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Intermezzo: Interview with Ivana & Harry for Examiner

November 6, 2009 by , 2,711 views 
Filed under General

Nancy Vogel Sathre is not only cycling from Alaska – Ushuaia as well, she is doing it with her husband and two kids, homeschooling them all the way! They can be followed on http://familyonbikes.org

She also writes for Examiner.com and recently asked us for an interview. I might as well post it here, not just to help out other biketravellers, but also so you know some things we are doing when we are not writing updates or cycling :)

(The original interview was published here)

———– start of interview ———

Ø  Would you please explain a tad bit about where you’ve been and where you’re going.

We are Ivana (33, Argentina) and Harry (39, Netherlands) and we are currently cycling the Americas from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, visiting all the countries on the mainland on our way.

Ø  How long have you been on the road?

We started in July 2008, so now about 15 months. We think we are almost halfway. But both of us have been travelling the previous years as well, on other cycling and climbing trips.

Ø  Why the bike?  What is it about the bike that made you choose it over buses and trains and planes?

Cycling is the only way to go. Not just for obvious ecological reasons, but it the only way of transportation that:

  • Keeps you fit and healthy, physically as well as mentally
  • Is fast enough to travel to a new place every day
  • Is slow enough that you can enjoy the journey and scenery while travelling
  • Is flexible and small enough that you can stop and park everywhere to take a picture, talk with a local or eat a berry on the roadside (and can be taken up to the safety of a 4th floor of a house if needed).
  • Can carry more luggage than us! We can take extra stuff that would never fit in a backpack alone.
  • Is fun

-   Ivana: Buses make me sick and most of cars afraid and I basically I only like to travell by bike

Ivana in the Catavina desert (2)

Ø  What prompted such an extended journey?  Had you done a lot of touring before?

Ivana had done a long previous trip: Around New Zealand, then from Malaysia to India, hopping over to Turkey for a tour there. I (Harry) had mostly been climbing the past decade and had only done a few small trips (around the English channel, around the Irish Sea, from Amsterdam – Zermatt on a Tandem), all about 2-3 weeks. Of course in the Netherlands you basically bike before you walk, so I am used to cycling, it’s my way of life. I never owned a car in my life as it is not needed with the great cycling and public transport infrastructure we have.

We met in Tibet when I was climbing Everest and she was on her long cycing- trip. We met again after my climb, in India and I basically made her cut her bike trip short as she had planned to cycle through Europe as well.

We did do a short tour from Rome to Germany, but I promised Ivana that I would make it up with a long trip together. She wanted to see more of her home continent (South America), I wanted to show her the wonderful nature and good people of Alaska, Canada, The USA and my friends in Guatemala. So we decided to just go all the way

Ø  I know there are plenty of wonderful days when the sun is shining and you’ve got the wind at your back.  But there are also days when it’s raining or you face a headwind or you’re climbing a hill that just won’t end.  How do you get through those days?  What keeps you going?

Frankly, mostly there is not much choice. There have been few days of tailwind so far, but also few days of really horrible weather, though we had some decent hills. You just have to face the facts and be pragmatic: stopping will not do much good on the middle of the hill and as long as the luggage inside the Ortlieb bags is dry, it does not matter so much if you get wet as long as you are warm enough.

IMG_9902-harry-headnet-bugs

People who are just complaining about life or are afraid or getting out of their comfort zone or are afraid of other cultures will have trouble adapting to this. But once they do, they are lost forever, as once bitten by the BikeTravelling bug there is no turning back from a more open and receptive lifestyle!

Ø  As hard as it is to pick out one or two highlights – would you, could you?   Tell us about a couple of those incredibly wow-ing, drop-your-jaw experiences you’ve had.

The overall experience is much stronger than separate positive incidences, even if we had many. It is interesting to see that many times an experience only turned out very special in hindsight. Often we struggled up a hill or through a forest or desert while cursing the environment and life we were in while the sections turned out to be very special looking back.

The Dalton Highway in Northern Alaska is very tough, but also wonderful for its nature and remoteness. We really enjoyed the Redwoods in Northern California, getting invited on an Indian Potlatch and playing with a fox on the Cassiar Highway in Canada, seeing the coastline in the USA, enjoying the Baja California desert and the Mexican Highlands. Personally I also enjoyed off-bike activities such camping in Yosemite in winter, climbing Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, snorkelling with stingrays in Belize and seeing the independence parades in Guatemala.

But most of all, it is the people we met, all the way. Our many CouchSurfing and WarmShowers hosts and the dozens of strangers that have become good friends, from all types and backgrounds. The tens of thousands that have waived, smiles or even applauded from the side of the road. There is a good in the heart of all people that you can only discover by going out and finding them. See the ‘1000 Americans’ section on our blog for some photographic impressions (http://worldonabike.com/1000-americans/) .

Ø  What about those days you wish you could forget (but you know you never will)?  Those days when everything goes wrong and then even more goes wrong?  Tell us about a couple of those.

mg-9942-harry-tent-mosquitos.pngWe spent my B-day in the rain on a muddy and steep section of the Dalton dirt road (Alaska) called “The Rollercoaster”. ‘Nuff said. We had to buy a big bag of ice and stuff them in our waterbags and put them on our body to cool down enough to sleep in a hot Mexican night. We got blown off the road in Baja California with no water in sight and Ivana had some scary close encounters with wheels of a truck. And most of all, I hate Mosquitoes. I do not discriminate, I hate mosquitoes in Alaska, in Canada, In the USA, in Mexico and in Belize. There are few things more annoying than climbing uphill with 4 miles/hour on a muddy road in Alaska while overheating and being eaten through 2 layers of clothes by Mozzies at the same time.

As a climber I have learnt to focus simultaneously focus on the present for safety, and ahead for relief as you know the suffering will stop at some time.

Fortunately our Santos bikes have not had a single problem, other biketravellers have had frustrating experiences with their bikes which can really ruin your trip.

Ø  You’ve toured through many countries and I know they each are unique and have their advantages and disadvantages.  But, if you were to talk with someone relatively new to cycle touring, where would you recommend they go?  Why?

It depends if you are an experienced cyclist and traveller to start with. For beginning cyclists it is best to start in ‘easy’ countries like The Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is part of the culture (meaning that drivers respect you) and separate bike lines (and right of way!) make cycling easy, fun, flat (!) and safe, while there is a lot of culture and history and helpful people. And there is a bikeshop in every town and a pump in every house.

If you are already physically active you can head to some more hilly parts, basically the rest of the world J. Ivana loved Eastern Asia for the safety and people, I loved the remoteness of Alaska and Canada. You can also tour a few weeks in Europe and see a new country and culture every few days!

There are a lot of great routes in the US, see the Adventure Cyclists organization.

But cycling is only a small part of the travelling, so also try to get abroad and immerse yourself in new cultures, even if going just over the border into Mexico, which is a hidden gem.

Ø  Any special tips or advice to wannabe tourers?

Yes

-          Even though Ivana cycled over 8000 miles on a $400 bike without much problems, I would say: get good gear. Get good waterproof bags, get a good bike and good tires. You will enjoy it so much more if you do not need to stop every two days to fix a rack or a flat tire, leaving more time for nature and culture.

Ivana cycling through the Dutch heather on her Santos Travelmaster

Ivana cycling through the Dutch heather on her Santos Travelmaster

-          Then again, do not get fooled by the expenses: biketravelling is usually cheaper than sitting at home doing nothing. And yes, that includes the accommodation, food, gear and all. You can travel anywhere in the world (maybe not Japan) for $10/day. We travelled in Italy, US, Canada for less than that.

-          All trips and people are different. Don’t follow other people’s trips: nobody is forcing you to go 100 miles per day, every day because another cyclist did so; you can also do 25 miles, 2 days a week and still be in a different place every week. If you want to carry extra clothes or luxury items: just do it, not everybody enjoys travelling with only two, half-filled panniers, especially when on a longer trip. If you have the funds, do not want to ‘rough’ it and want to sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants? Go for it, you will help out the local economy.

-          Take your time anyway, bike-travelling is not rushing. That is bike-racing which is a fun sport, but a different experience. Get off the bike and meet the people, eat the food and see the sights.

-          Do not have the time for a long trip? Take short trip in your area or head out to a train station take a train and cycle back. There are no ‘laws’ for minimum distance (nor for maximum!).

-          There is also no age limit as many young kids as well as BikeTravellers in their sixties and seventies have proven. Biketravelling and cycling is for all ages and backgrounds.

-          Don’t plan everything ahead as the best things happen unexpectedly anyway.

Don’t get scared inside your house by false financial promises and xenophobic threats of the media: there is a whole world out there, waiting to be discovered and shared. You might as well get fit and healthy while doing it!

Finally, as Amelia Earhart said: “the only way to do it, is to do it.”

Thanks,

Harry & Ivana

Our websites:

-          Our current trip blogs with stories and loads of photos: http://WorldOnaBike.com (Harry, English) and http://ElMundoenBici.com (Ivana, Spanish).

-          More tips and trips and info for and from other biketravellers can be found on http://BikeTravellers.com (where all cyclists can open a free blog) & http://BiciPedia.com

-          Photos from this and past travels on and up 7 continents can be found on http://ExposedPlanet.com

-          Expeditions to the ‘7 summits’, the highest peaks on every continent: http://7summits.com

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Comments

8 Responses to “Intermezzo: Interview with Ivana & Harry for Examiner”
  1. Carmel says:

    Hi Harry,
    My name is Carmel, I am 20 and planning a cycling trip in Baja Sur this January with a friend. Your amazingly detailed blog about that leg of your trip is very helpful— but it made me a little worried. We are physically capable of no more than 60 miles a day, 30 or 40 if it’s very hilly. But it seems from your blog that WATER is available only every 100 miles for many days in the desert..?!?! In your experience, how far was it absolutely necessary to ride each day in order to reach water at the very least, and hopefully some kind of food as well?

    Your advice or other comments would be very very appreciated! You can email me at carmeldudley at gmail dot com or just comment back here. I just hope you see this comment…

    Best wishes for your fantastic journey,
    Carmel

    • Avatar of Harry Harry says:

      Hi Carmel!
      thanks for your comment. No worries, we do about the same disctances. We just did one long day with the wind in our backs, but then again, another day just 30km with the wind in our face!
      In the most deserted parts, there are still little ‘comedors’ and shops where they sell al least basic snacks, old bread and water in gallon containers (about 15 pesos or USD $1,25 for a gallon of water).

      Just make sure you buy whenever you can, even if you do not need it yet. Also ask the people in teh shop about the next place as half the places on the map we had did not exist, or just consisted of one faraway ranch in the middle of nowhere. If we had known, then we would never have been thirsty as we would have bought more water.

      If it is rainy season, you might be able to filter some water, but when we went, there was no natural water anywhere… Enjoy and let us know how it went.

      Cheers, Harry & Ivana!

      ps: if you need a blog, go to http://biketravellers.com and open one, it is a great place to discuss these type of questions as well.

  2. david bolaños lopez RESCATE OCHO says:

    hola amigos espero esten bien y se encuentre en la fortuna de San Carlos y recuerde que cualquier cosa no dude en llamar.

    SU AMIGO DAVID

    • david bolaños lopez RESCATE OCHO says:

      hola amigos espero esten bien, no he sabido nada de ustedes, ya estan de camino a Panama o estan todavia en C.R por donde van en ruta y si necesitan algo favor hacermelo saber.

      ATTE DAVIDE

  3. Jeroen van der Linden says:

    Hi Harry.
    I finished your book “3*Everest” for the second time and was following your digitally footprints on the web and arrived at this interesting site about your new challange. Sounds great !

    We are still prepairing our trip to the summit of the Kili and are still looking forward to face the slopes!

    Have a great time and enjoy.
    Regards, Jeroen van der Linden

    • Avatar of Harry Harry says:

      Hi Jeroen, thanks for your comment! I will make sure that your Kilimanjaro trip will be great, you will love it
      We climbed Kili ourselves, just before starting this trip, so you never know where you might be heading next :)

      Cheers, Harry & Ivana

  4. Rob Lanting says:

    Hey Harry and Ivana,

    Very nice and inspiring interview again.. What an adventure!
    I hope you guys are able to enjoy the rest of this amazing trip without any physical discomforts. All the best wishes out of Holland!

    A few weeks ago I motivated somebody to start training and compete in runningcontests, but this person liked to stay in the comfort-zones. Now this person seeks for new things all the time. It was very recognisable what you said in your stories. Some people just need this extra motivation or stimulation to start things up and discover themselves. If I had not been to Australia and New-Zealand, I would have never thought about climbing a mountain in Africa I guess.
    Harry: Months ago I visited the four guys who invited me to tell about Kili and the Lemosho trip. I guess they have planned it for sure? They where really enthousiastic after hearing the stories and seeing my pics! I will graduate next month for school so hopefully Iam able to save up for some new adventures in the coming future Harry! We will contact again.

    All the best on the tharmac Ivana and Harry.

    Greetings out of sunny Enschede,
    Rob Lanting

  5. george says:

    will you have gone a long way if you know any one on abike ride that will be coming to stewart please till them they may stay with nedda and I thanks

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