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!”

Sailing to Costa Rica !

After 2 months of intense and very varied journeys in Mexico, from Tijuana to Acapulco passing by La Paz, Ixmiquilpan, Mérida, Tulum, Bacalar, Palenque and Oaxaca, 1500km of cycling and the double by bus and ferry, we are ready to take the sea !

Since our meeting at La Paz, in Baja California, appointment was taken with Robert and Milagro, his double mast veissel all wooden of 38 feet. Freshly retired from in Designer activites, he re-built the ship from 2002 and embarked on this adventure last September: from his city of Seattle, he’s sailing on the Pacific waters towards the Panama Canal and the Virgin islands where he plans to arrive on mid-2020.

We are happy and lucky to join him to realize the sailing trip from Acapulco to Costa Rica with our 2 bikes on board!
2 weeks of navigation off the coast of Guatemala, Salvador and Nicaragua who promise to be full of adventures and marine challenges!

The “main genoa” and “floating genoa” sails on the small mast (front) of “Milagro”

Arrival at Costa Rica is planned for the beginning of February, we’ll meet there Clea’s twin sister, Betty !

Aquatic life, jungle and colors of Mexico

From the Sea of Cortes to the Caribbean, including cenotes and lagunas, the aquatic world takes a good part in this twelveth episode video Cycloclock, filmed in no less than 7 States of Mexico!

You will also discover poetic scenes of cyclicing life, colorful streets of colonial cities and the jungle where many mythical Maya’s temples and animal/vegetal wonders are hosted. Open largely your eyes and ears!

2 weeks cycling in Yucatan & Quintana Roo

To end in beauty and in cycling this year 2019, we chose to migrate to the extreme south-east of Mexico, in Mayan country towards the Yucatan peninsula and the Quintana Roo. From Mérida to Bacalar, we took advantage, despite mass tourism, of a large, invigorating sun and natural wonders. Here are our best memories 🙂

Christmas hug in Mérida

From Mérida where we are welcomed with onions by our hosts Warmshowers Ken & Erin, we leave on a small road to Izamal. The day is very peaceful, punctuated by multiple “topes” (donkey backs in good shape) and a few typical villages: a large sleepy square decorated with tropical trees, some shops and Christmas decorations of course!

On the road to Valladolid

In Izamal, the yellow city, we stroll through fairly quiet alleys reminiscent of Andalusia, then we visit the huge central church and an ancient Mayan pyramid, small and rather conquest.

In Valladolid, we celebrate Christmas at the youth hostel around a buffet shared between backpackers and then discover our first cenote the next day (natural pool, generally quite deep and with crystal clear water). The city is not particularly charming elsewhere.

Pic nic on the road

60km further south, after a somewhat monotonous road, full of plastics and wild dumps, we discover Coba and its large Maya archaeological site. Ironically, tourists travel by the hundreds by rental bikes (after coming by bus and pick up …) but we are forbidden access with our own mounts! We will therefore spend a good two hours on foot but the place is worth the detour. Then we stop for the night in the cool, at the edge of the jungle, at the Malinche Inn Café which we highly recommend!

Mayan temple of Coba

Next step: Tulum! We land on December 27, at the heart of the holidays of hordes of Europeans and Americans who have come to seek the sun and relax on the Caribbean coast. Suffice to say that at first glance, we are a bit wary. But ultimately the charm operates, largely thanks to Ursulla, an Austrian converted into a local guide, captured by magic via a Warmshowers contact. In 2 quick days, we visit a new cenote and enjoy local and varied food in town.

Ursula, a great meeting inTulum

What’s next? Punta Allen by a somewhat bumpy road along luxurious hotels for 10km then 40km on a rather wild tricky path in the reserve of Sian Ka’an. The sea, very close to the path, takes on its sublime blue and green hues but also, as in Indonesia, its piles of waste on the shore.

Nice view on the road to Punta Allen

We spend the end of the day at a charming campsite which was advised to us by Ursula. The atmosphere is tropical: coconut palms, songbirds and … mosquitoes!
From this fine arm of land, the next day, we reach by boat a deserted path that winds between mangrove and jungle for more than 50km. We can see a couple of foxes, spider monkeys and some birds that camouflage themselves decidedly too well!

Yellowthroat of Sian Ka’an

170km further south, after a stop at the edge of the lagoon, and hours of boring pedaling on endless straight and flat roads, we find the Caribbean Sea at Mahahual. High diving site, and stage of gigantic cruise ships, the village remains pleasant and lends itself well to cycling. We cook and rest in a nice campsite and hop here we are in 2020!

Bike repairs in Mahahual

On January 1st, we meet at 10am to make two beautiful dives along the coral reef. We wish a happy new year to some parrot fish, angel fish, groupers, moray eels, a stingray, a turtle or even crayfish. But let’s not embellish too much, the corals are still well damaged by human activity…

Last step at Quintana Roo, we spend 2 days in Bacalar and Xul Ha on the edge of the famous lagoon with 7 colors.

Laguna of Bacalar

Biking is again very practical for getting around the various sites, where the vast majority of tourists flock to taxis and buses … A kayak trip and a few swims round off these two beautiful weeks in the heart of winter!

Camping zen in Xul Ha

A short time in Hidalgo

As a long-standing promise, after her visit in 2012 as part of the student project aiming to construct solar dryers and solar ovens “Mexisol”, Clea dreamed of going back to Ixmiquilpan and Orizabita, in the state of Hidalgo. And from Baja California, it is quite far!

Just arrived on the “continent” in Mazatlán, after 20h of ferry, we borrow a night bus to Queretaro then a second in the rug to Ixmiquilpan. 48h after our departure from La Paz, we find with joy in Iximiquilpan the Cruz family (Irving, Joanna and their two small Lia and Sam) then Maricela, Irving’s mom, who was at the origin of the partnership with the students of Perpignan.
The streets are crowded since Christmas approaches and we spend a wonderful week in the area with our guests.

We wanted to share two special sound environment atmospheres.

Ixmiquilpan market soundscape

Let’s start with the Ixmi market! Every Monday, the village metamorphosis to offer fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, clothing and other unusual objects. If the smells are less pronounced than in Asia, the colors are exacerbated and we find the great conventional Mexican products: Tortillas in bulk, (ji)tomatoes, chile, jalapeños, nopals, goyaves, mandarins, etc. ! All in a festive atmosphere and a sound of cumbia different at each corner of the street 🙂

Second atmosphere, in the village of Orizabita one evening of “Posada”. This Catholic tradition very rooted in Mexico consists in organizing a ceremony and festivities every night during the 8 days preceding Christmas Eve. The religious part in itself is nothing particularly exotic but the festivities are worth the detour! This is suited to a lamination of luminum guided by an accordion-guitar-singing trio, punctuated by fireworks at irregular intervals, then to a candy distribution, tamales *, local punch, coffee and chocolate drinks for all! The winter freshness is well and we appreciate this family and friendly atmosphere, so far from the dangerous or inseurical reputation that the country usually wears!

Difficult to detail all other fun things we experience in Hidalgo: Tolantogo and its supernatural hot sources, the mystical and revigorous “temascal”, the excellent meals always based on “tortillas” and (a little too much of) meat like the “barbacoa” and its cooking smoked under the maguey leaves … or a nice walk on surrondings of Pachuca !

A small history of our cycles’ choices

After 6,500 km on wheels, on 2 continents, it is high time to tell you about the genesis of the choice of our bicycles!

To go on a bicycle trip for 1 year, we had to think precisely about our mount, the one that would accompany us under the sun, in the wind (🎶), the rain, from the seaside to the desert, without ever getting used to it. false good, we hoped.
The choice was long and complex for our brains.
Disc brakes, v-brake, hydraulic or not, which development, which handlebars, which saddle and which size? So many questions that we asked ourselves as a lot of travelers before their first trip.

Comment s’équiper ou se réequiper, et avec quoi ?

After going around all the bicycle travel forums 20 times, carrying out a spreadsheet of the characteristics, prices and advantages / disadvantages of each brand and brainstorming with our cycling friends, Cléa chose a Genesis, having no touring bike and Sylvain has opted for an adaptation of his Specialized Sirus being barely 2 years old and some 1000km in the wheels.
The modification of the Sirus consists of:

  • Un changement de la jante arrière en 36 rayons pour plus de solidité vu le poids des sacoches (arrière uniquement)
  • Un remplacement de la cassette (11-32 8 vitesses pour 11-36 10 vitesses ) pour un meilleur développement ce qui implique un changement de chaine et du dérailleur.
  • Pour finir nous avons ajouté deux pneus schwalbe tout neufs.
    Le porte bagage et le guidon papillon avaient déjà été ajoutés pour les précédent itinéraires en France.

For more details, here are the exact characteristics of the bikes below :

Cléa’s choice

Genesis – Tour de fer 20
Taille M
Année 2018
Freins : Disques – Promax rendear
Dérailleurs : Shimano deore
Plateaux : 44 – 32 – 24T
Cassette : 11 – 34T
Jantes : Sunrims Rhyno lite
Pneu : Schwalbe mondial 700x35C
Porte bagage avant : tubus
Porte bagage arrière : tubus
Miroir : Cyclestar
Garde boues
Béquille : Ergotec
Selle : selle italia gel flow
Porte téléphone : Décathlon
Dynamo : lampe Lumotec premium – moyeu de roue avant SP dynamo hub PD8

Sylvain’s choice

Specialized – Sirius basic
Taille M
Année 2017
Freins : Vbrake specialized
Dérailleurs : Shimano deore*
Plateaux : 48 – 38 – 28T
Cassette : 11 – 36*
Jantes avant : Specialized
Jantes arrière : Shimano* Pneu : Schwalbe marathon plus*
Porte bagage avant : néant
Porte bagage arrière : Racktime*
Miroir : Lecyclo
Garde boues
Béquille : Lasus*
Selle : Specialized d’origine
Porte téléphone : Décathlon
Dynamo : néant

*Equipments modified from basic Sirius Specialized.

Thanks to Cycle Expert in Lyon for their efficiency in carrying out the modifications and their advice!

And the feedback?

Top/flop Cléa

The bike is very comfortable and enough development to go everywhere.
The dynamo works very well and allows you to feel a little more secure when darkness arrives. Disc brakes (cable) work very well in all weathers and are quite durable

The connection cables can be a little inconvenient when disassembling the bike for transport. Better to avoid manipulations like this.
The stand works correctly but causes, due to the weight, a slight deformation of the stand support on the frame.
The handlebars with horns were comfortable for the first 6 months but a multi-position handlebars could be appreciable after 8 months.
The mudguards are very close to the wheels and rub regularly, especially with mud.
The “Ortlieb” front bags are not fixed at the bottom on the “Tubus” front luggage rack.

Top/flop Sylvain

Strengthening the rear wheel was a good idea given the weight it supports (~ 18kg of luggage + my little buttocks) and the regular potholes!
Ditto for the change of development, it is always more pleasant to wind than to mash even on “benign” ribs 🙂
V-breaks are simple to adjust or change.

Negative points, the v-breaks skates wear out quickly. The dynamo lights would have been appreciable and more effective than the Decat ‘loupiotes. The handlebar bag “Ortlieb” is useful but difficult to organize and its fixing is impossible to adjust according to its weight so it falters. Finally, the very basic mudguards are sometimes more troublesome in transport and noisy (vibrations) than useful!

Freedom

A breath of fresh air is blowing on our California and Baja California bicycle routes for a month. Pieces chosen in this eleventh video episode Cycloclock 🙂

Cycled away

2 weeks after our departure from Tokyo, we are pleased to present the tenth video clip of our bicycle trip 🙂

100% Japanese, these excerpts filmed mainly in Kyoto and in the central mountains of the island of Honshu will give you an overview of the (good) road conditions, the facilities (bike paths of the lakes of Mount Fuji, special edges in tunnels, etc.) and the the fall weather. All colorful and at a good pace!

12 days cycling from Kyoto to Tokyo

In 12 days of cycling on Honshu (interspersed with 10 days of volunteering), we covered 800km and 10km of vertical drop in total.

The regions crossed, from Kyoto to Chiba and finally Narita, simply offered us splendid landscapes at every turn and a new change of scenery in the middle of autumn. The weather (as often in Japan) was sometimes capricious but the roads remained pleasant in almost all circumstances! Just like our guests, whom we still thank warmly. Here’s our story day by day.

Day 1: Kyoto-Toyosato (80km)

Kyoto is a small paradise for cycling and tourism. Bike paths are plentiful and it is very easy to get around during the day, from Nishiki Market to philosophy path and multiple temples. G
etting out of the city is quite easy, Maps.Me gives us the opportunity to discover a first tiny road in the forest and we reach Lake Biwa. Reputed because bordered by a cycle road (200km of periphery!), we unfortunately do not enjoy much because the weather is bad. Headwind and intermittent rain, we arm with courage and we end up reaching Toyosato, its cultivated areas (rice, soy, etc.) and its haven of peace at Jacquelyn, our host Warmshowers.

Day 2: Totosato-Sakahogi (90km)

We are heading to our first mountains in Japan. On Jacquelyn’s good advice, we sinued between the woods following streams. Zen atmosphere and a little cool ness. In the afternoon, we reach Gifu and its multiple commercial areas. Not very sexy to pedal and we have to slalom between medium-sized roads not too dangerous and sidewalks shared with pedestrians. Camping, charming lying simple and free, is a nice reward.

Floor rice fields in the Gifu Mountains

Day 3: Sakahogi-Nakatsugawa (70km)

The night was cool and the dew takes us half an hour to find the tent. We go back to the East and our first real passes. Always lots of forests and some beautiful descents, we reach Nakatsugawa at 4pm. Wild camping spot in the municipal park and pubs to watch the Japan-Samoa rugby match. From the pasta to the stove as a feast and then a half at the bar nearby (500 euros …), a very nice evening.

Day 4: Nakatsugawa-Iijima (90km)

3 big passes on the day’s program, we tackle it quite early and the day goes smoothly. The roads are almost deserted and quite steep. Before the descents, a brake check is necessary and sometimes you have to wear a small wool. Drew, from Seattle, with his vintage road bike, catches up with us at the second pass and stays in our mini peloton until mid-aprem. A very nice meeting.

Day 5: Iijima-Suwa (80km)

On the way to Lake Suwa! The roads are not pleasant because they are too busy but you get by by sailing “on sight” on Maps.me. The weather gets worse as we approach the lake and we will end up going around it on its bike path a little in spite of us to find affordable housing. An “adult only” hotel will do the trick, a hot shower and in bed.

Pause in front of the geyser on the edge of Lake Suwa

Day 6: Suwa-Fujimi (30km)

The exit of Suwa is a bit painful: the commercial areas follow one another and we spend a lot of time slaloming on the sidewalks because of the lack of a pleasant bike route. We still end up finding a parallel road on a balcony that takes us to Fujimi where we dive towards the river and its Michi-no-eki (rest area) adjoining. We take advantage of heated public toilets and wifi and then we set up the tent below at the front.

Wild camping on the banks of Fujimi’s Michi-no-eki

Day 7: Fujimi-Minami Alps (40km)

Last pedal strokes for this first week. The weather is sublime, we do rather well to “grab” pleasant roads. Around noon the Fuji appears in the distance and we begin a gentle and long descent to Kofu, witnessing the passage of the rice harvest (by machine, we are far from the artisanal methods of Laos!). M
inami-Alps here we are. Our environment for the next 15 days will be made of apple trees, cherry trees, persimons and irrigation canals lined with micro-roads ideal for the “bike-taf” HelpX that awaits us!

A few more cables before Minami-Alps

Day 8: Minami Alps-Fujikawaguchi (60km)

With our heads full of memories and delighted with our volunteering experience, we leave Minami Alps in the late morning until the heavy downpours of Typhoon 20 calm down. Past the Kofu basin, we begin a long climb, passing first in a few deserted villages and then in a forest path lurking with dead leaves, supposed to be closed in prevention of typhoons. The fog makes the atmosphere really special and we are relieved to finally find the pass. A few dozen kilometers of bumps and a tunnel (not very reassuring by bike but well lit) and we finally reach Lake Fujikawaguchi! Mount Fuji is well hidden behind the thick cloud ceiling…

Day in the mist…

Day 9: Fujikawaguchi-Hadone (70km)

At dawn, on the roof of our hostel, we discover the Snow-capped Fuji. It’s sublime! Until the early afternoon, this landscape will captivate our winding roads towards the second Lake Yamanaka, bordered by a very pleasant bike path.

Fuji here you are!

After a good break, we set the throttle to Hadone where our American hosts Warmshowers Rich and Joan are waiting for us. The descent is really dizzying (often 15%) and we are not dissatisfied with doing so. We arrive at night and spend a great evening chatting bike, Japan, work, etc.

Our hosts and their two adorable cats

Day 10: Hadone-Miura (60km)

Departing 9am from Hadone, we follow a fairly convenient canal to the bay. The marine atmosphere of the Pacific Ocean is exotic after more mountainous days. Surfers are very numerous although the waves are quite rare! As we approach Miura, we choose to use the centre of the peninsula rather than the coast. It’s a bit hilly and full of tunnels that fortunately have wide sidewalks. The weather is getting worse and we are getting lost in Miura because we have not properly placed the gps coordinates of our host. Fortunately, Stephen eventually locates us and tells us the way forward. Relieved, we arrive at night and enjoy an excellent meal prepared by his partner Kyoko.

Day 11: Miura-Chiba (80km)

We will remember this 25 October for a long t
ime… It’s rainy day in Miura, and the sky doesn’t pretend. Waterspouts and gusts of wind but we have no choice: we have to reach Chiba so we don’t have to risk missing our plane the next day. We put on our k-ways, our rain pants and let’s go. After 10km, soaked to the bone, we take the ferry to cross Tokyo Bay. 40min later it’s left for 70km of non-stop shower. Sometimes the rain stops but it starts again and floods appear on the outskirts of Chiba. We take refuge years a department store and finally arrive at their destination at 6pm. Aya and her son Kai welcome us, then Yujio comes home from work. They are charming and especially experienced cyclists: South America, Central Asia, their photo books make you dream. And the meal we also share!

Photo stage under a great sun with Aya, Yuji and Kai already as on wheels

Day 12: Chiba-Narita (50km)

Last day, we have to close the loop. The temptation was great to put our bikes in the car trunk of Yujio towards the airport but we decide to rally the last 40 kilometers on our mounts. The road is pretty good, apart from the dangerous tunnels on the outskirts of Narita. 1pm, we have 3 hours to disassemble, pack our bicycles to check in and then board for Los Angeles!

Interview with Kazu, from Nakagomi Orchards (résumé)

We finished two great weeks of volunteering at Minami-Alps, joined in our daily tasks by 3 Frenchies, an Australian and Singaporeans. From the breathtaking view of Mount Fuji to Typhoon 19, including days of weeding, we didn’t get bored! As a review, we wanted to know a little more about the activity of the orchard and its current issues with its manager, our host, Kazu.

What is the history of the orchard ? What were the milestones? The dates? When did you start to work in this place and to manage it ?

History ? I don’t know. Maybe some thousands and thousands years. 

In Japan, it’s opposite to United States. We were always here. Our parents, grandparents, great great parents, always were here. 

So it’s a family farm. Your parents had this farm and they already had peaches, apples…?

No. Talking about the fruit growing in Japan as a mainstream, the fruit growing started in mostly 1960s. Some people still doing before that. It was 70, 80, 90 years ago. But as a mainstream, fruit growing started in mostly in 1960s.Before, people weren’t growing fruits, they were growing rice and then mulberry trees. Mulberry trees to feed the silk worms. But what happened was in 1974. China and Japan got that official diplomacy. And then Chinese ships started to go in Japan and trade. That forced Japanese farmers to stop growing silk worms. So mostly they changed activities in the 70s and 80s. People have started to grow more and more fruits and also Japanese have started eating fruits. They liked it. But then in late 80s while people were growing lots of fruits the price went down. That was international, in many country. Then we were forced to start fruit picking, like a leisure business.

Break time for Kazu and volunteers !

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