Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Polo Field, Hot Coast, and Three Border Crossings

We rolled out of San Andreas Ixtapa, waving goodbye to our MayaPedal buddies and keen to be back on the road. We skirted to the south of Antigua, dropped mucho elevation, slid through Escuintla, and coasted (heh) onto the Pacific lowlands of Guatemala. Volcanos kept us company to our left as we rolled through relatively flat terrain with cows and sugar cane.

The first night we tried to camp at a African Safari Theme Park (I know, random), but the owners were worried we would get eaten by the tigers. Instead, we pitched our tent up the road on a polo field (even more random). Flat earth, with meticulously pruned grass? Can we please take a doggie bag and roll out grass like this for camping every night? Except for the mosquitoes and brutal heat, it was delightful. Gene practiced his polo shot on our tandem horse.

We crossed into El Salvador with perhaps the most mellow border crossing of my life. The guards were hanging out on the bridge. Kids were jumping off the bridge into the river. It was dusk, and everything felt so relaxed. It was weird, too, to suddenly be using US dollars (El Salvador's currency). I was still in the habit of translating prices into dollars, and ended up having sentences in my head, "So these cookies are 25 cents... so... they're... $0.25. Got it."

We really liked El Salvador. It's Central America's biggest secret. Sure, there are 15 murders per day in the capital. But if you stick to the beach, you will find pupusas (really yummy tortillas stuffed with beans and cheese, eaten with cabbage and salsa...yummy), friendly people, and warm oceans with perfect waves.

Even with beautiful surroundings, it wasn't easy. I got sick for a few days. It was brutally hot. My butt hurt tremendously from my saddle. We body-surfed a few times in El Tunco, but I mostly remember clutching my stomach in intestinal pain. I resorted to a rice-and-banana diet for two days. I was so grumpy, and just wanted to jump off the bike and throw tantrums. Blagh. One night, in a disgusting hotel, I broke down and cried, "This is so hard! We're biking. My butt hurts. We go cheap on everything. It is so hot. Everything itches. All I do is daydream about air conditioning and cold juice." (I know: total wuss moment.) Gene calmly replied, "That's the point. We wouldn't be doing this if it was easy." And all of a sudden everything turned on its head. Strangely, the world felt better again. Thanks, Gene.

We crossed paths with some incredible cyclists. One morning in El Salvador, we were biking along at a good clip. We passed this guy in yellow. He pedaled harder and caught up to us. He then hung with us for 15 kilometers. On a mountain bike. With his 10-year-old son on the back. We were easily doing 30 kph (19 mph). We were so impressed and wanted to hug him! Instead, we bought him and his son breakfast. Gene also inflated his tires and added grease to his rusty chain. What an athlete.

This guy was biking his two kids to school. Through two feet of snow. Uphill both ways. (Okay, not really, but they max out their bikes here.)

Honduras was a three-day adventure of tropical coast, climbing, and then rolling hills. We went through more than ten gallons of water in that time. This is a picture from our usual routine: we buy a big jug, fill up our water bottles, and then drink the rest. We then roll onwards, feeling like seals with so much water in our bellies and in our trailer. We are addicted to TANG and all of its flavors. Orange is our favorite, but lemon comes in close second. It is a bit disturbing to drink eight liters in a day, and then pee only once. Before I go any further, I'll stop this paragraph and take a sip of water.

We crossed the border into Nicaragua at the end of April 2009. Nicaragua. Nicaraguita. The land of poets, murals, and history buffs. Our first night we camped on a baseball field I thought it was some random project, but it turns out that baseball is Nicaragua's national sport.

The next day, just 20 km from our destination of the week -- Esteli, Nicaragua -- we heard a crunch. Gene pulled over. We loosened the rear wheel and it completely broke apart, falling in pieces. ¨That doesn´t look good,¨I thought. Our axle had broken! Snapped in two. In three! I didn´t know axles could break.

We disassembled the bike on the side of the road, packed it up in the suitcases, and hitched a ride into Esteli. While Bike Friday worked to get us a new hub, we enrolled in Spanish school. I turned my Spanish teacher into a solid waste expert. Instead of having class in school, we went to landfills. Instead of homework, I drafted questions for the Solid Waste departments at the Mayors' offices. We went to a brand new sanitary landfill in Matagalpa. More to come in the next few posts...

1 comment:

Jina said...

wow, you guys are covering so much ground. viva pupusas! viva gene and meredith!