Traveling you meet all kinds of people. Interesting ones. Boring ones. Big and small ones. Tall and short ones. White, black, yellow, red, and sunburned. Those who must dance or die after two beers in a salsa bar, those who would rather walk dodgy neighborhoods than submit to the inflated gesturing of a greedy taxi driver at midnight, those who butcher local dialects, those who could glide through a United Nations cocktail party, those who pass silently unperceived, and those who leave a lasting imprint on all with whom they come in contact.
The French cousins pictured below do not fall into any one category. They speak the universal language of travel that allows them to pick and choose and mash their self-identity together into a one-world plate, depending on the circumstances. Though the comparison would make them cringe—being French after all—they are like an all-you-can-eat buffet of travel and transportation styles.
I met them while traveling in the Ecuadorian Amazon with yet another Frenchman, my friend Max. We were on the pier preparing lunch on a cook stove when they stumbled upon our small disaster of our bikes, gear, and books that spread nest-like around us. Introductions. Handshakes. We equally divided the ready vegetable soup into four small portions; they went to buy a liter of beer. In the conversation that followed we learned they had traversed South America by motorcycle, wanted to build a raft and coast downriver to the Peruvian border, then later buy bicycles to travel Central America. At that exact moment we too were looking for ways to raft to Peru. We told them about biking; their talk unfolded like a how-to manual on tropical river navigation.
Where we failed, they succeeded. A raft was carved, equipped with supplies, and pushed off into the silent waters of the tropical forest, the sun burning daytime cancer into their wide-brimmed hats, millions of stars shining nighttime dreams over their make-shift shelter. As if proof of their travel adaptability, their blog barely mentions this jaunt through the jungle. It was just another day in the life of two French travelers.
I have been in touch with Mayeul, just a few e-mails with advice about what kind of bikes to purchase in which Central American country, etc, etc. A giant smile stretched across my face when I recently checked their blog to find their engine revving/paddling days long gone, and their Central American bike adventure begun.
Feel free to follow their adventures on their French-language blog.