Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

South into Argentina

Monday, December 11th, 2006
American School of La Paz - Elemantary School

   I spent a week in La Paz, where I talked to almost the entire American School. I also somehow managed to get in two major newspapers, three radio stations, and a morning live interview on national television (the program ‘Al Despertar,’ for those of you who tune into Bolivian television…)

   From La Paz, I basically started biking south as fast as I could, and I am now in Northern Argentina. I have been traveling fast for a few reasons – the end of the school year (southern hemisphere summer) means I can’t give presentations, I have a desire to not be rushed later in the trip, and I made a promise to meet a friend who is flying in to bike with me.

American School of La Paz - High School
A radio interview in La Paz
Al despertar - a national morning talk show in Bolivia

   The terrain has been breathtaking. I crossed the world’s largest salt flat, and biked across the Atacama Desert, crossing sections of the desert by moonlight. There were few services on these roads – at one point had to carry 30lbs of food and water. Click on the images below to visit the photo albums of the past few weeks.

Southern Bolivia, including the world’s largest salt flat (biked partially with Wouter):

South to Chile

The Atacama Desert of Chile, including some incredible night biking:

Northern Chile - the Atacama Desert

Northern Argentina, where I am now. I caught up with Brooks and Gregg (and another cyclist Tom). Remember Gregg and Brooks? I biked across sections of Mexico with them, and just ran into them again:

Northern Argentina

Machu Picho, Cusco to Bolivia, and a year on the road

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

   On the one year anniversary of my journey – a year of bicycling from California – I took a train to see the ruins of Machu Pichu, the famous Incan ruins that were never destroyed by the Spanish (they weren’t found).

Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu

   It is difficult to believe everything that I have seen in this year – this trip has exceeded all of my expectations, from my ability to meet people to my ability to talk to schools to the quality of scenery that I have pedaled by. I do miss friends and family from home, but I am usually simply overwhelmed by this journey. I have 5 months left and a few thousand miles of biking left, and I can only hope that the last 5 months will be as enjoyable and productive as the past 12.

Cusco was built on top of Incan ruins

   I also spent time in the city of Cusco, the former capital of the Incan empire. Here, in addition to marveling at old Incan walls, I visited La Salle school in Cusco, talking both to the morning assembly and a class of seniors (and was then interviewed for a local television program). I also gave a talk to the South American Explorer’s club, one of my sponsors, and also a great place to get information and spent time.


I gave a talk at the South American Explorer's Clubhouse

   Leaving Cusco, I met another cyclist also heading south. Wouter, a former bartender from Belgium and roughly my age, arrived ten months ago in Mexico City with a 100 dollar bicycle, two home made panniers, some savings, and not much of plan as to where he was going to bike. Having never bike toured before, he rode to Panama with some other cyclists, and then decided he might as well also ride to Patagonia (he purchased a trailer in Ecuador, which is what you see him riding with in these photos).

Meet Wouter, who I cycled with to La Paz
Wouter leads the way
Political parade for upcomming elections

   While I do enjoy traveling alone, it was great to have a riding partner for the first time in many months, and we shared stories of biking Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Peru as we biked the week from Cusco to Bolivia along a road that looped around the giant Lake Titicaca. We are now in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca
Campsite atop Isla del Sol in lake Titicaca
Campsite atop Isla del Sol in lake Titicaca
La Paz

Lima to Cusco – dirt roads in the Andes

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006
Ocean, sand cliffs

   Leaving Lima, I biked south along Peru’s desert coast. Confronting headwinds and fog, I decided to turn inland and followed an impressive canyon into the Andes. Climbing above 13,000 feet, I found the land was grazed by llamas and alpaca, and one night I even camped next to a flock of llamas (video and photo bottom left and center).

Bomberos de Chincha
Following the Pisco River into the Andes
Into the Andes
I am joined by the llamas
I slept here, protected by this flock of llamas
The Andes from 15,000 ft - only llamas and alpaca here
Institucion Educativo Luis Carranta in Ayacucho

   After spending a few days in the city of Ayacucho (where I visited Institucion Educativo Luis Carranta), I continued on, this time on one lane dirt roads through the Andes. People live along these roads – every inch of land that can be farmed in the mountains is farmed or grazed. These people don’t often see foreigners, and everyone wanted to talk to me.

   Everyone along this road speaks Quechua, a native tongue, as their first language, yet they almost all also speak Spanish. I learned a few useful phrases in Quechua (‘I am 27 years old’, ‘I come from the United States’, ‘I am hungry’, ‘you are pretty’), and found these extremely useful in making friends along the road.

A campsite near Ocros
Roly, Randy, Mercedes, Yoni, Lusiano, Leonor, and me
These students are saying 'protect the environment' in Quechua, the native language in the Andes

   Biking by one school, a number of the students rushed out of their recess to talk to me, and I talked to them about my project. The biggest environmental problems here, I think, are deforestation and poor trash disposal. Click on the video on the right, and you can see students saying ‘take care of the environment’ in Quechua.

   People have little money along this road. The most people make in a given day here is about 10 soles, or 3 dollars, with many making far less. Some people beg for money, and people always ask me about money – how much does my bike cost? how much can you make in the U.S.? – and these are my least favorite questions. I never tell them how much my bike costs (I now reply with ‘how much does your best friend cost?’), but it is hard to be fully comfortable knowing that my gear cost far more than it costs to make their houses. Everyone I stayed with seems to have enough to eat (and often share it with me), but, one man whose house I camped next to explained that there are people – people who don’t have land or who have mental problems – along this road who simply don’t have enough to eat.

Village of Matapuquio. The entire town came to talk to me after I yelled at two kids who tried to steal stuff from my pannier

   In one town, some kids came out and pushed my bike from behind, helping me up a hill. They begged for money, and I gave them some bread. They pushed me some more and then one of them opened up the rear of my pannier and tried to steal my tent stakes. I yelled, turned around, and quickly caught the kid. The locals heard me yell, and soon the entire town crowded around me, and we had a friendly but awkward conversation. I got my tent stakes back, but somehow didn’t feel good about it.

Edgar invited me into his house for lunch and taught me more Quechua

   The majority my interactions, however, were like those I had with Edgar. I asked Edgar where I could buy matches. He responded by giving me some matches. I gave him my business card. He gave me some oranges. I gave him some cookies and showed him I could count to ten in Quechua. He invited me in for lunch, and you can see him on the left in his kitchen. And then there were the 3 different families whose houses I camped next to, and who all invited me and fed me in their kitchens.

   After many more thousands of feet of climbing and passing an impressive Incan ruin, I arrived in Abancay, where the pavement began again. After two more days and 12,000 feet of climbing, I rolled into Cusco, Peru’s tourism capital and the former capital of the Inca Empire.

Inca Ruin at a mountain pass
Bomberos de Abancay
Relaxing in Cusco's main plaza after a long day of riding.

Huaraz to Lima

Sunday, October 15th, 2006
Just another campsite - 30 miles south of Huaraz

   Leaving Huaraz, I climbed a 13,500 ft pass, camped one more night in the mountains, and then, in one day, descending to the coast (see map). The Peruvian coast is one of the driest deserts in the world, and apart from irrigated land, roadside vegetation almost entirely disappeared, giving way to rock and sand. The coast, despite being in the tropics, was actually quite cool and covered in a thick fog due to cool ocean currents. The people living here, however, still let me camp next to their house.

13,000 ft descent to the coast
Julio, Joel, Ardalia, Milaska, Ricardo, Gloria, and I - a good place to spend the night!  Near Tunan
Road along the coast

   Continuing south, I soon entered Lima, Peru’s capital city and where 9 million people, or one third of Peru’s population, lives. Entering large cities in Latin America gives me perhaps the largest rush I get on this trip – probably because it is scary – and I biked for two hours across the urban land, assisted by a few bike routes, before arriving where I would stay for a week. As with all major cities, the outskirts are filled with shantytowns of poorer houses that I pass before entering a section of the town where the middle and upper classes live.

The outskirts of Lima - would you want to live here?
A good place to spend a few days
10/13 edition of El Peruano

   I stayed with Jose, a friend of a reporter that I stayed with while in Mexico City. Jose is an editor for El Peruano, Peru’s second biggest newspaper, and although he works more than12 hours a day, I got to know his family fairly well. I also found that staying at the house of a newspaper editor is the best way to get in the news (nice article written by Jose on the right). (I was also interviewed by a television station, but didn’t watch the news to find out.)

Students and Universidad Weimer
Students at Escuela Americana de Miraflores

   In Lima, I was busy. I gave two school presentations, attended a conference on sustainable transportation, visited a team designing bike routes for Lima, met with people styding the effects of global warming in Peru, spent some time hanging out at the South American Explorer’s clubhouse, and also tried to be a tourist for two days, visiting museums. I left the city with yet another list of people who opened their doors to me, who I hope to see again, and who I have promised a letter to from Argentina.

A map of future bike routes in Lima - the 'non-motorized transport' group in Lima
A brunch with new friends
Lima's Main Plaza and Cathedral
The Vexler's - family friends from back home appear out of nowhere in Lima (thanks for the dinner!)

   (Family friends from home – the Vexlers, shown left – also made a cameo appearance as they were on vacation for a week in Peru – thanks for the dinner!)

A School in Huaraz – What do I say to public schools?

Thursday, September 28th, 2006
School Santa Rosa de Viterbo in Huaraz

   In Huaraz, hoping to give a school presentation, I arrived at Santa Rosa de Viterbo, a good public school, just as students were arriving. The entire school was gathering for their morning assembly of announcements and prayer (it is a Catholic school), and, after handing the director my business card and showing off my fully loaded touring bike, the director surprised me by immediately leading me on stage and handing me the microphone, giving me five minutes to talk to the entire school.

   What do I say to these public schools, where they don’t have a power point projector and where the students have a very small effect on global warming? (see comparison of U.S. and Peru) I first admit that my country pollutes enourmaously and has to take action – and for that, when I am done, I am going to return and bike the U.S., encouraging North Americans to act. But I also emphasize that I am talking about a global problem which we all need to work together to solve. I then talk about local pollution and global pollution – asking if it is fair to throw trash in the rivers or streets when that space is shared by the people in their town, or if it is fair to pollute the atmosphere when that space is shared by the world’s 6.5 billion people (I ask them all to learn that number!). As many of them own bicycles, I finally talk about the benefits of bicycle transport as a cheaper and healthier way to travel.

   At the least, I hope to give an idea of caring for the spaces that we share, and I want to show that there are people in the United States that care about this. It is impossible to measure the effect of visits like this, but I occasionally receive positive emails from students, suggesting that I am, at least, having some effect.