February 16, 2023
After two and a half months on boats and being connected to the ocean, I was relieved to find my beloved bicycle in Panama. Alf, the captain, dropped me off on shore and from there on I headed off for what I like to do most: being on land. This whole period I was a bit stressed, nervous and excited!
Before setting off in Belgium I already had to make a plan to get my bike to Central America. It wasn’t easy, because I didn’t really know where exactly I was arriving. I found the boat with Alf and Susanne heading to Panama. From then on I had a goal and tried to find a good solution to get it there. First I tried to find a shipment option, but soon I found out that this would be a bit complicated. A couple of days later I remembered that my good friends, Janna and Gertjan would go for 6 months to Central America. I asked them if they would like to fly first to Panama and take my bike. They immediately agreed to help me and Gertjan even knew some people living in Panama. He called them right away and in 30 minutes we had a plan and booked flights and luggage. So beautiful how this all works out and people from all around the world are willing to help. Thank you Gertjan, Janna, Liesbeth, family and Marie (my girlfriend) to help arrange all this!
Back to Bike!
So finally on the 21st of January (2023) I set foot on land, in the small port of Carti. I said goodbye to Alf, Susanne, Neil and Nick, my sailing buddies. I had a good time with them on board, but I was extremely happy that this ocean journey was finally over. In the port itself I unboxed the bike and put everything back together. There I was, on my own, in this small port and ahead of me thousands of miles to cover. The first part was going to be difficult and I felt intimidated about the prospects of it. It was a strange feeling, for months I’ve adapted to some kind of protected environment. Always surrounded by a group of people I know and choose to be with. I felt vulnerable at the port, it was all on my own again and from then on it’s just me who had to do it. Despite all the experience I still encounter those emotions of excitement, stress, nervousness, and so much more and I’m so grateful that all of them are there!
With a big (really big) smile, I’m heading out of the port on a dirt road to the jungle. The next 40 km was going to be hard, I read about steep and impassable roads. I thought being conservative in timing and 4 hours would be more than enough to cover this distance to the main road. I was so wrong! I would like to blame it on the steep roads, heat, bad surface, which all of those where present. But mainly because I didn’t do any decent cycling training in months! That first part was a serious attack on my body, I suffered a lot, but I enjoyed it at the same time. It all got me worried a bit, because the 29th my girlfriend was about to arrive in Costa Rica and I still had more than 900km to go….
The attack on my body continued in the next days. I was still a bit land sick, which means your head is a bit wobbly from all the time on the boat. At the same time I needed to keep my balance on the bike because of the main road I was following. I wanted to get as fast as possible to Costa Rica so I decided to take the Pan-American highway. With months of seeing hardly any traffic it was quite impressive, especially Panama City and the Puente de las Americas where pretty impressive. Another adaptation was getting out of the watch rhythm that I had on the boat. We had watches at night and naps during the day disturbing a normal sleeping pattern. Now I cycled for 8 to 10 hours daily and tried to sleep in my tent somewhere I stranded. Still, I had an amazing experience throughout Panama and the views where amazing.
Steep learning curve
Despite my lack of training I managed to get over an average of 100km a day and I was pretty happy with the progress. Even the border crossing with Costa Rica was the easiest I have ever done in my life. The change was quite visible, from a beautiful Panama, I entered an even more beautiful wildlife of Costa Rica. Off course I was only following the main highway but the change was pretty visible. The progress was still going great, not too many uphill, but I knew what was about to come. When Marie and I planned our ride together we decided that we will try to avoid the capital of Costa Rica, at least to cycle. So we found a place south of it, in the mountains. Needless to say, I regretted it when I was cycling there. The last 2 days before meeting up with her I had to cycle uphill. Already exhausted from the previous days this was not an easy task.
Luckily I found some motivation in the fact we didn’t see each other for 3 months. So there I went, from sea level, turn right…. Immediately it goes up, very steep! The whole day I’m cycling more than 10% of gradient the whole time. The first day I’m going up to 1000m. The next day I have to go up to 3300m, luckily on not such a steep road but still exhausting in my condition by then! With all determination I reach the top that day and by night I reach a place to camp and prepare for the arrival of Marie.
Happy and sad
Finally, the 29th of January Marie arrives and we’re really happy to see each other. We will be riding Central America together for 2 months, possibly up to Mexico. But just 2 days later, I get the terrible news that a friend of mine (Eline) passed away. It really hit me up and I don’t really have words for it. Such a beautiful person, leaving us too soon in life….
Many thanks to my sponsors who help me fulfil my dream!