
day 1 .From Bellingham to Seattle Riding the Amtrak, met up with Marek, By car Together to Portland OR, enjoyed the Portland nightlife scene. Next morning, met with John, took us out to breakfast, Damngood BF too.
Day 2: By car to Keizer OR, and Salem , then back 3 mikes to Gervais to Northwest Jujitsu, Met up with NWJ founder Craig Bell, Judo Black Belt and former representative for the Rickson Gracie American Jujitsu Association in Oregon. Parted with Marek that must return to WA.
Day3: Got up for the earliest Judo class I ever took, 8am-10am, taught by Jeff, Senior Black belt Judo instructor,and Cody Bell Black belt Judo instructor. Kuzushi, Kuzushi and more of that...that's Judo. Nothing like getting thrown around right after it. Off to Salem to recover, and get ready for a Jujitsu class tomorrow with Craig.
Day 4: Up early again in lovely and rainy Oregon, this time Jujitsu is the subject of study ...

Day5 After 20 miles riding in the cold rain of OR I decided to take the Amtrak to Sacramento CA

Day6: From Sacramento to Stockton, overnight on road, Coyotes and other wildlife.

Day 7 Rode 30 miles in wrong direction, staying south of Tracy CA...Damn

Day 8: Goin South to San Jose to join US101...

DAy 9: Stopped at Morgan Hill, overnight with Sam and Amber, two lovely local bikers that invited me to their sweet home to spend a night a get rested after a nice hot much needed shower.

Day 10: Passed Gilroy, and joined US101 at Monterrey penninsula. Freeway, only for a few miles, it is difficult for a cyclist to transit on the highway there, and there is no many other alternatives, tight controls are enforced.

Day 11 Garrapata state park, the mountain is quiet and much rest is needed, when the tourists leave i set up camp and sleep.

day 12: pressing on Route 1 overnight at hidden spot by cliff, lots of places to camp right off the road, if you are patience enough to wait till sunset before setting up camp.

Day 13. San Simeon State park, Bike and hike rates....$5. Met with Marcus and Ann from Colorado and Julia and Roger , Swiss couple on a round the globe 1 year bike trip...

After pedaling up big hills finally made it to Cambria, great town, internet, groceries, close to camp. Nice bike shop manned by Al who is doing repairs to my bicycle, very helpful man who also loves bikes...including motorbikes... I will be here for the next 4 days waiting for parts.

Day 14: Faster than expected, the parts arrived, Al, from Cambria Bicycle outfitters (CBO) one of the best bike shop in on the CA coast(with museum items), did an excellent job on my bike. Im ready to hit the road again after a visit to my friend from Bellingham Monika.

Day 15: A whole uneventful day at Bridge Street Hostel in Cambria , hiding away from the rain and resting. Nice cozy beds and two good nights of comfortable sleep. Met Eric, traveling from Portland south on a trike and pulling a trailer.

Day 16: After a proper breakfast (giant coffee and milk and toasted bread) I set off to meet Route 1 again to Morrow Bay,

where I will spend the next two days waiting for monday to assist to a brasilian jujitsu (BJJ) class at Simian Martial Arts in Los Osos CA, a few miles from Morro Bay. I also played at the Morro Bay farmer's market after meeting fellow guitarist Deborah, who quickly directed me through the right doors, I played and made some money, besides fruits, cookies and juices that were also put in the guitar case as a gift!.

Day 17: Sunday, after a stormy/windy saturday night and a flooded tent, measures must be taken so it doesn't happen again, I will spend most the day modifying the construction and waterproofness of my $22 tent. After that I will go back to Morro Bay State Park, which is so well equipped that it almost feels like being at a hotel sleeping on the front yard, showers, lockers, restaurants, museums etc, not so natural for a park but it gets the job done.

Day18: Cruised into Los Osos,

, played at the chilly farmer's market until my fingers froze then enjoyed a wonderful meal

at Be Love Cafe at Baywood/Los Osos and brewed Yerba Mate.

Later I met Rob Lewis, a Brazilian Jujitsu Black Belt and instructor at Simian Martial Arts who welcomed me with open arms, and invited me to participate in his class where I felt like being at home . His two-hour no-fooling-around BJJ class had no waste, then in the 45min live rolling time got to roll with two well trained students until I was exausted. Out of shape? me? way...

Day19: After a night at Montaña de Oro S.P. I cannonballed down hill into town and met Gene, adveturess, local rebel, uncomprehended genius, retired NASA researcher and natural philosopher that invited me to stay the windy cold night at her cozy house. Brainstorming conversation lasted deep into the night. With her decades of experience as an accomplished clinical psychologist I was reassured that Im not crazy just slightly eccentric.... it feels good to know Im not a lost case...

Day24: After a few days rest at Los Osos with Gene and Mike, a new makeshift front rack made with household items such as an ironing table, a lawn chair and a rusty hammer,was taken a hundred miles further south by Gene, the 87 year old psychiatrist that is not afraid to do 92 miles an hour on the freeway and 60 on down town (seriously), and a lot learnt, I found myself in Ventura CA, a little tour around Santa Barbara's neighborhoods was included.

Day25: Pedaling down R1 I slowly cruised into Malibu, first thing that caught my attention, besides beautiful beaches and beach goers was Malibu Brazilian Jujitsu,

I sped down to the door that was open and met Raphael Carrao, Bjj black belt that was about to begin a no-Gi sunday class, how lucky am I? Jujitsu on a sunday and right off the road! soon more students came and we started with warm ups and drills. Then I rolled with Raphael and I got armbared twice in record speed... well there is always a first time... and the same day, he is a well seasoned, tournament experienced Jujitsuka. Then after helpful directions to train at other Bjj clubs we parted ways. Jujitsu comradery once more in Malibu Ca. As I kept going south, I met road biker Audry,

who insisted that I should wear a helmet, thus violating my principles of argentine stubbornness and which full-speed interaction made me oblivious of the insanity of Santa monica Route 1 drivers, plus the stimulating conversation made 25 miles seem 2.5, kind of. Of course I passed what was going to be my campsite for the night, so I pulled over, unrolled my feather filled, US army-issued mountain sleeping bag and "slept" in the Santa Monica mountains road side, sourrounded by noisy cars and wild life.

Day25: Uneventful, rode to Laguna Beach and slept out by the beach "illegally", All this area in the CA coast is well guarded and it could be difficult to find free campsites.

Day26: ACCESS DENIED! at the Military Base Camp Pendelton, south of San Clemente, when I requested permission to cross and use their pathway to avoid the freeway, REASON: not wearing a helmet (Sir! Preferably Pink, Sir! they said). I should have listen to Audrey!! EVASIVE MANOUVERS: Use the I5 free way anyways, At night, camped close to the train helped to wild life away..

Day27: San Diego, Uneventful . Spend the night at hostel, showers, laundry,etc.

Day 28. Met Terri, a new friend from Cabo San Lucas,who very kindly drove me around town to buy a helmet, (Argentina stubborness didn't hold I guess), that ended up being 4 sizes too small and made me look funny.

DAY29: MEXICO it is! The land of the free, border crossing: a piece of cake, biking in Tijuana trafic: a hassle, the 3 inch shoulder is made of good quality broken glass, sharp rocks, sharp garbage, sharp road kill and pot holes the size of my head. So I rode on that for awhile until I got on the scenic Tijuana-Ensenada Road, just to get kicked out by very friendly federal law enforcement agents that were nice enough to encourage me to look for a way to avoid the toll/military inspection station and to get on that same road I did, went down a city road for a few kilometers ( which equals: a few miles ;)) and then jump the fence back into the road again...old school. All that previous debris on the road must have made an impression on my rear tire, on account of 50 miles down the road it rapidly deflated forcing me to push the bike the rest of the way, luckily a pick up truck loaded with 5 or 6 fellow ride hitchers on the back bed took me to Ensenada in a speedy fashion, around curvy roads and curvy semi-trucks.Everybody in that pick-up truck can surely consider himself lucky to have survived that ride ...nevertheless it was very stimulating and refreshing to see all my childhood memories swing by again, including the day I jumped from the roof of my house holding an open umbrella.( although I think I was 28 when I did that).

Day30: I cant have enough of the Mexican street delicacies, being my favourite, mexican food have the power to cure any sorrows just the opposite of the Mexican music lyrics that can pound you till you crumble under your own tears, so it all combines into a perfect balance. Ensenada: Lots of tourist, people friendly and funny, that's how I remember Mexico 10 years ago. I stick around for a couple of days resting and preparing to do the 700miles(a lot of kilometers) haul to La Paz through the desert-like peninsula. I dont know what to expect nor I want to know, I will find out when on route, too much preparation can ruin the surprise effect.

Day 31: Thanks to the courtesy of Gerardo, I'm staying at "La Casa del Ciclista" in Ensenada, a house open for people traveling through on bicycles, it is good to unload all the gear and just cruise or walk through town.

Day32,33,34,35: UNEVENTFUL

Day?: Cruising outside of San Quintin, small towns, no shoulder roads, crazy drivers, no speed limit, getting ready to go into the first desert, lots of endless hills, last night spent by the beach, wonderful!!

Day?:Back from the first Baja Desert: Biking thru this part of Baja was very intersting, peaceful, the road is very narrow, but truck drivers are very courteous, as opposed to bus drivers whom caution is highly recommended.

Lots o places where to camp, away from the road, silent, warm, it cant be any better.Usually the best place to camp is a few hundred meters away from the road out of sight, and on the sand, which makes a great mattress. It is so quiet that one wakes up well rested, despite of having biked allday the day before. most the time getting in the tent by sundown, 6 pm, having dinner, reading, writing etc. next day at 6 am is time to get out of the tent on account of as soon as the sun rises the tent gets very hot. By 7 I'm on the road again.

Guerrero Negro: half way to La Paz, nice little town, where one can get all the necessary items one might need for an immersion in the Rosarito desert. I really dont know what to expect, I know it is a few hundred kilometers, but the idea of finding out as I go keeps me alert and worry free.

Water and more water, I carry 2 gal. (8litters) plus some extra, only for emergencies) , some fruits (bananas and oranges only) tuna and rice, I've eaten so much tuna Im going to turn into a rolling chunk of mercury pretty soon... oh , and a brand new air pump to get as much as 100psi of pressure to my tires to ensure a fast glide on the coarse asphalt of Mexico1.

As if the dangers of the desert roads werent enough, I got a close encounter with this cute little fellow(see scorpion picture), who I surprised fleeing my tent as I was rolling it up early in the hot morning. They are just looking for a cool place to sleep, that is all, cant blame him for that. They are very small, and dont like to be poked with a stick.

Loreto: Getting, deeper south, very steep hills finally got to Loreto, luckily being picked up by a Canadian family that became rightfully concerned about my health and welbeing when they saw me pushing the bike uphill sweating profusely and totally out of water, food or patience still with 10 km more to go uphill in 110F. For first time I had run out of water and food in this trip, it is a very bad feeling to look for water and find nothing, hunger I handle well but thirst is still a worthy challenge I havent mastered...At a campground in Loreto with David, Leslie and Christy from B.C. Canada, intense conversation , spaghetti and tea made hours seem minutes in a night where there will be a full moon lunar solstice Eclipse.!

LA PAZ: By car with David, Leslie and Christy, all 3 of them are talented musicians .Skipping giant hills and what would have been a long boring bike ride from Loreto to La Paz. Met Blair, fellow bike rider and Debra, talented artist and art teacher, who together moved to La Paz from Canada 3 years ago, and all their kitties, about 8 of them, they generously opened their house for us to stay comfortably. They made a wonderful turkey dinner where there was good music and good company. Will spend Christmas with them. I will be taking the ferry to Mazatlan on tuesday.

MAZATLAN !!!!: After a long 15-hour ferry ride where I met with 6 other bikers, I arrived to one of the best cities in the world for me, amazing food at normal prices, wonderful panoramic view of the bay, great people, lots to do and a Judo Dojo! It is know that Sinaloa is very high right now in drug related violence, nevertheless everything seem normal while I was there, friendly people everywhere....

I have been recovering from a sore elbow, so I've been out of comission for a few weeks now, Bernardo(orange) and Federico, Nidan judo black belt, hosted 2 judo session for us outside their normal schedule at IRIMI JUDO DOJO...what a way to end the year! World Class Judo Player and Mexican Champion of Judo Federico, Honored me by asking me to lead a Combat Jujitsu Class for him and his excellently trained students. The next day I brought along the bikers I met in the ferry and we all had a Judo class, everybody enjoyed it, even me, that being sick I refused to miss the class... tossing the cookies afterwards was a small price to pay to take a judo class while under the influence of food poisoning.

PUERTO VALLARTA: Hot, noisy, turisty, expensive, that's not how I remembered PV, nevertheless a cracked rear rim will hold me still here until I find fixing for it . I was In PV 10 years ago and I remember it was smaller less crowded and less expensive, now, I didnt see much of that old PV, I stayed at a hostel, played a guitar showed at a local flamenco venue where I met another guitarist, bike travelers and had a very nice time. Cobblestone streets are a problem in PV, for bikers anyways, they look great but to travel a few blocks on them could be a real hassle, not to mention the tunnel of horrors, but that is another story.

BARRA DE NAVIDAD:Without waiting to get my wheel fixed, I left Puerto Vallarta as fast as I could, which was about 2 miles an hour!! from P.V. south it was all uphill tiny roads, the first day I only did 17 miles! thru a thick-jungle road so painful, no place to camp, crazy bus drivers. But ofcourse the 5 mile way down way amazing, I finally landed in Barra de Navidad, and was unexpectedly welcomed by a developing music party at Charly's beach house where I played music with other musicians. Strange things happen when you thing lead to the next and here I am, staying for two weeks, making many friends, playing shows....

Beautiful sunsets one after another. Made another attempt to get my wheel fixed , only to no avail, I will try once more in Manzanillo.

Barra de Navidad's V.I.P. Colorado, Eric, Margo, Brittanee, Lori and her parents and I went on a small road trip to Boca de Iguana place of one of the most beautiful wild life I've seen so far, Iguanas, Crocs are everywhere, great beaches with no so cold water also.Then In the next town over, La Manzanilla, had an close encounter with a very large Crocodile, fed him/her fish and tried no to get to close to the flimsy little broken chainlink fence that separated us, which was put up recently due to complains form people that didnt like to walk on the street and accidentally step on a croc's the croc didnt like that either... perhaps was the croc population who requested the fence to be put up to avoid tourists...

Did I say Mazatlan was one of my favorite towns?... well, put Barra de Navidad in front of it in the list, Barra has definitelly conquered my road-weary heart, the highlight of my trip for sure, wonderful town, people, places, non-annoying tourist, friendly Locals and friendly Northerners. One day stay turned two weeks of all kind of experiences. Lots of new friends, wildlife, peace, beach time, even trouble at the end, oops! ...I know you know what Im talking about ;)(sorry,inside joke). Teo, Doctor, Clavito (who better gets his butt to writing his travel adventures soon!) and all the others from Ixtapa Grocery Store, Dos Soles, Rey Momo(Chynna, who's backyard was home during my stay), Espresso and Deli, will be dearly kept in my memory till my second coming...darn... where did I hear that?...(Sorry God, I know you are funny too).

MANZANILLO: Bike's fixed, and ready to roll. One more day here with hosts Marce, who is a bike activist in the constant motion towards spreading bike culture in her home town, and Alberto her partner. We all went out around town, and later that night got another enjoyable reminder of Mexican freedom when we got pulled over by police agents for reasons of a burned tail light and then let go with a warning a few minutes later even though Marce had no driver's license in her possession or any other document accrediting her identity or relation to the car, other that a old shady video store card. Now that is some real police work I like. Viva mexico cabrones!

ACAPULCO: Forgetable, Overrated. Took the bus from Manzanillo to Acapulco cause the roads were too boring to be traveled by myself, 600 miles of short up and down, no-view,highly-vegetated, under-construction, extremely windy and curvy roads. Usually ok, but to do that solo... not this time, I knew it was going to be boring as heck, like in the last part of Baja where I was so bored that I started conjugating the verb "to fart" in spanish, jeez I must have been bored out of my brains, or dehydrated, or both. Taking the bus was smart, as I later down the road was told by fellow swiss riders Lucas and Rebecca, who I'd met last month right outside of Mazatlan and that are on a tour from alaska, that the roads were very dificult on that stretch, but at least they had each other to talk, I would've definitely gone feral. Once in Acapulco I sped south trying to get out of the fast-pace, noisy and touristy area...
Met again with Lucas and Rebecca right outside of Acapulco, now we all spend the night at a cozy 100pesos(us$8) hotel 40 miles south, where I will do laundry, by showering with clothes on of course, and then rest till tomorrow.

CUAJINICULAPA (guerrero state): Yes,I know it is very hard to say this town's name. Yesterday Lucas(switzerland) got hit by a car, his bike to be precise, one of the crazy drivers I have been mentioning here, on a pickup truck loaded with 10 people standing on the truck's bed hanging on to each other for safety, hit the side pannier and his left hand at high speed, knocked it off (the side pannier), driver didnt stop, the car behind run over pannier , fortunally Lucas was ok, only a little shaken. Later on o a nearby beach we camped and I jumped in the water to cool off and bathe, only to get harpooned by an angry sting ray on the foot. I was glad the locals gave me all kinds of home-made medicines to get rid of the poison, the pain, as well as to avoid infections, increase ozone on the ozone layer, cure diarrea and give diarrea ...just to make sure I applied some antibiotics afterwards... not that I didnt think grilled limes, scolding-hot water baths and voodoo dances would worked well of course.

PURTO ESCONDIDO: Nice beaches, cant swim though, deadly currents, they say, I still dont know who is they. Too touristy-looking of a town for my taste, slow-pace(read boring) for those of us who dont surf. I will stay here for a day to recover from the hills we had to climb.

TEHUANTEPEC: Said 'aufwiedersehen/bis später' to swiss riders Rebecca and Lucas, whom we shared roads and more for the past week, and rolled it again solo in the foreign-tourist free,(except for me of course)Tehuantepec, where I met Julien,

host from the "Home Away from Home" hostal, next to the Hotel Oasis, world traveled and renowned artist, whose mexican anthropology-oriented art gives accurate depiction of the regional iguana mystical powers and mexican women and their little known spiritual healing culture. A real treat for me, a regional art admirer by nature who cant have enough of traditional art anywhere I go.

GUATEMALA: I said last night... I want to have breakfast in Guatemala!, instead of biking 500miles through who knows where, so I took the bus to Tapachula, Mex. then I rode 30 miles downhill to a border town and crossed at Ciudad Hidalgo into Guat, just to meet local rider Luis Matta right off the road, my first Guatemalan friend, and as if he knew, he invited me to his house for breakfast! What a day! After that we parted ways and I rode 40 miles inland, 30 of those uphill!! I did not like that at all, as if the mountains were thinking..."oh, you take the bus?...ok we will put you up to date now!..." Oh well...finally got to a good a stop for today,after a 45km/hr 10km down hill shot that ripped my left saddle bag to shreds when it got caught in the spokes at high speed due to huge pot holes I run into unavoidably . I must rest now, for tomorrow I will reach Escuintla.

ESCUINTLA: Well, I surived the horrible driving habits of bus and truck drivers in Guatemala for another day. In the pic below you can see a fuming Guatemalan volcano and a fuming Guatemalan sugar cane processing plant, Guatemala has a lot of these, and also it is big in rubber making, but the smell of the raw rubber product heated up by the 120F sun blast is by far the worst smell I have ever encounter, to give you an idea: imagine you are in a sealed room full of 2-week-old road kill, then take a deep breath, only to find out you are in a bicycle trip going uphill for the next 5 miles and you will be smelling that the rest of the way up. Just awful.

JAPALTAGUA: No much going on these days,

I got two weeks to hang out and rest, small town, although it has all the necessary things, food, internet and free loudspeaker street noise, latinamerica's advertising method of choice still seems to be a guy yelling unintelligible things through a overworked-saturated-handheld loudspeaker. Jalp. is somewhat safer than what the locals say the rest of Guatemala is. Im Also teaching a Jujitsu class at the local soccer Club field, Sports World, old school, no Tatame, ( padded floor mats) just the green of the soccer field, nobody complained of being tossed around on the hard floor though, tough guys here.

Late at night I hang out with Cesar, the hospital's radiology tech whose late work hours match my insomnia schedule, so before and after shotgun-wounded people get their X-rays taken we discuss the political future of Central america.

Jorge(Club's owner) and his family took me to visit "La Cueva"(the cave), a local hot spring with an unusual cave where one can swim in and see millions of flying bats right above their heads. We went also to visit very modern Guatemala City and tour around a bit. We all went to a beautiful beach called Las Lisas, warm water, and good fish, we all had a good time there... Guatemala is without a doubt a wonderful country, I cant wait to go back.

Taught a two-hour Combat Jujitsu class to 7 officers and the Sheriff at the Japaltagua/Jutiapa SubDivision of the National Civil Police... talking about rough guys... half of them were female officers.... the ones nobody would want to resist the arrest with.

SALVADOR: Crossed the border with Jorge, Fernando ,Harold and Marek who finally arrived to Guat, we will travel together thru central america .Parted ways with the guys and continued from Ahuachapan on with Marek on Chicken buses and riding on the back of pick-up trucks, in El Salvador buses dont often carry bicycles, so we had to stick our thumbs out and wait for a good samaritan to pick us up, they abound here, many of them would not even accept money for the gas. Central america amazing, despite all the social problem they have, people are great, lots of new friends here..

Buses are cheaper here, we rode 300kms on chicken buses for only US$3.

SUCHITOTO: One of the many pick-up trucks we hitched was driven by all famous Roberto"el gringo", tourism local expert, that convinced us to take a detour here instead of the boring San Vicente which was our first pick.

Well worth it it was, Suchitto is a beautiful town with old Spanish arquitecture as main style and all the necessary things to do. It is hard to leave after a few days here. The town feels very cozy even though it's very touristy.

HONDURAS: Traveling by Hitchhike ride in Central America is not difficult, a few minutes after leaving Suchitoto we were picked up by Heric, an argentine expat that took us through the border and to his beloved town of Santa Maria Copan, spent the night there, we visited hospitals (long story) and around the beautiful and tourists free Santa Maria Copan. Went to see Lorenzo, Herics friend, and Pastor of the Lencas, an indigenous group of people that were almost forgotten by its government much relying on themselves and the small production of food . They survive on whatever mother earth can give them for the most part...

Next day we got up early and went to the tourist infested Copan Ruinas, Mayan city remains with hidden tunnels that showed what a good sense of building engineering they had back then...along wih a taste of their sport of preference, soccer, which they played next to the sacrifice altar, which in turn will be used to chop the head off of the captain of the losing team...makes sense, dont it? practical people those nice Mayans...


NICARAGUA: Las Peñitas: Beach town, not a lot going on there. Just a quick swim and a good night rest.

MANAGUA: Cruised through on a taxi, I dont remember anything, the smog produced by vehicle's exausts blinded me for half of the trip and knocked me out the rest of it , I regained consciousness when we arrived in Granada.
Granada: Nice place to relax, and very unexpensive.

COSTA RICA: San Jose. Big night life , that is all I can tell, no details available, or dont remember or something.

I love the lack of control of central america countries. At the border crossing into Panama, after getting my passport stamped I went to "aduanas" by mistake and they asked me for the bicycle's papers, which I never truly had, only a cheap forgery of them to be used in case of emergency(not this one though), so I told them I didnt have them and the clerk told me that I was in trouble and to wait, he never called me back so I went to the next office and they just waved me past into Panama....... I missed that for so long....


Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo:




DARIEN GAP: Cross country to Caribbean sea to start my journey through the Darien Gap, where the panamerican hyway stops and no thru-roadway exists.


Photos of Darien Gap crossing:
Crossing from Panama to Colombia thru Kuna Yala Comarca in a fuel delivering boat the first 150 hundred kilometers.

EL PORVENIR ISLAND. passport stamps.

Kuna Yala Comarca official flag, the "zwastika" represents the "tentacles"
of the tribes allying against the Panamanian Republic during a confrontation for territory they had a few decades ago.

Soon more updates and pictures......