After cycling 25,000 miles through searing heat in Africa and subfreezing nights in the mountains of South America, what better place to rest for a few days than the bike-centric college town of Davis, with a stop at a local brewpub on a temperate spring day?
Polish couple Adela Tarkowska and Kris Jozefowski, both in their early 30s, have spent the last five years riding through the Middle East, Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and now the United States.
They said men with machetes ambushed them in Nicaragua but ran off when a vehicle approached. Their bike tires turned to goo “like cheese and pizza” when the mercury topped 120 degrees in Botswana. They froze their sprockets on the high plains of Bolivia, where the temperature in their tent fell to almost zero. And they rode for days into 40 mph headwinds during winter in Patagonia.
What made them do it?
“Curiosity,” Jozefowski said. “Or maybe madness,” his girlfriend added quickly.
Neither were serious cyclists, but they set out to see the world at the speed of bikes so they could smell the air, meet people and experience the world without “walls.”
“On the bike, you just live every moment of the trip,” Tarkowska said.
She said they also hoped to inspire people to pursue adventures, and to show that the world is not as dangerous and hostile as it sometimes seems.
The couple started off in Turkey in March 2010, then pedaled through Syria, where they found people remarkably welcoming and generous with food before the country was seized by the violence of the Islamic State. They traveled the length of Africa, flew to Argentina and biked from south to north through Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, followed by Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico.
More recently they rode through the deserts and mountains of California. The Big Sur coastline was among their favorite places on earth, they said.
Now they’re on a bit of a break in Northern California. On Saturday, they gave a talk and slide show at the Sudwerk brewery in Davis. The talk was free, but listeners were invited to donate. They hope to raise funds through similar talks in Palo Alto and San Francisco in the next few days. Lectures and stints working as waiters have helped supply their basic needs.
The couple mostly camp and sometimes stay with friends they meet along the way. They travel with 70 to 80 pounds of gear on mountain bikes they assembled from various components. The frames are covered in colorful tape. The tires are dusty from thousands of miles on roads of all conditions.
Tarkowska and Jozefowski plan to travel up the West Coast and reach Alaska by late summer, then probably fly to Japan or Korea. New Zealand and Australia are on their itinerary. The trip will last until at least 2020, they said.
Once they’re done, they’ll probably return to Poland and write a book, or “maybe we’ll find a perfect spot and stay and never finish,” Tarkowska said with a smile.
Call The Bee’s Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.