Belize

Costa Rica

Panama

Ecuador

Peru

Bicycling Central and South America in the 1980’s was a daunting affair.

Wars raged in Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The ravages of war spilled over into Honduras in the form of refugees and extended poverty. Persecution of the Maya in Guatemala threaten stability and tourism in that country. Panama was run by a “tyrant”, however supported he may have been by the USA. Columbia seemed mired forever in drug wars.

Costa Rica and Ecuador were, at the time, stable countries surrounded by strife. Peru had a pervasive reputation for thieving against tourists, but otherwise harming them was not a priority.

In bicycling Central and South America, we avoided the war torn countries all together and picked our way through the controversial ones. We started in Costa Rica and made it as far as Lima Peru before collapsing in complete exhaustion

The journey remains one of the most challenging, and rewarding of all our biking adventures.

It’s a good thing we were young and inexperienced. It was our first bicycle tour ever!

Our bicycle adventure in Belize was a separate trip. The government was at peace with its diverse population and we were more seasoned travelers!

We hope you find the following pages of our travels inspiring and exciting to follow.

Bicycling Central and South America-Map

In 1983 to 84, we made our very first ever bicycle trip.…from Costa Rica to Peru…a five month long odyssey. We had never ridden bikes more than 30 miles at a time before this trip.  We had never toured, and never carried luggage. Anne’s foreign language training was French. A crash one month course in Spanish before we left was our preparation, although it did us very little good as much of the trip we spent traveling in native areas where Spanish was a second language.
We did take enough time to plan to get sponsored by various companies. Our 2 Specialized Stump Jumper 15 speed bikes were a new concept in that day. Sealed hubs, suspension, ultra-low gearing were all new ideas at the time.

  • Pack & Paddle in Lafayette, Louisiana sold us our bikes at wholesale. They took us under their wing and were the backbone supporters of our adventure.
  • Bellwether clothing jumped in and donated all our bicycling clothing. They had several new lines and we certainly tested them to the hilt. Years later, we were still wearing their clothing. Tough, durable, good looking it was!
  • Marmot donated two down parkas. We still have them. They still go on trips with us. Never leave home without one. They pack up small and you never know when it will snow! No kidding, our trip went from seal level to 13,000 feet.
  • Kangaroo donated our panniers. We used them on many subsequent trips but we have been unable to locate Kangaroo as a business anymore. They just disappeared.
  • Bibler donated our tent. It was the new rage…no fly. Like a Gortex rain jacket, the tent itself was water proof…and breathable…hence no condensation. In the hard tropical rains that we endured however, rain smashed through the tiny breathable pores of the tent, breaking into a fine mist upon us. Still, we loved the tent for speed in setting up and tightness of the package when stuffed.
  • In appreciation, we published three separate magazine articles about the journey in various bicycling magazines. Text and photos from those articles are quoted on the following pages.

We flew from our home in Sandpoint, Idaho to Lafayette, Louisianna to Pack & Paddle to receive our bikes. There we assembled all our equipment and outfitted the bikes.

Pack & Paddle gave us a short course on maintenance.

We took about 10 pounds of tools and repair parts with us that we never needed. Being our first experience touring, we took way too much gear and ended up shipping back a big box after the first day!

Bicycling Central and South America-our equipment
Bicycling Central and South America-Pack & Paddle Bike Shop
Bicycling Central and South America-Pack & Paddle Bike Shop
Bicycling Central and South America-Darien Gap

An extended bicycle tour in Central and South America  included soul-drenching rainy seasons, baking deserts, impenetrable jungles, terrible road conditions, unyielding head winds, unending mountain grades and in 1984 when politics were in turmoil, a few surprise human elements like rough thievery and regional terrorist wars that needed to be avoided.

Bicycling Central and South America-Darien Gap

But Bicycling Central & South America included an intimate association with friendly people, fascinating and vastly different cultures, mysterious ancient cities, astounding scenery from tropical oceans to soaring mountain peaks and a great sense of freedom from being under your own power that two wheels gives you.

Bicycling Central and South America

Both Central and South America are extremely difficult to cycle. Roads are in very poor condition and unpaved or under construction in many areas. South America is extremely mountainous. We estimated out of a 2700 mile journey, we spent less than 500 miles on flat terrain. The rest was up and down with some mountain passes 30 miles long. Once you get to the top, it goes back down most of the way!

Bicycling Central and South America-Costa Rica

Our daily average distance was about 30 miles per day mostly due to the steep grades and poor roads. Sometimes we maintained the ripping speed of 3 miles per hour for the whole day. But we were not in a hurry. We used our bikes to explore in a personal way. It was not a race.

Why did we go? I was 40 years old; Mike was 43. We had no children by choice. Mike worked as an Appraiser; I was an apprentice carpenter.

We needed to go.

 We needed an adventure that was not defined by time, obligation, routine or finances. We had no plans, no schedule, no route in mind; everyday would just become another day. I guess, we needed some unknown in our lives.
We certainly did not have a lot of extra resources for such a trip.

It would be budget.

 We would live at the local level, whatever that was. It wasn’t much different from our life in Sandpoint since good paying jobs were hard to come by; one had to re-invent their own job. So we did. We went bicycling. It turned out to be cheaper to do that than live in Sandpoint!

Most of our friends in Sandpoint, Idaho did not even know we were gone.

It was not something we could explain.

Our friends had families, jobs, firewood to cut and laundry to do. It was a life that they loved, cherished and pursued. We may have told them our plans to cycle for 5 months, but we doubt the idea really registered. So, we just went.

“Oh, I wish I could do that too!” was a comment we heard often after our return.

Well, the bottom line is, these commentators would not have really wished this journey upon themselves.

 It was not easy, not comfortable and certainly not secure. As we look back on this particular journey, out of all our subsequent bicycle adventures, this was by far the most challenging physically, mentally and emotionally. It remains a highlight of our lives.

 

Belize

Bicycling Belize

Bicycling Belize

 

 

Costa Rica 

Bicycling Costa Rica

Bicycling Costa Rica

 

Panama

Bicycling Panam

Bicycling Panam

 

 

Columbia 

Columbia route map

Columbia route map

 

 

Ecuador 

Bicycling the Andes in Ecuador

Bicycling the Andes in Ecuador

 

 

 

Peru 

Bicycling Peru

Bicycling Peru

 

 

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