DIARY

    England and Scotland
    Canada
    vineta.jpg (1212 bytes)USA
    Mexico 
      Mexico 2  
      Mexico 3
      Guatemala

      Honduras

      Nicaragua

      Costa Rica

     

 

England and Scotland (June - July 98)

As we left the belly of the ferry we first had to get used to cycle on the left hand side and crossing a street was somehow interesting. The first night on the island was the last one without the need for my tent, because the next five weeks we only cycled in wet conditions. This is probably the reason why everything is so unbelievable green and it seemed that 80% of the inhabitants are rabbits, sheep and pheasants. While the balls of wool were singing us lullabies, the pheasants shocked us with their unnatural metallic screams. No wonder why people eat them - you have to shut them up.

One morning, our empty camp (well - it was a meadow) was suddenly filled with cattle and it was hard for me to keep the camera still be cause I was laughing myself to death, watching Martins fight for his sleeping bag (a cow tried to eat it). In our twin town East Grinstead nobody recognized us and later on we were invited in a small village to sleep on an original English lawn, supplied with beacon & eggs and a cup of good English tee in the morning. 

Completely soaked we bumped by chance into a Buddhist monastery where we stayed for a working week. We were wallpapering, painting the sealing and cooking Kässpätzle (a special Bavarian dish). As well we had time to take part in religious ceremonies and meditations, checking the bikes and repairing our equipment. It was a great experience living there in peace and harmony with these interesting people. And the monks were pretty different. Mysterious, strange and some of them really funny. As I was chatting with a monk from Australia I mentioned that Australians are ex prisoners from England - only to tease her. So she grabbed a silver spoon and let it disappear in her pocket. With a big smile she said “Yes, and that’s why I still can’t let it be”. It was just a great place with big hearted people. 

Further on we camped on a golf course, in a sheep hut, slept on top of mountains, next to lakes and rivers and one time under a stinking bridge. After the Peak District we had to pedal up some "hills" with grades up to 25% into the Lake District with its nice landscape. Lots of lakes, rivers and little villages were beautiful surrounded by green mountains but like at every nice place of this world -- busloads of tourists.

Along the coast we cycled towards Scotland and came to the first loch, how they call the lakes there (like the famous Loch Ness). In Edinburgh we booked a flight to Canada because the offer of shipping us would have been triple price. And 3 weeks instead of 13 hours. We spent the night in the pleasing Castle Rock Hostel, walked a bit through the lovely old city and had 10 days left to arrive at the Glasgow airport.

We went up further north crossing the Grampian Mountains through wonderful nature (Glen Lyon) only disturbed by the midges. These annoying tiny flies are well known for their badness and some travelers already lost their mind. We covered ourselves completely with clothes, goggles, gloves to avoid being eaten alive.

We stopped at a farmhouse asking the farmer if he would be so kind to sell us some milk. His answer was pretty strange “today is a soccer game on TV”…. “Yes, well – but we don’t carry a TV on our bikes” I replied. Finally we slept on straw and saw the quarter final Iran – Germany having truckloads of snacks in his living room.

At Loch Lommond we stopped at an original scotch pup in an very old stone house with a dimly lit room where the barkeeper was dressed in an original kilt. We crossed the loch with a little ferry, took pictures of the hairy Galloway and slept the last night in the waiting room of the airport where they looked a kind of strange at us with all the luggage. To there we cycled 3000 km in Europe and thought about what will expect us on the new continent.

 

 Canada (July - Sept)

The first thing we realized was the roaring of the big cars with at least V6 engines each. We were surprised by the warm temperatures, sweating almost the whole time in a country which is better known for it’s cold climate. We arrived at the same time the Stampede took part in Calgary and the city was complete full of cowboys, cowgirls and ton’s of visitors. Not to mention the uncountable drunken folks sleeping all over. As we were disappointed by the crap cloth from the company Jeantex that fell apart only removing the cover and by 100% not waterproof, we had to look for some quality products. After we completed our equipment in the Mountain Equipment COOP with new clothes, water filter and a trailer (food-carrier) we followed the Bow River towards the Rocky Mountains. It was a terrible headwind blowing and we found shade in a garden behind some trees. The next day it turned into a storm and we did only 6 to 8 km/h and took a rest beside the road till next day. We were getting closer to the Rockies and were really impressed by their hugeness. It felt like being in a movie – somehow unreal. After Banff we took a right to continue on the old 1A, the beautiful Bow River Parkway. We saw the first bear warning signs and slept in the middle of the forest with our food hanging in the trees because we didn’t want to become bear-food. Every year there are enough accidents caused by donkey headed visitors disrespecting what they are told by experienced park rangers. Don’t have any food close to where you sleep. And a grizzly just opens a car like a can believe it or not.

After the steep hill up to Lake Louise, where lots of tourists from all over the world take the same picture, I took a bath in the ice cold glacier lake watched by a whole bunch of them. I felt remembered to the movie Titanic, where Leonardo explained the stinging feeling of hundreds of needles on the skin. They clapped hands after I came out and I was taken on various Japanese film rolls (with their kids, mother or sister in my arms).The clear water in the rivers seemed to be filtered and from some you can drink directly from the stream (like at the Hilda Glacier, where we stayed and worked in the youth hostel). There we chopped some wood and started the sauna. The nights were clear and full of bright shiny stars, we saw northern lights and a grizzly in the marvelous mountains. We hiked up one Rocky Mountain, walked on the Columbia Ice field, took a look at the waterfalls and pedaled two times over the Sunwapta pass. After Jasper we followed a poor gravel road to the Celestine Lake - a dream place with a canoe, water pump, camp spots and the warm lake  - just for us alone in great surroundings. Far away from tourism because you can only go there cycling or walking. But we run soon out of food and had to cycle back, watched a moose at the Moab Lake walking through the mud and Martin dropped his bike into the water (with my camera). Well – he’s a specialist in doing things like that.

The pass we raced down at 78,5 km/h (about 50 mph) passing even some cars. During the last night in the park terrible thunder and lightning hit the park and the next day we cycled through smoke for the whole day as lots of forest fires were caused by lightning strikes. On the exit to Canmore I touched the trailer and fell on the road going 38 km/h. This was kind of shitty as my bags and I were covered by scratches. I had to take a valium to get some sleep with my leg open and cycled like this 100 kilometers back to Calgary. There, the hostel managers girlfriend offered us to stay at her place and we took her offer for 10 days, I had my first contact to the Internet and we looked in an all night session at the 36 rolls of slides we took along the way. By doing this we realized what we already did.

We followed HWY 22 south and got sick from all the rolling hills. A sign told us that there will be no support for the next 117km and really - nothing more than stinging mosquitoes (during we cycled). In the night we were surrounded by screaming coyotes, cooked under the roof of a superstore in the rain and camped in the middle of a town. We passed a few tiny villages on the way to Waterton NP, where we slept directly on the wire eye in eye with buffalos. The next day we were sweating up the pass to the boarder at Chief Mountain and crossed to Montana.

 

USA (Oct - Dec 98)

 

At the border they only gave us a three month permit for cycling through the whole States. No discussion. Welcome to the USA –we immediately had the feeling to be in the "wild west" as we bumped in several rednecks, shooting everything that moves. We passed some micro villages with more churches then inhabitants on the way to Glacier NP and pedaled over Logans Pass (which is as well called "Highway to the sun"). It wasn’t this hard like we were told (as always: you can not go there on bike) and we passed the sweeping walls with its nice rainbows. The night we spent on top of the pass directly on the view point construction which was built far into the deep valley. Early, at 6 a.m. the first tourist busload appeared watched us during we had our breakfast (taking pictures of us crazies). In Columbia Falls we met the twins Brad and Charter and became quickly good friends. They were biking the Great Divide mountain bike trail which is leading from Polaris to Mexico on almost only gravel roads. We cycled for a few days with them but because Martin wanted to continue on paved roads we split. We were shocked by all the road kills along the streets (especially along HWY 89). Every 10 to 50 meters we saw poor creatures in all phases of decay (deer, skunks, squirrels rabbits, snakes, birds...).

Like destined, we met again in Helena’s city park where we stayed with the parents of my old friend Chris who spent one year in my town in 1994. My parents planned their holidays to met us and arrived there three days later. So we spent some days together visiting Yellowstone with all the sprinkling, roaring, bubbling, stinking geysers and mud holes. After crossing Great Teton NP, we split again and cycled again on our own over lots of passes, incredible canyons into Salt Lake City. Shortly after the big town we found a small road apart to set the tent. I could not keep Martin from climbing up the water tank in front of us as he wanted to smoke a cigarette on top of it. Hell knows where he got his brain from. Not even 5 minutes later a nice helicopter was hovering above our heads and in the next second two police cars appeared. They asked why he climbed up there, that this is a private road and we cannot stay the night there. More success we found in a peach orchard, where the ripe fruit were falling the whole night with loud bangs on the ground. And there I stepped for the first time into puncture weed. So we had a problem with this nasty weed. Solution – all our clothing under the tent to avoid getting the air mattress flat. And the tires? Slime we got from the  farmer who had invited us to his fruit stand, feeding and providing us with fresh food.

A really desert-like landscape followed through Utah (our first contact with Mormons) and once we ran out of water, happy to having found a well in the end. Unbelievable amount of waste and dirt we saw beside the roads because lots of mindless car drivers throw all kinds of rubbish just out of their windows. On an unpaved dirt road, where trucks passed us at 60 mph - leaving us back in clouds of dust, I lost my contact lens. Back in civilization we arrived at a restaurant, having a big 'all you can eat'. After this truckload of food it was almost impossible to cycle with this big belly. We entered Bryce Canyon, where we spent two days in the park with all the nice, colorful  peaks. This view took our breaths away and we hiked down into the valley. It was so big that my wide angle could not catch the scene. We slept in the middle of the forest as you can easily disappear unseen on a bicycle. Further on, the street was leading us through Red Canyon and Zion NP with its huge, a couple of hundred meters tower up sandstone walls and my climbing fingers began to itch. But we didn't stop for climbing and kept on riding into Hurricane, where the park’s sprinklers started at 4 a.m. for a   cold shower. I extinguished the sprinklers with our big cooking-pot and in the fight I ripped my therm-a-rest. So I was wet and lying on the plain ground. Great.

A dangerous part was biking on Interstate 15 from St. George to Las Vegas during the night without lights, just because this was the only time there was no storm blowing against us. Along the way, we slept out in the dessert (middle of nowhere) listening to the screaming coyotes. Las Vegas impressed us with its surreal world of glowing bulbs, blinking lights, giant buildings, hosts of gamblers and the busy street life. We slept two nights in the town on a construction area, surrounded by homeless people and shopping cart pushers (which are walking through the streets, collecting empty bottles out of the trash to earn their living). We left the crazy, fastest growing city of the USA and cycled back into the dessert on HWY 95 where we stayed the night in front of the wired fence to the secret Nevada Test Site, better known as Area 51. Lots of stories about well protected and super secure underground buildings where they keep UFO’s and canned aliens… At breakfast time we were observed by Military Police and this guy had an eye on us until we left. At the entrance to Death Valley Martin ran over a tarantula and caused our first road kill, which we are very sorry for.

A few miles later we again had the opportunity to watch a free range big spider crossing the street. She didn’t want to crawl on my hand and just went around it. We took a rest at the general store in order to cook, being watched by almost all the tourists. We bumped into two busloads of tourists from Bavaria, attacking us all at the same time with questions about the trip until our soup was cold.

But somehow you get used to repeating the story 100 times a day. Out of Death Valley we had a big pass with more then 5000 FT to pedal up and after we raced down on the other side (with the new record of 50 mph) we climbed up again to over 5000 FT, sweating ourselves to death. But therefore we earned a beautiful view from the mountains into the valley and slept under the stars. The next day we met Albano, a Swiss cyclist who I met again 2 years later in Peru.

A long up and down part followed to escape from the dessert region and we traveled to the small towns Lone Pine and Bishop, where a bike fanatic guy took us home, and checked our bikes. The road to Mammoth Lakes took us up to 7800 FT, where we stayed a few days with my old friend John Bachar (looking for the climbing shoes and we went bouldering). Unfortunately we could not stay longer with him. John is one of the most famous climbers of the US – a living legend.  

We cycled Tioga Pass and stayed the night on top, where our water turned into a big block of ice during the night. Through Yosemite NP we had a gorgeous view to all the big climbing 'boulders', like El Capitan or Half Dome. Martin had toothache, so I climbed with a guy from Australia and a gal from the US Half Dome (only the tour snake dike). It was amazing to look down into the gray valley which took our breaths away. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera but as always the best pictures are taken only from my brain. That is really a phenomena – I developed a photographic memory during this trip and remember each site, person, voices etc. like pictures. On the way back I met again Dean Potter (first at John’s place) – one of the most famous climbing cracks on earth. We hiked for about 9h, speed climbed for about 3h and arrived back really exhausted. Martin had killed his tooth pain meanwhile with a bottle of whisky and nicotine.

For two nights we stayed in camp4 where we met a lot of people from all over the world. But we had to keep on going and I hope to be back someday to climb more. We cycled through large walnut, almond, peach and grape plantations.  As we were asking for a camp spot, Dave invited us to his house and took us to his birthday party. After weeks of pain, Martin made up his mind to visit the dentist to get rid of his pain (root canal). 770 bucks poorer he left the office – charge for one hour of work. After nights in ugly conditions and places (next to freeways and power plants), we arrived at San Francisco. We forgot to put some flowers in our hair but were allowed to stay the night on the roof of the City Zen Center in SF, where my old friend Chris worked. It was great meeting  him. For about 4 years we haven’t seen each other and we talked a night trough. We had beautiful views during the day and night from the roof into SF’s downtown. Then we explored the city, I took part in meditations (Martin could not get up this early) and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge down along the coast. With some up and downs on HWY No.1 (with the salty smell of the sea in the air, mixed with the flavor of fish) we reached Monterey, visiting Chris’s brother Aaron who showed us the Bay Aquarium. Further on along the sea we biked through Big Sur (with rain), shocked by the horrible food prices. We watched sea-lions and seals, pelicans and vultures which were only a few meters away from us. A couple of days and adventures later we reached Malibu, and were invited to the famous Paradise Cove where we had a nice time with Jean & Pam. In LA we spent the night in a 3 million dollar house in Ranchos Palos Verdes and a few days before we camped with homeless people in the dirt under a tree.

We arrived in San Clemente, visiting Steve West from Boreal, an old friend of mine. Jay went with us to climb some boulder problems and a few days later we had to leave the USA. To there, we pedaled 8900 km (about 6000 miles) leaving behind the ice and snow of the north and enjoying ourselves in Southern California (25 degrees C in the sun). We didn't even spent 100 dollar on the whole trip for accommodations, because we were sleeping at any place we could find. So we experienced really ugly places and some incredible beautiful areas in the middle of nature. As well, we are cooking almost only on our own because restaurants are pretty expensive. From time to time we are working along the road, like at the Buddhist Center in England (wallpapering and painting), the Youth Hostels or in Calgary  moving a warehouse. Our showers and bath tubs are rivers, creeks and lakes (of course we use bio-soap) and we never left a piece of waste. Every day it takes a lot of our time every day to look for food, a place to stay the night, to check the equipment, to cook, to stretch, to write, body care...so we cannot cycle the whole day. When we are invited to someone’s home, we usually cook for them our special Bavarian dish - Kässpätzle and we have been carrying a special device around the world in order to cook this.

So far, we’ve only met nice and friendly people and we hope it will last for the whole trip.

 

Mexico (Dec. 98 - Mai 99)

We crossed the border from San Diego to Tijuana, where we stayed for the first time in a hotel (a cyclist had joined us and we could not convince him to camp). A guy from Mexico took us t o a "nice" hotel in the probably worst part of the town. We followed him through all the small streets which were full of life and tiny shops, trying to sell all kind of things (tourist traps). It was amazing, simply to cross the boarder and to be from one second to the next in a complete different world. Crazy smells changing from corner to corner, different traffic, cars, people, colors, food and atmosphere. We arrived at the hotel, lifting the heavy bikes over the stairs to the next floor. Our hotel was kind of noisy, in a horrible condition and a old ugly prostitute living next door grabbed on my arm showing her gold framed front teeth with a smile. Our guide stayed with us for a beer and scratched his huge pimple open so that pus dripping over his fingers on the floor while we ate.

We left the ugly boarder town next day and took a rest, camping on our own close to Rosarito in the rain, where my tent pole broke. Highway No. 1 was kind of dangerous to cycle on and the shoulder was full of crosses next to burned out cars or vehicle pieces. I saw a big gravestone and stopped, (I still don’t know why) walked down and saw the picture of a cyclist from Japan on it who as well tried to round the world on a bike. It was in a big curve and he looked just like us with his full loaded bike. I lit a incense stick for him an we went back on the road. In Enzenada we met Michelle from Canada at a very good fish-tacos stand. She decided to join us for a while as cycling alone could be dangerous sometimes. We camped together in sand dunes close to the town and were shocked by all the trash around.

In Ejido Uruapan we decided to stay at a campground, because the place offered of hot springs and a climbing possibility. The next day we went to the “aguas calientes”  (hot springs) and were somehow surprised. Following the signs we only came to cottage with a lot of women doing laundry. We asked for the springs and they told us its exactly here. Instead of nice natural basins which we were thinking of there were cabins inside. The owner opened one of the doors and cleaned the bathtub with some kind of acid and a big brush. Then he handed me a plastic bag and a rubber tube from the radiator of a car to stop the water. The hot water from the spring was running through a tube into the house, straight out from the wall into the bath tub. Still the bath was great, Mexican music played from a radio and the laundry machine (full of shoes) mixed up the sound. Sad was, that all the dirt water (washing powder, soup, acid...) was led directly into the river.

I split from Martin after a climbing day (he went back to Germany after visiting his mother) and was finally happy that I got rid of him this easy after he caused thousands of problems, driving me nuts day by day. So I continued a few days with Michelle and we cycled away from the main road in Santo Tomas towards the sea on a steep but quiet gravel road in order to explore the small fish camps on my map. The road was in poor conditions and full of surprises - washed out, big waterholes, rivers to cross, deep sand and desert like. We had an amazing view back to the mountains, mounted by big desert plants. I was happy having my filter with me as the only water resource was a puddle. After days without seeing anybody else we met some native people which I am sure you only find away from the "tourist route". After El Rosario a part of huge rolling hills long made us sweating to death in the merciless sun. The cactuses (sound’s better then cacti) were getting bigger and bigger and we were impressed by the green desert. The most beautiful dessert in the world, a biker from the U.S. told us and we simply agree. It was a kind of cactus forest with uncountable varieties, turning into a oasis in Catvina as huge palms were growing at the dripping water resource. After the town big chunks of granite boulders were lying all over in the dessert like meteorite impacts to give this site a kind of surreally. We camped out for 5 days in the dessert, having incredible clear nights with fantastic bright shiny stars in absolute silence (maybe because it was fu.. cold). The next day Michelle went back home to spend Christmas in Canada and I cycled down south along Baja California towards Santa Rosalia in order to catch the ferry. The loneliness was great and I camped out alone in the dessert in nice surroundings (except the pollution all over – oil filters, plastic, cans, tires,...unbelievable, you cannot imagine) all over.  In Santa Rosalia I was waiting two days for the ferry, which was finally booked out. Because the next one left a week later, I made up my mind to continue the trip towards La Paz. On the way there I met two German cyclists and we spent Christmas together in Mulege on a RV-campground. There we celebrated a international Christmas party under palms and without snow and ice.

A few miles later I stayed on the beach of the Bahia Conception with a small group on the beach that we named "Playa Basura", because of all the dirt around. A group of 3 crazy guys from Canada arrived and it felt like we known each other for years. So we had a really good, good time together. They had only one week off and because we didn't want to split, we threw my bike into the truck and went together to Todos Santos in the south. There the water was nice, warm and perfect for beer belly surfing in the big waves. For the first time in our lives we saw a wale in the open sea. We spent one night in front of the Hotel California, well known from the famous song. Back in La Paz we finally split and I crossed with the ferry to. The ferry arrived in the morning and I just left the harbor when two Canadians picked me up and offered me to stay with them. First I wanted to keep up with my idea of continuing immediately but after he mentioned having a lap top I stayed for a whole week.

Then I met Sandro, a guy from Norway who asked me to come over  - so I went to the Isla de la Piedras, a beautiful peninsula. 25 km of lonely beach and palms. We were living in a palapa, having fun and helping the local fishermen (net fishing). It is hard work but a good experience where I learned a lot about the technique of fishing, the different local fish and their preparation. I stayed for about 10 with travelers from all over the world coming and going every day. The nice thing there was being close to a big city and at the same time far away as you can only cross with a small ferry to the peninsula. And this only till 6 p.m. For our help, we earned truckloads of fresh fish and were living very healthy on seafood. One time I made my famous "Kässpätzle" on the campfire as nobody could stand any more fish…

 

From the top of a hill, Sandro and I were amazed by the "both worlds "- to one side plain nature with a few palapas (straw cottages) and on the other side the lights, sound, traffic and dust of a big city. Travelers from all over arrived and left every day like Max, who came down along the coast in a canoe

www.solomax.com  

One day I went spontaneous with a group of 10 Canadians in a boat to the big aircraft carrier, which dropped in front of the Mazatlan. They allowed us to come on board and showed us around through the USS Constellation. Made in 1961 from 88 thousand tons of steel, this big old thing still works and made our ferry boat look like a little peanut. Almost 3000 people live on this monster – and we asked ourselves what this things are made for. It’s just made to kill live. Can this be a good thing? And how many of war machines do we have on this planet? And what could we do with all this wasted money, raw materials, personal…good things maybe!! Only think about it….

I left this nice place cycling through the peninsula on its dirt road along the palms and green vegetation for about 30km. Then I arrived at Highway No.15 and was back on heavy traffic with big trucks and all the other dangerous vehicles. To make my day, I lost a contact lens. I found a highway under construction which took me 35km without any traffic. The vegetation was getting more and more tropical and I decided to take the detour along the coast in order to get rid of the traffic. The worst traffic I had almost  had killed me. Some of them rather kill you before they even think about using the brakes – well, it’s just one road kill more. Only a human on a bike without rights. The road towards Tuxpan was quiet and I enjoyed the ride through the countryside along fields of tobacco, beans and palms. The big bridge in Santiago Ixcuintla was not finished yet and I had to cross over the huge river on a narrow wood construction made by locals (two pesos toll). A lot of others were coming my way and one guy bumped on my bike bag and fell into the brown water. We were lucky that nothing happened to him and his bike got caught on the bridge. I was imaging me with my 70kg bike in the river! End of trip.

Then I was back on the coast and the weather was hot and damp so the vegetation turned into a green jungle with plantations of banana, papaya, guava, mango and lots of other exotic fruit. In the brown lakes and rivers I saw turtles, snakes and iguanas.

Three Mexicans had lunch on the road and stopped me for a beer. I had some of the fish and were chatting with them. After a while one of them opened the zipper of his jeans. What’s next I was asking myself. Clumsy as he was drunken he fingered around with his whole hand in his pants. Finally he pulled out of a small plastic bag with some white powder out of his underwear. Cocaine. He sniffed straight away a whole line and offered me to do like him. I told him that the beer was already enough for me and they really kept on driving the big truck – pumped up with beer and cocaine. No wonder where all the crosses here come from. Then I met Pepe, a guy from Tepic. The professional car washer was cycling on a bike and he joined me for 3 days.

Just before Puerto Vallarta I took a left inlands towards Ameca and stayed with a Mex. family in a small village. They were working with peanuts and I learned all about peeling, roasting and caramelizing

After Las Palmas a horrible dirt road began and a VW bus with 5 bikes on the roof stopped me. Astonished the looked at my load and after chatting a while they invited me for breakfast to their hometown Mascota if I’ll manage to arrive there (a little town on the way). Then I was totally alone and stayed the night in the jungle. Next day was hell of cycling on the unbelievable bad dust road - uphill the whole time, curving like a wounded snake, and all made of a powdered surface in which my feet sank in completely. This was one of the worst roads I ever cycled on (Albano called it “The hell of Mascota”) but it was worth it. Only a few cars drove on the "terasseria", but every single one turned everything into a big cloud of dust. I was covered in gray and this powder dust was just everywhere. I passed a small village and camped on a side-way next to a house, where the owner appeared day after and offered me to stay in his garden and the offer to eat the fruits. His garden was full of trees so I decided to stay one day. There I had fresh oranges, grapefruit, lemon, papaya, limes and bananas. I used the time to repair my tent and check the bike, taking a bath in a lake and I was invited for dinner. The family (7 kids) was living from farming - corn and coffee - and I saw the whole processing from the corn-plant to the ready to eat tortilla. It was amazing and more then interesting getting all this knowledge. The dry corn plant was completely used - even to make fire for cooking in the little kitchen-hut.

I finished the climb next morning and arrived at 2400m with an incredible view towards the green mountains being fascinated by the pure nature, silence and peace. The path curved down and up into a big, green and flat valley. After a downhill race I felt like a cocktail and arrived late in the evening Mascota, where I asked for my friends Luis and his brother Pepe. Luis appeared and took me to his mother who owns a hotel (Posada Corona) where I was checked in for free!! I was so in love with the family and they didn’t want to let me go again. So I stayed one week and lived with them like a son. It ended in a unbelievable deep friendship - hopefully to last forever. They showed me a lot about the Mexican culture, the surroundings there, every day another dish (one time in a rancho with Mariachi). Pepe is the owner of a supermarket (Abarrotes Pepe) and I was offered to go shopping there for free, but I didn’t want to abuse this! The bike shop in the town belongs to Luis and my bike was completely cleaned and checked. It was very hard to say goodbye but my friends in Guadalajara were waiting for me. Brad and Charter (I was cycling with them 6 month ago in Montana) have been already waiting for me for about 10 days. It was a falling from one arm into the next, when I had to say goodbye and hello at the same time to all my friends.

in Guadalajara I stayed there with my old friend Thomas from Germany, having fun and lots to talk. How nice it was being with a friend from home!! There I went climbing for one week to El Diente, a really beautiful climbing spot. The first real problem with my bike I had after exactly 11.111km as the free hub broke - but with my luckily it was repaired easily in Guadalajara.

  

 

Mexico 2

I spent a whole month in Guadalajara and heard about the arrival of the German President Roman Herzog. Immediately I sent a fax to his hotel and two hours later they called me back to arrange a meeting for the next day. At 8 a.m. my friend Thomas and I went to the hotel and I was shaking hands with the president. We talked a little bit, surrounded by flashlights and reporters. I unfortunately missed my interview with the local TV station therefore. So I left the big city and had for the beginning some little hills along the lake Chapala. I stopped at the market in a little village near the lake, bought meat and lit my stove. Surrounded by some nosy children and under the stun eyes of the half town I prepared my meal and offered it to them. Only one woman tried it and as I pulled out my camera, the magic of the situation was gone - they all went away as most Mexicans are simply to shy. Sill my wide-angle caught a few of them standing next to the butchered pigs hanging on big hooks.

I crossed the state-line from Jalisco into Michoacan where I biked along lots of brick and pottery industries. The use the old and simple method to produce them like hundreds of years ago. After the clay (taken from the close river) had dried they build walls out of them, cover the construction with mud, light a fire and the next day they are ready to sell. Michoacan  is the farming state and I cycled along green fields and saw  farmers bringing out the seeds, picking up the vegetables and using fertilizers for better results. The problem is that they use ways to much. I was standing on a bridge over a big river, but up to the horizon I couldn’t see any water as plants covered it totally. I crossed a dry region and got some water in a tiny village from the tap. Some places in the mountains still have good water and I sometimes drink it directly from the tap – without any problems so far. I saw the first time some twisters dancing over the fields and blowing up the dry, red soil like the tube of a vacuum high up into the sky. In Zacapu, after 11450 km my first spoke broke and I was happy having my hyper-cracker with me to repair it immediately.

After this dry region I enjoyed the green surroundings of Lago Patzquaro where I was allowed to camp in a field of alfalfa (food for the cows). There in Quiroga I fate the best torta (Mexican kind of sandwich), delicious mangos, pomegranates and bananas. There is the home of the wood- and stone carving craft and I barely saw something else on my way to the Taraskian ruins of Tzintzuntzan. As I didn’t get the possibility for a bath in the lake (and it was really time for one !) I kept on cycling towards the volcanic mountains. I took a bath of sweat on a long and steep pass under the merciless sun and drank 7 l of water in only 4 h (without peeing any of it). It looked like in the German Alps with its nice forests, flowering and plants clean air. I pedaled up to 3400m where the geothermal power plants were roaring. In front of the sulfur stinking clouds cows were calm chewing grass - maybe the milk already got preservatives ?

Signs warned everywhere from the danger of boiling water or steam and so I couldn’t take my bath in the nice lake. I raced down the other side of the pass and a  few miles later I saw some Mexicans doing their laundry in the hot spring, using lots of washing powder. But I arrived at the Laguna Larga of the Los Azufres, how the place was called, set my tent and took a long-time bath. Unfortunately it was weekend and 5-6 busses with schoolchildren were partying. But in the night I went up to the source and had my lonely bath under the stars. Leaving it was the hard part as it was very cold outside.

A downhill-race into the valley of the Ciudad Hidalgo followed – resulting a long climb out. So I didn’t want to cross one mountain more in order to see the butterfly monarch, leaving on this day back to Canada and the USA. Every year they are coming to the same place in Mexico to stay the wintertime. Millions of them leave the cave in only 2 days and they told me about the spectacular clouds of butterflies. I camped next to Zitacuaro, ate a whole barbecued chicken, three sandwiches and a sweet dessert in less then 15 minutes, still hungry afterwards. The next day I pedaled up to over 3000m and crossed into the state Mexico (not the country !). A long road led down into Valle de Bravo almost broke my speed record. One night I slept directly in front of the lake and next day I went to the cascades of Velo de Novia. I took a shower under the cascade in a jungle like vegetation and ripped an muscle on my back when I slipped pushing the bike up a steep hill. First I thought it is a back problem as I had few of them already. So I went to the "medicine man" Doña Augustina. The old women led me in her sleeping room, which was completely filled with religious pictures and sculptures where I had to lie down on her bed. I got a massage with snake-poison-cream and religious prayers, but my muscle remained unchanged and I continued my trip. Some Mexicans on the street offered me some tacos and I bit on a little stone in the beans, which broke a little piece from my tooth to make my day. At least I had a nice view to the volcano Nevado de Toluca after the next pass and I found a nice camp spot next to a little river in a green valley with lots of little huts. My back turned worse next day and I was not able to walk straight for the next few days what made me look like Quasimodo de Notre Dame.

I passed Toluca where the traffic turned heavy and a wheelbarrow fell from a truck and hit the road just in front of me. Two seconds earlier and it would have checked in with St. Peters. I arrived at a small town and was invited to a religious dinner party with music and dance. The dance group was dressed in colorful costumes and they kind of looked like the old Aztec. After a stormy night I arrived at Malinalco where I walked up to the little pyramid ruin on the hill.

As I continued cycling a group of farmers yelled after me and offered to try some “Pulque”, a beverage with alcohol made from the plant Maguey - a kind of agave. It tastes a bit like cider, the French apple wine. Because it began to rain, I made up my mind to stay there and they offered me a field with fresh lemon grass. Very good for tea. There was Kelite, a kind of spinach, growing all over – so there was enough to eat and had it cooked as a filling for my tortillas.

I reached the end of the mountains and had a view wide into the country. A steep, paved "street" was curving down which looked like a bombed runway in times of world war 2 and I was high concentrated racing down, trying not to bump into one of the deep holes. It became hotter and hotter with each meter and at the end of the road a worker filled the potholes with red gravel - a live-time job for the poor guy. On late afternoon I arrived at the ruins of Xochitalpec and unfortunately they were just closed. The people working there told me not to stay the night here - "it is a dangerous area here, lots of bad people are hanging around…drunken, taking drugs and got nothing better to do then to steal anything from you". They told me that they worry about my life and I should better bike back into the valley. Yeah all right, once again up and down. I just cycled into a field behind the ruins, set my tent close to a dry cactus and was all right. Next day I arrived at Cuernavaca  where I stayed the night in a cheap "hotel" in the red light district. This kind of hotels don’t offer a lot of comfort and are not luxuriously at all, but I you can’t beat the price. And for just one night it’s not too bad. I took a look into the nice old church. It was somehow a strange church with crossed bones and a scull hanging above the entrance.

I worked for a few days there in the dental laboratory of Thomas Graber and stayed in his old empty house. There I washed my sleeping bag and as I pressed it under the water to soak it, a big bubble ripped it open (pretty annoying having feathers all over). Five days later I left the city and came to Tepoztlán where the city was blasting from tourists because of the eastern weekend. The small town is marvelous surrounded by steep, green overgrown rocks and on the top of one there is small temple ruin. A steep stony path leads up there and I reached the top after one hour. According to the mass of visitors this must have been the one and only temple in Mexico. But it was worth it and the view into the valley was spectacular. I biked on my first "autopista" from there to Cuautla -  mostly downhill. Suddenly I saw him - the big and impressive volcano Popocatepetl with impressive 5.414m altitude. A horrible traffic towards Mexico City began there. Uphill as well. I took a break to watch a whole family making ice cream. In front of their house everybody was stirring in stainless steel pots, which stood in bigger wooden ones, filled with ice and salt. Two hours later the ice cream was ready and I tried a spoonful from each flavor.

Next to the Popo is his sleeping wife Iztaccihuatl with 5266m and I wanted to cross between them like Hérnan did it 480 years ago - the Paso de Cortez. Just before the last town I noticed a little dog caught by wire and cut him free with my leatherman. Poor guy would have died slowly. The pass curved up through a forest, where every 500 meters little campfires burned. Hot tortillas and beverages were offered by locals. A few hours later it turned dark, nobody else anymore on the street and the pass didn’t end. I slowly ran out of water. As I was told about a big river after the pass I only carried my two bottles because of weight (are Mexican information reliable?) So I kept on fighting up and frequently jumped off my bike with shaking legs that my knees knocked one against the other. 100 meters I pedaled - 50 meters I pushed –  stop - breathing, shaking. Again pedaling a 100. Pushing. Without any power + water and hungry like a bear I heard the silent splashing of a tiny brook and dropped my bike into the forest. With my big water canister I was tumbling down the hill – water! This was the only thing I cared about. So I prepared my soup and slept like a rock on the back of the volcano in the cold night - at least without mosquitoes (to cold for the suckers). The next morning I took my time, filtered water into my bottles and finished the last few meters of the pass. On top they told me about the pass’s altitude - 3650m - no wonder why I was tired. It looked ways more flat from the start. The view was great. About 480 years ago Hèrnan Cortez had crossed here with his army on the search for more gold. The famous conqueror. Unfortunately he killed lots of Indios and the Mexicans are still resentful towards the Spanish (what the bullet wholes in Cortez’s sculpture testify). The path leading up to the volcano’s crater was closed for safety and so I raced down the gravel road on the other side. (Two years later the Popo finally erupted). I cycled 12.250 km to arrived at my old neighbor’s house. Bernardo Schaefer – he was the one who gave me the book I grew this idea from. Now he lives in Puebla where I stayed for a whole month with his family, having a great time together.

 

Mexico 3

I went climbing there, was printed for the first time in a big newspaper, TV and radio followed, started this web site and by then my time was running out. My visa just allowed me to stay for one more month and so I was cycling like mad to leave the country in time (156 km the first day – 2000 km in 26 days). Farewell to my friends was hard after that long time and I cycled sad along the boring surroundings. It took me about one hour only to leave the town (because lots of Mexicans just tell you wrong directions before they admit not having any idea). Lots of dead dogs were lying in the gutter on this heavy traffic road and I already imagined myself lying there instead. I lost pretty much on altitude what caused a tremendous change of vegetation. Especially after Tehuacan it turned into a deep, green jungle and it felt like being in a Turkish sauna. Hot and damp. In a tiny village I asked a women on the street where to buy chicken. As a result she filled my pot full with "Mole" for free. Mole is a kind of deep-red sauce, made from three different kinds of chili, tomatoes and sesame (nice spicy and tasty – if your butt is already used to it). I camped under some willow trees and was sheltered from the mosquitoes in my tent but sweating through the whole night as I could not leave it to save blood. I pedaled along some cane and mango fields and suddenly it rained black ash from the sky. It came from a big factory, where cane liquor and sugar was made. Into the building led a clear creek and left it like liquid graphite, what really looked weird. And of course – drunken people in front  of the distillery. I had bad rolling hills through a desert like landscape with a few green cacti now and then. Three hours later I arrived the pass’s end worrying about water again. But what surprise! The desolate nature turned into a green valley of mango on the other side - for more than 30 km nothing else than trees and the sweet smell of mango. I spent the hot time in the shade but my body didn’t want to stop sweating and my bike was this hot that I almost couldn’t touch it. As I continued cycling, the air stream felt like a hairdryer and so didn’t  cool a shit.

Again and again I was told by several Mexicans about Huautla, a little village high above in the mountains. It should be world famous for trips into the hallucinating world of the Mexican mushrooms where stars like John Lennon or Jimmie Hendrix have been. I really haven’t had any desire to cycle up this pass, because there was already another one waiting for me. 48 km plain uphill took me more than 5 hours to cycle in the burning sun. Every time, pedaling this distances up I mentally look through my bags and choose things to throw away. But finally I just can’t get rid of anything.

I was looking for shelter from the pouring rain and found a roof in front of a house. The family offered me to stay and I took a day off to check my stuff and relax. I just knew them for one day and they started to cry when I left. Nice people. I didn’t stay long in Oaxaca and was cycling so fast, that I missed Thule where the biggest and oldest tree in the world is. In Matatlan, the whole town distils a strong liquor – the Mezcal – and everywhere are big signs with the advertising – 100% pure agave. I stopped where they were just heating up the vat and was shown trough the whole process straight from the harvest. The plant was of very simple construction and almost everything was processed by handicraft. Of course I had to drink some of the firewater and it was too bad that I could not carry a bottle.

The wind was so strong that I had to push my bike downhill for a few meters. I kept on pedaling up and down the never ending hills and  saw flowering cacti on my one year jubilee. But finally I reached the end of the mountains and arrived at Tehuantepec (sea level), where I searched for the "Tamales de Iguana". Tamales are some kind of corn dough, wrapped in corn leaves, cooked and mixed with a hint of pork or beef and sweet or spicy flavor. It is one of the most cheap things to eat and I was told that here in town they sell them with iguana meat (which should be very tasty), but unfortunately they were sold out - so I never tried the "iguana-burger". I camped out under some palms eaten by mosquitoes and listened to the whistle of a bird which sounded exactly like R2-D2 from Star Wars Trilogy. We got some really strange animals on this planet.

The next night I slept under the trees of a mango plantation and was fascinated by thousands of glow-worms around me. I just missed the jingle of money to bring me back to Las Vegas mood. A 30 km climb was waiting for me and at the half way point, somebody threw out meat waste, the perfect decoy for all the vultures sitting around here. But not everything was natural and the pungent smell of smoldering plastic burned in my lungs (and this was not the only site I passed...).

I crossed the state boarder from Oaxaca to Chiapas and the sappy green hills with some blank rocks reminded me of the old computer adventure "Mask of the sun". So I was cycling in a real "Maya-feeling" through the green and spent the night in a field which resulted in having five punctures to fix for breakfast. The owner of a "taller de bicicletas" in Ocozocuautla made me a present of new patches and invited me to stay the night. An original "borracho" (alcoholic) was already drinking for more than one week and thought he will die right now. He sent somebody to buy an infusion to save his life by thinning his blood. We tried all together to find a vein in his big arm and after half an hour puncturing we finally got the liquid into his body. He slept like a log on the sofa, sweating and snoring like hell through his drunkenness (for 6 days every evening the same game they told me). Somehow I felt I met more drunks in Chiapas than anywhere else and the next day I passed an unconscious cyclist on the street who had just had a crash. He stunk like a burst liquor store but at least he was pain free. But the best one was the guy who stood in the middle of the street, pants on his knees and masturbated.

A long pass led from Tuxtla to San Cristobal de Las Casas and I pedaled for 8 hours uphill – 58 kilometers. On the way I stopped for water in a tiny village and was impressed by the colorful, traditional clothes the natives wore. Nearly everybody there was dressed in a costume and the women had braided color bands in their black, long hair. I watched two little kids carry a big load of firewood on their backs (fixed with a band over their foreheads) walking up the hill breathing heavily. Along all of Mexico child labor is common and you just have to take a look into  some supermarkets where 6 year old kids are packing the ware in plastic bags.

The higher I pedaled, the milder it became and the tropical vegetation turned into green fields of grass and conifer tree forest. I was looking forward to a nice and cold night and slept hidden in a remote part. Early in the morning I heard somebody passing my tent but didn’t take notice, which obviously was an error. I just felt too secure so deep in the woods that I had left my special goggles and my baseball cap outside the tent – gone. For the first time after more than one year on the road. I talked about it the next day during my interview at the local radio station in San Cristobal. The town is situated in a small valley surrounded by green forests and is a really nice place with old buildings, churches and a cave which is worth seeing. Further on I was attacked by 6 dogs, which ran away as I threw stones towards them. Till now this always worked very well and usually I only had to move my hand towards the ground to scare dogs away. It was the beginning of the rain season so I had almost every day two hours of rain. Once after it rained, dense fog lay like cotton above the green hills of the dense primeval forest. I was invited by a teacher to sleep in the school  hut and so I didn’t have to camp in the muddy fields. He had caught a big, finger-thick ant and explained, that I need to taste this delicacy. Before I could say anything against it he already had her in the frying-pan and served me the roasted and salted ant, which was a bit too charred for my taste. The famous cascades Agua Azul were unfortunately brown because of the rain and not azul (blue) but still good enough for a cold bath. On the way south I saw some drunken farmers walking in snake-lines across the street and screaming something behind me that made me worry about camping out. After a stormy night, the cattle field I stayed  in had turned into a mud hole and I almost didn’t get my bike out. The vegetation turned more and more dense and I arrived at Palenque, where I only had one hour left to see the huge ruins.

The Maya city is marvelous surrounded by green thicket and the view over the jungle plateau toward Guatemala was just unreal. The temples and ruins from 690 A.C. were holy buildings which connected heaven with the underworld between which the earth is floating – so thought the Maya. They were not only fantastic architects, but brilliant astronomers as well and developed the most correct calendar in history of mankind. A remarkable culture which was finally destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. Again I met a group of German tourists, got 30 bucks trip support and had the possibility of a secure film transport back home. Then I rode back to the crossing and took a left towards Chancala where I wondered about the crystal clear rivers (very unusual in Mexico) and made up my mind to stay the night in a small village on a beautiful spot directly on a river. Like always when I stay in villages, more than half of the inhabitants came to watch each and every move I did. The highlights are again and again building up the tent and my roaring stove. Somehow I feel like a TV substitute. The kids are mostly impressed by my blond hair and now and then one is pulling on them. They watch me till I close the tent zipper and the next morning they are all back at breakfast time.

Somehow I caught an infection and whoofed my cookies a few times which drained me of my energy the next day. I hung slack on my bike and cycled slowly like a slug with an ill feeling in my stomach through the hot time of the day. Every little hill felt like a big mountain and it began to rain to make it complete. At the crossing to Bonampak I was invited by three original Mayas who impressed me with their long, black hair and the white frock-like dress. They are working for a company to protect the jungle and it was pleasant to know that at least some take care. I cycled the gravel road to the ruins of Bonampak, where I was amazed by the three rooms of colorful paintings. The first room represented the king and his people, the next one told about a victorious campaign and the last room showed the torture (like pulling the fingernails) and how they sacrificed the prisoners. As well the stone carvings are very impressive, in a good condition and one of the filigree slabs measured about three meters

I raced the last 30 km to the border of Mexico and stayed the night at the border town Cruzero Corozal, where I took a bath in the brown river together with a Mexican. He told me about the guerilla time of Guatemala when almost every day bodies floated down the stream. I crossed next day with a little boat to Guatemala – asking myself what will expect me there….

Continue - Diary 2