Bienvenido A La Jungla (Brendan’s ed #2)

So here is my account of what’s happened (not much really just rode my bike) to me since a while back in Mexico to the end of Central America.

Guatemala – Mayan for hills

Finally got outta Mexico (which is huge and after central I especially realise the diversity the country possesses) and decided to kick off Guatamala with what eating a choloate bar is to a Hollywood actress and hitchhike and feel very bad afterwards! But skipped a very big hill.

 

A view of Xela

A view of Xela

When we arrived up the giant hill to a place called Xela. The air was crisp, the views were rugged and it wasn’t Mexico!  With volcano peaks on the horizon, it was a nice change I must say!

We hung out at our warmshowers host with jumpers and jeans on – Ana and Mark who had an amazing place and got up to a couple of things – natural steam baths, went to a local bare knuckle boxing match and easter was going. After a while there i felt it was time to head south whilst Tom waited for his card to be delivered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Piggies 

I got up early ready for hills and made my way towards Laguna de Atitlan. Took me a while and that old injury flared up again resulting in basically riding with one leg, dropped a few strong pain killers and biked on. I decided my hitching days were over for the rest of Central America.

Just before the ride down into the lake

Just before the ride down into the lake

The wildest thing about the whole lake was actually the ride down it was so steep, something you would expect i guess in Nepal?! I had to ride pressing my hands as hard as I could the entire time on the breaks, and they were squeaking like little piggies.

Traditional dress is by far the most popular in Guatemala out of every Central American country. The dresses are handcrafted and are worn by woman of all ages. Apparent some can cost over $1,000.

Traditional dress is by far the most popular in Guatemala out of every Central American country. The dresses are handcrafted and are worn by woman of all ages (from 4 to 80 yr olds). Apparently some can cost over $1,000. In the countryside basically all women wear these garments and it has a strange effect as little girls seem a lot older and older women seem a lot younger. It does appear children in Gutamuala have a lot more responsibility seeing 8 yr old herding cattle is pretty interesting. Whislt in Australia we are still in a pram getting pushed around!

I finally reached the little hippy town of San Marco right on the lake. It’s a place with endless yoga, cacao sessions (google it) and swimming in the lake on tap. What was cool was bumping into Adz and Jen people I met in La Bumba, Mexico we made our way across the lake to San Pedro. The volcano itself is a cool place and quite a wonder but with the pollution and development of the towns I felt it detracted from the natural beauty but was most definitely worth a visit. Dane (that cyclist I bump into every second day) was there and we decided to make tracks.

The ride out was great and a huge descent was super fun 80km later we were back in the Central American heat. The tourists where gone and the shotguns came out! Slept in some pretty crazy towns were we both decided probs best to be inside before dark and only take the cash your going to spend out. Was cool to see and the stares were relentless, Dane and I discussed what they must be thinking why we are in these towns no gringo ever treads.

Dane scoring a flat in torrential rain, was the first dump since starting in San Francisco.

Dane scoring a flat in torrential rain, was the first dump since starting in San Francisco.

 

Our spot for the night Hotel Arizona 2. Not sure what happened to the first but the black steel door entrance was reassuring.

Our spot for the night Hotel Arizona 2. Not sure what happened to the first one but the big black steel door entrance was reassuring.

The Pacific strikes back

So basically biked with Dane for about 4 days through the remainder of Guatemala. Actually said goodbye at the El Sal boarder given he rides a bit quicker then me but of course bumped into him again. We ended up splitting up a day later in El Sal as I headed down to get some waves at a break called Mizata. Some much needed ding repair was done and scored some uncrowded waves.

Mizata first waves since Mexico rolled up to an empty point break with no one out. Good fun but was pretty confused why no one else was out.

Mizata first waves since Mexico rolled up to an empty point break with no one out. Good fun but was pretty confused why no one else was out. Especially given 50km south was El Tunco which has about 60 people out albeit a slightly better wave but still go figure!

 

Camping at Enquries whilst at Mizata was the tropical dream $3 a night with no one else, free mangos and meals for $2. He was also more then willing to impart his spanish knowledge onto me. Stayed a couple of nights but would of been a great place to just hang for a month get some waves, practice my spanish and avoid all gringo's!

Camping at Enrique’s whilst at Mizata was the tropical dream $3 a night with no one else, unlimited mangos off the tree and meals for $2. He was also more then willing to impart his spanish knowledge onto me. Stayed a couple of nights but would of been a great place to just hang for a month get some waves, practice my spanish and avoid all gringo’s!

After that had some great roads and views where enjoyed until another surf break called El Tunco. This was super crowded but for good reason as a super fun wave. But alas was a little to much party emphasis for my monk biking lifestyle so just stayed the night.

Dane leading the way though the El Sal countryside

Dane leading the way though the El Sal countryside

Las Flores 

Then the sights were put on Las Flores another world class point break, few days of cycling and a day out from the destination a bloke pulled over by the name of Tom. He was rocking a sweet headband, in his 60’s and informed straight away he was a Hawaiian tube rider from way back! Offered me a ride to his backpacker/hotel accomadation and a free night stay because I was reducing my carbon footprint. I asked for two cause I had a surfboard and he obliged. I didn’t take him on the ride though.

Reached Las Flores and got some fun waves and stayed a couple of nights. I was informed then of a ferry from La Union El Salvador (70km south of where I was) to Nicaragua, the best bit being dropped off at another sweet surf break. I didn’t really plan it to well and rolled up to La Uinon  expecting everything to fall into my lap (as it normally does) it seemed no one knew anything. I eventually found some info and it was $75 and decided why not just ride another country being Honduras for free!

Went on a little island tour around Las Flores. This is us buying some fish on route to the island.

Went on a little island tour around Las Flores. This is us buying some fish on route to the island too cook up for lunch.

On the way to the Honduras boarder I was told by about 8 locals how dangerous the area I was riding through was, with that reassuring information i decided to try and find a hotel ASAP. As the sun was setting I got a flat! Not the best timing I decided to put some air into it and made it safe and sound to a cheap hotel. I was pretty tired and couldn’t even be bothered fixing the flat until tomorrow. Got up fixed the flat with my eyes on cruisen through Honduras in a day (not far only about 95km) unfortunately by lunch I wasn’t feeling to good so refuge was sought in a hotel. Resting up I hit the road the next day taking it slowly.

Honduras! since leaving Mexico the countries were dropping like flies

Honduras! Since leaving Mexico the countries were dropping like flies

 

Nicaragua and the man with an identity crisis

10km before the Nicaragua boarder, I decided to take a lie down, literally these days I lie down anywhere be it gravel, bitumen, grass you name it I will have a rest on it. This time I was lying under a tree out of eyeshot from the road and I hear the word ‘grrriinngooo’ with me thinking – what’s going on here. I look up and it’s a bloke and his bicycle who decided to go off the road in the exact same place to have a break. So lucky as he really should of simply road on past.

Joan chargin towards the Nicaragua boarder! All boarder crossing from the Mexican to Costa Rica were extremely easy and quick on average taking about 10 minutes.

Joan chargin towards the Nicaragua boarder! All boarder crossing from the Mexican to Costa Rica were extremely easy and quick on average taking about 10 minutes.

So we decided to ride togeather as our plans were pretty simple – SOUTH. Joan (which i pronounced as you would if you met a female called Joan in Australia) grew up in France until the age of 16 and moved to Switzerland and has been biking for the last 3&1/2 years! He started in Switzerland!  Was a lotta fun biking with Joan and ended up splitting due to my desire to get some waves.

Couple of nights into Nica we decided to check out the beach Las Penitas unfortunately no waves however we found an owner of a bar who let as camp in his 'Pirate' Bar

Couple of nights into Nica we decided to check out the beach Las Penitas unfortunately no waves however we found an owner of a ‘Pirata’ bar who let as camp.

Las Penitas sunset

Las Penitas sunset

 

Crashed at a horse stables one night

Crashed at a horse stables one night

 

Not a bad view from the stables

Not a bad view from the stables

Shotgun

Shotgun

Active Volcano Cerro Negro

Active Volcano Cerro Negro

Active Volcano part 2

Active Volcano part 2

Joan bidding me farewell, i would later bump into him in Panama City. Biking with him was great as he has a sound grasp of Spanish and things just happened a lot easier with him, coupled with his sole lack of embarrassment regarding any request was good too. Definitely learnt a few things from the cycling guru.

Joan bidding me farewell, i would later bump into him in Panama City. Biking with him was great as he has a sound grasp of Spanish and things just happened a lot easier with him, coupled with his sole lack of embarrassment regarding any request was good too. Definitely learnt a few things from the cycling guru.

Popoyo & Co.

Doing a minor bit of research I set my sights on Gigante Bay with there apparently being some surf around. The ride included 50km down a dirt road where I’m pretty sure these locals had never seen touring cyclist before. I got countless yells and stopped and watched a bit baseball as Nicaraguans love their baseball and turns out their rum as well. With continuous offers for me to have some I eventually caved finished an entire bottle to myself, streaked at the baseball game and eventually passed out in the baseball park. No not really, I was boring and just kept riding and by 4pm after leaving around 7a.m Gigante was still a while off. Out of nowhere I saw a sign for a beach called Popoyo the named ringed a bell so decided to chk it out. BAM! 4k’s later I roll up to a mechanical A-Frame! I was pretty stoked and by 5 I was in the water getting all the dirt off me.

Popoyo - the wave was like this everyday I was there

Popoyo – the wave was like this everyday I was there

Stayed at Popoyo for 3 days and all I did was surf. Literally this place only had a little bar that sold refreshments etc and I was the only one camping there as most people stay in nearby accom and drive in. One of the coolest things happened to my on the trip here. I was invited to dinner at the nearby town which involved crossing a river, by crossing i mean swimming. By 9 i decided to call it a night as i had to swim across this dam river to get back to Popoyo and wasn’t too stoked on it, but alas no bridges here. Turns out when i started swimming across fluorescent algae was in the river (I’d heard about this stuff in Mexico) and the whole thing lit up as i was swimming across. So the worst river crossing turned out ok.

Next stop for me was at Gigante just down the road.

Gigante

Gigante

Santana

Santana

Amarillo

Amarillo

Around this area there are about 6 really decent waves all different as well. So made my way to Gigante in which stayed with a warmshowers host at his hostel. He offered $5 boat rides to surf breaks and a couple of Irazeli’s had a car so was set to get to basically any wave. All in all I spent around 12 days surfing at least twice a day so by the end I was pretty surfed out. But got some really fun waves and were even some barrels up for grabs.

Unfortunately whilst camping in Gigante someone decided they could make better use of my cycling shoes. These are shoes that only work with cleats and really suck to walk in. So instead of grabbing a laptop, iPhone, iPod or camera they took the shoes! Seems like a more dedicated biker then me I know what I would’ve taken. What it did result in is riding in my sneakers through Costa Rica.

Costa Rica – El Primo

Costa Rica is like someone who has lived in the US from the ages of 7-14 and then moved back to Central America. The roads, infrastructure, shops and people all have a US influence. Eco tourism is huge and so is conservation of land and it was great to finally really feel the tropics and ride through the jungle and not seeing land destroyed for farming. Unfortunately tho Costa Rica didn’t turn it on regarding the waves and actually only surfed a couple of times on some average days. I didn’t get to all the spots and heard a few where working but outta my distance range.

Moon rise

Moon rise

Plant life was coming at ya at all angles in Costa Rica

Plant life was coming at ya at all angles in Costa Rica

 

Riding Costa Rica would have to be one of the most beautiful countries so far and whilst there I also got news a friend from Australia was coming to Panama to surf so the final Costa Rican break Povones was ditched and my sights were set on Panama City by the 11th of June.

Pretty knackered up this unexpected hill resulted in some sweaty times

Panama – the land of stares

Panama was full of unexpected events. Riding the jungle was great, although the roads turned into by far the worst road I have ever ridden! Crossing the canal was extremely busy.  The most interesting thing that happened to me is the corrosion of my handle bars through my sweat (refer to pic) around 400km North of Panama City.

The power of sweat! I just went to change my gears and this happened.

The power of sweat! I just went to change my gears and this happened.

The solution involved a hose clump and some duct tape and strapped the gear to the frame. That lasted to Panama City unfortunately my right brake eventual fell off but luckily only a few k's from the city.

The solution involved a hose clump and some duct tape and strapped the gear lever to the frame. That lasted to Panama City unfortunately my right brake eventually fell off on the last day, luckily it was the last day of riding to Panama City as riding with one brake believe it or not is half as effective!

Biking Panama was pretty non eventful with myself basically on a deadline. I did notice however Panamericans love to stare and not to do much else (but please don’t get my wrong overall the experience was of course just like everywhere extremely positive). Whilst fixing my handlebars, flats etc in Mexico and most other places in central america people would just come up and try and help offering any tool for assistance including their machetes, not in Panama! They will just stand about 3 feet away and stare!

The Panama boarder crossing was a tad amusing as I was requested to present the papers for my bike (whatever that means), have an exit flight and show 2,000 USD. My treatment however paled into comparison to that of Dane's (who i of course bumped into unexpectently again at the boarder) he basically had to spend two days out the front of the office as they wouldn't let him in due to the front of his passport being tattered. After being very persistent he eventually got in.

The Panama boarder crossing was a tad amusing as I was requested to present the papers for my bike (whatever that means), have an exit flight and show 2,000 USD. My treatment however paled into comparison to that of Dane’s (who i of course bumped into unexpectently again at the boarder) he basically had to spend two days out the front of the office as they wouldn’t let him in due to the front of his passport being tattered. After being very persistent he eventually got in.

 

Cheap hotels were the main source of accommodation in Panama with the torrential rain putting camping on the back burner.

Cheap hotels were the main source of accommodation in Panama with the torrential rain putting camping on the back burner.

Departure – SF:11/12/2013   Arrival – Panama City 11/6/2014 (6 months travel time)

 

Run for your life

Also was very cool to meet up with a friend from Perth, Jesse T Parts Taylor. I haven’t seen anyone from Perth for over 6 months so was great to get away from the bike, score some waves and god forbid drive a car!! Had an excellent time having a holiday from my holiday – life’s tough I know!

Jesse reflecting

Jesse reflecting

Caribbean side of Panama was Caribbean like!

Caribbean side of Panama was Caribbean like!

few waves were getting round at Santa Catalina Panama

few waves were getting round at Santa Catalina

Whilst on my little holiday one of the most surreal experiences happened so far on the trip.  Chilling on the beach with friends having just discoved a wild sloth and eating some coconuts three masked men two wielding machetes and one a gun stormed out of the jungle yelling lyrics to Welcome To The Jungle by GnR’s. We obviously cooperated with the gentlemen handing over what we had – cameras, iPhones, wallets etc. I got lucky and took nothing to the beach and got off scott free. A few people were rattled but all were unharmed. Hopefully this will be the last encounter but it’s something I’ve come to terms with happending and will continue with the same tact if the same happens – give it away!! They may not have actually been yelling the lyrics to Welcome To The Jungle but it’s hard to tell as the whole thing was a blur.

EL SUR

Will be sticking to the same plan as always – head south hopefully on a boat sooner rather then later. No idea whats roads i’m taking but heard theres some big mountains down there! There will be a new look in South America in more ways then one! So stay tuned.

Peace,

Brendan.

 

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