Friday, June 20, 2014

adventures of a cycling hunter-gatherer tribe

Quietly he sneaks up on the little hamlet on a dirt track just of the main road. It helps to have your gear tied down and oiled up when you want to be quiet. You never know if you should let the potential host know you are coming, or be prepared to quietly escape from a bad situation. What will be the better strategy? All we need is a space out of sight so we can sleep in peace and not worry about our bikes too much. If we are able to cook some of us usually go vegetable hunting. Others would rather gut a goat.

All of us had expectations when we started the B2B journey. We thought we would become capoeira super heroes  – sorry, nope.  We thought we would learn how to compose Berimbau Symphonies – not likely. We thought it would be a grand honor and lifetime opportunity to ride with a Capoeira legend like Mestre Acordeon – ok, of course. Impressions of lands and peoples are countless. Any of us could probably go on for hours about all the things we have seen. Some of these expectations were over rated, some of them were true, and some other things we just did not expect at all. As we say in German “Erstens kommt es anders, und zweitens als man denkt”.

For example what it means to live in a modern day hunter gatherer tribe. Not an experience most of us expected to make. Let me describe our normal to you.

After having found save sleeping quarters, cooked and eaten whatever food we managed to find we sleep until just before sunrise. Often we are in a large shared room, at a fire station, at a municipal building, in a gym or in a jail. I miss sleeping on the beach.


 It’s hot in Central America, we sleep on the hard floor with a sarong as a blanket or in a hammock, most of us have gotten rid of mats, tents or sleeping bags. We rise from our makeshift beds and start making one or another type of breakfast, packing and cooking simultaneously. Usually there are groups of twos or more that share cooking. Depending on mood and availability we share our different foods. Everybody keeps an eye on Mestre’s progress - that’s how we know when we leave. When we move our steel-horses out on the road we tie down our saddle bags, check the hoofs and the lube and start riding out into the very early morning. Usually, we are the first ones on the road riding through fog and wood fire smoke, past slowly waking up fields and animals. Picture this quiet caravan, gently rolling through verdant landscapes. We ride all day and only take breaks during the heat of mid-day.

We have been doing this for nine months. We have shared food, bedding, hardship and the risks of the road less traveled 24/7. We all know each other’s habits like who you can chat to before they have had their cup of coffee and who is functional at what time of the day. How fast and far we can ride and who does better in the heat or in the cold. For better or worse we are as close to a modern hunter gatherer tribe as you can find. One with service-less cell phones and sporadic internet connections.

What does it all mean? Do we groom each other's pelts and munch on each other’s fleas? (uhm, only a couple of us) Do we have a dominant male and everyone else tries to take his place? (yes and no) We don't fight over our two females, they are in good hands. How do group dynamics function and do we display changed behavioral patterns compared to our previous US west-coast background? 

This changed way of life changes us. Almost naturally our emotional connections have taken on a subconscious strength. We more and more resemble cultures with less individualistic points of view. Because of our shared capoeira back ground we may take to this group life more naturally. We also always try to flow with the circumstance, stay present. We don’t know dates or days of the week. Sometimes we are even in the wrong month. When we are confronted with the real world’s schedules and deadlines we are startled.  We wonder why it all doesn’t just flow in a common and sense making rhythm, hopefully according to seasons and the moon.

When we meet other bicycle touring people they are often surprised that we manage to keep the peace amongst so many of us. They are used to either being loners or democratic ways, majority rule for all decisions. We don’t have this problem. Mestre Acordeon looks for our input but in the end makes the decisions alone. Why is it so easy to accept this? None of us seem to have an issue with not having any real say about where we go, how long we stay or other common travel conflict points. All we care about is food, sleep, capoeira and keeping moving towards our shared goals. This is a marked difference to our daily existence back home where our days are filled with indivuality and constant decision making processes.

I personally did not think it would be so beautiful, easy and even peaceful to fall back into pack mode. To know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. To move as one and rely on each other. Are these instincts so close to our emotional surface, still, after all these millennia of civilization? Would we be happier to live this way even today instead of in our highly individualized cultures? In a tribe of our choosing, of a good size and with not too much gossip?

Do you miss your tribe without knowing it?


  1. Wow. What a great thought. I use to travel by myself for exactly wanting to avoid discussions about everything. I think there defenitely are only those two ways for traveling in freedom. Either alone or in a tribe structured like yours. All the bes and axé! Ema

  2. Thanks for reading man. I like the alone back packing as well. It makes it easier to meet new people right.

    Wo bist du denn?

  3. Hey man! Just checking in to say I'm enjoying your blog.

    Do you guys actually train capoeira as well, or are you knackered after a hard day's riding? Do you think your capoeira is improving from the trip? You'd probably get a lot just by osmosis...

    1. Better late than never :) We were toally knackered and trained less than ever before. But still improved. Especially in hindsight. I'd say most of the learning happened in our heads though, our understanding of the game and our ability to adjust to different styles.