Someone once told Peter Brother to ‘Give up the good life for the great life.’
Heeding the advice — and ignoring his fear-mongering friends — the now 74-year-old Courtenay resident decided to undertake a 20-month cycling tour from the Yukon to Ushuaia, Argentina — the southern-most city in the world.
“I just got this crazy idea to bike through the Americas,” said Brother, who will share his adventures in an April 5 presentation. “If you look on a world map, you’ll see that Ushuaia is further south than anything in New Zealand.”
Brother began pedalling in August, 2011 in Whitehorse. He cycled along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway to Terrace and Prince Rupert, then ferried to Port Hardy and biked down Vancouver Island.
By October, he had rolled into Courtenay. Brother recalls crossing the Fifth Street Bridge and pedalling uphill when he noticed a guy on a bike with a custom-made rack in the front. When he stopped to ask about places to camp, the man said he could pitch a tent at his place. His host was David Frisch, a member of Courtenay council, who had worked in a bike shop in Kitchener, Ont., where Brother had lived for many years.
After visiting his son in Victoria, Brother ventured to Baja California and ferried to the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan, where he taught a meditation class at a yoga studio. After a few days, he left town and was heading down the highway when a truck full of people pulled over. He wasn’t sure what to expect when the occupants spilled out of the pickup. Turns out they wanted a photo with him in it.
“Everywhere I went in Latin America, people were really friendly,” Brother said. “I never was threatened once. I did have a couple of things stolen from a hotel in Granada in Nicaragua. It turned out to be one of the staff members. And I had my bike stolen in Lima.”
At the time, he was in Machu Picchu, which he described as “magical.”
“It is an amazing place.”
Brother celebrated his 70th birthday in Peru, where he trekked in the Cordillera Blanca and in the Colca Canyon — “It’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon” — and visited a glacier that is still growing.
Cycling into South America was impossible due to the Darien Gap, a roughly 200-kilometre stretch of swamp and wilderness. One option is to hop a boat in Colón, Panama, but Brother decided to fly to Bogotá, Colombia.
There were other adventures before reaching the ‘End of the World.’ He hopes his stories can inspire others to follow their dreams.
“We often give up on our dreams for a variety of reasons,” said Brother, whose next adventure is to cycle the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff, Alta. to the Mexican border.
“I figure that will take me four months to do. It’s 4,200 kilometres. I did the Canadian section this summer. I biked from Victoria to Fernie, then up the Canadian section over the Elk Pass into Alberta, up to Canmore and then back.”
Brother’s presentation is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 5 in the Evergreen Lounge at the Filberg Centre. The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition hosts the event, which is by donation.