A few years ago, my husband and I cycled through the Sacred Valley in Peru. The snow capped Andes loomed in the distance as we rode on dirt tracks past traditionally dressed locals herding llamas and goats. The high altitude air was so thin I struggled with mountain sickness, and even the slightest rise in elevation was exhausting. The downhill sections were almost harder, and I had to push my bike down narrow trails with hundred foot drop offs.
Call me crazy, but seven months later we booked a cycling tour through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. I’ve never taken a holiday where I had to train to be ready for the rigors of the trip. I rode a stationary bike three times a week for the longest hour of my life, and rode my bike on our local roads in below zero temperatures when frostbite was a real concern.
The trip itself was even more challenging. We rode six to seven hours every day in the heat of the tropical sun, up hills, down into valleys, through small villages, and on winding trails through the jungles of Central America with volcanoes smoking in the distance. The squawks of brilliant-colored birds and the haunting calls of howler monkeys were louder than my huffing and puffing. We caught glimpses of iguanas, sloths, and capuchin monkeys high in the trees, and were awed by the brilliant blue flash of blue morpho butterflies.
The trip pushed me to my limits. Sweat poured from every nook and cranny, and we fought over butt butter to relieve the blisters on our nether regions. But as each day ended, I was filled with a sense of pride at what I’d accomplished.
We’re already planning another bike tour through northern Italy. I don’t know if I’m a sucker for punishment, or I’m just looking forward to the liter of wine I’ll reward myself at the end of a hard day’s cycling.