For the past 15 months our unstructured lives had a routine: wake up, eat, pack up the tent and panniers, cycle, eat, cycle, eat, repeat … set up camp, check into a cheap hotel or squat in an abandoned building, eat, and sleep. In some ways the new routine was like the old work routine (wake up, eat, commute, work on some project, commute, eat, sleep, and repeat) only with better scenery, worse climate control and infinitely more stimulation.
Being on “vacation” in the Galapagos broke our routine, something that our bodies noticed.
Our bodies have changed and adapted to the cycling. I’m thin and wiry compared to when we started bicycling. Gym muscles atrophied over time and fat became a luxury that our bodies craved rather than unwanted accoutrements. When I pick up the unladen bike, compared to 15 months ago, it feels heavy. Before we left, hoisting the 32lb+ (14kg+) bike over a shoulder with one hand was not a problem. Now the bike requires two hands to pick up. The muscle has migrated south to the legs.
It felt strange to be walking and hiking on the new legs. Hopping on the bikes and pedaling has become easier than walking. In fact, when we walk around and sightsee, we are exhausted by the end of the day and our legs are sore. Our legs are no longer accustomed to load bearing activities. Our bodies have gradually transformed into an extension of the bicycle. Anything above the waist is only life support for the pistons (our legs) that move us forward.
Snorkeling in the Galapagos was an absolute joy. The feeling of weightlessness was a change from feeling like I’m dragging a battleship up the side of a mountain. Cycling has increased my lung capacity. Spending the past month or so at elevations between 2000m and 3000m (6500 ft and 9800 ft) loaded my veins with extra red blood cells. The cycling legs, when equipped with flippers, provided powerful kicks that propelled me farther than I expected. These changes left me free to dive for more than a minute on one breath and explore underwater nooks and crannies.
Again I found myself exploring a foreign world. The change in atmosphere and feeling of weightlessness reinforces, that once again, I am a Stranger in a Strange Land.