Bolivia was the country that we almost did not get to visit.
As we were riding through Peru our shortwave radio was reporting nightly on
the serious political problems there. Protesters were blocking the roads
and nothing was getting in or out of all major cities and the country itself.
International traveling cyclists wandering around the continent were alarmed and passing
information up and down the line on the situation in Bolivia. All of the
south bound cyclists in front of us had to change their plans and either fly to
Argentina or head to Chile and face the notorious Chilean head winds in the worlds driest
desert. We were lucky enough to not be on a fixed schedule and had some time to wait. We did not have
an endless amount of time because the maximum tourist visa for Peru is 90 days.
Extensions are possible but cost dearly. Money is the only commodity
that we do not have an endless supply of. For us, either things were going
to clear up in Bolivia or we were going to have to head to Chile.
After we left on this bike trip and life style I have always
felt like the luckiest guy alive. There is not a day that goes by that I
do not realize how the choices that I made in the past, my wonderful family, and
a bit of luck have brought me to this incredible opportunity. I have a
wonderful wife, the bicycle odyssey of my dreams, and now I am fortunate enough
to have seen Bolivia. It seems
that peace came overnight. First there was a drastic change of government
with the president resigning
and then we started hearing reports of how things were returning to normal.
The opposition leader gave the new president 90 days to turn the country around or
promised to close the roads again if he did not. We thought that we could easily sail through during
this 90 day period and be out before anything new happens. Well we did not
quite sail through without getting caught up in some of Bolivia's volatile politics
but we made it through, we feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to visit this
interesting and exotic country.
EUROPE, AFRICA, OR CHINA - WHERE DO YOU THINK THAT WE SHOULD
Cindie and I have been having a bit of a disagreement over
where we should go after we are finished with South America. Our original
plan was to go to Africa. Sticking to our original
plan is not very important to me as long as I get to see each continent at some
point in our travels. Our original plan was bound to be changed at some
point. How could we possibly stick to something I dreamed up years ago
while sitting in my house in Arizona, USA? Flexibility is a luxury that we
enjoy because we are not tied to a fixed schedule due to holding advanced airline tickets or
being headstrong about sticking to a plan. I highly recommend a high level
of flexibility to anyone traveling on a bicycle. I like to always say that
"the best choice is the one that leads to more choices."
Cindie is very tired of the developing world and would like to
go to Europe next. Our European plan would be to buy the cheapest ticket available to any
city in Europe and make it up from there. We would spend at least a
year in Europe riding around and possibly hanging out somewhere for the winter.
I want to head to Africa. This plan would be to fly to
Cape Town, South Africa and spend a year and a half working
our way north to Europe. Every international touring cyclist we have
talked to has reported that Africa is the most difficult place on Earth to
travel in. We hear of bad roads, dirty conditions, aggressive locals, and
a general lack of everything including food. I believe that if they did it
so can we. I have always dreamed of
going to Africa but this may not be a good time. I feel that if I
took Cindie to such a difficult place now she would want to quit and fly back to
the USA. I have to be very cunning if I am going to coax her around the
world including the difficult places.
A big deciding factor in this debate is how the US dollar trades
against the European Euro. Europe is a very expensive place to travel
even when the two currencies are trading 1 to 1. Anything less favorable to us
would make prices soar.
We have heard of campgrounds costing between 10 - 35 Euros. At the time of
my writing the US Dollar is worth 0.78 Euros. That increases prices 22%! This continent may best be
saved for later when the US dollar bounces back. Cindie reluctantly
understands this but still dreams of see Lance Armstrong ripping up the French
countryside one more time.
A third and very logical option is to head to China. We
could travel in China for at least six months and then work our way through
Southeast Asia and on to Australia. I say that this is logical because
China currently ties the exchange rate of it's currency to the US dollar.
This exchange rate is set low by the government in order to keep the Chinese
currency artificially weak and the US dollar high. This monetary policy is
made in order to boost Chinese exports. The Chinese governments holding
the currency low has one great benefit to the traveler with foreign currency.
It makes China artificially cheaper.
The Chinese government's holding the currency down is actively
increasing exports but there is mounting pressure from foreign governments to
allow the Chinese currency to float. This is bound to happen in the near
future. When their currency is allowed to float it will no doubt climb
sharply against the US dollar. This could easily double the prices that
Cindie and I would pay for things while traveling there.
From what I hear on my shortwave radio the Chinese economy is
expanding very quickly. Many experts say that China is permanently changing
and if you want a glimpse of the "old China" you should travel there in
within the next
So, here our choices in short:
-Europe with its first world comfort, Lance in another Tour De
France, and inflated prices due to a weak US dollar.
-Africa with cheap prices, interesting cultures, but the
harshest conditions on the planet for a touring cyclist.
-China with its temporarily low prices, exotic food and
destinations, and rapidly changing way of life.
OK, Now it is your turn to sound off on where we should go
next. I have posted this
question on our discussion board and would love to hear what your vote is and
behind it. If you have a good argument you could very
well send us off in a new (or old) direction. Please do not email me with
you comments. I already have more email than I can answer. Instead
please post them on our discussion board linked to below.