Colombia & Ecuador & Peru

Coast to Mountains to Jungle, A Peru Journey with my Sister

After biking out of the mountains, I made my way toward the southern coast of Peru to make up some distance. Then it was back to Lima to meet my sister for a 10 day journey that included an electronic concert, a trip to energetic Machu Picchu, and a tour through the thick Amazon jungle. We covered all three of Peru's terrains in a short time, and finished with a smile.

Huancavelica, Peru to Arequipa, Peru 9/16 to 10/16

Video of the Amazon Jungle, Machu Picchu, and an Ultra Concert in Lima, Peru

img_5208 My sis and I next to a massive ceiba tree in the Amazon jungle 

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img_3115Vicuna, Peru's national animalimg_3225

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Nazca lines from up in the air

 

img_3097One night a family in the mountains gave me a stack of sheepskins to sleep on that was more comfortable than my normal foam mat

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Solar Water Heaters in Peru, good to see!

 

Alpaca and Bull Fights in the Andes Mountains

The last few weeks have been spent at consistently high elevations, among big herds of alpaca, sheep, and cattle, and the occasional shepherd, motorcycle, or vehicle. Biking the remote mountain back roads of the Andes mountains in Central Peru, I am rewarded with great landscapes and a lot of peace and quiet. This post is filled with those landscapes, as they are literally all that I see each and every day.            

Huaraz, Peru to Huancavelica, Peru 8/13 to 9/16

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img_2982I surprised my high school buddy Matt Keenan who has been teaching nutrition and sex ed with the Peace Corps up in the mountain pueblo of Huallanca, Peru. We dominated a basketball game against 3 locals, which coincided with Team USA basketball teams winning gold in the Olympics. 'Mericaimg_2779

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img_2927Among little mountain pueblos, this is a well-stocked grocery store and restaurant

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img_2716One late afternoon I passed through a mountain village that was celebrating a festival with bull fights. I entered the little stadium right after one fight had ended, and being the only gringo there in that remote village, I quickly became the show as all eyes were on me as I found my seat.

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Bike Safety Lesson #104, Don’t go too fast down mountains or you will crash and destroy your rimimg_2900

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Mountain Climbing in the Cordillera Blanca

Four days biking and I arrived in Huaraz, outside the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, considered one of the more beautiful mountain ranges in the world. I found the best guide in Peru, Cesar Vargas, and we planned a mountaineering course up in the mountains. Three days of instruction in all aspects of mountaineering led to a summit climb of the Mountain Yanapaccha, Quechuan for Black Waterfall. It is another world up among the snow covered peaks of the Peruvian Andes mountains, and it left me hungry to explore some more. I departed alone on a three day trek of the famous Santa Cruz route, with breathtaking views every step of the way. If you have any interest in mountaineering or just seeing these beautiful mountains, Cesar Vargas is the guy to go to for direction (exploringandes.com).

Trujillo, Peru to Huaraz, Peru 7/24 to 8/13

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This was view from base camp for 3 nights

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IMG_1997View from the top of Mount Yanapaccha

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One road through National Park Huascaran

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IMG_1935Cesar Vargas, aka The Cat, The Snail, The Tiger, The Turtle, Jefe, and sometimes Wey

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Just a few knots in case someone falls in a crevasse

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IMG_2067Crevasse fields of Yanapaccha

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IMG_1902Mount Yanapaccha, 5460m/17,913ft

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Trekking the Santa Cruz circuit

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IMG_2211Union Pass

IMG_2246You know the mountain from the Paramount Pictures preview? Yep, that would be this guy, Mount Artesonraju

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IMG_2188This bull gave me all kinds of problems during the night

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IMG_2183Rewarded for going off the beaten path with this camp view of Mount Piramide

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Biking to Huaraz

IMG_1654Mysterious ruins of Chan Chan on the coast of Northern Peru

IMG_1743Can I get some baby with my pineapple?

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Canyon del Pato leading up to the Cordillera Blanca

IMG_1707An earthquake in 1970 caused a massive avalanche that covered the town of Yungay and killed 20,000 people. In this photo, the old town lies below the flat ground and the avalanche came from Mount Huascaran behind.

From Bottomless Lakes to Deserts, Ecuador to Northern Peru

I have been biking like a fool the last few weeks, making up for some time well spent in Colombia. I crossed through several types of terrain and cultures in Ecuador, surprised my host family who I learned Spanish from 3 years ago, and ate a bunch of bananas for about 5 cents a piece. Northern Peru has meant riding on flat ground along the coast and across the seriously large Sechura desert. I look forward to getting into Peru's Andes Mountains, some of the most beautiful in the world from what I hear.                        Quito, Ecuador to Trujillo, Peru 7/3 to 7/24

 

Ecuavoley, Ecuador's cooler version of volleyball, is heavily bet on and filled with intense arguments over the rules

 

IMG_3130 (1)Reunited with the Rosales family, the greatest family from Montanita, Ecuador who taught me Spanish more than 3 years agoIMG_1546

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My new American buddy Ryan on the first day of his trip, in the middle of stunning architecture in downtown Quito

 

IMG_1361The courtyard of the Monastery of Santa Maria del Paraiso, south of Quito, Ecuador 

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IMG_1530Southeastern Ecuador is filled with banana plantations. The locals manage to squeeze some other things in the middle of the fields, including mini futbol fields and cemeteries

IMG_1440The locals say the Laguna de Quilotoa is bottomless and changes colors between blue green and yellow

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 At the base of Volcan Cotopaxi, couldn’t climb this one as it it closed off due to recent activity

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Ecuatorianos seem to love statues, and I could make a book with all the incredibly random statues I saw. But the Peruvians made me giggle with this one, I think the dolphin is biting her hand.

 

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Eh Eh Epa Colombia

Colombia is the most biker friendly country I have ridden through, and I will miss it as I continue south. I learned to dance the sexy salsa, got my hands on some cock fighting roosters, and got my butt kicked by every Colombian biker who would glide up mountains like it’s a warm up. 

Medellin, Colombia to Quito, Ecuador, 6/5/16 to 7/3/16

IMG_1055North of Quito inside of a salt mine lies an underground Cathedral that the miners built years ago

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Jahkco dropped 25 pounds in the last month biking from Peru to Colombia, all in training for a race in Bogota.IMG_1176

IMG_1165Uruguayan bike couple selling photos to finance their trip

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IMG_1005Sunday morning ride with a local biking group

IMG_0957 Roosters in line for surgery

IMG_1151Lil Colombianos who helped me pick out a bag of spaghetti and a tomato, and then jumped on the back of a semi to catch a ride up a mountain

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IMG_0995Girlfriends

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IMG_1013 Spanish colonial architecture in Villa de Leyva 

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Building a Solar Water Heater in Colombia

I biked to a casa de ciclistas, or a bike hostel, located in San Antonio de Prado in Colombia. The owner of la casa, Manuel, is one of the more fun people I have met in my life. After telling him about my interest in renewable energy, he asked if I could build a solar water heater. After several design changes and help from other cyclists that came through the house, I managed to build a functioning solar water heater. It was a great experience to harness the power of the sun and water that flowed from the Colombian mountains to provide hot showers for cyclists from around the world. If you have ever considered a solar water heater for your home, give it a try. Constructing a DIY system is easier than you might think, and there are plenty of affordable commercial systems available as well. Check out builditsolar.com for design ideas.

Turbo, Colombia to San Antonio de Prado, Colombia 5/3 to 6/4 2016

Steps to Building a Solar Water Heater

IMG_05401) So you start by building a box... (while enjoying a Colombian beer and soda pop concoction. Maybe 1 part miller lite, 2 parts cherry 7up if you made it back in the States)

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3) Next you untangle 100 meters of black PVC...

IMG_06246) Close the box with plastic...

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Thermosiphon physics experiment with hot water

IMG_0744Shout out to Origon and Celine for all their help!

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Source of water for the bike hostelIMG_0886Finished product, designs 1 and 2

 

IMG_05582) You then paint it black with a metal bottom...

IMG_05704) Then wrap the PVC in the box...

IMG_05745) You proceed to tying the PVC to the box..

IMG_06427) And put it on the roof!

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DSCN7216Thermosiphon system #2

DSCN7206Making connections to the hot water tank

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Cock Fighting and Waterfall Hiking in Colombia

Turbo, Colombia to San Antonio de Prado, Colombia 5/3 to 6/4 2016

IMG_0367Damn you Colombian coffee propaganda, you win! .... I drink coffee now

IMG_0761Colombian cock fight

IMG_0683 Manuel and I explored new territory up a series of waterfalls

IMG_0628Mexican taco night in Colombia? OK

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Beautiful views of Antioquia in Northern Colombia 

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Part of the fat statues collection in downtown Medellin, Colombia

IMG_0636 Lunch in the casa de ciclistas

IMG_0877I made Chicago Deep Dish pizza one night, and kind of felt back at home. Shout out Chitown!

Crossing the Darien Gap by Boats

The Panamerican Highway that runs through Central America stops at the Darien Gap, the thick jungle of Southern Panama and Northern Colombia. To pass it one has to fly over or take a boat around. Flying isn't as much fun so I took a series of small boats along the Atlantic Ocean to cross from Panama to Colombia. After biking through some insanely steep jungle hills, I made it to Puerto Carti, where the reserve of the indigenous Kuna people live on some 50 of the San Blas islands. I stayed with a Kuna family one evening and caught my first boat the next day. The ride started out well as we stopped for gas and dropped off a few Kuna, but we came to a quick halt after running over a plastic bag. That led to a longer stay on another Kuna island as we fixed the motor in pouring rain. I was lucky enough to stay the evening in one of the Kuna communities called Armila, and took another boat to cross into Colombia the next day. My third and last boat ride was a biker's nightmare, as my bicycle slammed up and down on the fiberglass boat and the Colombian drivers smiled as they rode over choppy water as fast as they possibly could. But I arrived in the super charged Colombian town of Turbo and was able to hop on my bike again.

Panama City to Turbo, Colombia- 4/29 to 5/3

Image00001The roads across the jungle in Panama felt like a real rollercoaster, straight up and downImage00003Leaving the isla de CartiImage00005Filling up the gas tanksImage00007Typical rainstorms in the Darien Gap

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Image00011Pulling into Puerto Obaldia, the last town in southern PanamaImage00013Capurgana, Colombia

Image00002The Kuna island of CartiImage00004

Shout out to Sergio for giving me a hammock for the evening!Image00006

Image00008Scenes from Pirates of The Caribbean were filmed on islands like this oneImage00010

Image00012Capurgana, Colombia's northern border port, can only be reached by boat or plane on the edge of the Darien. That means no cars, at all

Central America, insert checkmark. South America, vamos

I haven't spent too much time exploring Panama. Just cruising along the Panamerican highway on my way into the metropolis that is Panama City. Along the way I was cheered on by hundreds of road construction workers who never appeared to actually be working at all. I also was woken up at 1 am one night when sleeping in a pineapple field, told to move away from the sprinklers by the farmers, and gifted a fresh pineapple for breakfast. That one worked out well. With a couple more days to bike out of Panama, I am ready to take on continent numero dos.

IMG_0123View of Puente de las Americas just before crossing over from Central America into South America

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I have been lucky enough to stay up on the 20th floor of a high rise apartment building with a host here in the middle of the Panama City. The view offers an interesting look at the two worlds here. Below these skyscrapers are shacks of poorer fisherman, housing that I am more accustomed to seeing throughout Central America.IMG_0151 Another Panama City skyscraper

IMG_0143 View of the shipping port along the Panama Canal

IMG_0128View along the huge Panama CanalIMG_0160Panama City before its afternoon showersIMG_0149

IMG_0115Someone made great use of a bunch of old tires, an entire jungle gym of them on the side of the Panamerican highway

In my former life I was a Supply Chain man. So I take interest in things like refrigerated containers being transported in a staging area next to the Panama Canal. Here's a "behind the fence" look at how they get it done.

Costa Rican Fruit

After finishing up a month filled with beaches, surfing, and hammocks in Nicaragua, I made my way into Costa Rica. I don't have as many pictures as I'd like after my phone was stolen (sorry to anyone who tired to whatsapp me lately, but I will never be able to respond again). I did manage to snag a couple photos from some great friends I made along the way though. After some time on the truly rich coast of Costa Rica, I started saying "Pura Vida" (the Costa Rican greeting of "pure life") to locals as I made my way to higher, cooler ground. I finally escaped the draught that has plagued much of Central America's Pacific Coast for the last two years as I biked through green cloud country at high altitudes down Costa Rica's backbone. Along the way I was spoiled rotten with all of the ripe tropical fruit falling off of trees along my path. I ate 15 mangos in a 12 hour period one day, and have been using a machete I found on the side of the road to cut open coconuts. Pura Vida indeed.

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This was the booze cruise

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IMG_0088Costa Rica country

IMG_0073The highest point of the Panamerican highway in Central America was up here on the top of el cerro de la muerte. At over 11k ft, the humid trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean turn into clouds, creating a mystical feeling in the midst of the mountains.

NicaThese lovely ladies invited me on a booze cruise

IMG_0040I rode up the Cerro de la muerte (hill of the dead) with Danny, a bike shop owner who put me up for a night with his family and tackled the climb with me the next day. Thanks Danny!

IMG_0006Ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya

IMG_0063Costa Rica sees a lot of rain, so you know the locals stay dry AND comfortable while waiting for the bus

IMG_0069Costa Rican grub? How about some gallo pinto (rice and beans), a fried platano (banana) with cheese in the middle, and a loaf of fresh bread. Did I hear carbohydrates?