Archive for the ‘Country Synopsis’ Category

El Salvador Synopsis

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

El Salvador has many more fair-skinned and tall people than Guatemala.  The only way I can tell who the tourists are here is by our more shabby dress.  I felt like a giant in Guatemala and parts of neighboring Chiapas and Oaxaca in Mexico, where the people are also of Mayan ancestry.

The shoulders here are 4m wide and consistent, great for cycling, and the traffic is not terribly heavy.  There are many other cyclists on the road, too;  though they are more likely to be riding on the left shoulder than the right.  One drunken cyclist almost ran into me.  Public urination, by men, seems socially acceptable.  Twice now I’ve seen men pee, one on his truck tire on the busy highway (I would pee on the passenger side tire and only at night) another guy peed in the ditch with his pregnant wife standing nearby.  Hiding behind a tree was not attempted.

I asked a couple of men about the civil war here from 1980-1992, and they both got choked up recalling it.  “There was machine gun fire right here on this street.”  75,000 people died as a result of the conflict.

Guatemala Synopsis

Monday, June 1st, 2009
Guatemalan "chicken bus" on the road to Cerro Oro

Guatemalan "chicken bus" on the road to Cerro Oro

Caravans of wrecked American cars passed me by all the way through Mexico.  I now know they were heading for Guatemala.  I figure they are totalled vehicles bought at auction;  one wreck towing another with “IN TOW” duck taped to the rear window of the towed vehicle.  As late-model American cars they should fetch a good price in Guatemala after being repaired with the low labor costs there.  Sometimes an old school bus is towing a wreck.  It will become a brightly painted “chicken bus”, common on all Guatemala roads.  They often choke me with foul black exhaust; and unexpectedly pull over or pull out without signalling.  Drivers here do not practice good defensive driving.  Slow vehicles will drive in the left lane while faster traffic weaves around them.  Many cars pull over to chat with me or take my photo; and sometimes just slow down to keep pace with me, even in while in the left lane.  That funnels faster traffic into the gap between us.  I do not appreciate that.  The roads are gennerally good;  though the four lane that exists near the capital has an intermittent shoulder.  Traffic is heavier there, so without a shoulder it is dangerous, given the poor driving skills.

Mexico Synopsis

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The Crested Caracara, Mexico's National Bird

The Crested Caracara, Mexico's National Bird

My odometer reads 4999 km total while the website lists 4972 km; and I’ve ridden at least 4 km with distance not recording. The other missing 32 km could be from rounding errors and cycling on non-travel days (15 km in League City). I cycled about 3000 km in the US in four weeks; and about 2000 km in Mexico in three weeks. My hotel rooms averaged $23/night in Mexico vs $45/night in the US. $45 was the most I paid in Mexico. I have not camped out in Mexico. Every town has a choice of hotels, I prefer to find one in town which is quieter than on the highway. All the hotels have A/C & TV; and many have Internet WiFi. The main highways in Mexico have generally excellent shoulders for cycling; and where there’s none, Mexican drivers are more considerate of me than Texas drivers. Lots of other slow-moving traffic is on the road and faster drivers will slow down and go around us. There are also speed bumps near every town or check point, and some for no apparent reason at all. They serve the purpose of slowing traffic to a crawl.  I have not felt threatened in Mexico; except by a Texan.  As I was walking down the street a guy stepped out of a van with Texas plates.  I greeted him with a friendly “I thought I was the only tourist in Mexico”.  “I’m not a tourist” he replied.  “Do you live here” I said.  Angrily now “I’m Jesus Christ and if you f*** with me, I ‘m going to f***ing kill you!”  I briskly walked away.

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