Monday, June 6, 2011

Returning to the Pacific Northwest

Again I am writing to report my latest activities during this transnational cycling trip that has unfolded with many wonderful and spontaneous experiences. I am writing this entry from New Orleans, Louisiana, a place I didn't expect to find myself until I started pedaling east a couple weeks ago. I met up with Kevin Stolle, a new friend from San Francisco, and Peter Welte, an old friend from Portland, in Austin, Texas. We enjoyed the city for about a week together, with enough time to regroup and decide on our next destination. We decided to ride to New Orleans, even though we heard about flooding all down the Mississippi River. We were able to witness some rather astounding scenery of flooded areas and spillways, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to see such history-making examples of the ever-changing river firsthand. Although we did have to alter our route a little bit due to flooded roads, which we adapted from the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier Route. I highly recommend their maps and routes, they are fantastic! Though don't expect to be the first cyclists that pass through very rural areas, because the routes are well-used and all the townsfolk pretty much expect you to roll in. It took us 10 days to ride 500 miles, because of the intense heat and humidity which were remedied with ice cream breaks and siestas in the afternoon. The route was spectacularly beautiful and almost completely flat, so that definitely helped motivate us. We even got to take the weekend off and hang out with cyclists and activists in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I am having a hard time believing all that I have seen and done in the past few months. Sadly, I am nearing the end of a journey that will have spanned from the Winter Solstice almost through the Summer Solstice. I have crossed terrains and bio-regions of all types, from jungles to deserts to swamps, and traversed cultural and political climates as well. I am now certain that I am in love with the experience of traveling, particularly on my bicycle. Her name is Beatrix, and I feel particularly attached to this special two-wheeled friend because she has gotten me many miles and I am confident that she can help me get wherever I wish to go. I can't imagine going anywhere without her, in fact. It is incredibly empowering and inspiring to feel so free. Becoming a cyclist has been fundamental in realizing and acting upon my personal freedom to positively impact my life as well as the world. After you become a cyclist (and maybe you already have) you suddenly feel like the world is not so big and scary, social change is much more tangible, and that you have barely even tapped into your physical and spiritual potential. I strongly encourage everyone to enjoy the bicycle, adopt it into your life and you will not regret it.

Sending my love from The Big Easy, and looking forward to returning to Portlandia via train, after a train ride and short visit to Chicago (slight detour). Many blessings!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Photos from San Cristobal

A typical street in the beautiful mountain town of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
Chiles! In a typical Mexican tianguis outdoor market.
View from the Iglesia de Guadalupe.
View of the garden where I worked - Rancho Esquipulas.
Nopal - amazingly nutritious and hardy edible cactus.
Rainbow chard.
Indigenous Chiapaneco campesino (farmer) Alejandro - we worked side by side.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Anarchists and Pyramids

I apologize for not updating my blog for quite some time. I hope that you have not lost interest, because I still have lots of fantastically interesting stories to share!

I am currently back in Mexico City, staying with the family of the bicycle mechanic who I fell in love with way back in January. It is amazing to find myself here again, to enjoy more time with Edgar, and to get to know his family. I had a few reasons to return: to check out the first national anarchist congress, reunite with Edgar, and to spend a few days camped beside the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. I feel genuine peace in my heart and cannot believe how deeply I have fallen in love with this region of the world.

During March and April, I was working on a WWOOF farm just outside the center of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas (near Guatemala). It is a truly magical mountain town, surrounded by lush forests, autonomous Zapatista communities, and campesino villages. My life there was a dream come true. I was reminded of home by the Pacific Northwest-like climate, with cool misty mornings, midday sunshine, and afternoon drizzles (occasional downpours and hail, too!). I was living behind the organic restaurant and bakery, La Casa Del Pan, lovingly run by Kippy and Ron Nigh. I recommend checking out their website, with information about their seed saving project and agroecology efforts throughout Mexico. I was lucky enough to help out with their projects, in their huertos (gardens) in Chiapas as well as in the Organic Restaurant. I even helped deliver the veggies after harvest by bicycle!

I have had an immeasurable amount of luck and good fortune during nearly my entire adventure. I seem to always find myself in the right places at the right times. Unfortunately, I have not had such luck finding other cyclists riding north, which means that my return trip is going to take a different form. I knew that one of my very good friends from Portland, Peter Welte, was bike touring in the U.S., so I decided to see if I could track him down and possibly meet up with him. So, the next chapter of my journey will take place in the U.S..

I am finding it hard to believe that I will be leaving Mexico in a few days. I will meet up with Peter in Austin, Texas. I have never been to Austin, and am looking forward to the chance to explore a bit of the U.S., from the perspective of a vagabond anarchist cyclist fresh out of Mexico.

My next post will include lots of photos from my stay in San Cristobal... so stay tuned!

Many blessings

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Photos to accompany last blog post... Journey from Oaxaca to San Cristobal

 I enjoyed this safe sex mural in some tiny little village - it was the first I had seen on this trip.
 Cleaning my sunglasses - lots of dust and bugs get them dirty fast!
 One night we camped next to gigantic greenhouses full of pesticide saturated tomatoes.
 Camping next to the greenhouses.
 On the road - just after enjoying some amazing fruit.
 Beginning the climb through the Madre Sierra Sur mountains.
 Lots of climbing... (muchas subidas!)
 As we descended out of the mountains we hit some rain.
 Lots of fruit!!!!
 Sleepy fisherman's village Puerto Angel. Our view when we woke up - spectacular, no?
 Fisherman friend doing his work.
 Little beachside village where we camped.
Upon leaving we ran into these men and their goats.
 Pretty miserable stretch on the cuota (toll road). 35+ kilometers of climbing and nowhere to buy water!
 Taking shelter from the torrential storm in a less than friendly comedor - refused to let us camp.
 Bastante lluvia!!! (river from the rain in front of the comedor)
And after the storm!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How many kilometers is it to wherever the fuck we are going?

The title of this post embodies the mindset of a touring cyclist. I left Oaxaca City with two Brits, Charlotte and Ned, after spending the night at Tierra del Sol which is a magical permaculture site just east of the city. Just after we left I realized that I had left my spare tire at the CIPO house back in Oaxaca City. I decided I could get along without it, so we continued on. We ended up having to backtrack a bit and head west on the highway again, and we stopped at a little stand to get some fresh squeezed jugo de naraja (orange juice). As I stood there slurping my delicious beverage, I realized that we were back in Santa Lucia Del Camino, the neighborhood where the CIPO house is located. So I was able to get my spare tire after all. After a good laugh, we decided that the cycling gods must be looking after me.

We set the intention to get on the road as early as possible, in order to make some distance before the intense heat of the midday. Most days we were able to hit the road by 7:30am, ride until about noon, take a long siesta, and then ride a couple more hours in the afternoon. The route from Oaxaca City to the Pacific Ocean was spectacular, though we had an exhausting couple of days with ridiculously steep gradients to get through the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. We camped at 2,800 meters (over 9,000 ft) high in the mountains in a town called San Jose del Pacifico, which is known for its magic mushrooms. After this wooded, cold, and high elevation stretch of the route, we descended into what felt like the tropical rainforest, complete with heavy but warm rain and smothering humidity. Then we had a hilly but dry stretch until the coast of Oaxaca, the final destination a sleepy fisherman's town called Puerto Angel. We ended up taking a rest day there, where we hung out with the friendly and easy going fishermen and camped on the beach. The next morning we set out to leave bright and early but my cycling shoes were missing. I decided I could get by without them and continued riding in my sandals all the way to Huatulco, where we decided to stop for a swim and a long siesta. Just waking up from a nap on the beach, we saw one of our fisherman friends from Puerto Angel walk up holding my cycling shoes. He took taxis up and down the coast trying to track us down, and he shockingly found us. In his very relaxed and confident way of being, he says "no pasa nada" (don't worry about it), which obviously works well.

The last stretch of the journey through Chiapas was intense, to say the least. We had 40 kilometers of pure climbing, and hit a massive storm which forced us to cut the day short. We were feeling kind of unlucky when we got our first refusal for a camping spot at the only comedor (restaurant) for several kilometers. We weren't about to ride in a torrential downpour, either. After trying to hitch a ride and watching several empty pick-up trucks fly on by, we were feeling surprised that nobody was willing to help us out. After the unimaginable kindness and hospitality we had experienced in Mexico, it was a bit shocking to get the cold shoulder, especially in such bad weather. We then witnessed a spectacular double rainbow, along with a picturesque view of the sunset atop the valley, which seemed incredibly far away. This sight made us feel a little better, but we were still sopping wet cyclists without much hope for a dry place to sleep. Finally we flagged down a camioneta and got a ride up the remaining 12 kilometers into the mountains and arrived in San Cristobal de Las Casas.

I feel lucky to have made it so far and found so many marvelous people and places to spend time with. I have found myself in all the right places at all the right times and couldn't ask for anything more!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Last week in Oaxaca

 Friends from Spain, France, and the U.S. hanging out in a wonderful place called Jicara. It is a restaurant, an art gallery, bookstore, and has plants for a ceiling and weekly international movie nights.
 Three friends being ninjas in the streets of Oaxaca.
 Our friend Inti from Tlaxiaco, musician, poet, and a free spirit.
The aftermath of the people protesting the political oppression of the Mexican government - it was made clear that Felipe Calderon Hinojosa is not welcome in Oaxaca.
 Helping carpenter friend build a loft bed.

I am sad to say that this will likely be my last post from Oaxaca. I am preparing for my departure next week, in the meantime I am wrapping up some the projects that I've started here. Looking forward to meeting the couple from England with whom I will be riding into Chiapas. They have a pretty interesting blog, too. During this last week here, I plan to visit one of the pueblos called Cacalotepec to do a site analysis for the community about their composting system and water conservation practices. I met a fantastic woman named Joan, and we decided to hold workshops here at the CIPO house to make art and multi-lingual botanical signs for the garden. I will post photos of the final product later. On top of that, I need to pay some attention to Beatrix, who is in desperate need of some love. Unfortunately, all my bike tools were stolen (my own fault, I left them on my bike) so I will need to look into purchasing replacements before I leave as well.

It is hard to believe that my time here in Oaxaca is nearly over, I feel like this place has become my second home. I am looking forward to the next chapter of the journey, and the opportunity to participate in a WWOOF seed saving project in San Cristobal de las Casas. I will likely be spending nearly as much time in Chiapas, and then returning to Mexico City for an anarchist conference at the end of April. From there, I hope to meet up with friends to embark on the ride back north, we will see what falls into place.

You may be wondering how the Spanish is coming along, and I must say I have improved a lot. I can functionally communicate now, though there is a lot of room for improvement. I have gotten over the embarrassment factor and learned to accept the feeling of vulnerability that goes along with learning a new language and culture.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

BS Biblioteca Infantil y El Pedegral

 Entrance to the children's library.
 Painting in the children's library in Oaxaca City.
 Neat spiral drain.
 These beautiful flowers (Bougainvillea) are everywhere... so amazing!
It costs 6 pesos (less than 60 cents) to take a bus to Huayapam from Oaxaca City, and there is a really cool family run Permaculture Demonstration there called El Pedegral.
 Ultra cool reuse idea at the nursery (El Pedegral)! Love it.
 Aquaponics at El Pedegral.
 Many soils for many uses...
 Everyone needs water!
Happy day spent in Huayapam.