Enterramiento – Funeral of a chicken

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After a gentle start from Cancun on highway 307 until Tulum we needed something more adventurous than a well paved, flat road with a broad shoulder. We decided to take road 15 along a peninsula to the small village Punta Allen. From there we took a fishermans boat back to the main land and through Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
On the internet these roads had a bad reputation, “difficult to cycle with big holes in it”. Locals called us crazy, to use this bad road and camp in the jungle full of dangerous animals with two kids but we decided to give it a try. We could always turn around and go back to highway 307. Finally the 130 “horrible” kilometers through Sian Ka’an have been peaceful, beautiful and quiet.
 


In Felipe Carillo Puerto we rested some days at the beautiful campsite Balam Nah of our warmshowers host Bruno at laguna Ocom. The kids enjoyed this beautiful place and till now Ben calls the three little baby dogs there, he was playing with them for two days, his friends and one of the best experiences so far on this trip.


Again we took secondary roads away from the 307 highway and ended up on beautifully paved roads without any traffic. In Petcacab we met the Maya family Gabriela, Narcisso and their son Armando who invited us into their home. Lucky us, four hungry cyclist and all this nice food Gabriela made for us!


The most spectacular has been a chicken prepared in the earth which she called “enterramiento”, burial.


We stayed two days with them but they didn’t want us to leave because there was much more food we had to try. Narcisso earns 12 Euro a day which is a lot according to them. They don’t have mobile phones or internet but still shared everything with us. We offered to pay for food or cook our own meals but they refused which made us feel uncomfortable because we knew that we could pay for all of it much easier than they can. As so often experienced in our previous travels people we call poor in Europe are proud of what they own and like to share it with others. After two days we left with a warm and thankful feeling. It was time to cycle to Chetumal and cross the border to Belize.

Gabriela, Narcisso, Armando (green Tshirt) and some nephews

In Belize we saw our first Maya ruine, Altun Ha. We arrived there late in the afternoon and therefore had a beautiful evening light and little other visitors. We talked for some while with the guards of the park while they closed everything for that day. When we finally left, the sun went down, it got dark and the mosquitoes started their working day. Again we got invited by a family. We could camp in their garden which we were very thankful for. The woman had six children and some grandchildren. Ben and Esmé played the whole evening and the next morning. Already from the beginning of this trip they have been making contact with children everywhere very easily. Poor or rich, white or black, local or tourist, it doesn’t matter for them. Ben also started to talk English and he understands it already very well.


The only problem so far have been the insects. Back in Punta Allen Ben was all over the mosquitoe bites and scratching like crazy. One morning in Sian Ka’an we were having breakfast in a house which sometimes is used for biologists doing research in the jungle. Just when we finished huge ants invaded the outside wall and entered through small holes. We evacuated as quick as possible but all of us got bitten which hurt like crazy. And now, in Belize, we met the sand fly. The working hours of the sand flies are during the day. As soon as we stopped cycling they would start terrorizing us. When the sand fly goes to bed in the evening, the mosquitoe would welcome us. That’s one of the results.


As you maybe can imagine we hardly stopped cycling, only took short brakes, wore clothes with long sleeves (while cycling in 35 degrees Celsius), used all kind of mosquitoe repellent creams, sprays and mosquitoe nets over our heads and in the evening got into our tent as quick as possible. We cycled long days and didn’t take any rest days. We rushed through Belize, hoping that the mosquitoes and sand flies would dissapear when getting into the hills. 

But Belize has been so beautiful! Everybody has been cheerful and friendly and we didn’t feel unsafe. We cycled secondary roads again, the Coastal Highway with its beautiful sand colours and the Hummingbird Highway, finally in the hills.


Unfortunately the sand fly also likes the Hummingbird Highway. We decided to push on until Belmopan, the capital of Belize, to find a hostel and get some rest days. Belmopan was founded as a planned community in 1970 and is one of the newest national capital cities. It is a strange place, no city center or tourist information could be found. The only hotel we have seen was way too expensive for us but, again, we got invited and stayed for one night with a family from Colombia. The next day we left. Thankful, clean and rested we crossed the border into Guatemala. 

Already for months Peter has been in contact with Annie, a German woman living in Poptùn with her husband and children. She invited us to stay with them because her children grow up bilingual but hardly speak German. Lenny and Erik are 6 and 4 years old and for one week playing and fighting 🙂 has been the routine of the day. (Luckily the first more than the second.) Annie showed us around, we did some really nice bike trips and walks. Yesterday Peter succesfully gave our lecture “Cycle touring – A nomadic lifestyle” for the locals here in Spanish. It has been a relaxing, interesting and pleasurable week before we head south-west into the mountains of Guatemala.

Lenny, Ben, Erik and Esmé

Enough for now. We keep you updated. ¡Adios!​​

Sea turtles

We arrived well in Cancun eight days ago. The kids were great on the flight. The whole journey took us 20 hours. 

The next couple of days we had a jetlag (Cancun is six hours behind CET) but after four days our rhythm was back to normal. We explored the beautiful beaches of Cancun, got used to the climate (at the moment it is 30 degrees Celsius here) and cycled a bit without luggage to get a feeling for car drivers in Mexico. They treat cyclists very careful and respectful. During these days we experienced a shark alarm at Playa Delfines and observed a baby Boa snake crossing very slowly our bike path.

After five days in Cancun we cycled in two days (110 km) to Akumal where a friend of Peter has a house. 

And here we are now, in paradise. Thank you Glenda, this is a big early Christmas present for us. We enjoy it a lot. The best experience till now was swimming with sea turtles at Akumal bay. An experience we will probably never forget.

We will stay a couple if days in Akumal and then start cycling towards Chetumal where we will enter Belize.

Countdown

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In the last couple of weeks we have been very busy. We repaired bikes, bought spare parts, organized our luggage, thought about what to take with us at least ten times, said goodbye to family and friends, cleaned our apartment, gave an interview to the Tiroler Tageszeitung and so on. We did thousands of other little things we cannot recall because it would be too much to mention.

But now we are almost done. Tomorrow will be our last day in Europe. We will pack the last things and have dinner with our family in the Netherlands. 

Ben and Esmé have been relaxed and easy going most of the time. Like us, they also feel excited about the upcoming journey. Esmé is talking about airplanes a lot. Yesterday, I showed Ben pictures of the coastline and beaches near Cancun but he told me, that he wants to see a volcano. A couple of days ago they had a vaccination they still needed. Unfortunately both if them got really sick afterwards. 

We have been sleeping in many different places in the last weeks, mostly friends, but both the children have had no problems with that. They enjoy meeting and talking to different people. Also travelling (bus, train, airplane) is easy with them. In general Esmé can’t sit still but in certain situations she seems to realize that she has to stay in her seat. For sure we also always prepare a long journey with nice food, new toys, games or stories. These distractions seem to work really well. Hopefully our 12 hour long flight to Mexico, the day after tomorrow, will be doable. We feel positive about it and look forward to lie on the beach very soon. 

Freedom

The bikes and all our camping gear are already in the Netherlands. The house is almost empty, everyday more boxes get filled up with stuff we want to keep, we quit our apartment and prepared our upcoming trip. The road is calling.

25th of November – 6th of December: The Netherlands
7th of December: Flying to Cancún, Mexico

Tuscany

After surgery Peter has been walking, hiking and cycling more and more. We decided to try a tour fully loaded in September. That’s what we did:

800 km, 11000 altimeters

Sillian (AUT) to Bologna (I): Train (1 day)
Bologna to Orbetello: Bike, fully loaded, always wild camping (6 days)
Orbetello: Enjoying the beach and resting (6 days)
Orbetello to Bologna: Bike, fully loaded, always wild camping (6 days)
Bologna (I) to Sillian (AUT): Train (1 day)

Most of the time Peter travelled light, with four panniers and the tent on top of the back panniers.

Petra had four panniers as well, the Weehoo with Ben in it and a little chair in the front with Esmé. Peter calculated, that Petra was pulling 95 kg with this set up (bike, kids, trailer, luggage). Tuscany is extremely hilly and we did a lot of altimeters. Petra managed to cycle 16 % uphill…

… but sometimes she ran out of energy. Luckily Ben and Esmé liked to help pushing the bike.

We visited very beautiful cities (Bologna, Florence, Siena) and saw a lot of nice little villages. Culture in Tuscany is very impressive and extremely rich.

Ben and Esmé enjoyed cycling a lot. Looking around, singing songs and watching the world passing by are their favourite activities. When taking a break or wild camping they liked to play with stones, sticks and plants. Ben loved every aspect of being on tour. Esmé was a little bit grumpy in the morning. She was probably very hungry and it took too long to get breakfast ready. Furthermore she didn’t eat the Italian white, hard bread with no salt in it. She found it more difficult to play in nature.

One of the things why we enjoy touring so much are beautiful wild camping spots.

One day we had some rain late in the afternoon and we asked at a small farm if we were allowed to wait under a little roof until the rain passes. The old farmer and his wife were extremely friendly. We were allowed to camp in their garden, they provided us with fuel for our stove, gave us food and helped us repairing a broken tent pole. Furthermore they had a lot of toys from their grandchildren which Ben and Esmé were allowed to use. Perfect!

Esmé is still sleeping in the afternoon and we were searching for a solution to make her sleep as comfortable as possible in the chair. The Bobike chair we use has a little cushion on which her head can rest, but it is too small and her head keeps rolling off the cushion continuously. The first days she slept only about half an hour due to this problem. Finally Petra made the cushion a little bit bigger by using her fleece vest which was much more comfortable for Esmé. With this system Esmé slept about an hour every day which was enough.

From Sillian to Bologna and from Bologna back to Sillian we used the train. This caused some pressure, because we had booked our tickets already before we left home. We had to cycle with a schedule which we never like to do. Google maps calculated that from Bologna to Orbetello it was 280 km but it took us 420 km (!!!) to get there and we had 6 days. We had to cycle a lot, with a lot of altimeters. On our way back we cycled 350 km and still a lot up and down. We were very tired and had not so much time to, for example, play with the kids.

Going with bikes and kids and trailers and bags in the train is always a moment of stress. The kids get bored at a certain point and we always have to plan the trip with enough time to change train. On our way back we had a very aggressive and unpleasant experience with the conductor. We made a reservation only for two bikes but according to him we should have made a reservation for the trailer too. We regularly use the train with the bikes in Austria and Italy and never payed for the trailer before. The conductor took our bikes, put them into the train and left the trailer outside. He wanted to close the door and let the train leave but Peter put his foot in between and went out of the train again. We discussed for some minutes but the guy was not thinking of a solution at all. At a certain point Petra went to the second conductor and explained the problem: We have to take the Weehoo with us. In the meanwhile Peter was still with the angry conductor, put all our bags in the train and the trailer. Ben was hysterically running through the train: “The conductor doesn’t want to take my trailer!” The two conductors and Peter discussed a little bit more. After Peters words “You only tell us the rules but don’t think of a solution.” and 10 Euro we were allowed to stay in the train. (In the next few hours there were more cyclists taking this train and the conductor kept being difficult about their bikes.)

Conclusion: Nice weather, beautiful cities and villages, nice camping spots, a lot of kilometers and altimeters and some problems with taking a train … Peters back seems to be strong enough to tour again but we still have to be very careful.

 

 

 

Recovery

Ben loves to take pictures and some of them are really great therefore from now on we will also use his pictures on our website. 

After surgery Peter stayed in bed for another six to eight weeks. He had no pain anymore but the doctors told him that the wounds on the inside and outside can heal best if he lies down. All that time he wasn’t even allowed to do physiotherapy. After this long period of doing nothing (ten to twelve weeks) Peter slowly started to train his muscles again. As you probably can imagine he was completely out of shape. Now, four months after surgery, he is doing very long hikes and short cycling trips (without luggage) in the mountains again. He is still cautious with carrying heavy things though.

Peter found himself a nice little job for the summer: He is marking and repairing hiking trails in the mountains for the Alpenverein Sillian.

In the meanwhile Petra and the kids are touring and hiking too. Petra knows, that she has to carry most weight when Peter is ready to tour again and she tries to get in shape. They do some day-trips every week.

They also did a four-day-trip in the Dolomites (Italy). (Außervillgraten – Cortina d’Ampezzo – Passo Falzarego – Passo Valparola – Bruneck – Außervillgraten)

We also started going out in nature as a family again. We stayed at the Sillianer Hütte (Austria) for two nights and did some short hikes together.

In summer we always have a lot of guests (e.g. from warmshowers.org) which we enjoy a lot.

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A couple of days ago Peter went for a short ride with the Weehoo again for the first time.

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In September we will take a train to Bologna (Italy) and cycle tour to Albinia (Italy) where Petra’s parents rent a little house. After a week on the beach we will cycle back to Bologna and take a train home again. This will be a test ride with luggage for Peter and the first time touring with the four of us this year.

We will keep you updated.

Enjoy the summer!

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Spinal disc herniation

We should leave in 4 days. For weeks we were busy preparing everything: organising the first days in Vancouver, buying some extra things we would need, repairing our bikes, putting the bikes in boxes, emptying the house (more boxes) and so forth

(We didn’t got the chance to take pictures of all the luggage we would take with us.)

But than it happened: four weeks ago Peter suddenly couldn’t walk anymore. He had a lot of pain while sitting and walking and was only able to lie in bed (next to the bike boxes).

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We went to different doctors and did a scan and very soon the problem was clear: He had a spinal disc herniation. We tried different things, Peter stayed in hospital several times for a couple of days, alternative medicine, but nothing helped. The doctors told us that, if he wants to cycle tour again like we used to do, he needs surgery. And that’s what he did. Last Thursday he had the surgery and everything went well. Now Peter is at home and he can walk without pain again. Which is a big relief for all of us.

The last weeks have been emotional and stressful for all of us. First there was this uncertainty. “What is the problem?” “How can we fix it?” “Will the pain ever go away?” …

But also:

“Shall we continue packing everything and emptying our house?” “Can we leave on 22nd of April?” “Shall we fly to Canada and travel in a different way?” …

Finally we realised that it would be really stupid to start this trip right now. Peter has to get better. In six weeks it will be clear if everything healed well and if the pain is really gone. Than he slowly can start to train his muscles again and maybe try to cycle a little bit. It is hard to wait and live with this uncertainty. We love our life on the road but maybe we can never tour like we used to do again.

Ben still is very confused. Everyday he is talking about “our big trip” and about the “bear country”. He keeps telling us “I will take …  with me when we go on our big trip.” We tell him that we can’t go right now and that daddy has to get better first but it is really difficult for him to understand. When Peter had the operation Ben said “Now we can go on our big trip mummy, can’t we?”

That’s life and life is going on. Petra is thinking of how to tour alone with two small kids this year (probably only for a couple of days), Peter wants to follow with a car (if he is able to sit for a longer period by then) and we look forward to enjoy another summer in the beautiful Austrian Alps.