There was great applause. The Dutch coach and theaterperformer Bertold Gunster performed with his theatershow Rethink. It was a very well organized event and the whole room was in ecstacy. I stood backstage and the noise of the people made me even more nervous. Not far from now after this show, I had to do my performance. The current vibe looked so good that I became increasingly insecure and felt ill-prepared for telling my story with this people on stage.
Who was waiting for a story of a lonely cyclist?
Would I get the words out right?
What did I actually want to convey here?
I nervously walked in front of me and afraid of the rejection that would come I practiced my story out loud. Bertold, who was backstage for a moment, heard me fumble and looked at me thoughtfully as if to say, “Didn’t you prepare this properly?”
When his show was over I was allowed on stage. Everyone looked at me. I had no idea what I wanted to say. All the experiences of the past seven months shot through my mind. As a last resort, I just asked the audience, “What do you want to know?”
It worked, indeed a somewhat clumsy conversation started between me and the audience. It didn’t take long before enthusiastic reactions started flying around the room. This was completely ok, I thought, I was bumbling away and could be authentically myself in that. I found meaning in the struggle and that meaning came across to the audience.
With this sense of acceptance I slowly woke up. The fan rotated in uneven circles diagonally above me. The air conditioning was turned off and it slowly started to warm up. I was on the first floor of a bunk bed and three other people slept with me in a small room. This was at the Sunset Hostel in La Paz. My reality was completely gone for a while in that dreamy space on stage and it was now, early in the morning, gently dawning again through the feeling of acceptance. My phone stopped working and I had been busy all day trying to get it fixed. Without any luck, just like I had reached my limits, the smartphone had also come to the end of a long breath. I hadn’t really prepared for this scenario and I couldn’t access many of my online accounts anymore. I was hoping this situation would get better soon.
A few days ago I cycled the crossover from the western part of Baja California to the eastern part bordering the Pacific Ocean. I followed the paved road that winds from west to east after San Felipe and back again to the west. These were days with temperatures reaching well over 35°C. I was in a steady pace until Loreto. I had changed some tires in San Felipe and punctures were finally a thing of the past. With the exception of when I camped among the goatheads, those little balls of barbs, which could be found in many places in the sand.
Time was running out and with good courage I decided to cycle the last 350 kilometers from Loreto to La Paz in just four days. Arriving in La Paz I could catch my breath before taking the ferry to the other side of the water, to Mazatlán in Sinaloa.
Unsuspecting that there was a lot waiting for me in an unpredictable program of difficulties layed out ahead. I left in the morning to cycle a tough mountain pass. I was 25 kilometers on the way when it went wrong. I had been cycling for months with a chain that was just a little too short to fit on the largest sprockets. Until now that worked perfectly well. I put the bike in a heavy gear with a small bit of descent just before a long climb. I forgot to put the chain on a lower sprocket at the front and the chain got stuck in the rear shift. It was immediately the end of the derailleur that could not handle the tension of the chain. I looked at the hopeless situation and realized that this was the beginning of an interesting day. I had no choice but to replace the derailleur and for this I had to either go back to Loreto or further to the town of Ciudad Constitución.
In a parking lot ahead I decided go for a hitchhike. That went on for an hour without anyone stopping to allow me to join for a ride. I started to worry about the situation. In that worry I shorten my chain to continue cycling on a single gear. This worked for a while, but every time after a kilometer or so, I had to put the chain back in its place. I decided to walk and try to stop passing cars.
A large SUV pulled up and an older but very friendly man got out, it was Tony from the United States. He was on his way to Marina Puerto Escondido and took me to the marina mechanic Laui, who could further help me out.
Marina Puerto Escondido is a closely guarded harbor with luxury pleasure yachts. The people from security regularly came to ask if I could prove that I had a boat here. I had to brag many times that my friend Tony got a boat here.
Laui looked at my situation, called some people and came with the news that someone from Loreto could bring a new derailleur. We spoke in Spanish and I used my phone to boost my limited vocabulary. The bike store in Loreto only had an afternoon closure and reopened at the end of the afternoon. A long wait for me but what could I do. At one point I saw Laui call the person in question and heard on his voice that something wasn’t right.
No one showed up that day.
Finally Laui finished his working day and I was able to ride with him with my bike in his trunk.
I didn’t ask how the delivery service was stranded because I simply had little energy left. I was tired of all the struggle and waiting. Arriving in Loreto I was dropped off at a bike shop called Bicitaller Manny. Fortunately, they had the right derailleur in the shop and so I was able to repair my beloved Surly bicycle.
“That’s quite an operation!”
I heard behind me in English while adjusting the gears.
An enthusiastic lady got out of a white jeep with a license plate from Oregon in the US. It was Jennifer who called herself Juanita. We got talking and she sweetly said that she would go to La Paz the day after tomorrow. I was invited to join the ride if this whole operation didn’t work out.
I hadn’t given up on the idea of cycling to La Paz yet but the next day my phone stopped working. I slept at a campground in downtown Loreto and met a very sweet Kimberly from Colorado who was traveling in her RV. She brought me breakfast at my tent in the morning, which I found incredible as I was just a stranger to her. That day I had to finish the operation and while doing that I also found out that my rear axle was broken inside.
This was the threshold for me. I was able to cycle again but without a phone and with a chance that I would end up stranded again, I finally made the decision to travel with Juanita the next day. I felt a great wave of calmness come over me when that happened. It was as something fell off my back. I was done with the heat, the struggle and in the idea of taking some days rest I finally found some relief. That evening Kimberly and I went into the sea, enjoying the cool water and that helped me to furthermore let go of everything. I would take the time to calmly put everything in order and no longer had to worry that I had to fix or finish something right now.
The only thing left for me to do was to arrive in Mexico City on time to pick up Lisa from the airport. That was on July 1 and I still had about five days to get there.
I hitchhiked with Juanita the next day and ended up in the Sunset Hostel in La Paz. Without a phone I went old-fashioned to an internet cafe I contacted Lisa. It was a struggle because I couldn’t access my online accounts and all my passwords were stored in my Apple account. I couldn’t verify my identity anymore with a device registered on the account and my registered Dutch phone number didn’t work anymore. To recover the account Apple takes about a week to verify my identity based on activity and location.
On the bike I learned to solve problems when they occur in order not to live in constant fear of things that might happen. But in this situation I might have written down some information or prepare myself a little more for this to happen.
Anyway, I was arranging things as good as I could when I suddenly realized that I should also pay some attention to the upcoming boat trip from La Paz to Mazatlán. I dug into the departure times and found out the boat was leaving in three hours or three days. I couldn’t leave in three days to get to Lisa in time so I immediately went into action mode. Quickly walked to the hostel, grabbed my bike and all the bags and drove the 15 kilometers to the boat departure station called Pichilingue.
I was just in time.
The boat left early in the evening to arrive the next morning. I blocked out the loud noise of the movie Top Gun played with some earplugs and slept a wonderful night on my air mattress somewhere hidden in a corner.
I woke up the next day with the coastal beauty of the city Mazatlán.
With this arrival I finally made it to the end point of the solo part in this journey. La Paz in Baja California Sur was the end of the road and Mazatlán in Sinaloa a kind of endstation. If I ever would continue to Patagonia, this will be the place I’ll have to go back to and cycle from.
Right now, I’ve met up with Lisa and we’ll go for a two months journey together in Mexico and who knows where. I can’t wait for that to happen and share the adventures with the best person in my life.
I still need to process this unbelievable rollercoaster ride and sure time will let all the experiences sink in. I’m very happy and thankfull that although the extreme circumstances I stayed unharmed during this incredible months adventuring.
This has been the journey from Alaska to Mexico:
- 187 days, since my departure at Coldfoot Camp, 20 December 2022 in Alaska;
- A 9027 kilometer ride;
- With a random number of at least 64 flat tires;
- Had to replace a rear wheel twice, also the chain, sprockets, derailleur, two times tires and a photocamera as well as a smartphone;
- At the coldest -42°C in Yukon River Camp, Alaska;
- At the warmest 39°C in Santa Lucia, Baja California Sur;
- The shortest day has been 3.5 hours at the start on the Arctic Circle Point on the Dalton Highway, Alaska.
Thank you for all the support and enthusiasm around this wonderful journey. I really couldn’t do this without the hospitality and kindness of so many helpful and beautiful souls.
Please join me soon for another two months from Mexico-City in direction south and together with Lisa in a more enjoyable pace, off course.