Oooh.. getting a little ahead of myself – that’s actually the sun rising in El Salvador. Can’t skip Guatemala!
Boma and I went and visited the impressive Mayan temples of Tikal in northern Guatemala, and even got to catch great mate Gaz there..
After being hassled by touts and guides, endlessly in the temples of Palenque (Mexico) I was a little dubious to these tourist trappy templey things.
Gladly, I was wrong.. Tikal is beautiful, serene, uncrowded and majestic.
The three of us dodged the few guided tour groups easily, finding many quiet moments to just sit and contemplate.
There’s a romantic sense of mystery about it all. But also tragedy. Such power, riches and spirituality– torn away unremittingly in the face of ecological collapse, drought and the over-harvesting of resources.
The site chosen for Tikal by the ancient Mayans had no water source! Well, only a couple of small, negligent springs incapable of sustaining a growing population.
The Mayans used their advanced technology and engineering to build elaborate causeways and reservoirs to catch rainwater instead, and survived on the rain for both drinking and farming for over 1500 years – remarkable really…
But as we all know, it all went to pot when the riches, technology and impotent penance to God couldn’t make rain fall from the sky..
As we sat and watched the sun set over the dense jungle reclaiming the land, we heard the distant, yet unmistakeable chime of bells ringing.
I guess in the end, nature’s always going to win…
This is a Mayan parrot.
This is the Mayan cousin of the racoon.
They're both winning.
Here’s a rendition of a powerful Mayan King.
After a while Armageddon got a little passé, so we jumped on our fossil fuelled demon steeds and blasted outta there.
As we were riding along, our mutual coffee addiction kicked in and there was an unspoken but mysteriously synchronised acknowledgement of the need to pull over for a break.
And as we sipped on an ironically poor cup (most of the amazing beans grown locally are exported for expensive international markets, whilst locals are left with the instant stuff tasting of sugar water somehow died black), I gazed upon the map and where to go next…
And lo and behold, you bloody beauty!!!
I had made it halfway to Patagonia! Yeeeeewwww!!! Sounds a little trivial, and also a little embarrassing because I thought I’d passed that point about a month ago. But who cares! It was written right there on the map, ‘Geographic Centre of the American Landmass’ - all official like.. and we happened to be stopped right there to celebrate with shitty coffee - completely by accident…
That wasn’t enough…
We took the celebrations to a new level of intensity with Sponch. Sponch is great, its marshmallow biscuity combo really makes you wanna sponch around and celebrate. It’s just so great.
Boma and I think it’s the best onomatopoeia getting around.
We continued riding – all downhill from here – yeah! I actually was geekily excited to be over halfway there. Whatever that meant…
Turned out it wouldn’t be as easy as all that, and thanks to my enthusiastic interpretation of the map (perhaps a little distracted with the geographic centre thing and sponch) I chose a rather questionable shortcut through the mountains.
In my defence the map said it was a primary road…
Instead it was a monster of a thing.
Full of loose gravel, small boulders, potholes and shaly horribleness – all on a steep grade.
We rode for 12 hours that day.
It should’ve been 6.
Halfway through my rear brakes stopped working completely.
Boma dropped her bike 4 times, yet powered on like a soldier (protected with her Rev’It adventure apparel).
We were also held up at a mountain roadblock and extorted for some money by 8 dodgy men with gold teeth and machetes. I bargained pretty hard and only handed over 10% of what they initially demanded. Rather chuffed actually.
And 11 hours later we had reached the other side of the range – our end was in sight… my rear brakes even miraculously reappeared!
In the end, despite the exhaustion, it was a really beautiful road and mountain range, dotted with traditional Guatemalan communities.
That’s the great thing about adventure riding, it allows you to go places you normally can’t or won’t, even if it is by accident…
Case in point: Another beautiful sight of Mexico, riding to the top of Sumidero Canyon, over a kilometre deep.
We pitched our new tent from Wilderness Equipment (who had kindly upgraded us from my beloved solo tent after I had torn it to shreds) in the dark, and awoke to a mini paradise…
Then there was news of an all-time swell hitting in a few days, so jumped back on the crotch rockets and shot for El Salvador.
We made the right decision…
El Salvadorians are incredibly hospitable people from our experience so far, the first night there we were taken in (after having ridden until nightfall) by the awesome family of Mauricio and Bertali. Housed, fed dinner, beers and laughs, a big breakfast (complete with real coffee grown by Mauricio himself) and sent on our way the next morning with a great feeling about humanity.
The swell arrived the next day, and was of epic proportions - the biggest wave ever paddled was ridden during it, at Puerto Escondido where we’d been only a few weeks earlier..
It was a lot more manageable on El Salvador’s long points – but still packed plenty of punch.
Took me 45 minutes of paddling and duckdiving to make it out, even standing on the rocks to time it wasn’t easy. The lulls were rare, and to get close enough to jump meant putting yourself in the same spot that the whitewater rumbled over..
But its all worth it in the end, and couldn’t have been on a better board for the conditions, really stoked to have brought a 7'2" along for the ride - sometimes a shorty just doesn't cut it.
For the last hour, just myself and one local out…
Over the following days, the swell gradually dropped and became easier and more perfect..
Come in, eat a snag, get back out there..
There was talk of the swell being the biggest the region had seen in a decade or two, so I guess we were lucky. But because it coincided with full moon tides and a long weekend holiday, it also wreaked a lot of havoc for local businesses… 5 people also drowned on the same beaches we were frequenting during that swell.
This used to be a restaurant…
Bummer to see...
This used to be a sandy beach…
Yep, nature always wins I reckon.
Boma and I are back on the road, and there’s supposed to be another solid swell hitting tomorrow… fingers crossed.
I’m outta here… thanks for reading. You deserve a nice song…