Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Test

I don't like retracing my tracks. If I can take a different way out of town than I took in, I'm happier. So when I saw Google Maps was recommending I leave San Pedro by the south side of the lake, I was happy. A new road to see, some new towns to go through, not just the same things I'd seen on the way in.

My enthusiasm was premature.

Even though the night before had ended pretty early and hadn't involved many drinks, I woke up at 5am with a roaring headache. I popped some Ibuprofen and wandered through the hotel a bit waiting for it to dissipate, and finally at 6am I was able to get back to sleep for a little bit. Given the poor sleep, it was pretty late before I really got moving on the day and got the bike packed up.

Once I did though, I plotted my course and headed out. But I hadn't gone far at all before the pavement ended and I was faced with this.

Loose rocks and two inches of loose dirt. Awesome.
There may come a time in my life when I look at a road like that and say "hell yeah!" and take off on my bike down it. That time is not now, on a KLR that's loaded to the brim, with an ankle that's still not fully healed from the first time I went down.

I started making my way down the road, and after a kilometer or two there was a police truck coming the other way. So I moved over to the side of the road to let him pass...

And I went down. The side of the road wasn't exactly the line I wanted, and for good reason, because there was a lot more loose dirt over there. Luckily the cops were nice and they helped me get the bike back up on the tires, and then talked to me a bit about the bike. Eventually I said I was going to get on my way, and they said to be careful, it's dangerous here.

Hold on, dangerous? Yeah, they said, be careful on this road, there might be guys with pistols who would take my stuff. But don't worry, we just drove through here, so they're probably all gone right now.

Well that didn't reassure me all that much, especially since I really couldn't make good time at all on this road, so I'd still be on it for a bit. According to them, the bad pavement continued for another three or four kilometers, and then it wasn't dangerous anymore.

I promised them I'd be careful, and then continued onward, hearing their sirens fade behind me as they continued the other way. I rounded the next corner...

And I went down again. This time with no one in sight. I jumped up and down and yelled a bit because I was pretty pissed off, and then started unstrapping my stuff so I could make the bike light enough that I could lift it on my own. Got it back rubber-side-down, and moved it down the road a bit to a place where I could start strapping things back on, when I noticed a pickup truck coming the other way.

Internally, I panicked a bit, after what the police officers had told me. Externally, I pretended like I didn't care they were there, and just moved my things off to the side so they could go by. Which they did, without even glancing at me. Phew.

I got everything strapped back on the bike, took a second to drink some water and rest, and then got back on the bike and continued onward. Finally, about 20 minutes later, I made it back to pavement. From there it was just a matter of cruising through a few of the other lake towns, and then leaving the lake and heading south to the main road that cuts East-West across the southern part of Guatemala.

The rest of the day was... well, pretty boring riding, to be honest. Relatively straight road, not great quality but not horrible, hot stuffy weather without much breeze, and not much to see as far as scenery. When I stopped for some food at a street vendor, the people even seemed a bit less friendly than other places. I finally made my way to Cuilapa, which was one of the last big towns before the border to El Salvador, and headed to the only hotel I could find on Google Maps.

The hotel turned out to be horrible. Reception was separated from the actual rooms by a giant, steep hill, and after I got to my room and discovered there was no internet, I had to walk down the hill and ask, and they gave me a different password, so I walked back up and found that I couldn't even see the network they'd given me the password for, so I walked back down and... you get the point. I never did get working internet from them despite 4 or 5 trips up and down that hill, and while I do have data through T-Mobile in Guatemala, there was almost no signal in the hotel room.

I went to wander around Cuilapa, and found pretty much nothing to do. No interesting markets or restaurants and not even that many street food vendors. Maybe I was wandering around the wrong part of town. Overall, I found Cuilapa to be a bust. The only upside was it looked kind of nice from up on the hill.

Pretty to look at, not so nice to visit.
The night before at the bar, I'd been talking to the Canadian couple about my time with the Belgians. After six weeks of traveling alone in Mexico (with the exception of meeting up with the Italians in a number of places, but never making plans to stay together or do the same things), I'd spent most of Guatemala with the Belgians. And while I loved traveling with them, I was excited to go back to traveling alone, even if it was just for a few days until I met them again in El Salvador.

As I sat in the hotel room in Cuilapa, no internet, nothing interesting to do, no good food to eat, I questioned that decision. Maybe I'd just been romanticizing the time I'd spent traveling alone, remembering how good the freedom felt without remembering the lonely nights with nothing to do. Or maybe I remembered them, but they just didn't seem that bad when I was used to them.

One of the things that I've learned is that even miserable times aren't so bad when you're sharing them with someone. Maybe you missed a bus, or had to walk forever only to find out something was closed. If you're doing it alone, you're bound to be a little pissed off or down about it, but if you're with others, you're a little more likely to just laugh it off and enjoy the time together (even if you might get a little grumpy about it).

Anyway, I used what little internet I had to plan my border crossing into El Salvador and what I was going to do the next day, and then called it an early night and tried to sleep early.

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