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Monday, 22 March 2010

Pura Vida: Chip Albright Bikes the Americas - Page 2

Written by Kristen Hamill
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Chip Albright is a self-described modern day explorer from a small town in rural Ohio. Inspired by a passion for the environment and a desire to see the world, Chip left his studies at Hocking College early to travel through Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and eventually South and North America. He's funded his travels with a variety of different jobs -- from farming, to waiting tables, to working on a prawn boat off the coast of Western Australia for eight months-- whatever it took to get to his next destination, and he has no plans on stopping anytime soon.

 

 

 

So my highlights would definitely be Bolivia, and for Central America I could say that Costa Rica is pretty unique because of the landscape and animals – the volcanoes, the beaches, and the howler monkeys. They have a phrase in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida,” which means pure life; every person I would meet on my bicycle would repeat that phrase to me. I was on a very tight budget, so I’d put my tent up most nights, so I’d ask the locals if they’d mind if I slept in on their property and they were always more than generous. They’d tell me “you are living the pure life, you are more than welcome to put your tent up.”

INTRAVEL: Do you speak Spanish?

I speak enough to get by, but I’m not fluent by any means.

INTRAVEL: Did you experience any significant cultural barriers?

Most definitely, when I was in the Amazon I traveled through the Indian reservation there, and they didn’t speak Portuguese or Spanish, so that left me behind a huge barrier when I met these people. We communicated with our hands and through gestures. When I started the trip I just learned on the fly.

INTRAVEL: What was the hardest part of the trip?

The lowest point was when my friend left because of his injury two months in. When I took off from Mendoza, where he left, I had 1,300 kilometers to travel in the desert, alone, days on end. At that point I ended up questioning the whole idea behind my trip. That was really hard for me. But everyday is up and down when you are living off the land. I also had some interesting nights in Costa Rica. I woke up one night at 2 a.m. because I was covered in thousands of ants that had eaten a hole through my tent. That’s not really a low point, but at two in the morning you are shaking you’re head going “Oh man, why am I doing this again?”

Another hard part of the trip would have been when I was in Chapas in Mexico biking through the mountain region and it rained for four straight days. Mexico I really took for granted. You picture somewhere in the United States like Kansas, you aren’t going to see anything but straight road for 500 miles. If you traveled for 500 miles in Mexico you’d go through lagoons, swamp lands, beaches, mountains of Chapas, and then Baja California’s diverse desert that is always changing every two hundred kilometers. The scenery is always on the go; even biking through the desert you can’t get bored because it changes so quickly.

INTRAVEL: Was the drug-related violence in Mexico a concern of yours as you passed through?

Mexico has its problems, but if you want trouble, you have to go looking for trouble. Nine out of ten times people are not going to mess with you because they are going after the drugs. I only had one really bad experience in Mexico and that was with the police. I was camping out in a construction site; you couldn’t see me and my tent because it was dark. The cops brought in two Mexican kids in black sacks in the middle of the night. They started to rough the kids up, and finally caught sight of me. The police questioned me, asking me what I had seen. I said, “Guys I don’t know what you are talking about, I was in my tent trying to go to bed,” and eventually they left. That was the only time I felt threatened or a little worried in Mexico. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time.

INTRAVEL: Did anything surprise you about the trip, were any of your expectations challenged?

Well, I know there are places in the world where you can get out there and get lost, but when I left La Paz in Bolivia and headed north towards the border of Brazil through the papalands, I was really surprised how desolate the land was and how primitively people lived. The people in these jungle communities were still shooting monkeys out of trees with bows and arrows and single-gauge shotguns. A lot of these people were very shut off from the outside world, they didn’t know about the countries next door, they didn’t know who President Obama was. It was really surprised me that there are still places like that in the world.

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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