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  1. #1
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    Mexico>Central America>South America Fall 2011

    Hello happy nomads!
    I am looking for people to tour the world with. Currently I'm working in Michigan, hoping to do the tour by this fall, October or November.

    So far, it's me committed to the trip, possibly another female friend might join me. If I can't locate anyone, I may do the bike tour solo. However, my family would be very concerned and I, personally, prefer to ride with someone. To any female cyclist that traveled solo in foreign countries: What are the safety concerns for a young woman to tour solo? Is it too risky to travel Central and South America alone?

    If not the whole route, how about joining me for part of the tour?

    I am on a budget! I'd like to keep my spending as minimal as possible. Ride for charity? Yes! I would like to raise awareness on environmental issues and social justice, promoting green solutions and permaculture. Excuse me for not having a detailed plan here, but I feel the need to locate touring partners now, then we can figure out the charities and fundraising later.

    This would be my second tour. Last year, my friend and I moved to Detroit from San Francisco on our bicycles. I miss the road and the US tour was a relaxed adventure. Having never traveled internationally, the though of a world bike tour confuses and intimidates me. Looking for support!

    Please contact me for questions and if you will ride with me, know anyone that is planning a similar tour, or links that can help me locate travel partners.

    My email is marie.psycat at gmail dot com

    Be well!

  2. #2
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    My website may help you in your planning: www.cyclingforacause.com
    I'm also from the Detroit area. Good luck and have fun!
    120 Days, 12000 Kilometers, 2 Wheels - Alaska to Panama for Charity - www.CyclingForACause.com

  3. #3
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wanderfulwonder View Post
    What are the safety concerns for a young woman to tour solo? Is it too risky to travel Central and South America alone?
    Hi Marie,

    I can give you my impressions of Central America, but only from a man's point of view. See below for the response my female cycling partner gave to the same question, but posed by two women who planned to ride together.

    I'd say it's possible to do it alone, however I might be nervous about it if I were a single woman. As my partner and I rode through (Cancun to Panama City) she received countless (I'd guess in the hundreds) of cat calls, whistles, un-welcomed comments, etc. Nobody ever approached her in a threatening manner, but that may be because I was never far away. But obviously, me being close by didn't deter them from the verbal affronts. Seems to just be the culture there.

    If you are white, you will already stand out like a sore thumb and attract a lot of attention. My guess is if you are white and female, you will be seen as a prime candidate for what you might see as harassment, and what they might see as harmless fun. Be prepared to be called "Gringo" incessantly. Nicaragua and Honduras seemed to be the worst for this. It is sometimes followed with a plea for money, but often it is just children in houses or schools that you pass, just yelling as you pass by. I couldn't possibly count how many times this happened, in some areas it was maybe 3 or 4 times per mile. At first I found it kind of humorous, but by the umpteenth time of hearing it, it got very old.

    You might try searching Crazyguyonabike.com for single females touring in that part of the world. In the meantime, here is the quote from my female riding partner, who is very experienced bike touring all over the world, is quite self assured, and is fluent in Spanish:

    "... there where the occasional places where I mentioned the better feeling having a man around.
    Then again, I would have stopped there anyway. In my opinion it is very much your own behavior that leads to unwanted confrontations. Acting in a self-confident manner definitely helps and a standard answer to the odd question about marrying is a good idea.
    Being used to cat calls and stuff is good, not reacting to them even better. But you seem to know that as well as the "dress-code" for trouble-free traveling. My tube-top only popped out of the panniers in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. I felt perfectly fine there but would not have wanted to wear it in the other countries. If you make sure not to end up in sketchy areas when the night falls, keep riding if you feel uncomfortable and stick together in town or at check points you should be as fine as a female-male-touring-couple."

    Edit to clarify: When she mentions the "tube top" she was really referring to her tank top. English is not her native language.
    Last edited by simplygib; 07-11-11 at 05:43 PM.

  4. #4
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    I hate to be "that guy", but Mexico is in the midst of a drug war. The CIA places Mexico on the same safety level as Pakistan. 40 people were murdered in Mexico last weekend. I think I would find a different destination. It's one thing to vacation at a resort in Cozumel or Cancun. It's quite another to bike across the Mexican hinterlands.

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    the more South you get the safer it is; Argentina and Chile are pretty much 1st world countries, from Paraguay and Bolivia and up its a lot more.. adventurous
    i met 2 female solo cyclists in SA on seperate occasions, they had a great time, but man they were tough ladies! they wouldn't take bs from anyone! respect!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnrider View Post
    I hate to be "that guy", but Mexico is in the midst of a drug war. The CIA places Mexico on the same safety level as Pakistan. 40 people were murdered in Mexico last weekend. I think I would find a different destination. It's one thing to vacation at a resort in Cozumel or Cancun. It's quite another to bike across the Mexican hinterlands.
    Have you biked across the "Mexican hinterlands"? I suspect not. I have, however. The violence is Mexico is generally quite localized. Furthermore, murder rates in several Central American countries is much higher than in Mexico, even with drug cartels and the Mexican government fighting one another.

  7. #7
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
    Have you biked across the "Mexican hinterlands"? I suspect not. I have, however. The violence is Mexico is generally quite localized. Furthermore, murder rates in several Central American countries is much higher than in Mexico, even with drug cartels and the Mexican government fighting one another.
    +1

    Our tour took place during those drug wars as well. The worst thing that happened to us was two 5-year-old Guatemalan kids threw rocks at us. Met great people in every country we rode through.

    This subject has been debated to death here already. If you think it's too dangerous, tour somewhere else. If not, go and have fun.

    ETA: According to one source there were 15,241 murders in the US in 2009, which is an average of 41 per day, or 82 for a weekend. So 40 in a weekend in Mexico sounds great!
    Last edited by simplygib; 07-12-11 at 11:18 AM.

  8. #8
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    Hi Marie!

    I'm in a similar situation as you but I am not able to travel until after mid June 2012. I'm from Seattle and have lots of bike commuting/building experience as well as solo international travel but never on a bike. If for some reason your dates change, let me know! I am so excited for my first tour but can't seem to get anyone to come along! I am also looking into Mexico and Central America as I would love to pick up some more Spanish.

    Best of luck to you!
    Mallory

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnrider View Post
    I hate to be "that guy", but Mexico is in the midst of a drug war. The CIA places Mexico on the same safety level as Pakistan. 40 people were murdered in Mexico last weekend. I think I would find a different destination. It's one thing to vacation at a resort in Cozumel or Cancun. It's quite another to bike across the Mexican hinterlands.
    As "that girl" who lives in Mexico and bikes daily, I can tell you that the drug wars the US is so fond of blasting in the news is generally between rival drug gangs. Stay away from drugs, use common sense and you'll be fine. Most Mexicans love helping out and you'll find a smile, along with por favor and gracias, will take you a long way. As for the catcalls, it's not you in particular, it's part of the machismo thing...almost expected if you're male and breathing. I'm 53, way past my prime, and I still get them (I figure that the opticians are very underused here). It's just part of life. Ignore them and move on. They won't quit, but will increase if you react.

    Just like in the US, stay on well-traveled roads and you'll be fine.

  10. #10
    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by dengidog View Post
    (I figure that the opticians are very underused here)

    chistoso!

  11. #11
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    On my world tour I loved cycling throughout this region. People are correct that only the northern border areas on Mexico are particularly dangerous. I rode primarily through thed mountainous middle of the country, touched the coast only a little bit near Puerto Vallarta. A couple of sure ways to minimize hassles:

    (1) travel early in the AM and end your day early. This gives you time to enjoy the country/towns/town squares on foot and at your leisure. Troublemakers sleep all day after being out in the late evening and nighttimes.

    (2) similarly, cross borders as early in the day as possible; and get thru them as quickly as possible. Everyone is fresh and in a good mood then. Only train and bus stations rival borders are hangouts for hucksters and criminals of every persuasion. Do your currency exchanges at Banks, not at Borders (although many crossings have banks...so thats Ok) and not with hucksters at borders unless you know the language very well and have a sharp eye for a ripoff.

    (3) I stayed in the mountains. I've always found rural people to far more honest, courteous, and helpful than townies or god forbid the big cities. Life is very tough for people in these places and they open up to you as a cyclist, instead of some tour bus chair-monkey who wants to get a trinket for a song while scowling at the locals.

    (4) Costa Rica is your best shot for great bicycle repair and parts.

    (5) You'll be there during hurricane season. Plus its a showery climate so plan on getting wet. Its green and lovely...the spanish words are siempre primavera, I recall....always springtime! The butterflies are amazing. So are the Volcanoes.

    (6) Your best guide about danger and regions are fellow people on the roads. I was on PanAm (actually a system, not "a" highway) in some places, and little paved paths in others. I got comments from truckers to farmers. State department bulletins are far too general and geared toward business and resort travelers. Glad to hear the State Department thinks mexico is as dangerous as Pakistan..on my world tour I spent alot of time in both places.

    Good luck!

    roughstuff
    Last edited by Roughstuff; 08-25-11 at 11:48 AM.
    Electric car sales are on fire! :)

  12. #12
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
    (5) You'll be there during hurricane season. Plus its a showery climate so plan on getting wet. Its green and lovely...the spanish words are siempre primavera, I recall....always springtime! The butterflies are amazing. So are the Volcanoes.
    All good points, but the hurricane one resonated with me the most. On my 2009 Central America tour we kept one eye on the National Hurricane Center website throughout the tour. Just by fortunate timing we skirted a tropical storm that was said to have been pulled into this area off the Pacific due to the low pressure of Hurricane Ida further to the east. We were in El Salvador at the time, and in the coming days and weeks passed through the affected areas. It was quite sobering, especially with the knowledge that 140 people were reported dead at the time (later reports were up to 175). We passed by numerous landslides, and many swollen lakes and rivers. The water supply in the town we were in was overwhelmed by sediment from runoff and had to be shut down. At an outdoor restaurant along the Pan Am some locals loaned us their binoculars so we could see mudslides on the flank of San Vincente volcano. A small village called Verapaz was utterly devastated by all the mud, and many residents were killed. We could see roofless huts, and bare walls sticking up out of the mud.

    At one point on the Pan Am, the two northbound lanes had been completely buried in a mudslide that was maybe a quarter mile long. In the picture below, the clear lanes are southbound, and the vehicle among the line of trees is on what was the median.

    Last edited by simplygib; 08-28-11 at 10:54 AM.

  13. #13
    Buddy Ratzinger's Avatar
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    It seems too easy to proclaim Mexico as "dangerous" or "safe". At least we can't be flippant about it.
    Seems like a lot of good advice from Roughstuff.
    It seems hard to get solid numbers but here's a quote from this (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...479614524.html) article about killings in mexico:

    "Mexico's murder rate has more than doubled, to 22 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010, in just four years, a period that parallels the drug war. Before that, it had been falling steadily. In the U.S. the murder rate is about 5 per 100,000."

    I believe it could still be safe if a person knows what he or she is doing and avoids dangerous spots (I don't have personal experience traveling by bike there) but it is heartbreaking to hear comments about how only 40 murders sounds appealing. What is happening to places like Juarez is just tragic.

  14. #14
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
    All good points, but the hurricane one resonated with me the most. .....
    I got hit by Hurricane mitch and rode in the rain for several days before I was stopped dead in Nicaragua by floods, downed bridges, and general mayhem. When I planned my trip what i feared most was having the road closed behind me and in front of me, and thats exactly what happened. In some low lying areas the PanAm is on a berm, but I was still in water deep enough to cover each pedal at its lowest stroke. I got the dreaded 'foot rot' that soldiers speak of, but it went away. Many abandoned cars and trucks were being looted and stripped, but I managed to get by intact.


    roughstuff
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  15. #15
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzinger View Post
    It seems too easy to proclaim Mexico as "dangerous" or "safe". At least we can't be flippant about it.
    Seems like a lot of good advice from Roughstuff.
    Yeah. I worked in Russia for two years; people used to ask about how 'dangerous' it was. Nothing like having one sixth of the world's land surface listed as 'dangerous.'

    Thanks for the advice comment. I have a subsection of my world tour website devoted to "Cycling in Dangerous Places:"

    http://www.cyclingscholar.com/danger.html


    roughstuff
    Electric car sales are on fire! :)

  16. #16
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzinger View Post
    ....but it is heartbreaking to hear comments about how only 40 murders sounds appealing. What is happening to places like Juarez is just tragic.
    My point was not that it is appealing, but that it isn't as bad as it might sound when compared to other places, places like "home." I completely agree, what is happening with the drug war is very tragic. The firebombing of the casino in Monterrey was one glaring example of the tragedy that continues to unfold in some parts of Mexico. Still, I think many people, especially people who haven't actually been there, read the headlines and assume you can't set foot anywhere in Mexico without bullets flying over your head, which couldn't be further from the truth.

  17. #17
    Buddy Ratzinger's Avatar
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    Personally I have only been to Mexico city. It's a wonderful place.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Man, I would love to go with you, but wife and kids mean no. But good luck to you. I envy you your epic journey. Keep us posted.

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