Lure of the Bike (by John)
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” -William Shedd
There were two great things about staying at the Casa de Ciclistas. First there were many other cyclists doing similar trips as we were. I’d be hard pressed to find a better way of relaxing than sitting around drinking tea while swapping stories of the road. Second it was the perfect place to rest, eat healthy food, and regain our strength. Two things we used a lot were the kitchen and DVD player. The fruit and vegetable market was conveniently located just down the road from us. We took advantage of it and cooked up such meals as vegetable stew, lentils, and meatball stew – welcome changes from the greasy food we eat on the road. Of course the kids enjoyed pancakes the most.
After a few weeks there I started getting itchy feet as I grew envious watching other cyclists come and go. They would come in all rough, sunburned, and in dire need of a bath. Weeks of riding above 13,000 feet can really wear down your mental and physical strength. After several days of rest, relaxation, and story swapping they would pack up and head out into the unknown, in this case the altiplano. No one relishes the frigid temperatures, the high altitudes, or unrelenting sun.
Then why was I so restless to leave? It’s the wide open plateaus with sweeping vistas of the snow-capped Andes, the colorful and rugged people who eek out a living in this sparsely populated wonderland, and most of all having the freedom to explore this land and discover hidden treasures that can only be found while riding a bicycle. Whether it be an alpaca herder who is honored that we spend a night with him or bright green cactus growing in intricately fine sand with 21,000 foot peaks in the background, each day brings forth new and unexpected adventures.
I remember reading Moby Dick and how the whalers would face months out in the merciless ocean. They would frequently talk about safe harbors and the comforts of land. Yet after a few weeks of relative luxury, they yearned to return to the sea. So yes, now it’s time for us to leave this safe harbor and head out into the unknown. It’s time for us to experience new adventures and learn things that now we only dream about.