While fear of violence keeps most US tourists out of Mexico and Colombia, the young Austrian couple Andreas Huble and Anita Burgholzer bicycled and tent-camped all the way through these countries (and many others), armed only with friendly smiles. They are happily pedaling still.
I met them as they rested in Copacabana, Bolivia. We chatted about their almost two-year journey-in-progress.
What were your experiences in Mexico and Colombia?
As a rule of thumb we can say that 99% of the people ALL over the world are good! With a little bit of preparation and common sense you will be able to travel in most of the countries which are "oh so dangerous." We always try to carry our smiles, and even more important to keep our hearts open. Most of the encounters we have are positive.
The people in Mexico (and especially in Colombia) were always very helpful, enthusiastic and hospitable. We did not have any problems regarding safety.
In those countries, most of the criminal activity happens internally, between rival cartels, the police and para-militaries. If you avoid traveling in high-risk areas (locals will tell you where those are), you will most likely be safe. Even in the States, or in Europe, there's a chance of being robbed at night in the wrong 'hood.
In Colombia and El Salvador we felt extremely welcome. Very few tourists go there, and locals treated us like family members. In Colombia, we received many invitations into people's homes, and had a wonderful time. It was just great, far better than we expected.
How did you decide to do this journey?
Traveling and cycling have always been essential parts of our lives. We started saving money – just in case our dream would someday turn into reality.
I (Andreas) read a lot of books from other adventure cyclists and was fascinated by the way they see the world. Traveling by bicycle they are part of the environment, and get a much deeper understanding of a country and its day-to-day culture. These stories, written in a sensible and critical way in the natural voice of the author, created a lot of pictures in my mind. They fed my yearning for someday breaking out of the routine.
How did you prepare for this trip?