At the last minute before I left Maya Pedal, Skye, one of the other volunteers, decided to come along. She’d been hoping to go to Mexico on a bike trip but didn’t want to go alone, so this was the next best thing. We rode down from the highlands, and into the rainy season, getting soaked in a torrential downpour, which I think is amazing to bike in. We camped that night at a very buggy finca, surrounded by staring kids, with the adults at a more respectful distance. The storm that night was stupendous, lightning I could see in my tent with my eyes closed, and no pause before the thunder.
In the morning we got going early, Guatemala had a few more hills to throw my way before it let me go, but by afternoon we got to the border, again in a torrential downpour. Immigration was a breeze, and we ate lunch for $2.70, together. They use only US dollars in El Salvador, it was weird to see them again. I kept thinking people had messed up the change, quarters seem so small. The roads in El Salvador are amazing, smooth with spacious shoulders, and everyone seems to have spent time in the US; they speak perfect English. The day after, we spent the morning looking for some ruins that were supposed to be nearby, criss-crossing a maze of dirt roads before giving up the search. Then a hot ride to the coast, before some clouds rolled in and we got to the cliffs. Much like the Oregon coast, it was all broken up, with long climbs out to viewpoints, then long drops back in towards the mainland. There were also 5 extremely dark tunnels, the longest over 2000 feet. As soon as you enter the tunnel, you can see nothing but the speck of light the other side, which doesn’t seem to be getting any closer until suddenly you’re out. Skye got disoriented and ran into the far wall, losing her shoes to the tunnel. We’d hoped to get to a beach to camp, but the hills and a flat tire stopped us short, so we asked to camp on someone’s land. They did one better and let us sleep in one of the sons’ bedrooms, slinging a hammock.
Then we rode down to El Sunzal, a beach town famous for its surfing. I stayed 3 nights, tried surfing once and realized I was miles from being able to surf. Great fun though, and it’s amazing to be out there in the waves, watching the people who actually know what they’re doing. And groups of pelicans would fly back and forth, skimming the water, between the waves.
When I left Sunzal, I left alone – after all this talk I was finally starting my solo journey. The rest of El Salvador was beautiful, but very hot. I took the long way around to avoid having to climb Volocan San Miguel, I don’t know if I could stand much climbing in this heat. My last night in El Salvador (also my 7th) I camped outside a farmhouse near the Honduran border, and they insisted on sharing their food with me. Altogether, the people of El Salvador were extremely generous and friendly.
I got to the border by about 8, and for the first time the border crossing was complicated. Well, relatively complicated. I had to fill out some forms and pay $3, that’s basically it. Then a really nice ride to Choluteca, its very hilly but the hills are isolated and the road just winds between them. In Guatemala, they’d view such terrain as a challenge, and see how many of the peaks they could knock off. On the way, I was stopped by some cops who made me show my passport. I thought I was in store for one of those “bad cop experiences” you hear about, but the worst of it was their insistence that I wasn’t really American – even while holding my passport. I think they were just abusing their power to satisfy their curiousity. Eventually they let me go.
I’d hoped to have a warmshowers host in Choluteca, but no such luck. I didn’t have time to escape the city and find a vacant field, so I found a park by the police station, where they told me I’d be safe. I immediately attracted a horde of inquisitive school children, who followed me around as I did my campsite chores, peppering me with questions.
Next day I got to Nicaragua by noon, had to go through more immigration bullshit and shell out a further $12, then got directed to an amazing comedor. Nicaragua is surprisingly different from what I saw of Honduras – whereas Honduras was lush and pretty jungle-y, Nicaragua seems pretty arid, except that there are huge flooded areas all over, sometimes encompassing houses. It’s also much flatter, and much less populated. That afternoon’s riding had me nostalgically reminiscing of our northern Mexico days. I camped on another finca, and one of the workers, Manuel Castillo, came out to see what I was doing. I had asked permission from the owner. We ended up talking for a couple hours, and I got to share with someone else for a change, as he accepted some of my pasta. He contributed a freshly fallen coconut which I got to open, spraying myself with the juice. He also told me what the plant was I’d kept seeing – sugar cane. And the field I was in was a peanut field, I never would have noticed. Peanuts grow underground!
Today I had a relatively short ride to Leon, where I think I´ll take a rest day. I’ve gotten a lot closer to the optimal bikers schedule, I’m usually up a bit after 5 and biking by 6:30, to avoid biking too much in the heat of the day. It’s be nice if it rained during the day more, but it’s mostly been just after sunset instead. There are millions of mosquitoes, but they are smaller and relatively benign when compared to the Minnesota breed – except that these are disease ridden. In Leon, for the first time in 5 months, I drank tap water. I think from here on out the bigger cities have potable water, so that inconvenient phase of the trip is over.
New pictures, and the Spot’s been working again.