It is 5am in San Marcos, Guatemala and my phone is screaming for me to wake. Today Rio and I leave the lake behind. I said goodbye to friends at Merlin’s intending to leave last night. While waiting at the docks, I learned from some boys that I had missed the last boat to Panajachel. The boys, young and inquisitive, questioned my crazy bike. I answered to the best of my ability while we played. Sitting on the top tube, I pushed them in turns along the dock hoping against a catastrophe like my bike plummeting to the depths of the clear water.
Like every place I have left after extended stays, my emotions are mixed. I am sad to say goodbye to the friends I have made. I’m tired of goodbye and becoming numb to the pain. However, the pain is almost welcome as it signifies the intense connections transcending the bounds of ordinary, home-based interactions. Living the lifestyle we have chosen creates immediate commonalities leading bonds akin to siblings. Often, these bonds are outside those we would normally choose allowing for personal growth and understanding. We only grow when challenged.
While I am sad to say goodbye, my primary emotion is excitement for the continuation of the journey. After prolonged periods in a place I become complacent as I slip into the comfort of routine. I travel to break free from comfort zones and, as such, must keep moving. Complacency is broken upon the commencement of the packing process and lasts until the next destination where I settle in and relax.
It is now 6am in San Marcos and I stand on the docks watching the sun rise over the lake. I am waiting for the boat that will wisk me and my beast of burden away to Panajachel where my friend Rio is waiting. Together, we will ride to Antigua.
The sun crests the mountains in a brilliant display of color as it paints thick puffy clouds. I lift my bike aboard the boat and climb to the lower level to sit with workers and tourists alike. The engine revs. The boat bounces toward the rising sun and more friends to leave behind.
Goodbyes are long spent and Rio and I are off to a late start. Today is all climbing. Thousands of feet out of the volcanic crater that is Lago Atitlan. It is hot here in the sun. Very hot. We leave after mid day pedaling away with no longer a care. Focused breath is trance-like. Excitement leaves us looking forward; not forgetting where we have been, but certainly not dwelling. Perhaps this will be the most important lesson learned on the voyage: life is always moving forward with or without our awareness. It is better to board the boat and sail with life than to fixate and stagnate which only leads to the death of dreams.
The climb passes almost effortlessly and with barely a snag. Only one weird incident that I was fortunate to have the company of a friend. Standing on the edge of a broken bridge we photograph the scene not found in our first world country. A black SUV full of men enters the highway-sized stream. They stop and stare before continuing on.
Spidey senses tingle at the looks we receive. The vehicle stops again fifty foot from where we stand. A man exists. He yells making obscene gestures with his hand. “Lets get the F*** out of here!” We are in the middle of basically nowhere. The proverbial place where no one hears you scream.
We ride away panicked constantly scanning behind for a sign of the scary men. They do not materialize and we escape unscathed except for the loss of a camera. In the excitement of the chase Rio lost a brand new Go-Pro given to him by his father.
We spend the night in a fire hall atop the climb. It was interesting. As we asked permission to stay the firefighters reacted with only a hint of surprise. They have seen our kind before and appear well versed in the care of touring cyclists. Showing us around they care for our every need. “Here is the bathroom. You can shower. This is the kitchen. Help yourself to anything in the fridge. And here is where you will sleep. Goodnight.” Wow. No matter how often I experience this level of kindness it will never cease to amaze me. If it ever does, I suppose it is time to end my travels.
Morning comes too soon. I wake exhausted requiring multiple cups of coffee. Luckily, todays ride into Antigua is almost entirely downhill. It passes quickly and we soon find ourselves in the courtyard of the Colegio San Jose and our home for the near future as we plan for the summit of an active volcano.
Goodbye to new friends and family made at Hostel Sotz in Panajachel, Guatemala.
Someone suggested I use duct tape to repair my shirt. It did not last long.
Climbing out and around Lago Atitlan.
Thanks Patzun Firefighters!
Welcome to Antigua!!!
We stop in a restaurant to use their wi-fi. Yes, I am making my own coffee instead of wasting money. I’ve learned most places let us do as we will. A major benefit to our form of travel due to being so far outside the bounds of ordinary.
My shirt is no longer worthy of the name “shirt.” This demonstrates the power of the sun and is a wonderful endorsement for the use of sunscreen. It was literal eaten away by UV rays. I will replace it when a worthy alternative is found. Rest in pieces old friend.