A couple of weeks off the bike with my uni friend Will exploring Guatemala and another mate from home Ghandi came to join me
. I waited for him in Guatemala city. Not put off by the fact that the buses don’t even run after dark because of frequent robberies he rolled in on the bike a little after midnight, his bike rebuilt backwards after the flight. Full of beans Ghandi instantly suggested a couple of clubs he’d seen on the way in. We made slow tracks up through the hills and landed in the junction town of Cuilapa. I’d treated myself to a new seat which ended in bleeding after day one. Doesn’t get easier, back to the old one.
Leaving Cuilapa Ghandi’s sat nav suggested a cheeky little short cut down what felt like a mountain bike track. Full off enthusiasm we flew down only to realise after a couple of miles Ghandi was missing a pannier containing all his clothes. Swinging round and heading back I looked after his remaining bag and ate roadside mangoes with a gathering local crowd as he shot up the mountainside. He came back sweating profustely 20 minutes later with not only no luck in finding his pannier but also minus his stuff sack which was sat on his rack. It was a bit of a blow but Ghandis approach was stellar and he sped off with half the weight blasting out his gypsy punk music from a speaker strapped to his handlebars, telling me he needed some new clothes anyways. I donated on outfit for the meantime.
We left for El Salvador, a week after a national state of emergency was announced regarding a problem with the prisons and gangs. Ghandi seemed unperturbed, it was my turn to be the cautious one. Short of the border we found Aguas Del Coco and a sulphur water park. Seemed like a good place for the night so we got a few contrary opinions on our chances of surviving and short of other options we went for it. Full of Guatemalan tourists it was a fun spot to hang out. A local lad I leant my guitar to was climbing the trees around the pools and shaking down mangoes for the excited crowd below.
Me and Ghandi met a group of young locals and drank away. After failing to charm Lucia the bar lady into letting us camp at hers we set up near the pools against the advice of the shot gun touting security guard. I had a conversation with a huge dude packing a magnum into his jeans pocket. He told me of the drugs in this part of Guatemala and I started shooting my mouth off about the problems they seemed to be causing with Gangs, I was later we told by the locals to treat him with much respect as he was the local gang Lord. Whoops.
We ate Papusas with the kids and listened to Bob Marley in the Morning and hit a quiet El Salvadorian border comprised of a wooden desk on the roadside and a jovial border agent offering to sell us pot and making us feel like squares for not obliging. Didn’t really know how to take it so we rode off, over the rio Pax and back up into the volcanic highlands. Ice creams and coke stops every thirty minutes. The route took us through the route del Flores, high up in the El Salvadoran mountains which showed off some beautifully tranquil, colourful villages. There was a noticeable difference in the looks of the people from Guatemala, a couple of inches taller, curly hair and bigger builds, charmingly cheekier in their comments too. The atmosphere felt a little less traditional, more Caribbean with more American influence marked by the use of dollars. Back on the Pacific for the first time since Nayarit in Mexico, it felt much more tropical. Craggy bays and Palm lined misty black sand beaches which looked perfect for camping. I made the usual enquiries as to our safety but after being consistently told that if we were robbed we would also be killed we checked into a little luxury resort which we had all to ourselves. Guarded over by a young chap, baseball bat spun backwards and a shot gun. Pizza, beer and a couple of hours of lengths listening to tunes and star gazing. Yes.
Beach life and hard riding. Ten to fifteen litres of water a day and still no peeing. Poor kidneys. The temperature hit mid forties and the humidity was silly. Our bodies took a good beating from the Sun and hills. Ghandi’s enthusiasm was encouraging as we randomly stumbled upon a Beatles bar, complete with an El Salvadoran covers band that played for three hours, successfully charming plentiful free booze from the friendly bar staff. Following a funeral cortegge we found the only El Salvadorian pueblo you could describe as quaint, did a spot of clothes shopping, upping Ghandi’s outfits to three. I played football in the evening interspersed with regular dips in the pool. Another day in the mountains had us done, a dirt track road landed us in El Cuco.
An idyllic six kilometre beach where we found a turtle sanctuary to stay in. A days rest turned into three as we found a nice crew to hang with. Freddy, was frustratingly trying to instil the concept of recycling in the locals as he lived from his hammock in a tower right on the beach. A couple of Aussie bikers a lovely Irish family and Kat the yoga teacher who punished our bodies further. The two Britt’s and the German moaned groaned and fell over from the back like a bunch of school kids. We kayaked around the mangroves. I almost lost Ghandi as he fell out of the kayak and was washed out in the estuaries swell managing to grab hold of an anchored boat before getting washed out to sea. Freddy came to the reuse and we got him to shore. We Ate fresh fish every lunch in a local families yard as well as what must have been double figures of mangoes which covered the beach side. It was hard to head out again but Freddy rode us out of town and we busted for the Honduran border.
Ghandi found us a comrade waiting at the border by the name of Mark, from Switzerland. Fully equipt with a machete. He had rode down from his girlfriend in Mexico city and was as keen as we were to get through Honduras at a decent pace. The tourists tend to head to northern Caribbean coast of Honduras and I’d heard the southern portion didn’t make for great riding. The atmosphere seemed a bit more sour and there was little to see or eat. Jaime put the three of us up in his back yard after a hard days riding and the next day we made headway across the dry flat lands. The encouraging comments seem to turn to some form of abuse and trucks scraped by our shoulders before the arduous process of entering Nicaragua began. The border office was adorned as equally with the Sandinistas flag as it was the national flag and I was given an impassioned introduction to Nicaraguan revolutionary history whilst waiting in the immigration office. We got as far as the border town of somatillo, filled with transvestites and cockfights and I tried to haggle down the hotel room by 50p before being reminded by Ghandi and Mark I was being disgracefully stingy. The prize fighting cocks were squaring up to each other outside our room scratching at the dusty floor and we drank beers and ate burgers as the power outed.
Fuelled by fresh juices of passionfruit, papaya, mango and pineapple packed with crushed ice we biked side by side through the agricultural land in southern nicaragua, Palm tree lined roads with volcanoes framing the horizon. Softly spoken and a fair bit nicer than Ghandi to look at Mark was well travelled and full of adventure. He told me all about hitch hiking through central Asia and his forays into uncharted jungle. It was great riding as a three before we left Mark, who headed for the surf of the coast and we made our way to revolutionary Leon and disappointingly modern dirty Managua where me and Ghandi parted as he caught his bus to Costa Rica, flying out the next day.
I continued on to Granada, Nicaraguas crumbling colonial museum. Alone again I made my way to the volcanic island of omatepe, I’d heard of great wild beach camping and a mellow island vibe for a few days of reading. I head incredible roars in the jungle as I made my way to the port of son Jorge. Howler monkeys were out in force. More iguanas and snakes crossed the road. I’ve never known nature so noisy from the squawks of Nicaragua’s national bird the Guadabarranco to the cracks of all types of flying beetles and bugs Rural Nicaragua was wonderfully alive.