L-R Julie-Anne and Ken Fox have just returned from a cycling adventure through Central America.
L-R Julie-Anne and Ken Fox have just returned from a cycling adventure through Central America. Chris Ison ROK241116ccycling2

WEEKEND READ: Travellers find kindness is a global language

Yet, there's one thing that surpasses all of those experiences for Ken and Julie-Anne Fox.

No matter where in the world they travel, the former Rockhampton couple are astounded by the "generosity and kindness" of people they meet.

In 2003, after living and working in Central Queensland while travelling the world, the pair took a giant leap of faith.

With just a couple of thousand dollars and few possessions to their names, the couple moved to America.

They toured the States, but came to love travelling on two wheels.

It was then they set their sights on a Herculean task: cycling the globe.

The Morning Bulletin spoke to Ken and Julie-Anne during a short visit to Rockhampton in November 2015 as they prepared to depart for Central America.

In late 2016, we sat down with them again as they reflected on the first leg of their world challenge.

Ken and Julie-Anne are living and working in Rockhampton until March, when they will return to Central America and then make their way to the south of the continent.

Since they left, the pair have cycled almost 30,000km from Central America back to the Beef Capital, riding up the East Coast to Rockhampton after flying into Melbourne.

Ken said their experiences were "off the charts".

"The mountains were fantastic, we went through a number of cloud forests," he said.

"We did some private hiking, just the two of us.

"Central America had great animals; toucans and sloths and macaws and we ran into our fair share of snakes, lots of different monkeys.

"But the people win out every time."

 

Ken and Julie-Anne travel with the bare minimum and rely on a budget of roughly $10 a day.

Instead of paying for accommodation, the pair camp anywhere they can set up a tent, be it on the roadside or in a field.

They also ask to camp on people's properties, which is when they've experienced the warm welcome of many different cultures.

The pair recounted the hospitality at a Panama town, where they asked some residents if they could set up a tent on someone's property.

They were taken to one lady's house and introduced to the family.

 

Ken maintains the bicycles at a fire station in Cariari, Costa Rica.
Ken maintains the bicycles at a fire station in Cariari, Costa Rica. Contributed

"It was dead flat, beautiful green grass and a little wooden shanty," Ken said.

"We thought it would be fantastic to camp for the night. It was off the road, it was safe.

"Next thing, all this stuff is going crazy (in the house) upstairs.

"We were given our room we had to sleep in.

"We weren't allowed to put up our tent.

"She and her eight children slept in the other room.

"There was four rooms to the house.

"That's not what you expected. It was just lovely.

"There were lots of other great experiences with people just coming up and talking to us through El Salvador."

Ken and Julie-Anne said they would trust the recommendations of local people, visiting as many places as possible except those residents had told them were unsafe.

"We met a number of people, one couple that were cycling and the others backpacking, that actually avoided Honduras and El Salvador," Ken said.

"I think they missed out on not doing it.

"You wouldn't have been able to tell whether you were in the United States, Canada or El Salvador when we went through.

"We had people being that nice to us.

 

Ken and Julie-Anne at the Volcano Acatenango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala.
Ken and Julie-Anne at the Volcano Acatenango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala. Contributed

"There was no one rude, people beeping and waving and just bending over backwards for us.

"You just wouldn't know we'd gone to these areas.

"Not that there's not troubled areas, and people tell us about them.

"To me, it reiterated there is genuine kindness out there.

"Everyone just wants to live their life and find happiness.

"You'll find that in every country."

As the pair cycle through each county, they fly the local flag alongside the Australian flag.

Julie-Anne said this was always a starting point for conversations with locals, who were pleased to see their local flag and wanted to learn more about Australia.

Part of the trip was spent doing an Spanish immersion course in Guatemala, while Ken and Julie-Anne also packed the bikes away at times and took small hiking trips.

 

L-R Julie-Anne and Ken Fox have just returned from a cycling adventure through Central America.
L-R Julie-Anne and Ken Fox have just returned from a cycling adventure through Central America. Chris Ison ROK241116ccycling1

"We hiked up and sat on a volcano and 3km away there was another volcano just erupting," Julie-Anne said.

"It was National Geographic stuff."

Coming back to Australia was a little daunting for Ken and Julie-Anne.

"You wonder if the kindness we've received from other countries could transpire and we could receive it here as well," Julie-Anne said.

"Without a doubt, it's out there."

It may have been a different atmosphere, but their homecoming was in some senses a relief.

"It was actually really nice travelling through Australia," Julie-Anne said.

"It was easy. The cycling is difficult, but we could open our mouths and speak English to anybody and they understood.

"We could go into any store and buy food and it was our home comforts.

 

Julie-Anne and Ken at Ciudad Perdida Trek, Colombia.
Julie-Anne and Ken at Ciudad Perdida Trek, Colombia. Contributed

"We didn't have to filter water. We could turn on every tap, flush every toilet.

"Those simple things you take for granted.

"All of those things during your day when you're in a country where it doesn't come easy, you've got to think about it and it's time consuming."

Ken and Julie-Anne are keen to re-charge and said they would continue their global challenge until they want a new adventure.

"We'll just keep going until we want to stop," Ken said.

"If we do change what we're doing, brace yourself because it's going to be really exciting.

"There's got to be a good reason for us to stop doing what we're doing because this is a really different lifestyle anyway.



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