Central America

Central America, insert checkmark. South America, vamos

I haven't spent too much time exploring Panama. Just cruising along the Panamerican highway on my way into the metropolis that is Panama City. Along the way I was cheered on by hundreds of road construction workers who never appeared to actually be working at all. I also was woken up at 1 am one night when sleeping in a pineapple field, told to move away from the sprinklers by the farmers, and gifted a fresh pineapple for breakfast. That one worked out well. With a couple more days to bike out of Panama, I am ready to take on continent numero dos.

IMG_0123View of Puente de las Americas just before crossing over from Central America into South America

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I have been lucky enough to stay up on the 20th floor of a high rise apartment building with a host here in the middle of the Panama City. The view offers an interesting look at the two worlds here. Below these skyscrapers are shacks of poorer fisherman, housing that I am more accustomed to seeing throughout Central America.IMG_0151 Another Panama City skyscraper

IMG_0143 View of the shipping port along the Panama Canal

IMG_0128View along the huge Panama CanalIMG_0160Panama City before its afternoon showersIMG_0149

IMG_0115Someone made great use of a bunch of old tires, an entire jungle gym of them on the side of the Panamerican highway

In my former life I was a Supply Chain man. So I take interest in things like refrigerated containers being transported in a staging area next to the Panama Canal. Here's a "behind the fence" look at how they get it done.

Costa Rican Fruit

After finishing up a month filled with beaches, surfing, and hammocks in Nicaragua, I made my way into Costa Rica. I don't have as many pictures as I'd like after my phone was stolen (sorry to anyone who tired to whatsapp me lately, but I will never be able to respond again). I did manage to snag a couple photos from some great friends I made along the way though. After some time on the truly rich coast of Costa Rica, I started saying "Pura Vida" (the Costa Rican greeting of "pure life") to locals as I made my way to higher, cooler ground. I finally escaped the draught that has plagued much of Central America's Pacific Coast for the last two years as I biked through green cloud country at high altitudes down Costa Rica's backbone. Along the way I was spoiled rotten with all of the ripe tropical fruit falling off of trees along my path. I ate 15 mangos in a 12 hour period one day, and have been using a machete I found on the side of the road to cut open coconuts. Pura Vida indeed.

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This was the booze cruise

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IMG_0088Costa Rica country

IMG_0073The highest point of the Panamerican highway in Central America was up here on the top of el cerro de la muerte. At over 11k ft, the humid trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean turn into clouds, creating a mystical feeling in the midst of the mountains.

NicaThese lovely ladies invited me on a booze cruise

IMG_0040I rode up the Cerro de la muerte (hill of the dead) with Danny, a bike shop owner who put me up for a night with his family and tackled the climb with me the next day. Thanks Danny!

IMG_0006Ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya

IMG_0063Costa Rica sees a lot of rain, so you know the locals stay dry AND comfortable while waiting for the bus

IMG_0069Costa Rican grub? How about some gallo pinto (rice and beans), a fried platano (banana) with cheese in the middle, and a loaf of fresh bread. Did I hear carbohydrates?

Scuba Diving and Surfing in Honduras & Nicaragua

I spent a week on the little island of Utila, north of Honduras. Utila is considered the best place to learn to scuba dive in the world. A week underwater brought me up close and personal with life below sea level, with awesome views of beautiful sea creatures. From there it was on to Nicaragua to spend some time writing and learning to surf. I am taking some time off of the bike to enjoy paradise and wait for good weather in Patagonia, which won't come until November. A couple days eating salt water in Juquilillo, on the coast of northern pacific Nicaragua, followed by more days eating salt water in Las Penitas, and I am now surfing. A great feeling to glide over the powerful water of the Pacific.

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IMG_4732 Dramatic sunsets on the Atlantic in Utila

IMG_4744 Meet Robbie, my British scuba buddy. Robbie saved my life when I was underwater. I ran out of oxygen and he shared his with me until we surfaced. Thanks mate.

IMG_4879 Nicaraguan watermelon distributor and lender of machete.

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IMG_4934 Pelikan surf shop owner Lenin and surf instructor Roger in Las Penitas, Nicaragua. We made some tasty sopa de pescado throughout the week with fresh catch from the local fishermen.

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IMG_5040 Las Penitas beach on a Semana Santa day

IMG_4888 I found the cutest girl in all of Central America, little Angie, Wilson's granddaughter hanging at home.

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IMG_4959Hamacas everywhere in Nicaragua. I decided I will not buy a bed when I return to civilized life.

IMG_4719 View from Paradise Dive shop in UtilaIMG_4781

IMG_4735 Our lovely dive instructor, ex-accountant from Colombia, Ms. AnaIMG_4874This was a special watermelon I consumed as I crossed into Nicaragua. This was the first watermelon I had eaten since watermelon feasts with the great Rane Roatta and the trashfreeway crew back in the States. I benefited from a machete to split mine open, then ate away with a spoon like Rane taught me. You can see Rane's exotic fruit selection for sale, instagram miamifruit.IMG_4892 I met Wilson Williams the night I arrived in Juquilillo, a beach in northern Nicaragua. Just as I was about to set up my tent on the beach, Wilson shouted for me to come try some of his coconut cinnamon bread he was selling on his bike cart. We ate bread walking our bikes along the beach, and we shared stories the next couple days as I stayed on his slice of the beach.IMG_4913 Nicaraguenses (nicas) celebrate bdays with a pinata too, the first I had seen since Mexico.IMG_4951 Sunset on the beach of Las PenitasIMG_5024 View of Las Penitas on a normal dayIMG_4726 Fisherman Zoro had the hook up on fresh fish in Utila. 1 pound = protein for two days .

Volcan Acatenango & El Salvador

Leaving Guatemala CIty I made my way to Antigua, also known as gringoville. I wanted to climb up my second volcano of the trip, Volcan Acatenango at 4k meters, to get a view of the very active Volcan Fuego. Everyone and their mom told me to go with a tour group, so I decided to go alone. It wasn't an hour into the hike when I bumped into a tour group on their way up. 5 Canadian girls, a couple fellas from Australia, an Israeli and a Kiwi tour guide made for a very international group. We started talking and they invited me to tag along for the rest of the hike. We made our way three quarters of the way up to camp for the night. A little food, some high altitude body warming beverages, and chocolate cookies had us feeling good during the evening as we waited for an eruption from nearby Volcan Fuego. Sure enough the volcano erupted, a sight that was simply unbelievable. One of the Australians and I got my tent after the wind blew it down the volcano, and sure enough old Fuego had a few more eruptions waiting for us. The next morning we hiked up to the summit for sunrise and made a speedy descent back down to warmer weather. My time in El Salvador was short, enjoying pacific coast views that reminded me of California and a couple trips to renewable energy areas. I talked with the folks at a solar farm and one of El Salvador's geothermal plants. Great sights to see from a country that still struggles to develop in other areas.

IMG_4494One of the better dinner table views I have had. I stayed with a family who welcomed me in at dusk to their mountain side home outside of Guatemala City.IMG_4508

IMG_4524Catarino and his burro named Shakira. "Ooo baby when you talk like that, you make a donkey go mad!"IMG_4532 IMG_4548

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IMG_4554This is a shot of one of the eruptions from Volcan Fuego. The bursts of liquid hot magma (Dr. Evil voice) were very impressive, and the ground shaking rumbles would wake us up in our tents.

IMG_4504 View of Antigua and one of its many surrounding volcanoesIMG_4517I saw a commercial that they are making another KungFu panda movie. A friend of mine named Akshay will likely watch it 3,000 times in the next year.IMG_4525

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IMG_4558 Sunrise from the top of Volcan AcatenangoIMG_4570 I need to give a big shout out to this chicken. I left my bike and extra gear in a woodshed while I hiked up Volcan Acatenango. Not only did this chicken protect her little chicks, she watched over my stuff too. Thanks pollo.IMG_4626This is the only photo of El Salvador I will share for now. Sleeping in this hamaca next to the ocean by far made for the best night of sleep I have had on the trip. I got to watch men come in at night from fishing off of little inflatable rafts. They wore hand and feet fins and tied their catch to their legs. The next morning I would watch the fishermen push their boats on to shore, taking note of their tactics so that I could help in Nicaragua.

Guatemala City

I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Guatemala City (Guate) hosted by Alfredo Maul of G-22.org. Alfredo is a unique individual in the Guate community for his progressive views on ecological living and sustainability. Alfredo started G-22 as an effort to educate architects and the Guatemalan community on ways to design both buildings and lives in an environmentally friendly manner. He also started Biciudad.org, a non profit bike shop that is helping promote urban cycling in the country's capital. I thoroughly enjoyed staying in Alfredo's ecologically friendly bike hostel and biking the city after overhauling my bike in the Biciudad shop.

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IMG_4426A look at my groceries after a trip to el supermercado and Central America's largest outdoor market 

 

 

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Belize & Northern Guatemala

I have no pictures from Belize, but I did go to Shibalba, one of the gates to the underworld where the Maya sacrificed people to their gods. I would have take photos there, but some butterfingers dropped his camera on a skull a few years ago and now they prohibit cameras....so enjoy the photos of northern Guatemala!

IMG_4205Guatemalteco getting the job done! Note that the branch is tied to his back and fully balanced in the air. Throughout Guatemala I normally see people walking the streets with wood piled on their back for fuel to cook and keep warm.

Meet Frank the Flying Dutchman. Frank has ridden over 570,000 kilometers (that's more than 350,000 miles) on his bike around the world for the last 40 years. Still going strong as he is finishing up his tour of some Central American countries. Frank shared stories and tips from his journeys as we walked ruins and shared a Coke. You the man Frank. His site is  www.frankvanrijn.nl

IMG_4224Saved the best for last. The ruins of Tikal. I arrived before sunrise as scrambled my way through the dark in the jungle to stumble up on the Gran Plaza. Truly spectacular. A couple people have died trying to climb the temple above. I survived.

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Recording of howler monkeys screehing in the ruins of Tikal. These guys greeted me on the way into pitch black jungle in the morning.

 

IMG_4324Late night Guatemalan soccer match by the Lake

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IMG_4393 As I biked toward Guatemala City, pine was in the air. Welcome to Palletland

IMG_4389 Agricultural landscape in the hills of Guatemala

IMG_4369 On the morning of February 9th I heard Latin music and shouts from children as I biked into a small pueblo in a mountain valley. Seconds later I was asked to remove my helmet while dozens of kids threw flour in my hair. A Guatemalan tradition to celebrate Carnival, the kids, some dressed in costumes, take the streets in a parade to school. I bought a bag full of flour to get back at them, but ended with enough flour in my hair to make a small pastry.

IMG_4355 I spent more than 5 hours relaxing in the natural hot waterfall of Finca El Paraiso. I think this is actually heaven on Earth, at least for a biker with a sore back.

IMG_4339 One night after setting up my tent I was approached by two neighboring families with competing offers to host me for the night. Hospitality which I have found is not rare in Guatemala. I had to decline the offers that night, but one of the fathers gave me his machete for protection during the night. My first machete. Fortunately or unfortunately I didn't use it during the night and felt unproductive the next morning.

IMG_4332 Meet Regis, a Frenchamn who is walking from Mexico to Argentina. He is the first person I have met who I believe has to work harder than I do to get through the Americas. Regis lives in a tree house in France and recently is living with a goal to spend as little as possible. An interesting pilgrimage he is on.

IMG_4328 In Guatemala the least expensive water for me comes in bags. These bags have also been used as water balloons by some children who felt the urge to throw them at my tent.

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