Category Archives: nature

A village named Chical

I caught a ride from San Luis Potosi to Tanchachin in La Huasteca so I could visit Ismael’s family (they live near to Tanchachin in a small village called Chical). I met them 5 years ago when my dad was living in Tanchachin, and I had loved the area so much that I had to go back!

I left my bicycle in San Luis, and that is where I will be traveling from next. The road from San Luis to Tanchachin is terrifying from the perspective of a cyclist, unfortunately, so that’s why I decided to take a different way.

Cycling in the mountains of Real de Catorce

Hey friends, I put together this video montage of arriving in Real de Catorce at 1 in the morning (thanks to a crazy couchsurfer who wanted some peeps to mountain bike with the next day) and then riding up to the top of one of the bigger mountains in the Sierra de Catorce range.

I combined this with some footage of live animals who live in this region, who I was lucky enough to see at the Museo de Desierto in Saltillo.

Enjoy!

Allende to Galeana, Jan. 5 – 7

On January 5th, 2016 I wrote:

We are at a Couchsurfer’s house named Sarmach, in Allende. As usual he (and his sister), are2016-01-05 17.00.26 ridiculously kind and generous. They brought us to a restaurant immediately after we arrived at their house. They took us to a store so we could get some warmer supplies [we’ve been pretty darn cold these past few days!]. They let Dagan buy a blanket, but insisted on giving me a sweater from their house, as well as a ‘tuk’ [a warm hat] for Dagan.

The houses and restaurants were all cold (again, no central heating), so by the late afternoon I was cold through and through. But I finally warmed up once we took a nap in the evening, under piles of thick, warm covers.

Jan. 6th:

I dreamt I looked into my own eyes. I was afraid to hold eye contact with myself, but I finally did. Than I embraced myself. I felt what it was like to hug me. The “other” me started crying. I could feel my back move as I cried. And I realized I was crying too.

I look to this dream as some progress on my path of self love.

handstand in rayoneI am in Rayones today. The sun is shining brightly on the faces of the enormous mountains that surround me on all sides. Tufted titmouses are singing in their Southern, mountain accents. The fronts of their little mohawks are black, and around the base of their beaks is white. [Different than Austin titmouses]

Yesterday Sarmach and Co. drove us up the long, winding mountain road to this town. They brought us to a small restaurant, which also turned out to have two rooms, one of which we stayed in last night.

When we were driving here, just at the base of the first mountain, a new road had been put in. But you couldn’t drive on it yet. There was a big pile of dirt blocking the entrance, with construction signs perched on top. But the side dirt road that would take you around was blocked by a huge semi truck that got stuck in the mud. 

Cars and pick ups were turning around at various points on the dirt road, or they had just given up and parked somewhere. We turned around as well, and parked in front of the dirt pile.

Without hesitation, Sarmach got out and grabbed his archaeological pick [he likes to dig for dinosaur bones, of which there are many to be found in these mountains, he told us]. He began to attack the dirt pile with his small pick. This spurred the other Mexican guys who had been standing around into action. They seized the constructions signs and wielded them like alien shovels. The girls (and me and Dagan) grabbed at random stones or clumps and tossed them aside.

When enough dirt had been cleared, we got back into Sarmach’s Explorer and drove through, creating a path for the smaller cars. 

There was another dirt blockade on the other end of the section of new pavement, but Sarmach dropped down the side of it and around. 

I hope the semi-truck will be gone when they return, because I wasn’t sure how they would climb back up onto the road on their way back, without having to dig through another dirt pile.

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Last night, while I was journaling in my tent with my light on, I heard the sound of a car coming up the mountain road.

“Do you hear that?” Dagan asked.

It was the only car we’d heard since the one pick up that passed us at the beginning of  our ride from Rayones to Galeana.

“Yeah,” I said, quickly switching off my light. “I turned my light off.”

We’d left Rayones around 1:30 pm that day, knowing that maybe we couldn’t make it all the way to Galeana before dark, but that camping would be an option.

The only road between Rayones and Galeana cuts through the mountains, and is rutted dirt. Some places large boulders lay across the path, other parts there are steep drop offs along one side, and then there’s even the occasional cow. We didn’t see any houses once we left Rayones. Just mountains, some distant caves, and enormous cactuses of many varieties.

At around 3:30, my back rack started making funny noises. I kept stopping to investigate, when I finally discovered the bolt holding my rack on the frame (and, consequently, all my sh**) had snapped in half. One side of the rack was dangling, so to speak.

Dagan had pulled over to wait for me, and was feeding us oranges. 

“My bolt broke,” I told him. “And I don’t have another one.” I swore. “Watson, the bass player for our band, is also a cycle tourist, and he told me I should have a bag of extra bolts, screws, etc. But I didn’t have any bolts at my house, so I just brought screws.”

“I’m eating another orange,” Dagan replied. “You want one?”

“I’ll eat one after I fix this.”

I dug into my panniers and found my bag with lube, screws and a spoke wrench.

“I guess I’ll just have to use a screw to hold this on,” I announced.

Dagan didn’t say anything, so I drew the conclusion that this meant he had no bolts as well.

He held my rack up while I lined up the fender attachments with the rack opening. I turned the screw in, and watched tiny shards of metal fall from the hole.

“Well,” I said, “it’s a screw, but I think it will hold.”

As if awakening from a dream, Dagan peered down at what I was doing and then said, “I have a bolt you could have used.”

“What??” I stared at him, laughing. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t know you needed one.”

“I said 2 or 3 times I needed one!” I told him. “I took your lack of response to mean you didn’t have any either.”

We laughed and I swore some more. When he did produce a bolt for me, I discovered it wouldn’t work in the hole anymore.

“I think I stripped out the opening with the screw.”

Afterwards, when I tried to put the screw back in, it didn’t really work as well either. Eventually I ended up holding it all together with zipties.

“Great, just great,” I sighed, feeling how wobbly the rack was. “I ruined my bolt hole.” Where the rack attaches to my bicycle is a part of the actual frame, so it’s not just a piece I can replace.2016-01-07 10.54.35

It was an hour later when we decided we should find a place to camp before it got dark.

After some exploration of a relatively flat area, I insisted we push our bicycles up an old horse track (at least it appeared to be a path beaten down by horse hooves), where we would be out of sight of the road.

“Is this really necessary?” Dagan had asked. “It’s not like any cars have driven passed us all day.”

“Even if one car drives up through here tonight,” I said, “if we’re camped right next to the road where they can see us, I’ll feel really  paranoid and probably won’t be able to sleep. I’d rather be out of sight and have the upper hand on any situation that might come up.”

Well, lying in my tent right then, listening to a truck driving up the road and then stopping at a spot that sounded like it was just below us, had definitely gotten my adrenaline pumping.

I held absolutely still.

Dagan, on the other hand, rustled around on his sleeping pad (which, for some reason, sounds like a herd of gastronomically challenged giraffes when he moves around on it), unzipped his tent, and looked out.

“I don’t see anything,” he told me.

“I heard an engine die just a minute ago,” I whispered. “And now I hear voices.”

We both fell silent. So did the two men’s voices I had heard.

“I don’t hear voices,” Dagan said.

Just then, I heard them again, and the car door open and slam. The vehicle began to drive again. The way the sound carried, it seemed like they had turned onto the dirt track and were driving up to our site.

They must have seen my light, I thought, adrenaline squirting into my blood stream at a rapid rate. Why are they trying to find us?

The car drove past. I lay still, shaking.

“Good call on choosing a camp spot on higher ground.” Dagan rustled around some more.

“I think they were looking for us,” I said weakly.

“I don’t think so,” Dagan insisted. “I saw where the car had stopped. It wasn’t anywhere near where we’re camped. We’re in the mountains, so sound carries really far.”

It took a while for me to calm down, especially when I heard a car coming back the other way. It also sounded as though it were up to our camp spot, but it eventually passed us by.

Trembling, I went out and got my pepper spray and gave Dagan his dog mace. We lay in our tents, discussing the possibility–or lack thereof–of our likely demise.

“I don’t feel any fear, whatsoever,” Dagan assured me. 

I was relieved to hear this. It’s easier for me to calm down when my adventure partner is calm. 

“I don’t believe in random acts of evil,” he said. “If someone was desperate enough to find us and steal our stuff, they probably could really use the money.”

“I’m not afraid of my stuff being stolen,” I told him. “It’s just the thought of unknown people rolling up here while I”m exposed and vulnerable. Not knowing who they are and what their intentions are.”

And I don’t relish the idea of being raped, I added silently.

I thought about what the shaman/seer/medium, Elena, had said to me.

“You have an intrinsic belief that the world is not a safe place, because of a past life experience.”

The world is a safe place, I told myself. I am safe. 

I eventually drifted to sleep, only awakening occasionally when Dagan’s herd-of-gastronomically-challenged-giraffes-sleeping-mat sounded.

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Be a sponsor 0f this adventure at Patreon.com/jahnavi  🙂

 

San Antonio, and headed to the Border…

On December 20th, 2015 I left Cibolo, TX and made my way to Rohn’s house (a friend of a friend of a friend) who lives near San Antonio.

When I showed up at his door, we hung out by his pool-converted-into-a-fish-pond and talked about life, death, birds and cats.

rohn's pond

rohn's kitty

Then I took a nap to give my concussed brain a rest.

That night we spent some time with Jocelyn (she’s the friend of a friend who found me Rohn to stay with) and her family.

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Then we hit the town on bicycle, to see the beautiful lights along the San Antonio River Walk, and narrowly avoid running over oblivious pedestrians as they stared at their phones (or the beautiful scenery around them).

san antonio riverwalk

The next day I had to decide whether I was letting Addison drive me over the border in Laredo, or whether I would just cycle the whole thing.

On one hand I didn’t really want to cross the border alone with a big pile of gear and then ride the semi-truck infested toll-road from Laredo to Monterrey, with naught but cactuses and muffler exhaust for company for 3-4 days…

But on the other hand, I didn’t want Addison to have to bring our car through the border and then have to drive back from Monterrey alone.

What if the Narcos got him??

After meditating with Rohn and his tiny cat…

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I packed up and we headed downtown to a coffeeshop.

During coffee and breakfast, Rohn told me about the video project he wants to embark on (I’m hoping he’ll set up his own Patreon account so I can support him!) about the history of San Antonio beginning 20,000 years ago.

I bid Rohn adieu…

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…and pointed my bicycle in a southerly direction (I hear that’s where Brazil is!).

For some time I was trapped on the river walk because after I had gotten myself deep into the heart of the city and the river walk, stairs appeared in all directions and I couldn’t find a way out.

A kindly young lady (who worked for the park) gave me directions, and I told her and a mom and her son what I was doing and they all gaped appreciatively. If there’s any reward for what I’m doing, at least seeing people’s expressions when they find out where I’m headed is rewarding enough! 😀

By the end of the day I found myself on I-35 Frontage Road, watching the sun begin to set. I knew I should find a place to sleep, but I was really enjoying riding and wanted to keep going!

(coincidentally, it was the shortest day of the year, so it definitely felt like daylight had run out too quickly!)

Just then I noticed a man in a black leather jacket standing on the side of the highway with his motorcycle. I smiled and waved, at which he began to yell and wave his arms and run towards me.

It turns out his motorcycle had run out of fuel and he needed to use a phone to call his girlfriend.

Once he’d made the call and I told him what I was up to, he shook his head in disbelief but then said, “I want to come with you!”

“You can!” I laughed. “I’d love some company getting over the border.”

“Yeah, but I’d be riding that,” he pointed at his motorcycle.

I nodded. “You’d be going quite a bit faster than me, that’s for sure.”

When he asked where I was sleeping that night and I said, “I don’t know yet”, he told me the road I was headed to next didn’t have much of anything on it.

So after saying good bye to him, I turned back to the last town I’d seen and rolled up to the first church I could find…

‘La Iglesia de los Hechos’.

I knocked on some doors but no one came out.

I called the number on their sign and a woman answered.

“Hola,” she said.

“Hola,” I replied. “Habla ingles?”

“No… Pero hay una mujer aqui que habla ingles. Solo un minuto…”

After a second, another woman picked up the phone.

“Hello?” She had a thick Spanish accent.

“Hi!” I said cheerfully. “My name is Jahnavi and I am on a bicycle tour right now. I’m riding from Austin to Brazil and I am outside of your church right now. I was wondering if I could set up my tent next to the church to sleep tonight. I don’t need anything else, just want to have a safe place to sleep.”

I could tell she was still trying to grasp what I was saying to her when she said, “You… want to sleep at the church?”

“Just outside, in the grass,” I said.

“The house where we have guests is full. A family from Mexico is living there. They have nowhere to go.”

“I don’t need a house, I have a tent.”

Finally she called the Pastor, who was inside the church at the time.

He came out to meet me and stared at me and my bicycle.

“Como se llama?” I asked after telling him that I just needed a spot to set up my tent.

“Salvador [and then a long string of names I can’t remember] Pastor.”

We shook hands.

He showed me into a building that was under construction. There was plaster dust and boards everywhere, but it had a door that locked, and windows that opened.

I was thrilled.

“Muchas gracias!” I told him. “Es perfecto!”

Salavador Pastor looked at me then with what seemed to be a mix of horror and pity. The fact that I was traveling alone and was so thrilled to be pitching my tent in his empty construction area, seemed to baffle him.

When he left me there, I found a room without boards and tools in it and set my tent up there.

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I also plugged in my devices to charge along the wall, before heading over to a Subway that was around the corner.

Vegetables are hard to come by on bicycle tours, so even though they were Subway vegetables on a foot-long sub, I was delighted. They were colorful and crunchy, and I even got to have some guacamole on my sandwich.

While I was eating, I noticed a brand new pick-up truck pull in. It was done up to the nines: lifted, shiny rims, guard-rail, etc.

I thought, Wow, that is such a big, fancy truck… If I was a native person who hadn’t seen cars before, I would assume that some kind of god would step out of it.

When the door opened, a small, portly man in baggy clothes plopped out. He looked haggard and stooped, and his health appeared to be anything but good. He spat out a watery glob as he headed into Subway with his two overweight children.

I stared at him and then at his his truck.

For a moment I had this feeling that the truck had stolen his soul… He must work so hard to maintain that truck and keep up with payments, I thought. What if he chose to just invest all that time and money into healthy food, exercising and taking a vacation out in nature once in a while?

I pondered this as I headed back to my empty building.

I didn’t sleep so well, because apparently, in this tiny Texas town, it is a ritual to hit the gas when you’re driving through a certain intersection, spin out your wheels, and gun it all the way to the highway… only between 2-4 AM.

Around 4:30 AM I drifted to sleep.

At about 8:30 AM, Salvador Pastor opened the door to the building and called in.

“Hello? Hello!!!”

“H-hi…! Hello!” I responded blearily.

“Are you okay?” he yelled.

“Yes, yes! I’ll stop by the church when I’m up,” I told him.

“I just wanted to know you’re okay,” he said, and then shut the door.

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After I had been up for a while, a Mexican man appeared at the door.

“Hola, buenos dias,” he said.

We were able to communicate by gesturing wildly and inserting random english or spanish words into sentences.

His wife had come by when I had been at Subway, to invite me to sleep in their house and eat dinner with them, but I wasn’t there.

He wanted me to come to the house and drink coffee, use the bathroom, and stay for another day if I wanted to.

I did use the bathroom and drink coffee with him. He showed me pictures of his four sons, all strapping young men who depicted themselves shirtless and flexing, lifting weights or posing in a backwards baseball cap.

He was so sweet and kind, that I wanted to give him our album (The Love Sprockets: Nobody Wants to Die) and my contact, and to figure out how in the heck to say ‘tent’ in spanish.

(google translate was telling the man that I had slept inside my ‘cottage’ that night, so it was cool)

I called my friend Negro/Felipe who speaks fluent spanish and asked him to be our translator via speaker phone.

I brought the album to the man and held the phone up, feeling relieved as Negro babbled in spanish to him and helped me explain what I was doing and what the album was.

It was Dec. 22nd. The sun was warm and pleasant as I continued riding south around 11 am.

Addison was coming to get me from Austin that day, and I wanted to ride as far as I could before he caught up with me.oG1NSaLmgmXLscmGqeN5ljPU7PpJRwghbh1Oh0XwQ_0

I listened to music and to my spanish lesson, pedaling along cheerfully. I stopped in the shade of a bank to eat food and greet the people who pulled into the parking lot to do their banking.

I rode on mostly back roads, listening to birds and bugs and rattling along on the uneven pavement.

By 5:30 pm I had managed to go almost 40 miles and I was ready to stop. I knew Addison was close by, so I pulled into a gas station and waited.

I felt so happy.

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Next stop? Laredo and the border…


	

My Life is on Fire

Since making the decision to bike to Brazil only three weeks ago, I feel like my life has exploded into a non-stop fireworks display.

This is fun and exciting, but also hectic and stressful!

I will say this, however: I have learned a valuable lesson about purpose and energy in my life by making this decision.

Making the decision to follow through with a life-long dream and aspiration has lit a fire under my ass like nothing else ever has!

I no longer know the meaning of ‘lethargy’ or ‘stagnation’. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean)

The world looks more colorful, and my outlook on life is much more positive. I feel extremely motivated, but am also cherishing the everyday occurrences of my Austin life and my time with Addison. My life here is so idyllic, I realize, and my relationship with Addison is so wonderful, fun and nourishing for my soul. I love my pets, I love my band, and I have been having so much fun living here in Austin, biking around, swimming at Barton Springs, going out with friends and training capoeira several times a week with my group.

Many people have called me or written to me, warning me about the perils that lie ahead of me, telling scary stories or sharing nerve-wracking statistics about kidnappings, rapings and murders in Mexico and Central America.

I am touched to see how much so many people care about me.

I did spent a good part of last week considering that maybe–just maybe–someone would say something that would make me realize I don’t have to go. I thought there was a small chance that I just hadn’t heard the magic words that would make this aspiration go away.

Addison has been so cheerful and supportive about me leaving, that I actually had some Big Bendconcern that maybe he was relieved I was going away and would be happier without me. But after camping at Big Bend together and holding him as we lay in our tent under the desert moon, he admitted to the profound sadness he feels about me leaving and his fear for my safety and our relationship.

I felt strangely calm as I cradled him in my arms, and finally knew that I would never hear the magic words that would change my mind.

I know now, for certain, that there is nothing anyone can say to make this feeling go away inside of me.

I am more afraid of being apart from Addison than almost any other aspect of the trip. When we’re together, we’re unstoppable. We work in such congruence with one another on a daily basis, and then still want to spend the evenings together. It’s a sleepover every night! We listen to audiobooks, play music, drink wine, talk about hopes and dreams and ideas, and sometimes keep eachother awake lying in bed because we still have so much to say to one another. We meditate every morning, and are dedicated to supporting one another’s peace of mind and well-being both mentally and physically.

I finally found my ideal partner, and now I’m going to bike away into the sunset??

Who does that???

I don’t have a conclusion or moral to this particular blog post, just wanted to share some of the mental and emotional transformations I am having as I prepare to leave.

My Patreon account is almost ready to rock. You’ll be the first to know when it’s up!

Also, more than likely I will be traveling to Panama with another cyclist who contacted me recently. Having a companion will be a great relief to me, so I’m crossing my fingers and looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading this and please share your thoughts in a comment below.

Love,

Jahnavi

Letting Go

A few months ago, Addison (my fiancee) bought me a book called “Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm” by Thich Nhat Hanh.fear book

Throughout my slow-growing meditation practice, I’ve been aware of ‘levels’, perhaps not unlike a video game, that I have to ‘overcome’ in order to get to the next level.

Many times this involves gaining certain tools, making certain mistakes or have certain experiences before I can ‘pass’ that level.

A few months ago (and even now) I’m in level ‘Fear’.

I’ve recognized how incapacitating Fear is, and how incredibly free I am or will be when I am no longer afraid.

I imagine living without the negative voices in my  head that are constantly instructing me and giving me their opinions from a fear-based place, and simply making choices based on intuition.

I imagine being one of those people who laugh and smile all the time, and are totally unafraid of rejection.

In fact, these people seem to no longer require approval in any way.

I’m going to grow up to be like that. 🙂

In the meantime, I am reading and re-reading the last sections of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, ‘Fear’, and doing the meditation practices he has laid out.

I wanted to share this exercise and part of this chapter with you, because not only is it a wonderful practice, but the writing is eloquent and hits home with me every time I read it:

Letting Go

“Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.

This exercise helps us look deeply at giving up craving, hatred and fear. This concentration helps us touch the true nature of reality and brings the wisdom that can liberate us from fear, anger and despair. We let go of our wrong perceptions of realitys so as to be free. 

‘Nirvana’ literally means ‘cooling’, ‘the putting out of flames’; in Buddhism, it refers to extinction of the afflictions brought about by our wrong perceptions.

Nirvana isn’t a place to go or something belonging to the future. Nirvana is the true nature of reality, things as they are.

Nirvana is available in the here and now.

You are already in nirvana; you are nirvana, just as the wave is already the water.

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-Thich Nhat Hanh

Thank you for reading this post. 🙂

Don’t forget to share your thoughts below…!

Appreciating where we are

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Every morning (or almost every morning), Addison and I sit down and read a couple of pages from one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books before we meditate.

Right now we are reading “Fear: Essential wisdom for getting through the storm”.

I really enjoyed the reading we had today, and wanted to share it with you:

“Imagine two astronauts go to the moon, and while they’re there, there’s an accident and their ship can’t take them back to Earth. They have only enough oxygen for two days. There is no hope of someone coming from Earth in time to rescue them. They have only two days live.

If you were to ask them at that moment, ‘What is your deepest wish?’ they would answer, ‘To be back home walking on our beautiful planet Earth.’ That would be enough for them; they wouldn’t want anything else. They wouldn’t think of being the head of a large corporation, a famous celebrity, or the president of the United States. They wouldn’t want anything but to be back here—walking on Earth, enjoying every step, listening to the sounds of nature, or holding the hand of their beloved while contemplating the moon at night.

We should live every day like people who have just been rescued from dying on the moon. We are on Earth now, and we need to enjoy walking on this precious, beautiful planet. Zen Master Linji said, ‘The miracle is not to walk on water or fire. The miracle is to walk on the earth.’ I cherish that teaching. I enjoy just walking, even in busy places like airports and railway stations. Walking like that, with each step caressing our Mother Earth, we can inspire other people to do the same. We can enjoy every minute of our lives.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

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Foreign landscapes, familiar people

We’ve been living in Austin on and off for two years now, and I’ve felt a disconnect from the natural landscape largely due to the fact that it’s very foreign to me (I’m familiar with the northeast and northern California landscapes).

But even though I was biking everywhere in Austin, taking hikes, going swimming in the rivers and going camping, I still felt this painful disconnect.

“I live in an apartment complex!” I would sometimes say out loud to myself, in utter disbelief. I never knew I would live in an apartment complex!

That’s when I remembered that my connection to nature is not simply me and nature. It also involves OTHER PEOPLE.

And the best people to help me connect with nature, are… naturalists!

I’ve spent time at a few different eight shields wilderness schools (a model put in place by Jon Young), and find that the people that these schools attract are people who I feel very at home with.

I did some research and discovered that the Native Earth wilderness school is here in Bastrop, and got in contact with the owner of the school.

I went in for an interview, and will be getting involved with their different programs and be on hand to sub for their staff.

This week I went to spend time with some of the Native Earth instructors who are teaching summer camps for kids at McKinney Falls State Park.

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I discovered some really special spots at the park that I hadn’t found on my own…

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…and today I watched Chris (one of the instructors) work on a figure-4 trap with his kids and smash a lime beneath it!

(the lime represents a small mammal that you could then eat in a survival situation)

Check out the photo sequence:

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Chris propping up the figure-4 trap
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The figure-4 trap is balanced perfectly, and a lime is placed where the bait would be set up for a small mammal to discover
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Using a stick, one of the kids gently tapped the inside part of the trap, where the animal would have bumped against it, resulting in the heavy stones and board crashing down
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The aftermath. One of the kids had filled the lime with red food coloring for gory effect.

I’m glad to have found some like-minded people to spend time outside with, and look forward to learning more about the Texas landscape and survival techniques from them.

When Addison and I embark on our next bike trip—which will be across Mexico and Central America—I will feel better equipped, having some survival skills under my belt that are specific to this kind of region. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

-Jahnavi