Transcontinental cyclist Aart Huijg’s travel update

Aart Huijg, who traveled through Meeker in November of last year on his journey from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Chile in South America is pictured riding in the Trans-Amazonian “Highway.” Follow his journey by visiting his website at www.today-you-can.com.

Aart Huijg, who traveled through Meeker in November of last year on his journey from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Chile in South America is pictured riding in the Trans-Amazonian “Highway.” Follow his journey by visiting his website at www.today-you-can.com.
RBC I It has been a while now since I left Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. My cycling journey started 15 months ago in the deserted and most northern oil village on the American continent. In one week, I cycled 440 miles over the unpaved Haul Road to Fairbanks while carrying all food necessary to survive the sparely populated plains of the North Slope. Today, things look quite different. I have transformed into a super-efficient battle machine. Over the months, I have already fought several rounds against my number one opponent, Mother Nature. Snow, rain, wind and heat tried to get me down. Time after time, Monster and I showed to be as resistant and strong as steel. In the most recent fight, nature bundled all its powers for its last attempt to stop me. In the Amazon rainforest, the sun heated up the red gravel road transforming the steep roller coast into a never ending tunnel of dust. The winner looks back.
The first night along the Trans-Amazonica Highway sets the rhythm. Clouds of red dust whirl down on my tent. I only notice next morning. Minutes before sunrise, I prepare my granola breakfast by mixing water with milk powder. My headlight illuminates the red cup vaguely since the beam of light is blurred by the fine bauxite dust coming down from the sky. While roosters and dogs wake up, Monster and I set foot on the bumpy gravel road for the first time. Directly, a steep climb lies ahead of us and not long after the first truck passes by. I am glad that I am wearing a mask preventing dust from entering my nostrils. I make sure I breathe in through the nose so that the air will be filtered. Though, an hour later, breathing becomes impossible. My cotton mask is soaked with sweat and air hardly comes through. Another truck passes by raising a curtain of dust around me. While going down the hill at full speed, I realize that I am in a dangerous situation. God knows where the truck is right now. It might have stopped to pass one of the countless narrow wooden bridges. I keep my coolness and slow down gradually.
Amazon life is different from what I am used to so far. Let me give you a little snapshot. Digital Casio watches may sound pretty old school to you, but here everyone wears them. My thoughts go back to the mid-’80s when, as a kid, I proudly wore my last one. The dense jungle adds a new dish to my daily menu. Acai is the name of the thick purple fruit juice made out of palm tree berries.
As always people make my day. And unexpectedly many of them live along the unpaved highway. With the girls I stand no chance. Most of them are married and have children while being teenagers themselves. They don’t know any better. I realize I am rich. Not directly in terms of monetary wealth, but mostly in the education I enjoyed back home in the Netherlands. It made me independent and fearless. It gave me the opportunity to enjoy and learn before settling down. Anyway, I am not here to find love. So, I enjoy the local hospitality and play pool at an open bar next to the wooden church. Just like the rest, I throw the empty can outside without wondering who will clean it up. Everyone is driving motor bikes around here. Roads are bad and cars are expensive. Sadly, drinking and driving leaves its marks on society.
Deeper down the Amazons, I enter a small town. Forty years ago there was nothing, but that changed in the ‘70s when the Brazilian government constructed the BR-230. It made the interiors accessible and land available for everyone willing to migrate. At the time, one could work as much soil as means allowed you to. In the town Apui most people came from the border region with Paraguay and have German ancestors. I forget about their Nazi background and enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread. Only Germans can bake something that nutritious. Together we eat, drink and pray. Role patterns are traditional on the countryside. Karien takes care after the household while her husband works. Carl represents the local farmers and is upset with the Americans. Probably, he means all Western nations when he criticizes their hypocritical demands. “They want us to preserve the Lungs of the Earth for the world’s future generations. But where does that leave us? And who are the United States to tells us what to do when they have already cultivated most of their land?” I realizes he has a point there.
Back in the jungle, rare parrots fly in pairs. I don’t fear the jaguars everyone is warning me for. They fear me. Well that is at least my guess since I do not see any. The last bell rings and my eyes fill with tears when I hand out the last punch. Another 250 miles of dust lie ahead of me. My leg muscles are ready for the decisive Knock Out. Even though I am about to win the final round, I feel sad. 1,500 miles of gravel made me tired. I have been giving it the fullest day after day. And while I have hardly time to enjoy, I realize that back home my best friends are raising their first kids. I am not part of it. Though, I think ahead and raise my head.
At the end of the Trans-Amazonica lies the Hualla Hualla pass. Not just an exotic or a 12,000 foot pass, no, it is the start of a new episode with amazing views and cold nights in the Andes mountains.