Central America is a real ego-booster for cycle-tourists. The countries are small and you feel like superman, zooming through them while the rest of the world goes blurry. After spending three and a half months peddling our way through only one country (Mexico) we entered Guatemala and then a few days later found ourselves at the border with Belize. “Where did Guatemala go” we asked ourselves as we plowed through into Belize. We chilled in Belize but when we left and arrived back in Guatemala we quickly got back into the rhythm of cycling and accidentally rode across the country in four days! After Guatemala we entered Honduras, and I didn't even really comprehend that we had passed through it.... I don't know what happened, I think Jules was telling me a story and by the time she finally got to her punchline we were at the border of El Salvador. In El Salvador we managed to slow down Norma and Betty's relentless progress across Central America and take around a week to enjoy it. But the bikes then got the sniff of the open road again and zoomed across Honduras for the second time. This time we took two days to cross the country and I managed to see a little more than the first time (including finding the world's best strawberry licuados. Oh soooo tasty) ...
Besides the limited time that we spent in these countries, we did really enjoy them – and we got to see some interesting areas. One of our favourite parts of Guatemala was where we arrived from Belize (by boat) on the Caribbean coast at Livingston, which is permeated with the vibe of the Caribbean, rich in Garifuna culture and great music. There are no roads to Livingston so we caught a boat up the river to Rio Dulce. The boat trip itself was lovely, canyons dripping in rainforest plants and abundant birdlife . It was also fantastic as we met a lovely Dutch couple on the boat who were travelling the Americas in their camper. When we arrived at Rio Dulce they took us with them to camp at the local marina, which was a very pleasant spot on the lake... if not a little random as we spent the night in our little tent surrounded by huge and impressive-looking yachts!
The next few days we criss-crossed paths with the lovely Dutchies . They would drive past us around morning teatime as we were riding along and lean out the window yelling “coffee-time” . A few kilometres down the road we would catch up with them where they had parked and set up a picnic tea, with iced coffee and snacks. They would then send us on our way with handfuls of biscuits and lollies! We were very spoilt for a few days with coffeetime and great conversations. Unfortunately near the El Salvadorean border we went different directions but we will try and meet up again further down the road. Another meeting with wonderful people...and another highlight of our trip.
It was the people that we met riding through these northern countries in Central America that really made this part of the trip for us. We met some lovely locals: one who bought us dinner at a street stall, a tradie that stopped his truck near us on a hot section of the El Salvadorean freeway and magicked some icy-cold Gatorades out of his esky to present to us, and the elderly owner of a little guesthouse who went out of his way to make sure we had everything we could possibly need – though this worked out less well for us the next morning when he was wandering around in his underwear drinking his coffee and helping us pack the bikes (while we tried hard to look at something far off in the distance). He then (still in his underwear) came out to see us off and give us hugs.. luckily he took more of a shine to Jules and I escaped with a handshake and a squeeze around the shoulders. .
The Salvadoreans were particularly friendly, lots of smiling and waving. One guy actually stopped to see if we needed any money – you know you are looking particularly bedraggled and have reached new heights of hobo-ness when random people stop to see if you need money!
We had some lovely riding through the area where Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador meet. It was a little mountainous, so we had some climbing to do but the landscape was very pretty and in some strange, unexpected way the downhills actually felt longer than the uphills. We loved the little towns in the hills of El Salvador, including La Palma, filled with the cheerful artwork of Fernando Llort, and Suchitoto, where we wallowed in the delicious Salvadorean street foods and wonderful views of the lake from our hostel.
We thoroughly enjoyed the street food of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and made sure we stopped for a second breaky every day, some sort of fatty fried thing, such as the delicious cheese and bean papusas. Jules has become obsessed with “licuados”, which are milkshakes made with fresh fruit (our favourites being strawberry and banana), and at least twice a day she will demand her fix. At one spot we found licuados that were brought out in giant jugs, it was like drinking out of the blender! And even though we were so full of milk that our stomachs sloshed as we walked away from the table they were the best we have had so far. Ever since this one Jules is disappointed if her licuado is smaller than her head.
Our biggest issue for the last few weeks has been the intense heat of the lowlands. Trying to beat the heat we get up at Stupid o'clock and aim to be on the road at first light. The first few hours of riding are always thoroughly enjoyable: the pretty dawn light is doing its thing, the birds are all doing their thing, people are doing their early morning thing (having breaky, heading to school, taking their pigs for a walk....) but after about 9.30 it starts to get warm and we start to sweat by the bucketloads. However, by starting so early we are usually at our destination by late morning so we can hide in the shade, eat whole watermelons, drink massive licuados and prostate ourselves in front of the fan.
Now we are newly arrived in Nicaragua... and heading out to suss out the quality of the Nicaraguan licuados...