Biking around the world | DW Travel | DW | 14.09.2016
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Biking around the world

They've been in the saddle for five years. A German and a Mexican have already covered 29,000 kilometers on four continents. The tour is intended to promote the idea of what they call ''emphatic tourism".

They have managed to cross high mountain passes and burning hot deserts. They have cycled through tropical jungles and on muddy tundra roads. Over the past five years Annika Wachter and Roberto Gallegos have cycled 29.000 kilometers on four continents.

"The best thing about our travels is all the wonderful people we get to meet," says 29-year-old Annika Wachter. "When you are cycling in foreign countries you need the help and support of local residents - so it's really easy to make contact," she adds.

For instance they met Bunny in Cambodia, who always smiled and made a tasty soup for the cyclists. And who then told them about her boyfriend working in far-away Korea in order to earn enough money so they could get married. Or the Movsysyan family in Armenia, who invited the couple to lemon ice cream and ended up lighting the stone oven for dinner and late at night teaching them some local dance moves too.

Annika Wachter und Roberto Gallegos Auf zwei Rädern um die Welt

Annika Wachter and Roberto Gallegos in Mexico City

Together on an tour of lifetime

Annika Wachter was born and raised in the area around the German city of Bremen, 33-year-old Roberto Gallegos is from the Tijuana region in Mexico. They met in 2009 in Guadalajara where Annika was completing a year's study abroad. Later they both moved to Bremen from where in 2011 they started their intercontinental bicycle tour. Taking them first to Austria and then to Turkey via the Balkans. "At first we didn't even know if we'd enjoy travelling the world by bicycle at all," says Roberto. But they both enjoyed it and so they continued peddling away: over the Caucasus region to Iran, via Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to China - then onwards through Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia all the way to Indonesia. After touring Australia they flew to Alaska and from there they kept heading south to Mexico. Having arrived there the couple recently married in Tijuana surrounded by Gallegos' family.

Annika Wachter und Roberto Gallegos Auf zwei Rädern um die Welt

Photo stop in California, USA

The world travelers try to cover 70 to 80 kilometers every day. But if they really like an area they'll also spend a couple of days there before travelling on. "The good thing about travelling by bike is that even though you get to places reasonably quickly you are still moving slow enough to fully enjoy and discover the beauty of a region," Annika tells us.

Accepting challenges

They've never found themselves in any grave danger on their tour. But there have been some worrying occasions like when their water reserves ran dangerously low in the summer heat in Iran. "We wanted to refill our bottles in a village but we found was it deserted," Annika explains. She adds, "thankfully we found an oasis just when we only had a few drops of water left."

In the Canadian tundra the couple miscalculated their food rations - there were some 740 kilometers between inhabited settlements. "In the end we took it in turns passing around a bag of crisps, but we were only allowed to take three crisps each," Annika says.

Annika Wachter und Roberto Gallegos Auf zwei Rädern um die Welt

En route in Baja California, Mexico

Sharing their experiences

With their world tour Annika Wachter and Roberto Gallegos want to promote the idea of emphatic tourism - meaning that the traveler engages with the environment and gets to know different cultures. "Those travelling by bicycle tend to be closer to the people," Roberto says. He adds, "you get to know their everyday life; you put yourself in their position and therefore have a better understanding of how and why they see things the way they do."

On their Tasting Travels blog they record both their travel adventures and their encounters en route. They give talks about their tour and discoveries at community centers, schools and clubs. Most recently they also published a guide book for people wanting to travel by bicycle. "I want people to understand that they don't have to go far to have an adventure," Roberto says. He adds "all they have to do it get on their bikes and explore their environs."

They have had many adventures on their travels but also missed a lot back home. Over the past few months in Mexico Roberto Gallegos has been able to catch up with his relatives, but Annika Wachter hasn't been to Germany for five years. "When I left my brother was single and living in student accommodation," she tells us. "Now he's married, has a child and is the one who does most of the cooking for the family."

Annika Wachter und Roberto Gallegos Auf zwei Rädern um die Welt

On New Zealand's southern Island

From Mexico City the German-Mexican couple will head first to Cancún on the Caribbean coast. At the beginning of October they've booked a flight to Madrid. And then, depending on how much money is in their travel-kitty, it'll be onwards to Morocco or via France back to Germany. After five years on the move they want to settle down now. "That is," Annika Wachter says, " if we are still capable of doing to after all this time on the road."

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