Cole's mother made sure that we had a large breakfast before we left, so we tried to fill our stomachs with as much food as possible. Then, we put on our bike clothes with hesitation. They felt unfamiliar and made us look like something we obviously aren't (experienced cyclists). Our bikes were brought outside. Goodbyes were said. Tears were shed. We put a foot on the pedal, climbed unto the seat, and pushed off down the hill.
To avoid the heat, we had started biking at 6.15 am that morning. Yet only a few hours later, the sun began to beat down on us, resulting in more frequent stops for juice and water refills. We also quickly realized how much one sweats when biking. It was gross.
Biking was very uneventful for the most part, but occasionaly we would have a fairly sudden "pinch me" moment. We were biking through absolutely beautiful country. Occasionally we would be stopped by a heard of cows crossing the streets. Sometimes Cole would stop to point out a monkey in the trees. We even stopped to take a quick swim in a crystal clear river. We were also surprised by our own naivety: everything--the animals, the plants, the geography--was completely new to us.
After lunch, we realized that we had to soon find ourselves a campsite for the night. We had been watching out for nice little spots along the road, but it was quite evident that finding a convenient space to set up our tent would be much more difficult than we had expected. Our backup plan: ask a random house owner if we could sleep in their backyard. At 3.00 pm after about 60 miles of biking, we began to do just that.
"Umm... Excusing me, sir?" said Adam as he approached a random homeowner along the side of the street, using few Spanish sentences that we had prepared earlier that day. "e've biked a long way today and we are really tired. Do you know of any small pieces of land around here where one can set up a tent? We are very quiet and we will leave early in the morning."
He looked surprised, as I'm sure that he doesn't get this type of question every day. "You could try the side of the road up ahead," he gestured. "There are not any campgrounds around here."
Dejected, we thanked him and walked away. Seconds later though, he called back to us. Maybe it was our puppy eyes. Maybe he could in fact sense that, yes, we were really tired and probably couldn't have made it much farther. Either way, he said, "Hey. How about right here?" He glanced back at his wife for approval. "You can stay in my backyard."
I will always be amazed by the generosity of Elmer and his family. Their house was small and their material possessions seemed relatively few, yet they offered so many things to us. We spent time in their house, watching a little bit of TV and chatting with the family about life, work, and other things. Out of a feeling of guilt, we declined dinner. It just didn't feel right taking more from this family--they had already provided us with a very comfortable place to stay. Instead, we went back to our tent and organized things for the next day. Occasionaly, we would spot one of Elmer}s little kids watching us from the light of their window, smiles wide across their faces.
In the morning, we woke up to the smell of coffee, a beautiful mountain view in front of us, and vast plains behind us. And this time, we could not refuse Elmer's offer for a meal. We ate breakfast with his family inside their house and thanked them about three dozen times. We were happy. We had survived day one.