Location: Brisbane, Australia
Hi again. Long time no see. :)
This is just to let you know that I now have my own web site: www.velovoyager.id.au
I created it (with Word Press...a great free product) to post my journal and photos of my trip to Africa starting on december 7 2009.
Please have a look and leave me a message.
Brisbane (or on the road)
Location: Brisbane, Australia
As you may have guessed from the lack of updates here, I have abandoned my trip. I'm afraid I found it too hard being alone in an area where good food is often hard to come by and the social environment is harsh. My hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) condition was a factor.
I am now back in Brisbane, after spending 5 weeks with my brother in the UK. My phone number is 0414 584 306 or 07 3374 2675.
Take care all and thanks to those who left messages here.
Location: Estanzuelas, El Salvador
After 3 and a bit weeks I left San Salvador for Estanzuelas where I will be teaching English. I learnt some Spanish but it's a struggle. My comprehension is better than my very limited ability to speak....which is normal for people learning to speak another language.
A local association, The Voice of the Village, with donations from a church in Kansas City, USA, provides support to women and youths around Estanzuelas in Eastern El Salvador. About 75% of income here is derived from remittances from relatives in the USA.
This youth support includes teaching English and that's where I come in.
Location: San Salvador, El Salvador
Since my last upate, I decided to take an easy (ie flat) route from Antigua, Guatemala to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. So headed down to the coastal plain and then Eastwards. I covered 270 kms in 3 days. The coastal strip is hotter and humid .... similar to Brisbane's summer weather.
I crossed the border into El Salvador and nothing much changed except the currency went from Quetzales to US dollars. Yes, dollars. El Salvador changed its currency 5 years ago, along with 2 other Latin American countries. This country is one of the poorest in Latin America. After spoiling myself in Sonsonate at the Hotel Agape (see http://www.agape.com.sv/english/hotelagape.htm) for a night at US$15.66, plus a beautiful meal in its restaurant for $20, I continued to the capital, San Salvador.
The people where I'm studying Spanish are really friendly. As are the people of El Salvador generally. I've been taking part in their cultural programme in the afternoons too, learning about the Salvadoran culture. The home stay is also good.
But the city doesn't suit me and I'm looking forward to moving on to the small town of Estanzuelas to teach English.
Things here are tough. We're told to stay off the streets after dark, unless travelling by taxi. The buses stop running at 8pm and are targets for armed thieves. Rubbish is strewn all over the place...not just individual items of litter but piles of the stuff. There's much more private car ownership than I expected and the roads are choked with cars, buses and trucks. The buses are very cheap (20 cents to anywhere) and consequently badly maintained , belching out clouds of black smoke. All houses are behind bars and barbed wire.
The 10 year civil war finished in 1991. While the peace accords delivered legalised political parties which can oppose the ruling elite, I'm told the bulk of the people are no better off economically. The rich elite rule with economics instead of guns now. Aided and abetted by the USA who want a Central American 'Free Trade Agreement'. For example, we visited a clothes factory where the people earn US$5.14 for an 8 hour day. Yet it costs $1.50 for a milk shake and 85 cents for a beer from a local store. It was $5 to get into a bar / nightclub. Guess who doesn't go to such night clubs.
This weekend I'm planning to go to Santa Ana, a small city west of the capital where it's cooler and quieter.....
Location: Antigua, Guatemala
South of Coban I was supposed to turn right for Salama, an 18 km ride from the turnoff. But I missed the turn. Several times I asked "is this the way to Salama" or "how many kms to Salama?". I didn't realise that the roads formed an oval and you could also get to Salama this way. After over 40 kms I finally twigged on where I was and stopped at a hotel atop the mountains from where I could see a town - yes it was Salama in the distance.
Rule 63: read the f....cking map more often.
After a night at Rabinal, I had the toughest 2 days so far, and possibly the toughest days I've ever had on a bike. The road is represented as a red line (Major Road) on the Rough Guide map - which claims to feature "clear modern mapping and bang up to date research". It's a goat-track. Dusty, rock-strewn, corrugated and narrow.
Stats for the first day: Distance covered: 37.28 kms; Average speed: 9.1 kms; In-saddle time: 4 hrs; Elapsed time: 8 hrs. I couldn't go faster than 13 kms per hr downhill and had to ride the brakes all the time.
I'd be riding along thinking I'm all alone and suddenly I'd see one or several people (usually native Indians) sitting in the shade of a tree or bush on the side of the road. I stopped at a hut where cold drinks are sold by the Indian family eking out a living on the land. Miscellaneous animals wandered around: dog, chickens with chicks, and a pig. Definitely free-range eggs and pork around here.
Finally, the dirt road finished (hooray!) and I continued to San Pedro de Sacatepequez , just 17 kms from Guatemala City. A bleak, working city which is nearly part of the capital.
Next day, after a very late start due to having to get money from the bank to get breakfast, I continued on to Antigua where I was nearly 2 weeks ago. This time I went to a hostel and got a bed in a dorm room.
Location: Coban, Guatemala
After my 5th day on the road I'm going to jettison some bloody stuff! Either that or get fitter. Or both.
After 2 tough days of 80 kms and then 120 kms I hit the wall, so to speak, and I had to catch a bus after 30 kms today. The terrain became mountainous and I just wasn't up to it. Well earned rest day tomorrow, staying in a lovely hotel here in Coban. I may tour a coffee plantation as I'm in the middle of coffee country and it's my favourite beverage.
I visited Tikal which left me a little underwhelmed unfortunately. Not sure why. It's often the small things I enjoy rather trhan the big tourist spots such as Tikal. Like the many pueblos I passed through over the last week, seeing the people scratching a living, waving to each other as I pass by. Men carrying huge bundles of wood on their backs, children playing alongside the main road, the tiny huts they often live in, their very dark skin and large dark eyes.
This morning I ate my breakfast in a "comedor" again .... a simple eating place. Women made tortillas over an open fire built in the top of a 40 gallon drum. I've taken a photo and will put it on here soon. The people are always ready with a smile. Yesterday the children in the villages were shouting "Gringo" very often.
The roads in the towns are chaotic, though not dangerous as long as I have my wits about me. The traffic along the main road I travelled on is very light with mainly microbuses, utes and trucks. And they give me a wide birth and very often a friendly toot on the horn, or encouraging shout as they drive by.
Location: Tikal, Guatemala
I have been trying to load some pictures of Guatemala, but have not had success. Either lost the connection or it's too slow.
Ah well. picturas Manana amigos.
I'm overwhelmed by Guatemalan friendliness and courtesy - a beautiful race of people.
I've been here for almost a week now, enjoying every minute of it. After arriving from the UK via Los Angeles, I immediately went to Antigua, a small Unesco-listed city an hour's bus trip from Guatemala City. Guatemala City is not a place to stay in - dirty, noisy and noted for its high crime rate.
Antigua is a lovely place: ruins, cobbled streets, very friendly people and a great climate (at 1,500 metres). I did only 40 kms on my bike there as I was getting over my jet lag. But what a great ride up to a local Mayan vilage in the Western Highland mountains. I just took it easy for 3-4 days then caught another plane - this time just an hour's flight - to Flores. I finally got rid of my bike box and started my cycling proper.
But the first day was hard as my bike legs were rusty. I did 70 kms along a mostly flat road to Tikal, site of significant Mayan ruins. See map on right? Tikal is near Belize in the north of Guatemala. Guatemala's population is about 50% native Indian (Mayan), so I read. Mayans are a lower "caste" and generally looked down upon by the Latinos of Spanish descent. They are the aborigines of Central America.
Traffic is very light as people rarely can afford to buy cars. Good for cycling but restrictive for the people. They walk, ride bicycles or take buses. Tomorrow I return to Flores the way I came, then South through the Western Highlands which is probably my favourite area. I'll have a look at Lake Atitlan and then onto El Salvador where I have to be in 2 weeks time to begin my Spanish course.
Location: Birmingham, UK
Counting down to my departure for Central America - Sunday 19 february. I'm a little nervous. Bus and taxi booked for trip to Heathrow Airport.
Tent and bicycle bought. Bicycle ridden-in (25 kms). Tent to be erected tomorrow. Closest family and friends visited.
Well-fed and well-rested at Geoff's Place.
Location: Birmingham, UK
Hello dear soul-mates / cell-mates ... :)
I'm alive and well and, together with Critter the Critic, living in Birmingham at my brother's place. Well, until Feb 19 anyway, when I soar to Guatemala via the Evil Empire (USA). Maybe I shouldn't say things like that - they might detain me there under suspicion of taking over their country single-handedly.
Temperature last night went down to -5 degrees C apparently, with a max today of +4 C. I'm loving it after the heat of Brisbane and Singapore. I'm learning how to use my new camera (Nikon D50) and when I've found the button which takes a picture I'll take some and put them on this site. Promise.
So, keep pasted - oops, posted.