Starkweather natives continue to southern tip of South AmericaThe Berg brothers, the Starkweather, N.D., natives who are bicycling from Alaska to Argentina to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, are traveling somewhere near the Colombia-Ecuador border this week.
By: Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
The Berg brothers, the Starkweather, N.D., natives who are bicycling from Alaska to Argentina to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, are traveling somewhere near the Colombia-Ecuador border this week.
They’re in a bit of a rush, as they try to complete their 16,000-mile trek by May, in time to fly home for the high school homecoming of their sister, Marta. It’s been six months and Isaiah, 19, David, 22, and Nathan Berg, 25, are halfway done.
Late last week they made it to Pasto, Colombia, about 50 miles northeast of the Ecuador border, but not exactly how they had planned.
Slow-going on dirt lanes up and down steep mountains in Mexico and elsewhere in Central America, and the trip further compromised by illness, they found themselves hopelessly behind schedule.
So, rather than riding the 1,000 miles between Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Panama City, Panama, where they were to travel by boat or plane into South America, they opted for a flight that took them on a far-off detour through Miami to reach Colombia.
The Berg brothers began their journey, dubbed Bound South: Three Brothers’ Expedition from Alaska to Argentina, in August. They’re traveling along what is known as the Pan-American Highway, a popular long-distance bicycle route.
Their goal is to raise $60,000 and to help build a house in the Red River Valley with Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.
In a weekend post on their blog, www.BoundSouth.org, Isaiah Berg writes that about some of the obstacles and some of the rewards. Here are a few excerpts from his recent posts:
“I revel in the moments of clarity and consciousness that adorn this bicycle expedition….
“Flying down the hot and muggy coastal plains of Chiapas on our bicycles, I remember one night camping outside of Juchitan. As twilight fell mosquitoes converged upon us as we haplessly scrambled down dirt roads looking for a secluded field to pitch our tent amidst the bogs…. We danced something wicked with a plague of mosquitoes for 45 seconds while we hastily ripped our bags from our bicycles and threw on long sleeve pants and shirts to protect us from bites and the risk of malaria.…
“Glancing at David and Nathan above the glow of our camp stove, precariously insulated above the floor of our three-man tent, I couldn’t help but notice how worn out they looked. The countless days of wind, rain, sunburn, and 8,000 miles of sweat showed on their faces along with exhaustion, discomfort, and excitement at the imminent rice-and-beans dinner we were preparing. I will never forget their unguarded faces because they represent the kind of men I have as brothers: men who would work against great difficulty and discomfort in pursuit of a good thing, and bask in the glow of our camp stove as if we had arrived at a luxury estate for a night of rest.…
“Many things have changed since leaving Alaska. The dream hasn’t. We are bound for the Andes of South America and a long, unbroken road to Ushuaia (the end of the road in Argentina). We hope you’ll continue to follow us there.”
“Six months in, this is a lot of work …. Stress, homesickness, exhaustion, bitterness, and despair all creep in when these Andes rise up before you…. Yet this is surely the work of Bound South, struggling against the mortal frailties of bicycle travel in order to see the human beauty of the Americas. It is work that we strive towards against all odds, even when it isn’t fun or easy, climbing mountains with the same attitude that we used to pick rocks from North Dakotan farm fields.”
“ The beauty of this bicycle journey is the way in which landscapes get burned into your legs…. We climbed out of the mixed sunshine and clouds of Mocoa (Colombia) into the mist-covered mountains of the Cordillera Central. Within a few kilometers, our strangely empty paved road became a narrow, single lane of winding dirt and stone…. This was our road, the lone highway across the mountains between Nariño and Putamayo of Colombia? Absurd. Imagine if the one bridge from Fargo to Moorhead was a narrow pedestrian rope-bridge, or if the only crossing between California and Oregon was a dirt road somewhere below Crater Lake. As we were passed by countless death-defying trucks … on their five-hour, 130 kilometer sojourn through the mountains, I could hardly believe where we were.”
Kevin Bonham is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.