One thing that we always embrace on bike tour is change. This trip has evolved so much since its´ start and it continues to do so. Since the last blog many sizeable changes have taken place. The first is our return plans home. Optimistically we thought we could be in Ecuador by March when we needed to return, but that is not the case. We are returning March 5 from SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA! Needing to return for work, this is the new plan, and although we are bummed we´re not making it to the equator, the trip is amazing regardless. The other change is that the rangers and Ike and Hen have decided to break into groups of 2. With so many options to do in Centro and different agendas due to our return, it only makes sense to split up and have the journey become 2. We wish Ike and Hen all the luck headin´down to Mundial in Brasil and knew we would see them down the road.
Sick painting of Everest at Base Camp Hostel in Antigua
We parted ways in Antigua, Guatemala and headed into the valley between the three giant volcanoes that emcompasses the colonial town (Volcan Fuego, Agua, y Acatenango). The ride was all downhill leaving the volcans which put icing on the cake to getting to stare at these massive mounds as we biked away. Camp was quite interesting that night and marked off our goal of staying in an abandoned building. We found this industrial compound that had clearly been destroyed by fire and now was unoccupied. We took pleasure in calling this eerie setting our camp for the night. It was our first night camping in a couple days and felt good to roll out the thermarest and sleeping bag.
In the morning, we went through the daily routine of coffee, oats with banana, and stretches. Just after we got on the road, we both looked to your right at the beautiful lookout of Volcan Fuego. As we stared in awe, smoldering began to arise from the caldera and a mild eruption took place! This is the closest either of us have come to seeing a volcanoe erupt and it was magnificent! As we rode away from the highlands of Guatemala, the road was downhill and the wind at our back (the 2 conditions you hope for most)! After a long day of riding, we started to inquire about camp for the night and that is when we met Herbert, who ran a tilapia farm. More than happy to host us, Herbert sliced us up some sugar cane and even cooked us dinner! Exhausted from the day, both of us feel asleep at six pm and didn´t wake up until six the next day. Twelve hours of sleep is definately out of the norm…
Herbert´s amigo casting the net to catch tilapia
If the hospitality Herbet showed us wasn´t enough, we were provided breakfast as well. We were given the desayuno tipico (eggs with beans and tortillas), one of our favorites. As we rode on, enjoying our last full day of Guatemala, we took in the beautiful scenery until Tommy´s seat clamp broke. Looking for a roadside fix with what we had, Bradie improvised by using the bolt on an extra brake pad to clamp the seat. It works great! Again searching for camp, we sought out this family who had a nice patch of grass for us to camp in. Before we could even finish asking, Fila the owner had said yes, and soon we would be welcomed into to one of the most hospitiable camp spots of the trip. We were given a tour of the ranch that the family managed, as well as the Lagoon behind the house, where the fish for dinner had been caught. Fila´s wife cooked us fried tilapia with beans and of course fresh made tortillas! If dinner wasn´t enough, it came with 2 beers as well. Wow! Dinner and beer what more can you ask for right? How about getting to milk the cows in the morning? Neither one of us had ever milked cows before and tomorrow morning at six am, we got to join Fila and family to the daily chore of milking the cows.
The roadside seat fix…
Six am came early, but with the anticipation of milking the cows it was well worth the early wake up call. We showed up with Fila and the others had already got to work. It was amazing at how fast they could milk the cows, making it look easy. Before we could milk the cows, we had to drink coffee and we enjoy a little milk in the coffee. So naturally, we put our coffee cups right under the udder and got the milk straight from the teet! First time for us. The coffee was great and now we are ready to milk some cows. It definately not as easy as it looks and our first few tugs on the udders produced no milk. Naturally, the locals were getting their kicks out of seeing the gringos fail at producing milk. After they got their laugh, they showed us the trick to getting the milk out and soon we were milking away, however, not near the velocity they could. Everyday the cows are milked producing around 60 liters. The family takes enough for daily usage and then leaves the rest to be sold for three Quetzales per liter ($.35). That is pretty cheap for farm fresh milk!
Bradie concentrating on his technique
Farewell photo with the entire family
After milking the cows, we hit the road, only 5 km away from the border of El Salvador! As we approached the border, semi trucks were lined in traffic kilometers long. It appears each truck has to be rigorously searched before crossing the borders. Some of the truck drivers were taking advantage of the traffic by stringing their hammocks up under the trucks and catching a nice little siesta. The border crossing went smooth as butter and we were off into the unknown, our third country of the trip! The land of Pupusas! It seemed like as soon as we crossed the border, the temperature increased! Not far off the border, we saw two guys walking down the road and they quickly held up a glass bottle, indicating that we should stop for a drink. Agua diente! Sugar cane alcohol! After taking a sip, they informed us that in 2 days, (Feb 2) was the election, and these guys are already celebrating. Upon searching for camp around a sugar cane field, we stumbled across a treehouse in a large tree in the middle of the crop. Saying Hola, we found the watchtowerman who invited us to camp. He would be working all night looking for crop vandals and providing us with a personal security guard for the night! As it was friday night, the watchman had his buddies come hang out in the treehouse, drink beers, and bull shit. We hung out with the dudes for a little bit and then hit the hay!
Sleeping the traffic away
The next day, our plan was to make the 85-90 km push to San Salvador, where we had a warmshower host established. The first half of the day was an uphill climb to inland El Salvador. The climb also came with a beautiful backdrop of Volcan Santa Ana, the largest volcanoe in El Salvador. Around lunchtime we stopped roadside to get our first pupusas of El Salvador! A pupusa can vary, but it is typically a tortilla filled with beans and chicharon and always topped with pickled cabbage salad! It is so delicious and great fuel for cycling! After lunch, crushed out the remaining 40 km to San Salvador that ended with a huge downhill into the busy city. Passing cars, swerving in between traffic, we made our way through the city to a busy restuarant corridor. From there, we made a call to Juan, our warmshower host, who informed us he would meet us at our location in 10 minutes! Juan showed up on his motorcycle and escorted us to his apartment and our residence for the next 3 days! Juan and family live in central San Salvador near the National University. Upon arriving, we met his lovely family, wife Patricia and daughters Paola and Lucia. After washing up, we joined Juan´s family and their family friends for dinner at what must be the best pupuseria in the city! We got to ride in the back of the truck to the restuarant which is a cultural experience in of itself! The pupusas were delicious, as were the pan dulces that came as dessert! The night was concluded with a walk through the street fair, crowed with food vendors, arteseans, and clowns!
Volcan Santa Ana
Upon waking up, we were greeted with breakfast from Juan who had just got back from his early morning ride. Juan is a cyclist himself and has been riding/competing for 25 years. After breakfast, Juan drove us to the top of Volcan San Salvador to check out the ecological park at the top, where we could look down the caldera and see the crater! While driving there, we got to talk to Juan about his experiences fighting in The El Salvadeño Civil War in the early ´90s. Although our view on war is negative, it was great to learn this local history and get to understand the problems that were plaguing the country. As we said, it is election day for the President, so we got to join Juan and Pati as they cast their vote for President. The voting system is interesting in that you actually go to the park where voting booths are set up and you write in your vote. None of this early voting, mail in ballot stuff we deal with in The States. Another interesting fact about the El Salvador election is that the sale of alcohol is prohibitted the day before through the day after the election. This was unfortunate for us as we wanted to partake in some libations while watching The Broncos de Denver win The Superbowl, but we all know how that worked out…
Bradie´s new favorite pastime
Juan and Bradie looking out over Volcan San Salvador
If we hadn´t seen enough great hospitality already, Juan handed us the keys to his house and left it to us for the day as the family went to work and school. We took advantage of having a house and did laundry, washed our dishes, and hung the sleeping bags out to dry. After doing our chores, we took a stroll into the Centro of San Salvador. It felt good to be off the bikes and walk around. We met up with Ike and Hen in the centro, where we admired the beautiful architecture of the National Palace and The Cathedral. Upon seeing an open air barber in the streets of San Salvador, Bradie got a straight razor shave and Tommy a beard trim. We loved the dirt bag bike tourist look, but also felt like cleaning up! On our walk back home, we picked up supplies to cook dinner for the family as a way to say thanks for everything they had done for us. Annd we also got Patricia some roses…Aren´t we sweet! Dinner was delicious! Tommy cooked some curry chicken and Bradie preparred the salad and rice! The rest of the night was spent talking to Juan about very interesting topics such as US Immigration policies, Social Security, and the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado!
Eating Pupusas…I think the barber missed a spot
Juan and family gets up at the crack of dawn everyday for work and school, so we did as well so we could give a proper good-bye since we were leaving that day. We can´t thank Juan enough for the amazing hospitality we were shown while staying at his house. The family went above and beyond what may be asked of a great host and we really felt at home while there. Unfortunately, Patricia was not feeling well so she stayed home, which allowed to hang out with her as we packed our bags. She sent us off with a lunch packed with sandwiches and these delicious little cookies called ¨Chickys¨. Feeling great and really stoked on life after having such a great time in San Salvador, we hit the road heading to the coast of El Salvador, where the road is supposed to be flat and of great quality. As soon as we climbed out of the valley surrounding San Salvador, we descended 35 km of sustained downhill that brought us to the coastal highway of El Salvador. Once coastal, we felt the heat everyone more inland was talking about. However, the scenery was beautiful and full of sugar cane that had fallen out of the transport truck. The sugar cane is an excellent source of enery while riding and quite fun to process, as it requires shedding the outside bark with the machete! Towards the end of the day with the thought of camp in the back of our mind, we saw two bike tourists on bridge, peering over the river. Who did it happen to be but the second best bike tourists (next to us) in Centro America, Ike and Hen! After catching up on the days happenings, we rode as a pack again for the evening to find camp. We got to stay on a families property that gathered their water from a hand drawn well. As Tommy biked to go get pan dulce for dinner, he came back to see Bradie pulling 5 gallons of water from 20 meters below the earths surface! Camping with the dudes was great! We had a bike tour camp cook-off, Rangers vs. Sustainably South, where I hate to admit it, but the unanimous decision was that Sustainably South won!
Voting Salvadeño style!
Ike and Hen had a football match with the kids that lived at the house in the morning. While they played ball, we took advantage of the early morning and tried to beat the heat! After getting a few km to warm up, we saw the opportunity for the perfect skitch (a tow while riding the bike). A farm tractor was trudging down the highway at about 25 kmph, with perfect handholds on either side. As it passed us, we held on for as long as the tractor was going on the highway, which ended up being about 10 km. By far our best skitch on the trip! We stopped for lunch at a roadside comedor, where we got a huge plate of food and a beer for $2.75. The benefit of being on the dollar in El Salvador is that you can visually see the price differences as to what something would cost back home. After lunch, we pushed through the brutalizing heat for another 50 km, and getting within 20 km of Playa Playitas, a small beach on the southern tip of El Salvador. Asking a local family to camp, they quickly said yes. We found out we would actually be staying in the local church, that was the Iglesia for the 5-10 families that lived in this little rural neighborhood. Typically when we camp at someones house, we talk to them for a little bit and then they let us be alone, understanding that we are tired. But this family was too intrigued by the gringos staying at their place. From the time we showed up to the time we went to sleep, there was anywhere from 3-8 people standing over us, watching everything we did, and touching our gear. We don´t want to sound ungrateful because they provided us with shelter for the night, but they had kind of taken it too far and were invading our privacy. It is understandable to an extent though, these people are pretty isolated from the outside world and having two gringos on bicycles stay with them is bound to spark some curiosity.
They sell water in bags down here…
Finally checked camping in the church off the list
However, in the morning, the family had taken it a little far. We had just barely opened our eyes and they were hovering in the windows of the church looking at us and that is when we knew it was time to go. Quickly we packed our bags and said thank you for the hospitality. We got out of there and recollected our headspace as we drank some coffee at a roadside park. From there, we pedaled the bike to Playa Playitas to check out the beach for the day. The last 11 km of the road was rather rocky and bumpy so when we arrived to the beach, we were definiately ready for a dunk in the ocean. Playitas is a tiny beach crowed with lanchas that the local pescadores use to fish. After taking a swim we enjoyed a couple beers while gettin´some color. We decided to take the bus out of the beach and avoid riding the harsh road and for $.75 for a bus ride, who could beat it? The bus dropped us off at La Union where we got some pan dulces from the market and the necessary supplies for dinner. We hit the road, back tracking past the curious families house but making note to look the other way. Finding ourselves 20 km from the Frontera (border), we made camp at this water park that looked EXTREMELY inviting. There was a pool, a petting zoo, literally 3000 chickens, and mango trees. The perfect campsite! After getting the 3rd degree interogation from the owner, who wanted to see our passports and know our religion, we were granted entry. Naturally, we took a dip in the pool, washed the day off and chilled at camp!
Takin´a swim before settin´up camp
The next day, we are crossing into our fourth country of the trip, Honduras! The morning went really smooth, enjoying the nice rolling hills that lead us to the border. Same as crossing into El Salvador, lines of truck traffic crowded the road, but this time there were no hammocks! The border crossing went extremely smooth…We had to pay a small entrance fee, but with the fee came a stamp, which we were extremely pleased to get since we didn´t get one for El Sal. Not only did we cross the border but today also marked the 100th day of bike tour, indicating it takes exactly 100 days to bike from San Diego to Honduras! It seemed like as soon as we crossed the border, the wind picked up and would continue to blow for the remainder of the day. For our afternoon siesta, we found what appeared to be an abandoned house, but it was actually occupied. Granted permission by the little niños who were playing there, we chilled out and passed the heat. The one little niño really liked one of the bracelets that Tommy had and he ended up trading for the necklace Jose had. Stoked for the trade! We pressed one, grinding through the wind for the remainder of the day. As the sunset was nearby, we sought out camp. Tommy spotted Casa del Amarillo and asked Maria the house owner for permission to camp in the back yard. Perhaps it was the shade of yellow of the house or the gated entry, but the house looked very appealing! Maria permitted us to camp and even set up hammocks for us to sleep in, mixing it up from sleeping in the tent every night. Along with the hammocks, we were also given a plate of sliced fruit, the perfect treat after a long day of riding! Our first day in Honduras has been muy tranquillo (very chill) and we enjoyed our interactions with the locals thoroughly!
Wormin through the dead stop traffic. Another perk of bike tour
Honduras roadside fire behavior
Not having much to pack up, we got an early morning start to make it to Choluteca where we wanted to take a rest day. It was only 40 km to the city and a very casual route, which included a couple skitches from passing semi trucks. One great thing about El Salvador and Honduras is the plethora of sugar cane that lays roadside after falling off the trucks. Instinctively, we forage the cane for a quick energy boost. Upon arriving in Choluteca, we were intrigued by the scene that encompasses the city. Definately a modernized area of the city but also a traditional and natural feel to the city. We copped a cheap hotel room to rest for the night, watch some Olympics, and maybe catch a little buzz, eh eh?
Bridge crossing into Choluteca!
And that is where we leave you…Soon we will head down the road and position ourselves to cross the border of Nicaragua tomorrow morning. It is hard to believe we have less than a month left on this amazing journey. What lies ahead of us, is unknown but one thing for sure is that it will be incredible. With so many amazing places on our path ahead, it will be hard to spend the time we would like at all of them, but that is per usual for bike tour!
So much to do and so little time! In the words of Steve, ¨Life is fuckin´great man!¨
-Ranger Bee Koz and Ranger Tom