WEEK #51 HOW ARE WE DOING? The one with the flash flood…

It was a bright and sunny day. The legs had done their job well; 130 km in 34ºC. It had been hot and humid, but I was getting used to it. After half an hour of looking around I had found a spot to set-up camp. A small stream of water running through a little roadside town called Ostuta. A gas station, taqueria and a bus stop. That was it. Nice and quiet.

IMG_4170I set my trustworthy Carl Denig tent a couple of meters away from the half dried up river. Two men were cleaning some clothes in the stream of water, we nodded and at each other and I asked if I was allowed to camp here. You never know if you’re on private ground. Unlike other places and countries I’ve been, in Mexico they love it when you camp outdoors, in yards or anywhere else, it’s good company and conversation!
While the water for my pasta was boiling I decided to do some laundry in the stream, as some locals had been doing this too. An hour later my head hit the pillow and I was vast asleep. Only to be awoken a few hours later by something I had never been able to imagine happening.

A cold splash of water hit my face and I sat up straight. At least I tried to. There was a large amount of water running into my tent. It was coming in fast. It felt like I was on a waterbed, everywhere I put my hand down I sank away.
“I need to get out of here.” I said to myself. It was pitch black inside the tent and with some luck I managed to find my glasses, phone and the zipper to open the tent, which was now slowly being pulled loose by the strong current of water.
The front of my tent has enough space to store my panniers and other belongings like shoes, helmet, food etc. The things you use daily and need close by. All were now floating in the tent and being pulled away by the current.

The flood came from the nearby mountains where a tropical storm had been raging for some time. The water had come down the little stream and turned it into a raging wild water river, taking everything along its path. Including me. The water had risen more than a meter in a matter of minutes.

With the water up to my waist I went back and forth into the river to get my belongings. Breathing heavily after my third run into the water I noticed my tent had now been pulled loose completely by the strong current and was being washed away to the center of the river, too dangerous to go and get it, in a split second I made the decision to let it go. Better safe than sorry.
My tent, cycling shoes, helmet and some food were all washed away. I stood at the side of the river, staring silently into the raging water. Thinking what else I could have lost and what I was going to do next. The only thing I could do was get some sleep. Somewhere. Anywhere. Somehow.
IMG_4213My steel bicycle hadn’t been washed away; it was too heavy. I loaded it up and started pedaling into the darkness. After a few minutes I saw a bus stop. It had a little roof over the bench to keep me dry, sort of. I put down my air mattress and wet sleeping bag, which had been rescued from the tent, and went to sleep, only to be awoken 3 hours later. A couple of kids waiting for the bus all had a weird look on their face. Who was this man in their bus stop? Why was he sleeping here? I put myself in their position and started laughing a bit. It was a pretty strange situation, a funny one though.

No food, little water, almost everything wet. Now what? Start pedaling I guess, no other option. It didn’t take long before I reached another little town. There I had some breakfast and juice before cycling down the road again to a larger town where I could find a cheap motel. I was now homeless and needed to dry off my things.
Arriaga was the town. Small, vibrant and very hot. The last stop before I would reach Tuxtla Gutierrez, 125km further south.
The next day I left around noon. Waiting for my things to be completely dry, I headed into town for some groceries and different flipflops. The ones I had saved from the river were worn out and had caused blisters on the soles of my feet. Not a good thought when you know you have to pedal up a mountain the first 22 km of the day.

Now I’m in Tuxtla. Wouter and Samantha are here too. The next few days will be the last days we spend together before we part our ways. Wouter and I started almost 9 months ago in Alaska. Samantha joined us in Vancouver. Like a flash flood we’ve been heading south down the North American continent, reaching out to thousands. Next up is Central-America, and then South-America. We will keep going, though in different places, and we will make a difference in peoples lives. If you haven’t joined us yet, you still can! Support, donate and follow 99%RIDE, see your donation at work!

We are 99%RIDE; will you be our 1%?

From Tuxtla Gutierrez,

Dirk Spits

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