Monday, February 10, 2014

Progress, Little By Little

In the last few weeks, we've procured rechargeable batteries, maps for every country we'll be visiting except the US, and bear canisters.

We're relieved these things have arrived. The questions dictating which things to get are never-ending. Which bear canister is lightest, is large enough to fit sufficient food and small enough to fit in our backpacks, and is within our price range? Which maps and guidebooks are the most recently updated, best quality, and have an appropriate scale? Which batteries can we recharge with the dynamo hub and will function in a SteriPen, SPOT, digital camera, high-power bicycle light, and variable-output headlamp? It takes so much time, energy, and money for long-distance travel greenhorns like us just to get the right gear, and that's only the beginning!

The maps, to me, are the most exciting thing we've gotten so far. Even though the future planning of a more specific route means hours of research, I feel akin to Audrey Sutherland in Paddling North:

"Some musicians can look at a sheet of music and hear the melody and the rhythm. Their faces light up as they read down the page, hearing it so clearly. This map told me of the mountains and bays of southern Baranof Island. 'Look there at the head of Gut Bay,” I said to myself. “You could follow the stream to the lake, but I wonder how much underbrush there is. Look, you could bushwhack this pass over to the next lake and the next.'
My excitement was building."

I'm in a coffee shop right now in Big Bear, and my map of Mexico is spread out over the table in front of me. There's no one else around to call me obnoxious for taking up the whole table (and some of the next), or maybe crazy for talking to myself and gesticulating (just a little bit) when I see some fantastic topography. My excitement is building, too. The Volcan de las Tres Virgenes is right next to the road; could we climb it? That primary highway: does it have a shoulder? I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time. What lies ahead?

Last night, as I traced the Pan-American Highway through South America, our friend Kate was nice enough to talk with us about her experiences in Bolivia. She love, love, loved it. Could not recommend the country higher. It's friends like her, or Ian and Colette who are currently exploring Ecuador and Colombia, or my relatives who have traveled extensively through Honduras and Nicaragua and took the time to share with me some of their wonderful travel stories and recommendations, who illumine with truth the oftentimes fearful, xenophobic reviews of many of these unfamiliar places.

For all that we're doing with the maps, we haven't touched the batteries. That's coming: tests for longevity when used in the SPOT are on the to-do list. Fortunately, we're getting some premature use from the bear canisters; they are filled to the brim with our favorite staples: peanuts, couscous, and oatmeal. If they can keep out bears, we hope they can keep out mice, too!