WEEK #83 HOW ARE WE DOING? One man, on a raft..?

After cycling just over 24,000 km in 15 months I arrive in La Paz, Bolivia. Peru had taken its toll, and left me with a small viral infection in my airways, which brought me to the doctor’s office for a good check-up. It was probably a wise thing to do after being on the road so long. The results were very positive, except the little virus of course, but that would heal soon enough with good rest. Good timing actually, because the Bolivians have a holiday until the 19th of January and the project I want to visit and support won’t be open till then.

So, what to do?

At first it seemed strange, but after putting things in perspective it made sense, for the first time in 15 months I had the opportunity to take a week off. Off of absolutely everything. No cycling, no hiking, no Wi-Fi, no work. Absolutely nothing. Just rest, my body needed it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next step: take some old truck tires, wood, rope and head towards a river. Build a raft and sit on it. For seven days. Through the jungle. No civilization, goodbye world, the river current is taking me on a journey. The only people I see are indigenous. Living off the grid. No, here there isn’t even a grid, just a wide river flowing through the Amazon. Wild jungle left and right. Surrounded by nature, the river takes me north through uninhabited regions of Bolivia. It feels like I am on the road, yet not carrying my usual luggage. A tent, sleeping bag, and two sets of clothing. No more, no less. Simplicity at its best. Oh yeah, I’m not moving my legs either, they’re taking a good rest these days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen seeing the people that live in the jungle I am awed. The wooden huts, the clothes hanging to dry in the hot sun, the children playing with wooden toys. Again I think of defining the word “poor”. Are they poor? No, I don’t think so. They have what they need and what they want. Or do they want more? Do they know more or different? Is it important? No. This is their life, it’s been this way for a long time and it will stay this way. They are happy.

Before heading off again I fill a bottle of water at one of the homemade faucets. Rainwater caught and led to a huge bucket. The water is used for laundry, cooking, cleaning and of course the most basic, drinking.
Back to simple life. Even more simple than before. Lying on the wood and tires, drifting with the strong current. Time to rest. Time to think. Sleep. Lots of sleep. My cap protects me from the strong sun; a slight breeze blows across my face and cools me down.

IMG_4129As with cycling I soon find my daily rituals and little routines. Get food, water and look for a place to sleep. Beaches along the river are the place to camp. Build a campfire; look at the stars, think, dream and head into bed. There’s a hard bottom of sand, turning my body hurts and an ache in my shoulder and back tells me I should have brought my trusty air mattress. I have my eyes open in the tent and think about the river. Will it rain and cause a (flash) flood? Please not again. That’s one experience I don’t want to have again, I’ve had a recurring nightmare since then…

The mornings feel cool and the air is fresh. I love nature. This is resting; this is a feeling of freedom and re-energizing. Yet after a few days I dream of a shower, hot or cold it doesn’t matter. Mud, water and sand are everywhere. Not for long, though.
Like every moment of resting, it comes to an end sooner than you want it to. Good times pass quickly. Under a cold shower in the small town of Rurrenabaque I look back at the previous days. Life can be so easy, so simple and enjoyable. But I miss what I’ve been doing the past 15 months… It’s my dream and passion.
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Before I know it I’m back in La Paz, back to 99%RIDE. I’ve missed it. Back to my bicycle, my work and passion. There’s a project I’m going to visit at the end of the month. New, loving and dedicated people helping others. Helping children receive the education they deserve.

It’s still 9 days away now, enough time to acclimatize once again to the high altitude of this beautiful city. But also to wake up the legs again, they still have along way to go and need to be strong. I’ll even try to gain some weight, too. Losing 18kg isn’t all that fun, I feel bony and skinny, even though this is a big advantage when cycling uphill.

For now, I would like to thank everybody that has recently made a Christmas and/or New Years donation to 99%RIDE. There are still several projects to visit and support, and we can’t do this without you.
Thank you.

From La Paz, Bolivia,

Dirk Spits

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2 Thoughts on “WEEK #83 HOW ARE WE DOING? One man, on a raft..?

  1. Ronald Kizziar on January 11, 2015 at 10:13 AM said:

    Great pictures Dirk! Your week off was well deserved!

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