We rise from our slumber and place our feet in dirt dozed loose in construction of a new gas station. The sun is already shining quickly drying our tents wet with the nights dew. Sitting in my nylon porch, I strike a spark to my stove boiling water that will soon energize my mind and body after dripping through course grounds fresh from the mountains of Chiapas.
The days ride proves easier than anticipated and we plummet down a mountain into the crater of long ago erupted volcano. We are on schedule to arrive well before dark when disaster strikes. Ricardo, riding in front of me, comes to a sudden skidding halt. “What the hell was that?” he says. “Dude, your rack just about fell off and jammed your fender into your wheel. It’s pretty crumpled.” Out comes the video camera filming the successful repair. Lesson: Check bolts frequently. We never did check the rest of our bolts.
It is now dark as we search for the not-too-steep hill on which a green-grey car is parked next to a path that leads down to the house of Ricardo’s girlfriends friend. Adresses are non-existent. We think we find the hill when I hear a ping and feel resistance against my wheel. The cobblestone roads just broke my spoke; the first I have ever broken. In a way I am proud but regret the loss of the next day.
We find our home for the night. A half-built adobe “cassita” on a hillside overlooking the lake. The Pedal South crew hangs from hammocks in the rafters. I sleep on the ground below feeling jealous of their comfort but grateful for my comfort on the climbs. My knees will thank me tomorrow.
In the morning the Pedal Sloths head with our host across the lake to a Mayan village. I limp into town on my crippled bike carrying a load of laundry. Fresh laundered cloths rank high on my list of experience often besting even the views but rarely beat a hot shower. A fit young man at a shop named “Bike Power” replaces my spoke while my clothes are cleaned. The wheel needs rebuilt but will have to wait until Antigua. Bike Power does not have the right spokes.
I wander streets lined with shacks hanging the same wares sold in every market. I meet another group of touring cyclists. They currently number eight but have been as large as twelve. Eight more riders?!! I pedaled nearly five months seeing only two other cyclists. Now, in less than one week, I’ve met thirteen!!! Life is crazy.
I pick up my laundry and return to our shack where I meet a fourteenth rider. Jack, part of Part South, returned home to attend a wedding. For ten days he was gone. For five days he was in comfort. Returning to a primitive life leaving those comforts behind, he says, was not easy; although, he is happy to be back to a life that nearly feels more real than life at home.
Now, I sit in a tiny restaurant typing words I scribbled this morning in a fancy moleskin notebook. I could not have asked for a better writing desk. With my butt cradled in a bowl of gravel on a hillside, I stared through a sparse canopy of pink flowers and long slender leaves at the bright blue waters of Lago Atitlan. Surrounding the lake are jutting mountains and three upside down ice cream cones that long ago oozed molten blood. A giant with a sweet-tooth bit off the chocolate filled points of the cones.
I am sad to leave this magical place after knowing so little of its beauty. fortunately or not this is all this trip was every meant to be: a smorgousboard of people and places where I look but rarely taste. This voyage is a teaser to be tasted later in life when I can sit and dine on the finest of sampled cuisines. Lago Atitlan, and its surrounding villages, are a cuisine I will later return to feast.
Camped in the dirt of a newly constructed gas station we wake to freshly brewed coffee.
Stunning views of farmlands. Everyone here is a local organic farmer.
Political affiliations still line the roads often competing with eachother. Red covers green and green covers red. Red appears to be winning.
We descend the mountain to Lago Atiltan. Ricardo’s rack comes loose and jams his wheel. My leatherman breaks during repair. Expedition worthy? I think not leatherman.
A crazy man who looks like a leprechaun says he can wheely anything. I was shocked when his statment proved true. These heavy bikes with long wheelbases are not easy to wheely. Quite the feat.
Parades pass colorful hand-made goods lining the streets in celebration of Easter.
Our campsite in the cassita and the view overlooking the lake. I wish to return to this place once more to know all its beauty.