Seven weeks into our trip and other cycle travellers are somewhat thin on the road. But the quality far out ways the quantity. There's certain 'honey spots' that help to concentrate the possibilities of a chance encounter. Cities have poor returns, too many places to miss. Campgrounds are better, 'ender routes' better still, but best is an international frontier and the general couple of days around them. Paso Christo Redendor was especially fruitful.
Ben, ex Orcadian, ex Lancastrian, no accent, married to Natalia a Braziliana. Who on first contact, and this is so typical of cycle travellers were reticent about what they had been up too. Reticent, unassuming. They volunteered the information that they had just come on RN7. My subvocal reaction is: why? It's a fast, narrow, semi-infested road. But I'm too polite. They too are heading "over the hill", just like us, we're bound to get either confirmation of their virginity or the real explanation over the next couple of days. On a road that's over two days long, there's bound to be crossover somewhere. Yet we manage to pass and repass each other, they tracking down food, we, a siesta behind a giant rock, eventually coming together at the tunnel entrance. We take breakfast in the cafe together as we await the truck transport through the tunnel. That truck-congested Route Seven is but a fraction of their story. They're on a proving trip for their sponsors. (Swiss pharmaceutical wishing to launch a new sunscreen in Brazil) They left their front door in São Paulo forty odd days ago...four thousand odd kilometres ago...I can do the math, they're not hanging around. It's their last section. Now it's back home, then off to Canada, "to fatten up", cycle from the US border to Winnipeg in December, followed by a ski to Resolute Bay! So, not so much travellers as Adventurers.
Two days later we find another brand of adventurers. On differing occasions we've met, or we've heard reliable second hand stories of families on tour. Oddly or coincidentally most seem to be French. Famille Jouen are Bretons on an extended tour. Ewan(8) is on an independent, just like his mother Solenn, whilst his sister Meline and dad Oliv are on a recumbent tandem. It's an impressive set up. Forty kilos of kit and eighty kilos of cycle. There on their way over the same route that we've just covered, only they will be climbing up those twenty nine hairpin bends. Hopefully the wind will stay on its prevailing way for them.
Now there's been enough chatter on line about taking primary age children out of formal education for an extended period, I'm no expert, but I am an observer. I can't help but note the confidence, the inquisitiveness, the self assurance that's exhibited. Nature or nurture. Was it there before the journey started or is it a product of this tour? To have had those skills at that age. Their blog is here.
Footnote. The Jouens are 'over the hill', both physically and metaphorically, now heading north to Salta, Argentina. Ben and Natalia have signed up with their sponsors and are awaiting a firearms certificate... polar bears up around Hudson Bay. Their website is here.