The end !

We are pleased to present to you a video of the last moments of our journey in Central America! From Acapulco where we embarked in mid-January for 3 weeks sailing through Costa Rica, our reunion with Betty and the discovery of the natural beauties of the country, to Panama by bicycle, we were far from imagining the final pursuit towards lock down in Europe!

Immediate boarding for this thirteenth and final Cycloclock video ?

Last travel until lock down

13 of March 2020,
This is it, we are going back to France in a week, we are happy to imagine a future there. Emotions mix between the apprehension of the return, the joy and the desire to see our families and friends again. The question of our personal and professional projects arises immediately after our return. All these thoughts came back a thousand times in our minds when we were pedaling long hours in these green landscapes. But first we take advantage of our last moments of happiness, camping by the beach of Santa Catalina.

13 of March 2020, Santa Catalina (Panama)

Except that… all this plan is deconstructed little by little and the dream of returning becomes complicated. The health crisis of the Orient is spreading, the more the days pass in Panama the more the vice tightens. The wave first arrives in Europe through Italy, Spain, France and then gradually over the countries of the American continent.

On March 14, 2020, we are 4 days far by bicycle from Panama City. The new measures in France are increasing according to the information we listen to in radio podcast. The concern rises and the casualness of the French also apparently …
Panama closed its borders to European flights on March 14 at midnight, but we didn’t know until later. Still no flight cancellation emails.

On March 15, it was rumored that President Macron was going to give a speech and announce lock down. It all happens so quickly and so slowly as if time was stretching. We are not surprised or panicked, either thanks to a kind of calm that we would have acquired during this trip, or as if, unconsciously, we already suspected what was going to happen.

On March 16 at dawn, the ball in the belly, not knowing exactly what is happening, we decide to leave as quickly as possible for Panama City in a bus, then another, then by taxi to the airport, mechanically loading our bikes in the little space available in each transport.

20 of March 2020 in Panama City (Panama)

We are for the 13th time, in one year, in an unknown country. But there, it’s a little different. We may have to stay longer if border closings are confirmed and multiplied. The climate in Panama is changing, it is not very favorable for Europeans in these times. Indeed, the media inform the countries of America that the wave of coronavirus is moving and is now raging in Europe.

Arrived at the airport, the company’s offices are closed. All their flights are canceled, including ours for March 23. Still no cancellation email in our mailboxes … We can contact them by email precisely to ask them for a compensation solution. They answer us after 24 hours that we have the possibility of a “re-routing” by La Havana, which we will have to pay from our pocket. With bicycles, there will be additional costs.

Our faithful beloved bicycles become a bit cumbersome. The material detachment will not prevail this time, and we will bring them back home.
We decide to give ourselves some time tothink and to contact the embassy. This one informs us that no repatriation is planned for the moment and that we must favor the commercial solutions offered. It will be the same until the end of the repatriation crisis for French nationals abroad: no flights will be created. Only commercial flights will be made available … therefore only for people who can afford its.

Choice is ours…or not !

In Panama, fortunately, we are staying in an inexpensive hotel not far from the airport. To get there we had to go by expressways with, as before each trip by plane + bicycles, large boxes of packaging on the luggage rack. At least we have almost everything necessary to pack the bikes and set sail for Europe as soon as possible. We are therefore safe with all our things to store and sort, and wifi access to stay informed.

After 1 and a half days of reflection and research of all existing flights to France, we decide to accept the offer of “re-routing” from the company. The company’s offices in downtown Panama are open, and we have to go there to change the flight. We are therefore offered a flight on March 21 from La Havana to Madrid and then on March 22 from Madrid to Brussels, the connections for Paris being full. We take the opportunity.

We now have to buy a flight from Panama to La Havana with our special luggage, the bicycles. After two hours of waiting in the company offices, we finally have all the necessary information (price, flights, baggage dimensions, special baggage prices).
The cost of tickets is 10% higher at the counter, we will buy its online.
Tickets in our pocket, we return to the hotel to wait before our departure and pack the luggage. Direction Cuba.

Masked ball in Cuba!

From there, questions in our heads multiply.
Where are we going to land? Madrid as originally? We should thus arrive there and then go back to France by bicycles except that there, we risk a quarantine as soon as we arrive at Barajas airport… Supported by whom? Under what conditions

A last minute modification on the reservation seems welcome to us: the flight to Brussels is canceled but we are put back on a flight to Paris.
Impossible to understand … It was complete some days before. Determined to return home, despite the uncertainties, we pack the bicycles in large patched boxes and prepare the luggage.
Unfortunately, the events did not go as planned. Arrived in Havana, the reservation of our two flights to Paris was canceled by the company.
At the very least we will arrive in Madrid, once we reach Europe we may return by land perhaps (train, bicycle if it is still possible). So we fly to Madrid, a little reassured to reach Europe.

Arrival in Madrid: the airport is almost empty. Few travelers are in transit, and most are in uncertain transit. The country’s means of transport are slowing down, Spain is already badly affected by the virus. So there is no train running to the Franco-Spanish border. All car rental agencies are closed. We wonder how we are going to be able to get in France… Cycling becomes a very tempting solution. It would allow us to avoid contact with anyone and to return without having to pay yet more train tickets, taxis, or extra luggage.
But we learn that it is forbidden in France to travel by bicycle except forprofessional trip or to do shopping.

Flights to France are offered by two companies, the first with high prices and the second much more accessible but on the waiting list.
We try to hit the waiting list, since everyone is confined, a lot of people will probably not show up, we were told.
So we buy the next flight to Lyon the next day. And let’s go buy some food outside the airport, inside we can only find sandwiches at 10 €. We picnic, we phone and we sit warm in sleeping bags for a little night on this top comfort airport tiling!

Madrid Airport, 24h waiting…

Woken up at 6am by a security agent who tells us that it is not possible to sleep in the airport, we will have to sit still 10h to wait for our flight.

The day goes by and our flight is getting closer, standing up, we fix the bulletin board
during the last hour before the flight. People are gathering outside the door, everyone seems to be on the waiting list. We call names to allocate places, phew we are called. Then another 30 minutes later, we finally embark.

At this moment, we are on a small cloud, relieved to return where we will have a refuge. An hour and a half flight later, we are at Lyon airport, empty, the bicycles come out last, we are patient.

Lyon Saint Exupéry airport, now not so far from home!

Then we head to the Rhône Express to return to the city center and our quarantine mark.
Last stop Gare de Lyon Part Dieu, we find a known setting surrounded
by an unknown context: lock down.

There are only 1.5 km to reach our friends place with two pieces of luggage of 17 and 18 kg and two boxes of bikes of 18 and 20 kg. It will be the longest kilometer of the whole trip, despite the nice surprise of the applause at 8pm…

We arrive tired but very happy to see our friends again, who “decontaminate” us outside their door and push us into the shower with a broom (or almost)!

Thanks to them for their confidence, their good humor, and their serenity in this
lock down. Thanks to the “informers” who sent us live information from France about the development of the situation.

Have a good end of lock down, and take the opportunity to review our articles or videos for those who missed its!

Behind the scenes

This article is not intended to criticize lifestyles, consumption, or organizations of the countries mentioned. It is only an observation analyzed through the prism of our eyes, documented or not.

  • Waste

It is not a scoop but we wanted to start anyway with this topic: we observed astronomical quantities of plastic waste thrown in the wilderness throughout the trip. They are concentrated on the outskirts of cities, whatever their size, but also on busy roads where motorists are clearly responsible.

  • Indonésie, 20 Mai 2019
  • Indonésie, 31 Mai 2019
  • Indonésie, 4 Juin 2019
  • Malaisie, 25 Juin 2019
  • Thaïlande, 16 Juillet 2019
  • Cambodge, 10 Août 2019
  • Cambodge, 11 Août 2019
  • Vietnam, 25 Septembre 2019
  • Vietnam, 27 Septembre 2019
  • Mexique, 6 Janvier 2020

The aquatic environments are also affected, first the rivers (Chao Praya river in Bangkok for example), but also the sea coasts (Java Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Nicoya …). Insomuch that it is not uncommon to see suffocating fish or poisoned birds on the beaches. The country that seemed to us to be the least affected by wild discards is Japan. Yet the supermarket and market stalls in Honshu are full of plastic, each fruit or treat is wrapped separately. Raising awareness of waste therefore seems to be effective (in Kyoto, for example, the yellow bag of cardboard waste should be purchased and is only supplied in limited quantities), but we cannot be satisfied about the excessive use of packaging. As an example, there are still distributors of aluminium and plastic canned drinks all over the country.

  • Japon, 8 Octobre 2019
  • Vietnam, 12 Septembre 2019
  • Thaïlande, 22 Juillet 2019

The problem is complex and unfortunately seems far from disappearing because no collection is set up, or very little. The plastic arrived too quickly in the daily life of the locals and nobody is able to contain it, even around their own house. Only the national parks are relatively spared but it is the tree which hides the forest: the tourist attendance should not be the only argument to set up collections and the visitor is often also an important emitter, particularly on the islands which concentrate mass tourism (Bali, Perhentian, Koh Phangan, etc.).
At the end of the chain, the most impacted are the residents themselves who, by way of default, burn plastics directly in the open air and breathe the associated vapors. Wild or legal landfills grow like mushrooms and concentrate odors, vultures, stray dogs, etc

  • Infrastructure and transport

Let’s continue with what we have been most confronted with in our daily cyclo-travelers: roads.
We observed numerous areas of road renovation works but also on several rivers, dams in construction and in the mountains gigantic installations to create trains railways or highways (in Laos, Vietnam, Mexico and Panama).

At first glance, these huge projects are impressive, with their proportions, their speed of execution and their ambition. On the flip side, they imply incessant passage of trucks, perpetual dangers for the cyclist, relocations of local populations and areas where the air quality is largely degraded (dust or asphalt vapors …). In terms of funding, the roads generally seem to be renovated by the States themselves but also subsidized by “allied” countries which bring in their own labor and set up workers camps along the construction sites. The foreign “owner” then seems to take over the operation, which poses questions of interference and energy autonomy …
In any case, it is a mechanism widely used by China in the countries of South East Asia and Panama. Japan, the United States or the EU also finance smaller works (bridges or buildings), in Cambodia for example where each temple of Angkor has its own international sponsor.

  • Mexique, 14 Novembre 2019
  • Mexique, 14 Novembre 2019
  • Californie, 31 Octobre 2019
  • Laos, 2 Septembre 2019
  • Laos, 30 Août 2019

In term of traffic, as we have already specified in various articles, motorized two-wheeled vehicles are kings in Asia which certainly represents a precious freedom of movement and a decongestion compared to cars but a real nuisance and a kind of anarchy (which nevertheless works) in comparison with the relative calm of European bikes and cycle paths. We regret of course that bicycles are so neglected in the major cities visited, we even wonder if its will not have completely disappeared in 20 years 🙁

In North America, Central America and the most “advanced” emerging Asian countries (Thailand and Vietnam), we can regret a significant presence of SUVs and Pick-ups. Excessive speed, high fuel consumption and air pollution are all direct impacts of the latter, which are ultimately rarely used for their designed function (difficult terrain or specific loading). Same thing in the USA and Mexico. Once again, Japan is an exception with narrower vehicles, adapted to their uses (city cars, small vans, etc.) and a real courtesy behind the wheel.

  • Natural ressources

Large-scale agro-food production, mainly for export, is growing in the countries we have traveled and is creating pollution.

The most striking example is banana crop. The plantations are very numerous in southern Costa Rica and northern Panama, they consist of banana trees arranged in rows, crossed by a harvest train leading to the packaging plant. We had the opportunity to pass through cities of workers grouping together, around fifty identical cubic houses positioned not far from the factory. Then huge trucks take care of transporting everything to ports (without failing to brush us), to destination of Europe or USA.

  • Costa Rica, 3 Mars 2020
  • Costa Rica, 16 Février 2020
  • Salvador, 26 Janvier 2020
  • Malaisie, 2 Juillet 2019

In addition to the obvious monoculture that such banana areas represent, the plantations are flown over once a week on average by chemical sprayers. Roads crossing the plantations are therefore not recommended for residents. However, this path is sometimes the only link to the main road, it remains taken whatever happens in the blue sky above the banana trees. Not to mention the irrigation canals, which are then directly polluted and flow into a waterway very popular with families and children to cool off

Furthermore, the intensive plantations that we have observed most in Asia are those of oil palm trees, rubber (Indonesia, Malaysia and Costa Rica) and sugar cane. Burning is widely used although often prohibited in several regions. Rice of course, also occupies large areas but seems (apparently), better managed and less damaging to ecosystems. Finally, we met many trawlers off Central America, we can doubt that the fishery resource is managed properly

  • Social conditions

In several regions visited, we learned of very difficult and low-paid working conditions: for example the collection and transport of sulfur in the Ijen volcano in Indonesia, the rice harvests in Laos and Cambodia, the work in silver mines in Mexico for around 200$ per month, etc.

Positive point, the child labor seems mainly prohibited and controlled, we have in any case noted several public inscriptions going in this direction in agricultural zones, with the exception of the short periods of harvest and sowing of rice which occupy the entirety of family. The industrial sectors are probably more affected by the ethical and health problem raised by the work of minors

  • Indonésie, 8 Mai 2019
  • Cambodge, 11 Août 2019
  • Laos, 13 Août 2019
  • Mexique, 13 Décembre 2019
  • Mexique, 17 Décembre 2019
  • Mexique, 8 Janvier 2020
  • Societies

As we mentioned in the article “Borders lines”, corruption still exists at some border posts. That being said, its (visible) proportion is quite low and we have not identified other abnormal situations in our daily lives of travelers, although we were aware of the problem (in Mexico for example, unjustified and monetary offenses are practiced by local police).

In terms of social climate, in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico, we attended demonstrations for more social justice and the replacement of families. The situation nevertheless seems calmer than 15 years ago, with the “Oaxaca Revolt”

Regarding living standards, we are surprised by the rather limited amount of begging in countries reputed to be “poor” (Cambodia, Laos for example). Nowhere have we seen a level of poverty similar to what can be noted, for example, in New Delhi, India. One explanation could be that there are enough natural resources to avoid dramatic situations of food insecurity and “limited” population growth compared to the Indian or Chinese giants. Solidarity also seems to work, as we have seen in Mexico as Christmas approaches.

  • Singapour, 2 Mai 2019
  • Californie, 27 Octobre 2019
  • Panama, 18 Mars 2020

Inequalities are nonetheless real, visible and wealth is clustered in cities with rampant urbanization: Singapore, Bangkok, Panama City … while rural areas remain very atypical and unspoiled (northeast of Laos, mountainous region of Panama). In cities, street vendors, precarious, are numerous and their activity is probably endangered by the capitalist brands and their acculturation (mini-supermarket 7 eleven, KFC, Mc Donalds, …). As a cause for hope, the markets are still very crowded.
Paradoxically, it was in California that we noticed the greatest quantity of homeless people (hobos).

  • Mass tourism and impacts

In our opinion, most of the ecological, social and economic dysfunctions mentioned earlier in this article are exacerbated by mass tourism or even, directly generated by it.

  • Indonésie, 29 Mai 2019
  • Cambodge, 5 Août 2019
  • Mexique, 2 Novembre 2019
  • Mexique, 25 Décembre 2019
  • Mexique, 5 Février 2020

It is in any case certain that the strong dependence of certain countries of South East Asia (in Thailand, in Siem Reap in Cambodia, in Cat Ba in Vietnam …) and of Costa Rica to tourism is dangerous: in the short term , the economic gains are indubitable and a significant part of the population has gained in standard of living by domino effect but in the medium term, the impacts on the ecosystems are likely to worsen (for example, we can cite the golf clubs in Baja California which are a total ecological aberration by the misuse of the water resource)

If, moreover, for various reasons attendance decreases, following the COVID-19 crisis for example, one can fear heavy economic losses and therefore human disasters where tour operators will desert. When we know that these countries have partly abandoned some agriculture knowledge in favor of more profitable tourism (coffee and cocoa for example), they may have to diversify their activities again to survive.

Merci !

It’s now time to publish this message from France for all of you that made this adventure unforgettable 🙂

In chronological order, our thanks are sent to:

Johanna, Xavier and their children who gave us a perfect and benevolent springboard to start our cycling trip in Singapore

Bob for the first coconut water of the trip

Abdul for his humble greeting and our philosophical discussions

Kim for his cycling and cultural advices about Thailand

Boon for his great awareness of the environment, his warm welcome in Bangkok and the nice immersion in Thai culture

Olivier, Darin, Sovan and Haroun who opened their doors to utopia made in Cambodia

Émily and Liam for their unfailing enthusiasm during volunteering and their american/british wittiness

Petra who welcomed us without hesitation and showed us the way on the winding banks of the Mekong

Yann and Brieke for their wisdom, their positive energy, and their advices about bicycles mechanics

Rocco for his kind hospitality in the beautiful city of Louang Prabang

Sabine for her little dreamed boat perched around Ninh Binh and Quin for her delicious cuisine

Caro and Vianney for the Vietnamese meeting and the shared bicycle and pagoda trips

Bich, super mom, for her humble welcome and her availability in the whirlwind of everyday life in Hanoi

Ryugo for the nice moments of cyclist complicity and his precious logistical help in the heart of Kyoto

Jaqueline and Robert for the lovely stop at the edge of Lake Biwa and their secret cycle paths

Drew for his vigorous pedaling and his company in the Japanese passes

Rich and Joan for the very pleasant evening and their great humor

Kazu for his strictness, his kindness and his passion for land and culture of Japan

Takeshîge and Yoshiko for their kindness during our unusual meeting at the onsen, which led us to a beautiful sushi evening

Stephen and his companion for their patience despite our road mistake following gps and their wonderful autumn meal

Yuji and Aya for their ideal overnight stay after a stormy day, their tastes of cycling adventure, and their advice on the packaging of our bikes

Ken and Kenny for their haven of peace in the heart of Los Angeles, the good shared meals and their cycling tips

Steve and Erin for the nice meal and unforgettable dessert

Nicole for her energy in the defense of cycling rights and the beautiful Halloween evening

Judd and Victoria who simply offered us a corner of their superb urban garden

Victoria and the little family for the nice week spent in Rosarito, the thousand and one projects started and the real maple syrup pancakes

Andres and his brother for their patience in Spanish and their indigenous stories

Lizette and Astrid for the hosting on the heights of Ensenada and advices on the unmissable places in Baja

Barry and Pam who offered us an immersion in their community and invited to a frenzied Peg & Joker tournament

Nemo at Cowpatty for the improvised campground and our first coyote songs, well sheltered in his backpacker’s bar

Amélie for her good Quebec sense of humor and her shared admiration of desert landscapes

David and Margie for their Californian inspiration, their advices and their determination in all the magical projects they lead from one end of America to the other

Jesus of San Ignacio for his unexpected invitation and nice talks

Jesus for his spontaneity and his confidence, from hitchhiking to the camping at the corner of his garden

Tully for her multi-cyclists welcoming house

Robert for the beginnings of the adventure in the Sea of ​​Cortes, his confidence in our sea legs and the promise kept (even under the winds of the Papagayo!) to sail together until Costa Rica

The Cruz Pedraza family, Irving, Joanna and Maricella for the Mexican reunion, the cultural discoveries and the beautiful moments shared during Christmas celebrations

Ken and Erin for their hospitality, first stopover in Yucatan in their superb house, and the moussaka made of local market ingredients

Ursula for her impressive openness and the Franco-Austro-Mexican evenings shared in Tulum

Axel and Élise for their artistic spirit, their commitments and Mahahual’s memorable New Years Eve

Sol for her strength, her oaxaqueña poetry and her benevolent smiles

Chris and her family for their natural kindness

Eduardo for the delicious meal and shared dreams

Pablo and Erwin for the nice chat and the cycling escort on the slopes of the San José del Pacifico pass

Romain, Cristina and Sarah for the Savoyard reunion, their precious welcoming and their expert advices on natural wonders from Ticos land

Betty who not only recovered her bag but also her twin sister, shared beautiful moments of adventure from one end to the other of Costa Rica and whose enthusiasm never faltered even during watches of well camouflaged sloths

Sonia and Rafa for the delicious homemade chocolates, the nice discussions, the frendly card games and all the things learned by their side in the heart of nature as well as Nelson who helped us a lot during this volunteering

Charlie for his humble welcome before climbing to our last pass

Rolf for his advices in Las Lajas and the aloe vera offered to our burned skins

Thanks to all of you for making this trip possible, your welcoming, your advice, and your encouragement at all times. We are very grateful to you and very happy to have met you on our way.

Thanks to Gianito for the technical advice who allowed us to find the perfect bicycle for touring, which has crossed mountains and tides.

Thanks to Raph for giving us the first keys and solutions to create this website.

Thanks to Charles who brilliantly illustrated some beautiful moments of the trip.

Finally, thanks to all our french relatives and friends for the moral support during our slightly hasty return to Europe due to lock-down, the last challenge of our trip and undoubtedly the most unpredictable. Particularly Max and Alina who warmly welcomed us and shared two nice weeks of lock-down in Villeurbanne.

Our footprint

Here we are, our 11 months of cycling adventures on the roads and paths of South East Asia, Japan and Central America are ending! Through this website or on other occasions, we will find a thousand and one ways to tell, tell and remember the beauties, the galleys, the cultural specificities of each country and especially our adventures on two wheels.

Guest what, we cycled anyway 🙂

In this article, we would rather present to you the (partial) carbon footprint of our trip, that is to say our CO2 emissions linked to transport generated by this last year of travel. Even if we have always taken care to leave each place visited intact and free of all kinds of pollution, we still moved around a lot, from one continent to another. And the atmosphere, unfortunately, will store our emitted molecules for a while. They will stagnate all up there, reflect, warm and upset our world so much…

Our CO2 emissions – April>December 2019*
Our CO2 emissions – January>March 2020*

400 kgCO2eq, from our references *, is the quantity of carbon dixoxide that we “may” or rather “must” emit at most per month by 2030 to limit global warming to 2 ° C. In total over 11 months, in transport, we each emitted 533 kgCO2 per month… 33% too much 🙁

No need to investigate so much, long distance flights are definitely responsible !

  • Berlin > Singapore = 1540 kg
  • Hanoï > Tokyo = 600 kg
  • Tokyo > Los Angeles = 1360 kg
  • Panama > Madrid (via La Habana) = 1450 kg

In total, it represents 85% of our emissions…

Flight above Cuba

Thus, we will accept all your critics and it will be very difficult for us to convince you about the legitimacy of this carbon emitted. We therefore now have to save much more our use of polluting energies for the years to come …. As for voluntary compensation, this is a gesture we are thinking about but which is a little expensive for us by now (after 1 year of travel) and which also has its faults and detractors. **

However, we managed to travel without borrowing any personal car or internal flight, and the graphics are pretty clear on the “air freshness” achieved by using bike and multimodal journeys!

Our bikes on a japanese ferry
Mangrove crossing with bicycles in Mexico

From May to September 2019 for example, from Singapore to Hanoi, we took only 3 trains and a couple of buses.
Result: 120 kg emitted only in 5 months 🙂 By bike + bus + train, our journey of almost 5000km emitted as much as a journey from Bordeaux to Grenoble in a private car.

Another small satisfaction, our crossing by sailboat from Acapulco to Costa Rica will have emitted about 170 kg. The same trip for two by plane would have “cost” triple.

Milagro, a good alternative to plane 🙂

We have not estimated a full carbon assessment including food and energy but we think that we have traveled “light” on these 2 contributors: few meat, cereals, fruits, local vegetables and a fairly rare use air conditioning, having our own tent or favoring fans if necessary (not to mention non-existent heating and domestic hot water not very available in tropical countries …).

Beyond the figures, we have the feeling of having succeeded in adopting a few simple gestures (small stocks of basic food in the panniers and water to avoid compulsive consumption), in not degrading the air quality of the regions crossings (often already in bad shape) and to bring our level of comfort back to basics.

Sobriety and traveling by bike can therefore both be a good daily routine but remain contradictory during international air transfers.

*App “North – Your climate journey” is available and free on Google Play. Authors sources are detailed in this article :–2-tons

** About this topic, we suggest this french podcast:

On the roads of Talamanca’s cordillera

Last section of our trip to Central America, we leave on February 26 from Curridabat in Costa Rica. We reach in 2 days the banana plantations of Zent where we spend 1 week on a voluntary basis.

We set out again on March 6 towards the border of Sixaloa which goes smoothly under a lead heat. The road is cluttered but full of dangerous trucks near Almirante. Then it climbs it climbs in pouring rain to Hornito Lake and its massive dam! An amazing hostel “Lost & Found” offers us a nice mountain hiking stopover. We then go down the slope to the TransAmerica road that we take (luckily, there is a side shoulder protected from trucks) to Las Lajas. A relaxed German accommodates us for 2 days, enough time to see the beautiful deserted beach, then we finally reach Santa Catalina on March 14!

Last moments of calm and sunshine, we camp on an islet accessible according to the tides and reluctantly abandon the project of a last dive in the Coiba national park due to its closure linked to COVID19 .. .

Quickly, we leave and urgently reach Panama City by bus which will be our way out to Europe and containment. It was too short and incomplete but this short route along the Talamanca mountain range will have delighted us!


(French version)

Drawings made by Charles

Pour sûr nous n’étions pas des marins aguerris, juste des voyageurs un peu barges tentés par le large. D’Acapulco au Mexique à Playa Los Cocos au Costa Rica, nous aurons navigué plus de 2000km et vécu 20 jours en compagnie de cap’tain Bob sur le vaisseau Milagro.

Sous ses deux mâts en bois qui lui prêtaient des airs de voilier de collection à la “Rackham le Rouge”, nous parcourions chaque jour son plancher de tek brut, entouré de rambardes d’acajou vernies, orné de winchs et passages de cordes en bronze massif, de 2 panneaux solaires et d’une petite éolienne en appoints.

Fidèles compagnons depuis 9 mois, des confins asiatiques de Singapour à Hanoi, les bicyclettes ne furent sûrement pas mécontentes de ce repos mérité. Nous croisions tout de même les doigts pour que la corrosion les épargne.

Au quotidien, nous assurions tour à tour nos quarts sous un large soleil, les yeux jonglant entre le large hypnotique, le ciel étoilé des traversées nocturnes et le gps de bord rassurant par son modernisme. Nous fîmes le maximum pour arriver à bon port en temps voulu, en assistant le capitaine dans ses manipulations de voile, principalement pour dresser, border ou choquer le fidèle working jib au près et/ou la grand voile et sa baume en vent de côté. Quand ce n’était pas une ancre à jeter puis remonter tant bien que mal, des cordes à arrimer à quais, des fenders à ajuster ou des voiles à couvrir.

Les impondérables, aussi, ne manquèrent pas : une patte d’alternateur fendue, un “générateur d’eau potable” capricieux, un génois déchiré sur 50cm après s’être coincé dans un éclairage, une baume avant fracturée, un rotor d’éolienne serré…

Nous plaisantions aussi parfois avec cap’tain Bob sur nos tocs de frenchies, son snobisme pour le café ou son aversion pour Trump et ne nous lassions pas de nos podcasts radiophonique dans les instants de solitude à la barre*.

Les premiers jours, au large du Mexique, du Guatemala puis du Salvador , nous assurions une modeste vitesse moyenne de 5 noeuds sur des mers plutôt calmes, aidés d’un bon vieux diesel 50Hp pétaradant. 5 noeuds, 9km/h, cette fois nous expérimentions réellement une lenteur presque inconnue, même à vélo ! Comme une ellipse spatiale et temporelle, nous trouvions ainsi le temps de repenser à nos folles vadrouilles à bicyclette, aux pays si variés que l’on avait eu l’infinie chance de traverser ces derniers mois, aux rencontres sur la route, aux amis et à la famille que l’on avait hâte de revoir.

La seconde semaine, portés par 4 voiles variablement utilisées et combinées (le mizzen, la grand voile, le working jib et le genois), nous connaissions de beaux épisodes de vent au large du Honduras et du Nicaragua où le bateau se cambrait puis adoptait cet angle caractéristique d’un “good sailing”.

L’aventure fut belle, dépaysante et très différente de notre quotidien de cyclo-voyageurs : alors que nos cuisses étaient d’ordinaire notre principale préoccupation corporelle, nous concentrions plutôt nos efforts sur le regard, la posture du dos en tenant la barre, ainsi que quelques gestes vifs de cordes. Une autre forme d’endurance.

Et puis l’océan, que l’on apprivoisait dans toute son immensité, sa surface toujours variable, ses vents tournants, son horizon décoré par le balais des astres ou des bateaux de pêche, sa profondeur et ses mystères.

Arrivés à bon port, nous connaissions une dernière frayeur en heurtant un rocher non-identifié sur le gps de bord. Rien de grave, le ballast était solide et notre vitesse lente. Le récif aussi restait indemne.

*On vous recommande ce reportage émouvant sur la rencontre de l’univers de la voile avec le monde carcéral :

Soundscapes of Costa Rica

In between all exotic sounds encountered in Costa Rica, birds have a special place. Often invisible to the naked eye but no less talkative, we offer here two of their songs captured in the Arenal national park and on the heights of Turrialba. In the second part, a cloud of locusts occupies the whole sound universe, captured on the way to the Nayauca waterfall.

Birds songs of Costa Rica

As a human atmospheres, here is a glimpse of a day spent in the streets of San José (we hear a marimba, an instrument native to Central America), the Zapote feria then the nocturnal sounds of the Place du village of Tarcoles, last step of our backpacking journey with Betty, Cléa’s sister. Finally, you will recognize the atmosphere of training for women’s football, a sport very popular in Costa Rica!

A typical day from San José to Tarcoles

Finally we bring you not far from Limón on the Caribbean coast, where a large Creole population is concentrated. As you hear on a bus in the preamble, the Spanish accent is very different from the rest of the country or even mixed with other dialects and English. Another aspect of local life, the crowded evangelical church is a real musical show!

Caribbean atmospheres around Limon

Pura vida… of cyclist !

While strolling through the streets of the Costa Rican capital this weekend, we witnessed a great stroll by bike riders!

3 years after the tragedy, they paraded in memory of the 4 cyclists killed by a driver on a thoroughfare in San José. Due to the lack of a cycle path, the 4 men were on the main road and were cut down while they were driving properly, an ordinary Sunday outing. The alcoholic motorist then fled and has only been given 7 years of house arrest.

A good reminder for us French touring cyclists: we must continue to fight for cycling rights and motorists’ duties. A good proof is the barometer of cycling cities recently unveiled by the Federation of Bicycle Users, only a handful of cities reach a score above average …

Starting with our old city of heart, Lyon, where efforts remain to be made to improve infrastructures!

On the road of Costa Rica, with reflective jacket of Grand Lyon 🙂

On the shore !

We just arrived safely in Costa Rica, after 18 days really intense on the sea. We are very very happy to have accomplished this challenge 🙂

Just landed in Playa del Cocos

Pending a more complete telling of this adventure in a future article, we share with you the text of our captain, Robert, about the most difficult part of this navigation: the Papagayo!

“We planned our passage to Costa Rica using the papagayos which were predicted to be in the 20 to 25 knot range from the NE which would yield a close reach through Nicaragua following the shore then a broad reach to Punta Santa Elena in Costa Rica. In the afternoon of the second day the winds began but dead on the nose so we tacked out using the working jib on the club foot and main which gave us 25 degrees into the wind but resuming our heading we began to miss Punta Elana slightly. During the night the main had be dropped as the papa’s kicked in. During the morning the next day a wave broke on the deck blasting the working jib tearing the clew track right off the club. Resetting the working jib on the jib track we lost almost 10 degrees of heading missing Punta Elena by a lot sending us out to sea. Two days earlier we were told of a couple who got caught by the papas and were blasted out 300 miles. The wind continued to build to 30 knot range and we were still beating into the wind and intense waves losing more and more degrees off the mark. Around mid morning I took the helm for the next 8 hours scraping every fraction of a degree to gain back our losses tracking every maunucia in the jib telltales running engine to prevent losses when the jib luffed. It was a suffer fest of blasting water in your face as the waves built higher but then a new texture appeared on the water off in the distance as it hit 40 knots of horizontal mist flattening the wind waves. The boat surged in the waves and real gains in degrees began to accumulate and we hit the mark but the screeching wind blew out the bearings in the wind generator and compressed the main mast step from the pressure which has to be repaired. It pushed the for deck down more than an inch cracking beams with all the shroud and stays hanging limp. The young French couple crewing were real champs taking every watch with grit but did remind me as we lay at anchor inside Punta Elena bay that I did warn them that there was the possibility of serious shit and there sure was. They have a good story to tell!”