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Posts tagged ‘frisbee’

Dreamscape

Dizzying._It_is hard to fathom just how many places we have seen since leaving Alaska.  These aren’t necessarily hotbeds of international culture or tourism; simply the view beyond the next bend in the road, or perhaps the mundane spaces between where we are and where we are going that are suddenly lit up by the sun or by a joke or a kind word.  There’s an index of thousands in all of our brains now.  Riding through a Latin American street at night can remind us of everything from Los Angeles to the first time we rode through the darkness in British Columbia.  Sometimes I wonder if we’re harder to impress now that we’ve been at this for so long.

A view from the Santa Cruz trek.

Mountain pass beside Huascarán.

Huaraz was up to the challenge.  Nestled in the most spectacular Andean valley in Peru, between the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra, Huaraz is a jewel among Peru’s cities.  The city itself is hardly beautiful; a devastating Ancash earthquake of 1970 has left the city scarred to this day without most of its beautiful colonial architecture and urban vibrancy.  It’s still a gem of a city, however, because of what lies outside of it; breathtaking glaciers and snowcapped peaks lie in wait for anyone with the time to trek through them.  The next time we are in Huaraz, we will not leave before trekking at least a week through Huascarán National Park.  The rigorous schedule of a bicycle expedition such as ours unfortunately permitted only a few sojourns in the mountains around Huaraz.

Mountain biking below the Cordillera Blanca.

Our gnarly mountain bike guide, Julio.

After overcoming a daylong bout of food poisoning, we went on a mountain biking loop near the entrance to Huascarán.  We were guided by Julio Olaza of Mountain Bike Adventure.  Julio was a godsend for us.  Not only did he lend us his shop tools to do some needed repairs on our Trolls, he also shared his story with us.  “Mountain biking saved my life,” he said.  He was battling alcoholism as a young man, decades ago, and he took a chance as tourism was just beginning to pick up in Huaraz and “mountain biking” was just recently born in the late 1980s.  Years later, he is clean and a successful businessman, not to mention an animal on his mountain bike.  Muscling our bicycles over the stones of pre-Incan trails above Huaraz, we could barely keep up.  For the most part we embarrassed ourselves and found ourselves pining after a front suspension fork.  David flipped over his handlebars once.  We had a blast.

Altitude and the past day's food poisoning made for some tough moments on the ride.

Julio would flick his handlebars and a new trail would appear out of nowhere.

Moments after taking this photo, David nose-dived over his handlebars.

The finale to our mountain biking adventure was our arrival at a high altitude field above Huaraz where a crowd gathers every Friday to play ultimate frisbee.  We joined Peruvian kids, European trekkers, American volunteers, and a host of colorful characters for some exciting play.  There are many disadvantages to a bicycle expedition, among them tan lines and diminished cleanliness.  But a nice advantage is that our cardiovascular systems are borderline Olympic.  We could run all day up at the high 12,000 feet+ of Huaraz, which made frisbee somewhat unfair to a few of our competitors.  In the end, we all had a blast and enjoyed the fellowship of a good meal at the California Cafe when we were done.  There are a few rare, restorative places on this bicycle expedition where we can forget the pressures of our pace southward and enjoy the richness of a place.  Huaraz, you will be missed.

Ultimate frisbee in the mountains

Isaiah runs for the game-winning catch.

Football was played, too.

More football. Kids loved it.

This was our frisbee crew.

California Café, Huaraz, Peru.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, a North Dakotan visited this café and left a book behind.

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24 Hours

The_sun_ushers a green glow to the inside of our tent with the warmth in its wake.  At 7:xx the alarm rings a tone that one of us rustles out of our sleeping bag to silence.  Time to cue the music and our morning rituals.  Isaiah and I are usually the first to get up and out of our beds.  He who shall not be named continues to sleep or sits up to resume where he left off in his book, until breakfast is served.  A concoction of oatmeal, sugar, and granola has been the backbone of the trip, although we’ve been experimenting with scrambled eggs and vegetables.  We finish eating in about fifteen minutes.  Isaiah packs up the stove and food supplies while David and I work on our sleeping bags and air mattresses.  Once the tent is cleaned out we tear the tent down, pack the remaining things into our panniers and change into our riding clothes.  The morning reveals our respective moods, ranging from grumpiness to sassiness and smiles and sarcasm.  Mood is strongly affected by quality of sleep, difficulty of riding, and how tasty our oatmeal was relative to the 136 other times we have had it on Bound South.

Breakfast of Champions

Our new frying pan adds some variety to morning meals

The first few hours of riding go by quickly.  Our legs are fresh, leaving our minds wander as we dance with the white line. Snacks are consumed hourly to offset calories we burn riding at such awe-inspiring speeds.  Shopping for snacks has been simplified by the use of a convenient formula: Cost per Calorie per Gram per Unit of Volume.  Typically the tried and true Bound South snacks are Oreos, Poptarts, vanilla wafers and assorted Candy Bars.  Obviously the healthiness of the food isn’t a big factor since we are merely looking for quick energy.

Perfect lunch combo

A European lunch break helps to break up the day of riding and decompress, when we have the time for it. Since we’ve hit Mexico our lunch break has changed in a few ways. A place to sit in the shade has always been an integral factor, but Coca-Cola has become the focal point of our noon hour.  Oxxo and Pemex (convenience stores and gas stations, respectively) have become our oases in Mexico.  With a 2-3L bottle of Coke and a spot to sit indoors we are satisfied and ready for grub. We’ve converted to tortillas from bread, using them for both lunch and supper.  Peanut butter is becoming more expensive and harder to find, but still worth it in every regard.  Peanut butter-honey-granola tacos are keeping us fueled for lunch, if we aren’t taking advantage of cheap street food.  Meals have been supplemented with fruits and vegetables that are becoming incredibly cheap as we continue south.  After an hour of eating we overcome our lethargy from the food and sore muscles and resume our voyage, newly christened with Coke.

Following lunch, our schedule returns to snack breaks, map checks, and glances at the sun to keep us heading south.  With thirty minutes till sunset we begin to keep an eye out for a campsite.  Camping in the desert was simpler when we had the choice of pulling of the road anywhere to camp. Lately the land next to the highway has been fenced off, forcing us to be more creative.  Often times we find a secluded spot on a quiet side road, or we meet someone with a good suggestion or a nice lawn.  We have found people to be very kind, happy to offer their yard and occasionally well-received food. Warning: Don’t camp next to or near a chicken coop.

A tree belt between corn fields provided a stealthy spot for the night

Once we find a flat spot and put the tent up, we gather cooking supplies from our packs to prepare for supper.  Since groceries have been so cheap we’ve been eating like kings.  Our meals are comprised of peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beans, rice and some type of canned meat.  Teamwork comes into play to get everything sliced, portioned out, and into the pot to cook.  Two of us work on the ingredients while the other continually stirring to keep the bottom from burning.  Gasoline burns significantly hotter than premium camp fuel, but it is cheap and easier to find.  When the rice softens up we serve out the mixture of ingredients.  After frenzy of flailing silverware and tortillas, something resembling the calm after a storm occurs.  With five months of experience eating supper in this fashion, I apologize to anyone that has bought us supper and didn’t have a typical dinner conversation till our plates were clean.

Our host's sons assisted us with tent duties

They were fascinated at the construction and happy to help

Sleep prep begins with inflating our air mattresses, brushing our teeth, and gathering any extra clothes we might need for a cold night.  The tent turns into a mosh pit as we all pile in and start to massage and stretch muscles, exercise, and read.  At some point things settle down.  Once our sleepiness causes the nooks to fall from our hands and hit us in the face it is usually time to call it quits for the night.  We all have a tendency to talk in our sleep, occasionally waking ourselves telling poorly received jokes or delivering impassioned speeches to cruise ships in our dreams.  This dialogue might be our best security for thieves in the night.  Ten hours of sleep is a good number for us until we wake the next morning and start another day all over again.

Our host provided artificial and natural light for our evening responsibilities. His sons huddled around the campfire as we prepared dinner and a sharpened branch (used as a stake), electrical cord, and lightbulb made this light pole possible.

Leaving a campsite feels like leaving an apartment, looking back you pause to see the barren potential of the space.  What is left behind is a haven that gave us a place to be out of sight (tenting under a bridge), exposed us to extreme unexpected weather (desert windstorms in the night), or introduced a new career possibility (bicycle goat herding).  Looking ahead to the next evening there is an exciting sense of uncertainty, something like a crab must feel scurrying to a better conch under the open sky–except we worry about trucks rather than gulls.  There’s a give and take with each new home. We take the time to convert a rocky patch in the desert or a family’s courtyard into a temporary home.  Upon departure we take a piece of it with us; a lesson learned on tenting 101 or fond memories from teaching a new game to nearby children.

Isaiah and Angus made a great goat-herding team

Children love to join in the frisbee fun