Once again I feel like I owe everybody a bit of an apology just because I am so behind on my blogs. It isn´t even like, I can say that I haven´t had the time because I have been bed-bound because of the recent injury to me knee. So, at last, I am finally going to catch up to where my journey I am at present - which is
Colombia. Ecuador, damn I am slow.
|The beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala|
From what I remember from the last blog, I spoke about "A man called Carl" in Guatemala. Well in this edition I am going to talk about a few unfortunate events which happened on consequetive days during my journey through Central America, which I am hoping will provide you with a bit of a giggle. The 3 stories include: my aluminium rear rack (an integral part of a touring bike) going kaput and breaking into 3 separate pieces in Guatemala; the following night, Ingrid and I decided to go for a night-time swim, when a flash flood hit and finally the attack of killer ants on the beautiful beach in El Salvador.
The day Ingrid had a Paddy
First of all, I am going to tell you another story of yet another indescribeable act of kindness from a host of people in Guatemala. As the stories goes, I was having absolutely wild one, while descending at speed down from a volcano down to the coast. Unfortunately for me the road surfaces aren't as good as what you would find in sunny England and when hitting close to 50mph with 50kg worth of bike uncontrollably careering down the road, it is reasonably difficult to stop, especially when you start to panic. Well as it so happens, when I hit one of these 'sections of
potholes craters' my rear rack that holds the majority of my belongings decided to break into 3 pieces. Qué una lastoma.
Moments after this happening, I stopped in what I could only class as the middle of nowhere, but luckily for me after 10 minutes of thinking "shit", a friendly ol' chap pulls up beside me on his motorbike and explains that he knows of a guy, who may be able to help me in the next village (only 8km down the ride). Now 8km doesn't sound like much and it isn't - that is if you have a fully functioning bike, but when you have to carry roughly 15 to 20kg worth of bags on your handlebars while cycling it proves to be reasonably difficult; so when I eventually got to the town I was shattered. Turns out this happy chappy only can weld steel. Shite!
After cycling another 5km to my next hope, I had really had enough and was ready to ditch this guy and go at it alone. However to my disbelief, this next chap could actually weld aluminium and so he did (reasonably rare, especially in the middle of nowhere).
|The gents hard at work|
|Branded with their brand|
Not only did he weld the arms back onto the rack but he add a couple of reinforcements onto the rack itself and after about 2 hours of working on it, it was safe to say I was getting concerned about how much money this was going to set me back. Next he sat me down at his kitchen table and fed me a couple of tamales (a sweetcorn-based wrap with chicken inside) and then a litre of coke (my favourite, "Winner"). Right now down to "La Cuenta". He wanted the grand-sum of 50 Ketzales, which is the equivalent of about 4.5 quid. Unbelievable generosity once again and if this would have happened in England, I would say I would have been waiting for the best part of a week to get a slot for the repair and then get charged 5x the price. Crazy.
|Not only were these chappies great mechanics, but they also raised and fought cocks. Lads.|
P.S my rack has decided to break again but this time in Ecuador, Tom's Top Cycle Tour tip - never buy anything that is aluminium (especially rear racks)
The night I nearly died
The following day the bad luck continued. On this particular day, I thought I had found an absolute gem of a wild camping spot - easy access to river for a wash, water and a nice quiet spot with a cracking sunset over the mountains. Boy, was I wrong. After watching the sunset and getting some tuna and pasta down my gullet, I was ready to crawl into bed and what good timing too; as two massive lightning storms honed in on me from both north and the south. I settled down in my humble abode named 'The Hubba Hubba' (don't ask why) and Bear Grylls lulled me sleep with some useful advice about how to survive in the desert.
|Cycling through El Salvador|
Three hours later, I was having the strangest dream and I awoke by something quite unusual and what I have never experienced before during sleeping. The cold splashing of water on my feet; what the hell was it? Immediately I knew this didn't feel right and I whipped my headtorch on. When I switched the light on I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing...
My whole tent was full of water. I then heard the thumping of the rain against the river and the fact that it felt like white water was rushing within a foot of my tent. It then clicked. FLASH FLOOD TIME!
The bloody river had risen 3m in the matter of hours. My first thought was "Is Ingrid alright?", after all, a man has to look after his woman. I left the poor girl down by the river and when I ripped the tent door open, Ingrid was not in sight. Where on earth was the old girl? After what seemed minutes, I noticed the her little handlebars and seat post poking out of the whitewater. It didn't appear that the old girl was enjoying her midnight swim, so I dived in for her straight away and dragged her out onto higher ground; which I believe looked like something from Baywatch. Next was the tent, but as I was sprinting down hill bare-footed, I noticed that half my clothes were floating downstream, including my Jesus sandals. Shit. Next priority was the tent with all my valuables inside, which at this point were taking a swim of their own. Great. That is another camera down the drain. After the tent was safe with Ingrid, I went down to search for my clothes. I found a sandal and a top and that was all.
After those traumatic 5 minutes, it felt as if my heart was trying to break through my ribcage. Luckily for me, the iPad was dry and I knew that the only thing that was going to calm my nerves and get me off to sleep again was the sound of Bear Grylls telling me about the Belize rainforest, bliss. I climbed into my tent and got him on, but as the screen brightness revealed the inside the tent, I noticed an unreasonable amount of spiders in my tent - I am talking about 10 or 15 and these were not the small garden spiders you find in England. These little fuckers were big. I could only describe my tent as a small Noah's arc, but he only decided to save the aracnid family. It took me a good 10 minutes to get these bastards out and eventually I drifted off to the sound of my idol.
A couple hours later I was awoken again by torrential rain. Not again! I opened the tent door as fast as I could and checked the water level of the river. Some of the trees had disappeared and it was probably close to 5 metres above it's original level. I drifted back off to sleep and dreamed for sunrise to warm up and to see the damage.
I woke and fortunately the sky was clear and the sun was bright and after chucking everything back into my sodden pannier bags and hunted for my remaining sandal and clothes, which I found in a small eddy downstream, I got back on my bike and found a quiet road to dry absolutely everything. Luckily the condensation within the lens of the camera and the phone dried out and to my surprise was fully functioning after 2 hours in the sun and a full factory reset. Unfortuantely for my clothes, tent and sleeping bag the river left a rather disgraceful smell ingrained and everynight it reminds me of this beautiful night.
|On the bright side - Edgar an El Salvadorian took me in off the streets feed me and gave a comfy bed a week later|
The night of the attacking ants
I had found my a new found respect for mother nature, not just in the the form of the weather, but of animals too and the following day I camped on the beach and got attacked by a large colony of ants. The main mistake I made was eating my dinner in the tent because of another storm was rolling in from the North. From what I remember I had a ham and cheese baguette and a packet of biscuits. The biggest mistake I made this night was I left half of my sandwich in my tent with half a packet of biscuits and once again I fell asleep to the sound of Bear Gryll's voice.
I awoke 2 or 3 hours later, but this time it wasn't just to the sound of torrential rain, it was in the form of an incredibly itchy leg. Damn! I must have left the tent door open and the mosquitos were feasting. When eventually I got a my headtorch on, it wasn't mozzies feasting on my legs, but hundreds of ants. The bastards had actually chewed through the tent floor and were feasting on my fucking sandwich as well as my leg. I wasn't sure what I was more pissed off about: the fact that the bastards were biting on my leg or that they had eaten a quarter of my ham sandwich.
There was only one thing for it, to kill every single one of them. To be fair to the sods, they put up a good fight and after they knew my leg wasn't the threat and it was my hands that was their enemies, they changed their battle formation and attacked my hands. Damn the little bastards had a bite on them, but I dispatched them all the same.
|The morning after The Ant Rebellion|
In the morning I inspected the full extent of the ants attack and was surprised that they had generated four or five substaincial holes in the bottom of my tent and a few in the netting on the side. Little fuckers!
I am not one for making the same mistake twice and from that night I check whether I am setting my tent near any ant's nest and if I do, then I always respect the lil' minions and feed them a biscuit or two (a moat of biscuit crumbs around my tent) - enough to keep them occupied for the whole night without having a go a my tent.
|I found a lot of fruit on the side of the road through CA, but when I found a couple of watermelons I was pretty chuffed with myself|
OK now for a bit of Tom's awesome facts about El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua in Central America
- El Salvador is a pretty poor country and was voted one of the top 10 most dangerous in 2013; 19% of El Salvadorians live on less than $1.25 per day!
- In Honduras there is a phenomonen known as "Lluvia de peces" or the "Rain of fishes", it is explained as whirlwinds that bring the fish out from the lakes and sea and literally it rains fish. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp67VuxvIpU
- The oldest city in Central America is situated in Nicaragua and is called "Leon Viejo" or "Old Lion" founded in the 15th century and is still used today as it was all them years ago. Not.
|Leon Viejo - the oldest city in Central America, if you can call it a city.|