BULLETIN: (Near Juli, Peru) In a surprising turn of events two Anglo cyclists were spotted on the road in southern Peru. Against incredible odds the Anglos now dominate all classifiable categories—dirtiest panniers, most colorful rain jacket, longest stretch without showering, best unkept look, among others—for long-distance bikers in the area, despite the Peruvians’ solid attempt to saturate the highway with pedaling elders who may be future contenders should they continue to pile on the unbathed miles.
The sightings occurred the consecutive mornings of March 11th and 12th, precisely as the author began to think he was the only foreign idiot cycling during the rainy season. The other cyclists, American Pat Swift and Brit Harold Evans, were completely ignorant that such a rainy season existed, even as the grey nebulous clouds formed on the horizon and threatened their oblivious yet heroic attitude toward biking foreign terrain.
Texas-native Mr. Swift was first sighted trudging down a dirt road, the dust from a passing truck hiding still his neoprene base-layer hood that up close looked more like a scuba wetsuit than anything that should be sported on two wheels. After seven months in Buenos Aires, Argentina—the details not discussed—he decided to head toward Colombia by bike on a whim. A mystery 72-hour sickness (“…from both ends….”) and the extreme loneliness in the more remote parts of the Bolivian highlands were unanticipated parts of his Argentina to Colombia journey. Taking advantage of a guard’s truly unfortunate narcolepsy at the Chilean/Bolivian border, Mr. Swift pedaled into Bolivia without the official visa and its accompanying expensive headaches. Mr. Swift parted ways by bestowing upon team MB&S a detailed Bolivian map and several words of wisdom about “roads” that are actually little more than boulders caked in mud.
UPDATE: Mr. Swift, it seems, kept going after Colombia. Click here for more.
Brit Mr. Evans is a cheeky bugger also biking from Argentina to Colombia who was quick to laugh at the fact that Americans must pay to ride what he rides for free. Most impressive about Mr. Evans was his thicket of hair that flared in the wind during conversation and his internal gear hub system which made Surly inexplicably “want to destroy something beautiful.” Just as impressive was the fact that Mr. Evans sincerely claimed to enjoy the Bolivian Altiplano diet of rice mush, undercooked potatoes, and chewy mystery meat that every cyclist must endure along with the cold, steep climbs, and “lack of attractive women for weeks on end” in order to behold the country’s otherworldly scenic views. Bob, master at sniffing out sarcastic undertones yet unaccustomed to the British way with words, was left dazed and confused with the whole old-world-meets-new-world encounter.
Once thing can be observed from these chance encounters in southern Peru: the Anglos are out there cycling, pedaling hard, pushing into the unknown. The Anglos are cycling, oh yes.