"Schizo Tour" 1999-2000 Part 1 - Los Americas

After a time with loads of domestic problems (not very suited for that kind of life, I guess), I felt it was time get out. It has never been more unplanned, I decided to go at 0400, packed and took off at 0630, without even a fragment of a plan. That's probably the reason why the journey become a big zigzag trail in four continents - but, why not....?

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A little bit more detailed description of the first part of the journey: Americas.

The beginning and Panama.

As said before, there was no plan. Swe-Den-Ger-Hol. Due to the lack of inspiration I flow to Thailand for further planning.

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One of those Thai paradise beaches, a perfect place to get bored enough, to get your mind working.

Decided to head off to a place I had no clue about - that happened to be Central America. After a very brief visit in Taiwan, I continued to Panama. Headed north with the intention to continue to Alaska. Met GMPR (www.peaceride.org) on the border to Costa Rica. Had heard about the project years back and I found it interesting enough to change my plans 180 degrees.

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GMPR is a chapter on it's own... Originally it was a multimillion dollar project with support vans, medical personal, bike mechanics etc. Three participants from every country in the world should cycle through 60-70 countries during 2 1/2 years. In practice it was very different... Most of the riders had no money, we slept in churches and police stations to save money. Some had not even cash for daily food and the planning was sometimes a catastrophe. The photo from a small church in Panama, sheltering from the rain.

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The whole gang in Ciudad de Panama. Flor from Mexico and I had had enough and decided to split from the group. 

We contemplated to go for the Darien Gap - the big jungle area that separates Panama and Colombia, but the hurricane Mitch hit the area and there was no way to even think about that alternative after the heavy rains that followed.


Found a small boat that could take us to the border town Jaque, on the Pacific side of the continent. In theory the trip should last 36 hours all the way to the Colombian port of Buenaventura, but after 48 hours not even reaching Jaque, we realized it would take us a long time.

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It was a chaotic ride from the beginning. The loading of El Amparo" took over 48 hours, but the crew was in a wonderful mood all the time

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Total chaos on deck...

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...and below. Some lucky ones found a place in a hammock, others had to sleep on deck, where the pouring after rains of Mitch made a potential sleep close to impossible. In the end I had the choice of sleeping in cold water inside, outside in the rain or in warm diesel mixed water close to the engine room.
Due to very rough weather we ended up staying in the small settlement of Jurado for eight days. It's in the middle of the huge jungle province Chaco. Km long beaches, spontanous dance parties, surfing and very hospitable locals made our stay very pleasant.

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In the small shack town Jurado, life was very primitive. On the photo, a couple are crushing grain. I got the feeling it was one of those outposts in the world. There was no customs, so the police stamped our passports with the local police stamp. When we left Colombia, the immigration had no clue where Jurado was and we had to point it out on a map...
A crazy ride to Buenaventura. The boat was packed with rum drinking, dancing sailors and in retrospect I wonder how the hell they could manage the boat as they did in the rough waters. Beautiful, steep climb over Cordillera Occidental. Continued via Cali towards Popayan. A violent guerilla attack was directed at the little toll bridge village where we spent the night. Shelling and machinegun fire kept us awake all night. Green and ever changing hilly scenery made the ride to Pasto very enjoyable. Cycling is Colombia's national sport and we were encouraged to cycle hard in the long uphills. Screaming Colombianos hung out of car windows, gave us food, water and told how good and great we were. Wonderful!   

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Typical Colombian country side bus.
Tried to climb Volcan Florida (4266 m), but was stopped by police, due to volcanic activity.

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Flor having a siesta on a bridge, close to the border to  Ecuador.


Arrived in Ecuador. Not the same nice feeling as in Colombia, people pretty stone faced and sullen. Climbed Imbabura 5200 m and had a short break in Quito.

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Cycled to Cotopaxi National Park. Wonderful camping at the foot of the massive volcano.

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Cycled up to Cotopaxi base camp at 4800, very very hard.
Soloed Cotopaxi (5897m) the same night, one of my absolute favorite moments  in life. So beautiful to see the sun rise over the lowlands thousands over meters down.

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Perfect timing. Arrived when the sun rose over the horizon.

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The first expedition arrives.

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The wonderful feeling experienced by any climber - when he/she arrives at the summit after a long and hard climb.

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Cotopaxi's enormous crater.

Went down, packed my gear and tried desperately to catch up with Flor, who had cycled off direction Cuenca due to bike problems. No way, the climb had killed most of my energy. Wild X-mas celebrations and carnivals. Continued south to the little cozy village Vilcabamba.

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The noble art of screwing up a rim. There was 20km of steep downhill and heavy rain ahead. After 7km my brake pads were shot. Had no other alternative than keep on going. Metal to metal...
Full on new years celebrations, including the contradictive combination of traditional doll burning and technoparty. Flor had to go back to Mexico and cycled to Lima to catch a flight back home. Inspired by an article in National Geographic I considered going down the Amazonas River in an indigenous canoe, but I couldn't find any suitable companions for the project. After a very short visit to Peru I realized it was the wrong time of the year to go further south. Too much snow for climbing and lots of rains in the mountains. I could've gone on the Panamericana, but it sounded pretty boring to me, I wanted to get up in to the outback of the Andes and I decided to once again change my plans radically.

Central America.

Back to Quito, worked in a cyber cafe and flow to Costa Rica to continue on the first plan - to Alaska. In a small village in Mexico, a guy asked me how I would describe the seven Central American countries in three words.

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Grazing cattle in front of one of Costa Rica's many volcanoes.

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A common sight in Honduras, small stands with things for sale.

I usually get pretty bored when I'm on my own. Raced non-stop all the way through Central America and continued like that all the way to Mexico City. I've been thinking about the fast ride and if I should have stayed longer, but I think I saw what I wanted to see and the time I spent there was long enough in relation to what the countries had to offer me.

Had a break in Flor's place. Rested and enjoyed Mexico City. Fantastic cycling through a cliché of all I'd expected to se in Mexico - Cactus deserts, Tequila drinking, loud men with huge moustaches, beautiful mountainroads, small cities domineered by a huge church, spicy food, tortilla kiosks, loads of friendly people...and of course corrupt police... 

The US.

After many months in Latin America, I was almost shocked to see all those huge, obese people - they were enormous! I also felt lost in the country of supercapitalism, but on the other hand it was great not to be the object all people looked at. Arrived in Brownsville just when the annual celebration - The Chacos Days took place. Parades for hours and hours. Colorful, over-the-top-American and very spectacular.

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One out of the hundreds and hundreds of eyecatchers on the long parade through the streets of Brownsville. 

Had the amazing luck to meet a very friendly family who invited me, not only to their place, but to their friend's places in different parts of The States. On my way towards Colorado, my plan changed again. A friend of mine wanted to go to the "Stan States" in Central asia and that sounded so interesting, I changed direction towards New York City. Had an excellent time in The Big Apple and realized how much I'd missed the goodies of the western society - films, concerts, books, nightlife etc. Unfortunately the "Stan States plan" didn't work out and I was once again without a plan. 

Sailing in the Caribbean.

Desperation is the mother of logical thinking, someone once said, and I started to think in non linear ways I had had a dream for years and years and now it was high time to go for it - To buy a sailboat! Went to Florida. Basically lived in the library in Ft Lauderdale for the next two months trying to refresh my long forgotten knowledge about sailing. Found a suitable boat ( a Bayfield '29) for a decent price after some more studying, I felt ready to go for the Atlantic. After some daytrips in the waters between Bahamas and the Floridan coast, I felt ready for the Golf stream and the long haul for Bermuda. Got company from Valle and took off. A nice quite start with light winds, but on day six we were hit by a fierce gale (force 7-8).  Scudded away and had no problem 'til the storm was over - dead calm followed. Started motoring. All of a sudden the motor died and we realized the a piece of plastic had gotten around the propeller, melted and wrapped itself around the propeller shaft. The diesel supply was finished after 23 hours instead of 90. On top of that, the boat was leaking a lot due to the extra space the melted rope had created around the shaft. Considered abandon the boat, but managed to seal the leak.

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After a day of diving under the boat, armed with knives, hacksaws and cable cutters, we managed to get the plastic out of the shaft, which in turn caused a fast sinking boat.

Five of the worst days in my entire life followed - dead calm, huge swells and miserably hot. The boat was constantly rocking wildly and the last days we even had Bermuda in sight, but couldn't do anything about it. Had to sit there and wait for wind.... Finally we some wind and anchored in the harbor of Bermuda. After seeing boats and hearing stories from other sailors, we realized how bad the gale had been. Sailboats had been demasted, some had bad hull damage and others had had their sails ripped to shreds. I guess we had been very lucky to ride it our the way we did...

Started to realize the boat was not big enough for the stuff I'd planned to use it for - to sail around the world, bike aboard and combine sailing and cycling. Many factors coincided when I decided to sell the boat: Had gotten a mail from a friend who wanted cycle one of my dream routes through the Himalayas, lots of emails from other cyclists, describing how much fun they had on the saddle in different parts of the world - I started to miss the cycling a lot. Valle declared he was interested in buying the boat and I took the offer on the spot.

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It felt weird to leave Bermuda and the boat I had started to like as my home. But the empty wilderness of The Himalayas beckoned...still, the freedom of the life on the big oceans was also great. Very mixed feelings...

Flow to Amsterdam, continued on to Pakistan and I was on the road again.

The Asian and European parts of "The Schizo Tour"

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