10,000km on the Panamerican Highway are behind but the goal is always the same and always far
Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive and certainly not as the same person. – Yvon Chouinard, Let my people go surfing
A hot, humid morning as well as ups and downs along the coast accompanied the resumption of my cycling trip after a night spent camping on the beach in Boca de Iguana, Mexico. Shirtless, dripping sweat in a hill longer than the others I checked my odometer and I realised that it has passed the threshold of 10,000 kilometers traveled on this trip with starting point Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and final destination Ushiaia, Patagonia.
An arbitrary number that would not mean anything if we changed units in miles for one thing, but 10,000 is always a round figure. It’s many kilometers, a lot of them especially if they were made by bike, with a heavy bike of all my earthly possessions, everything I need to live: clothing, gear, food, water.
Officially I’m still in North America: after crossing the United States and Canada starting at the arctic ocean now I am still in Mexico. I still have to travel through Central America and the long South American continent.
I honestly do not know if I’ll ever get to Ushuaia, anything can happen, however, even “only” after the first 10,000 km, after the first five months (which would be four not counting the month of rest in San Francisco) of life on the road I think that this trip has already left its mark.
I saw fantastic places; bitter experiences but also wonderful ones; harsh and miserable days, sublime others. Flora and fauna worthy of a documentary, in general a biodiversity that in Italy, Ireland or Europe does not exist. From Alaska biting cold to the rainy autumn of Canada, from the rain that greeted my entry into California to the dry climate of Baja California’s desert. From the face to face encounter with a grizzly bear on the Dalton Highway to the encounter with a crocodile in Mexico (fortunately this one a little further away than the grizzly).
All amazing but I could not say exactly when, where or how this trip has begun to change me. And maybe it’s still too early to verbalize exactly how it’s changing me. At the beginning there were many tears shed, it was tough; now I enjoy the tropical climate, sandy beaches, warm waters and exotic sunsets. There will be hard times again; a bike trip it’s a life’s metaphor one cannot expect to be happy all the time but one must be able to enjoy the ride: biting the bullet uphill and savouring the descents.
Actually I do not even know exactly what was the motivation that prompted me to get into the wilds of Alaska with my bike (Isabella) and my backpack with all that I needed to live for the next 15/18 months. What I can say is that I had a thirst for adventure, to test myself, to see nice places to live in the open air, to feel alive, to do something that I feel passionate about, that juices me. To test my limits, to understand who I am and what I really want. To break with the patterns imposed by society, by education, religion and family.
I wanted to do a long bike trip, I wanted to pedal the world’s longest road: the Panamerican Highway. I could have started by making a small bike tour in Europe for a few weeks but it was not what I wanted, I did not want half measures, did not want to play safe. I arrived in Alaska with no bike touring experience, nor camping, practically without ever having set up a tent. For many a reckless gesture, for me it was part of the adventure. The cold was the most difficult enemy with which to duel and is still the enemy I fear most. But I feel alive, I feel strong, I can do it even if the end goal is still far away.
My body is much more resilient than it has ever been. I wake up before dawn and I lie down shortly after sunset, following the day’s natural rhythm.
I lead a simple life; I try to live on a budget of $5 a day which means spending about 2/3 $ a day to have the opportunity to spend a little more on rest days. Then I end up spending a fortune on equipment, gear and spare bike parts, but that’s another story.
The other enemy with whom I fight constantly is fear. At first I was afraid of the bears (with good reason I would say), moose, wolves, the looming winter. Then slowly fears have become others like crossing areas considered “dangerous” and a new wave of deadly animals: lethal scorpions, snakes, crocodiles, mosquitoes carrying various tropical infections. Sometimes I’m afraid of being robbed, that my bike could be stolen while I go into some store to buy something. The second day of my trip I camped at Happy Valley, along the Dalton Highway and here I met a retired logger from Oregon who was telling me about his experience in Vietnam. At one point I asked him what is the thing that he has learned or the most significant experience that he brought back from the war and the battles in which he had participated. Halvin did not think much and promptly responded: “Vietnam has taught me that the fear of doing something is greater than doing it.” Sometimes when I feel afraid or I’m in my tent and I do not know exactly what it’s happening outside, it comes back to me: the good-natured face of Halvin and his simple but wise words and it brighten me up thinking that whatever has to happen will just happen and I must simply do what I do without worrying unnecessarily. Sometimes really it only takes the first step.
I am not a hero nor an example to follow, but at the same time I’d like to inspire others to do what they really want for once, whatever the adventure you have in mind. If someone like me, without deep pockets, no training or special skills can undertake such an adventure I think anyone can do it. I hope that my photos and my articles are able to inspire at least one person to follow their dreams.
Now you decide what adventure you want to do, give yourself a deadline and make a commitment to yourself, start getting the ball rolling and dont give up, especially when the people next to you will tell you that it’s best giving up or postpone it. I can assure you that they are wrong.