We jokingly comment that our apartment at times resembles an international hostel. Two nights ago we had 6 visitors staying with us, three in the guest room and three sleeping on the living room floor!
This all started when I registered us as a host for bike travelers on the warmshowers.com website (a social network where bikers can contact potential hosts with whom to stay during their travels). In addition, we have given open invitations to many of the travelers we met while biking in the south. In light of the hospitality and generosity we experienced on our own bike trip, it seems only natural that we should do the same for other travelers.
In November we hosted two brothers from Ecuador who were embarking on a two-year bike journey around South America (biciecuador.com). They had left their country with a total of $23 USD and had managed to make their way working occasionally and living off of the generosity of strangers. The brothers had stayed with our friends Lojo and Dan in Chile and we welcomed them shortly thereafter here in Mendoza. Let’s just say they could eat! I recently checked their website and it is very clear that traveling in today’s world with next to no money has not proven easy. But these guys seem to be pulling it off.
In December, we hosted Laurie and Julien from Belgium. They were riding recumbent bikes from Ecuador to the tip of South America. They stayed a week with us. We recently heard from them, letting us know that they had indeed made it to their destination. Congratulations!
Three weeks ago we had a morning visit from Sarah, one of the three women hiking the length of South America (Eat Hike Sleep Hike).
For the last two weeks we have hosted Arlette (USA), Rob (Holland by way of Belgium), and Roxanne (France by way of Belgium). We met these three twenty-somethings while working on the strawberry farm and our reuniting had been much anticipated by our daughters, Solana and Frances. “When they arrive, don’t tell us. We want to come home from school and have it be a surprise!”
Two days ago, Francois (France) (defidaventures.blogspot.com) arrived quietly on little cat’s feet. Jenny had met him in the town of Cholila on our bike trip and offered a place to stay once he arrived in Mendoza. He is the only cyclist we have met who is doing the route south to north. Yesterday, he went to 6 different bike shops looking to replace an axle cone, with no luck! Argentina and foreign imports are like oil and water.
Hours after Francois arrived, our doorbell rang. Assuming it was Francois returning from some errands, I buzzed him in. But when the elevator opened, voila, it was not Francois but rather Daniel (Poland) and Katalin (Hungary). They had contacted me a while back via “warmshowers”, but we were never sure of their actual arrival. They are hoping to bike for a year from here up to Mexico. However, they have no bikes, no equipment, and no experience. We all agreed, and time on the road bares this out, enthusiasm is the most important ingredient. Well, Daniel and Katalin certainly have that. Yesterday, they headed back to Santiago to purchase bikes, as the local prices and selection are limited. They left some gear with us and we assume we will see them in the next week or two.
While hosting may have its drawbacks (lack of privacy and alone time), the experience of sharing with and learning from others is so valuable. Solana and Frances have learned so much just being around our guests and witnessing it all: the accents, the stories, the road, the passions, the questions, the laughter, the food, etc. And while many back home have looked upon our bike trip as an ambitious adventure, which I guess it was, the number of fellow bike (and non-bike) travelers we have met is a testament to just how many people are out there pushing it, doing something different.
Perhaps Don Quixote was not that crazy after all! I guess where some see windmills, others see…