Today was a tough day. It is one that I wouldn’t mind doing backwards. Started off with an early wake to heavy rain. What was I going to do next? Wait it out? Ride on?
After falling back asleep I woke again to sunshine through the clouds. I packed up the bike and headed to the market for a breakfast on the street.
Just as I was leaving I met a man who had been sailing around central America but after sheltering in Rio Dulce after a hurricane, fell in love with the place. He saw the poverty and decided to stop and assist ... He and his wife- a nurse were setting up a clinic in the small impoverished squatters village beside the hot waterfalls I was about to visit. He told me of the plight of the people, their poverty, being unable to grow food on the best land as this was owned by cooperatives in the USA. Instead having to grow their maize high on the steep hills. He talked about the slash and burn techniques and the resulting problems of the jungle being cleared. He talked about the little village where they looked to set up a clinic, and the problems that resulted as the village was unable to expand physically, as they were all virtually squatting there, and the effects of this overpopulation. We talked about our plans, we talked about my profession in health, and that one day I would return to Mexico or Columbia…. My want to do aid work resurfacing in my mind. He asked me to stay, to come back after the falls and talk longer if I felt compelled, if I felt guilty and needed too do something. I left, my mind ticking over the plans that had laid in the back of my mind for years. The tuk in front of me was plastered with the face of "Che" Guevara. Motorcycle diaries replayed in my head…
Taking my leave I headed off on the dirt tracks to the delightful hot waterfall at El Pradiso. Such a delight. Hot water pummeling down on my neck and back. The cool water below in which to cool off. Sublime setting. Delightful.
At noon I take leave of the water. Talking to one of the locals that had been minding my bike, he spoke some Spanish, 6 words of English he delighted in telling me- dog, bat, hat, were three of them. But his primary language was not Spanish but a local Mayan dialect, like many in the rural areas of Guatemala, and this was what the local children were speaking. That was why they did not understand my questions!
I head onwards. The road gets worse. The rain starts up. The ground becomes a slippery boggy mess. I creep along at 20km per hour, on the good parts I speed up to 30km/ph. But then I feel like I am flying and the bike starts slipping and bumping all over the place.
I drop the bike six times, at least twice at each lift up for there is nowhere to put my feet and the wheels are jammed with mud and the bike slips backwards. This is more than the total of the whole trip in one day. I am tired, I am hungry, and I guess a little dehydrated. I break both the indicators and a mirror hold. All the stickers on my pannier are scrapped off.
The locals help me lift and re-lift the bike. At one point a motorcyclist behind me stops, help me lift the bike, then rides behind me for a while as I fall again again, the bike slipping backwards down the hill (an ongoing theme for today). His side stand is broken so he has to dump his own bike to help me. He passes, but waits for me as I catch up. We dance this way together for about an hour before he stops and wrings out his shirt at his friends house. I wave, yell “Gracias” and continue on. I still have a long way to go.
Despite being really tired and challenged by the riding, I was actually having fun. I pulled into the service station and was happy that I could converse with the men without problems, talking about the road, my travels and the day. Its so nice to have more Spanish skills.
It starts to get on in the day. I am soaked through. Not having put on my waterproofs as it is so warm. My visor left up and my head soaked. The puddles start getting bigger than any water crossing I have experienced. The water rising past my feet and covering me and the bike in its wake.
I slip again on a big hill just kilometers from my destination. The locals tell me to go back. The hill gets worse. “Catch a local cab to Semuc Champey in the morning. Don’t ride this, it too bad”. They tell me. But even the thought of trying to go down what I was trying to go up made me want to press on. I drop the bike again. ‘It is possible’ I tell myself. The women look at me. ‘It is possible’. I try again and slip backwards. The mud so slippery I cant get up on my foot stands which I know I so need to do. Finally I make it and bomb my way down towards Champey pulling up next to a hostel right on dark.
The local Guatemalan men at the hostel watch me with pleasure as I work on the bike in the evening. Cleaning of some of the caked on mud, lubing and tightening the chain. We speak in a mix of Spanish and English. Gluing up my indicators, but sadly the spare part for my broken mirror alludes me. I check the oil and I am pissed at BMW- 1000miles ago having serviced my bike, I did not check the oil after the service, and the levels are dangerously low. The men tell me how I can get into town tomorrow to buy more. I feel like an idiot for letting the oil go so low, but it was the last thing I expected after a recent service, when the bike never uses oil. The last time I had tried to check the cap was on so tight I needed a tool to get it off. But then got distracted and let it slip. Damn. I have three BMW services in the last 6000km. Not happy. Maybe this is how BMW Oaxaca stopped the oil leak? Take off the clutch cover, and not refill the oil! Compounding my poor riding skills over the day, and then this. I feel stupid.