Central America 2

I want to get some Nicaraguan gifts and we’re only passing through for a day so I head for a local market in a nearby town. You take any turn off the main road and you take your life in your hands and hold it tight. We spin around and waste time before finally getting to the market behind a taxi. It’s hot today, much much hotter than yesterday, much hotter than an ice cream can stand. It drips off the stick quicker than I can lick it. We get lost, again, but this time in the capital Managua. This place is the centre of the oven it seems. I lean down to undo my boots at some traffic lights and let some air in. As I lean down a puddle of water appears on the ground beneath my bike. Water is literally running out of my sleeve. I’m thinking of starting a magic act.


‘Please welcome the incredible Human Tap. Watch him fill a bath with his bear hands’. It’s much more than perspiration… it’s irrigation… it’s mental. Out of the capital, eventually, and onto the Pan American again. Nicaragua is really struggling to keep up with it’s neighbours. There is rubbish absolutely everywhere with piles of discarded plastic littering even the most remote areas, in some places the stink is just rank. Nicaragua is capable of being a consumer but not yet a responsible disposer. The big American corporations don’t care and will pump as much plastic as they can into these places without considering the consequences. As we head north the land flattens and big industrial sized fields appear.

Grain and other crops are on the go here and there are big farms with modern machinery to handle the scale of this big operation. It’s quite different from the south. It’s nice up here and quite relaxed. The towns are friendly and the people look happier. It’s not what I would call poverty, not in an Indian sort of way. I’d call it basic certainly but not anywhere near as bad as some of the places we’ve seen elsewhere on this trip.

Later we approach the border, I’ve been dreading this all day as after yesterday we all expect the worst. Rock up to the border and there are more fixers than people to be fixed. This is a much smaller border crossing it seems. The Pan American isn’t any longer the main Nicaragua/Honduras crossing point and the whole place is empty. Out of Nicaragua in 20 minutes. ‘What? No waiting? But I’ve bought books to read and I was planing to use the time to learn Cantonese’.Honduras0021

Oh well, I’m sure the Honduras border will be a ball ache. 15 minutes for the passport, then 30 minutes and $29 for the bike and it’s done. I had to win a staring contest with the policeman on the gate (ok ok it was just a piece of ratty string across the road) but we’re out and I’m riding in another place I never imagined I’d come. I tell you, this world builder theory – it’s cast iron, Honduras looks immediately different again. The mountains are different, the trees are different, even the road is different. The Pan American changes character frequently with the different builders that tend to it. Today it’s wide, smooth and seriously seriously curvy. Honduras0024It’s been made with a special superglue surface and it grips like a miser to a fiver. Honduras looks quite affluent on first impressions. Some big houses with ornate fences and walls. Lots of building, lovely old style colonial houses, ranches, lots of men in Stetson hats. The towns are still quite atmospheric in an “I’m going to kidnap and kill you” kind of a way. The hotel today is out of town and the meals are a ‘what we have left in the cupboard’ kind of deal.

It’s a no border today, YIPEEEEE. We’re crossing the length of Honduras to get near the Guatemala border for tomorrow. The road system in Honduras is an absolute mare, there are just no straight routes from A to B and you have to go a long way out of your way to get where you want. Looking at a map is a soul destroying experience as you look at the road route compared to an ‘as the crow flies’ line. God knows how it came to be this way. I start the day riding alone but it soon becomes apparent that a single rider is police bait. Groups of 3 or 4 riders get waved through the myriad police checkpoints but I keep getting stopped. ‘Documents’. There you go mate, I doubt you understand any of those, especially my PowerGen bill, my kids school report and a proposal for a 2 level dwelling with garage and observation tower.

He looks through the passport and finds the $3 receipt for the entry stamp. ‘$3’, I stare, ‘$3’, I stare…. ‘$3’, I stare, I don’t care, I just stare. He wants money, I want to go. He points again, I don’t respond. He blinks first and hands the passport back and I’m off to hook up with some others to avoid all this. I get into a group with a few others. Petrol, go, no, puncture, bollocks. Tubed tyre too. We use my side stand to break the bead but it bends the stand back a bit – double bugger tits and arse! We get chatting to a local who thanks us for visiting Honduras. Nice bloke, very good english. He reckons Honduras is the poorest country in Central America but that the people are happy. It doesn’t look as poor as parts of Nicaragua or even Argentina to me though.

The place is full of American chains like Wendys, Pizza Hut etc. Lots of big 4x4s around too, no mobiles though. It sounds strange but people look odd without a phone pressed to their ear or walking along in a daze concentrating on texting at the expense of everything around them. Natural looks unnatural. It’s super hot again today and when we stop I drink a bottle of orange, a big bottle of Gatorade and two pints of milk but I’m still thirsty and I’ve not peed all day. More mental roads in the afternoon though, big duel carriageways with the super sticky tarmac sticking like a carpet grips shit. I’m chasing a mate on a KTM and he’s fast. I wouldn’t usually chase him because he’s too good but today the bike is like an angry dog on a short lead and wants to go.

We’re climbing in wide fast mountain roads. I get to the edge and suddenly over… A peg touches hard down at about 80 and the bike suddenly slews sideways towards the barrier. Autopilot gets jiggy again in a hurry, foot down, speedway style and looks into the bend and away from the beaconing barrier. The front catches again and we’re around with only a brown stain and a graze to tell the tail. I don’t learn my lesson though, idiot. On and on the chase goes. To be fair my mate is still probably only at 80% and I’ve got all my concentration allocated to the job. Out into the country again we go, still very green but not much activity here it seems, its just too hilly to farm round here.

They should just close the roads and make money renting them to bikers. Someone has dropped another load of sharp and steep corners in the hills. If you imagine someone getting a tube of tarmac and just randomly squeezing it over some steep mountains then you have the picture. It’s playtime again and I’m trying to keep up with the maniac on the orange bonkersmobile in front. Two more ‘motorcycle meets tarmac’ moments over the next 30 minutes and it’s time to slow down before I go tarmac surfing and hurt myself. Garage, petrol, side stand down, CRUNCH. The stand has bent double and it pointing in the air. I guess I could use it to hang clothes on but that’s about all its good for now. The stand is wrecked and I break it off and get going…going..going…STOP.

I’m riding along with three others and the bike just stops dead as I ride. Shit – what now. Won’t start…ummmmmm… no petrol pump noise…ummmmm I reach down and feel the stub of the remaining bit of the sidestand. Sure enough it’s flipped down and cut the engine. One cable tie later and all is well again, phew! We’re going to Copan Ruinas today, the site of some ancient Maya ruins. It’s down a stretchy road it seems. The map shows it’s close but the miles keep on and on coming and we’re still not there yet. I’m convinced its a rouse by the map makers. WHERE THE FUCK IS THIS PLACE – SHOW ME NOW.


Honduras0027Then the twists come back. I’m just not in the fucking mood for this Honduras0028now. The steam is coming out of my ears and misting up the visor, my nails have grown to talons, my eye teeth are sticking out the bottom of my helmet and if you handed me a mapmaker now I’d eat the bastard alive and spit his bones in the river. It’s dark by the time we arrive, for a change. Another beautiful old town with massive cobbled streets and atmosphere overload from the old lights and buildings. Like a lot of things here though there is a dark side. This place attracts tourists and their associated parasites. Local police have warned us that muggers will put a gun to your head. They will let you keep your passport (that’s jolly good of them!) but if you show any resistance AT ALL, then they WILL kill you. That’s nice to know at least. You forget where you are sometimes and how different life can be in these places.

Out of Honduras in a flash. Guatemala0003Guatemala entry is the usual Guatemala0004disappointing ball ache/patience test. Fill in a form, take it to the bank and pay then take the form back to bloke No.1 to get your sticker and stamp. Once bloke No.1 sees a big group of us he says he’s going to do all of them together. I was here first for a change, flippin typical. 2 hours later and we’re fast and loose into Guatemala. Initially it looks like a step back but it soon changes a few miles in. Lots of industry, lots of chain stores, lots of activity. The people seem to have a lot more to do here. The roads at first are a struggle with mountains and crawling trucks pushing off heat and fumes as they labour up and down. Single yellow lines become dares, two lines are double dares. The only way to make reasonable progress is to overtake at every half opportunity.

Its super super hot today too. I picked up a stone at the side of the road and it melted and dripped between my fingers. I was wearing gloves, obviously, otherwise I would have burnt myself. Despite the heat and lack of clouds it looks like its snowing. I’ve seen this before, in Mexico when I was riding round the world a few years ago. Later it gets even thicker. Guatemala0017We’re riding through a butterfly blizzard. There are millions and millions of them in the air, like little yellow blossom, like someone has hit a giant yellow bush, amazing. Get to Guatemala City and its the usual random signage arrangement. Guess, guess and guess again, ask, get lost then ask again. A helpful biker leads us out to the right road and we’re back on the Pan American again. Now, you, stop what you’re doing right now.

Make a few sandwiches, grab a flask of tea, go out to the garage and sit on your bike. Now get your significant other, husband/wife, lover, other-half (or if you’re in certain isolated parts of America, your ‘brother-half’) to wrap you and your bike in bubble wrap. Now carefully roll yourself into the biggest fuck off jiffy bag and get to the post office. Remember to jump when the bag is put on the scales, otherwise it will cost you a fortune. Post if to Guatemala City, sit back and relax.

Guatemala0018This section of the Pan American is very very special indeed. Today Guatemala0020Guatemala0023its really giving us all a special treat. This section has 90 miles of the finest quality, smooth Belgian dark tarmac expertly moulded and spread over curvaceous mountains up and over 10000ft with every single inch graciously blessed by ‘Aralditie’, the gorgeous Guatemalan goddess of grip. Think of the grace of a speed skater and imagine the skate drawing a road. Race circuits the world over employ designers and engineers to try and simulate the ultimate riding experience but mother nature always wins hands down. A road of real distinction. A graceful, beautiful, thrilling ribbon of road. The fact that it weaves through the most spectacular scenery consisting of mountains and volcanoes aplenty, and the fact that the sun is slowly dropping and backlighting the clouds, the fact that the heat of the day has given way to cool air that channels over you like a cool flannel, everything combines perfectly to create a really emotional journey.
Guatemala0024The last few miles are covered with the accompaniment of a Guatemala0025spectacular evening light show as big orange cloud bombs explode all around the volcanoes before suddenly turning the lights off and plunging us into darkness. We head into Quezaltenango and feel our way through in the gloom. You feel like you’re being watched by the mountains, their cooling presence is all around and its quite reassuring. Get to the hotel and its a beautiful old place with a feeling of indestructibility. Made of thick stone walls clad in lovely paintings with little cosy rooms off in all directions. Get on the net for the first time in ages and find Spurs have beaten Man City and are in the Champions League. The perfect end to a perfect day

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