Steve has been a long time employee of Ski and Bike Kare, and for those of you who don’t know, he has ridden his bicycle across the world. He has also has written a book about his experience.
“Riding entirely unsupported, Steve’s bicycle eve has logged more than 120,000 touring miles in 70 countries bicycling through some of the world’s most remote regions including the road less jungles of The Darien Gap, the 15,650 foot Nylam Tong La Pass into Tibet, the Pamir Mountains of the Central Asian Silk Road, across the arctic tundra of the Mackenzie River Delta and the wind-swept plains of Patagonia.”have taken him across all six inhabited continents. St
Today we decided to post a section of one of his chapters. If you like this post we will keep posting partial sections of key chapters each week, starting from the beginning. Please enjoy and let us know what you think of this idea in the comments section below. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
Boys with Guns
© Steven D. Williams-2016
The pace of our bicycle travel through southern Mexico had worn on our spirits and bodies. Now well south into the tropics the growing heat was causing a variety of increasingly annoying problems.
From the cheap inner tubes that kept blowing out at high speeds to freewheels that kept coming apart and the ever increasing holes in the butts of our cycling shorts.
I was fascinated by the changing cultural anomalies; in each camp we’d carefully pack up the garbage from dinner and breakfast into a plastic bag and carry it to the next town for disposal.
As Peter and Tim ordered cold drinks I asked the storekeeper where I could put the “Basura” from our camp (Garbage). He kindly took the bag, opened it to see if there was anything of interest and with a big laugh promptly tossed it out into the street. I suddenly realized the environmental movement was moving south at a much slower pace than we were pedaling.
We detoured off the Pan American Highway at Mazantanago. Our plan was to head for the cooler climate of the world famous Lake Atitlan. Best guesstimates were the climb to the volcano-rimed lake would be no less than 8,000 vertical feet.
Always careful about the food and driven by a meager budget of $200 dollars a month to live on, we cooked our own meals. The greatest risk to our health other than the truck traffic was finding good water to take to camp.
The night before our big climb we found a camp complete with flocks of parrots chirping in the trees. I prepared a classic Latin power meal, rice with fresh tomatoes and onions on top. I would need every calorie.
In the middle of the night I got very sick, my entire digestive track was revolting. I was miserable and felt like hell.
By morning I knew there was no way was I putting food into my system. Just the wonderful taste of warm water and baking soda. Hopefully I could find a warm Coca Cola somewhere along the way to sooth.
The secondary road was unbelievably steep. For the first time in my life I could not pedal my bike up a hill. Pushing my bike along the edge of the road? I wondered if the road crew had put paving machine on a rope belay to laying the coarse asphalt.
We struggled up all day, first through the humidity then to cooler temperatures. The first view of the lake from the road was spectacular. Despite the rumblings in my stomach it was well worth the days effort.
Tim’s keen eye found a camp on the lakes edge. Watching the sunset and the brightly colored clothing of women coming down to wash it was truly a gorgeous spot. I cautiously ate a little soup and some stale crackers. It tasted like caviar.
Two days later we pedaled into Guatemala City. Despite the hard miles we’d racked up these diplomatic/rest stops were crucial and the implications in this particular stop were deadly serious. We were considering trying to sneak across a raging civil war in El Salvador.
I needed to take care of one of my strange cravings. Aside from not having a wildly romantic affair with Latin beauties the taste of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and whole milk would have to suffice.
Yet, I was looking for something comforting, something from my childhood to help to make some sense of the overwhelming and daily chaos of this two-wheeled journey. The Corn Flakes and milk thing was verging on an obsession and one I couldn’t afford.
Standing on the sidewalk in the city center with our bikes we questioned people about cheap Hotels. Everyone kept sending us to the fancy places like the Marriot or the Inter-Continental. I’m sure my first grade Spanish was entertaining but somehow we got good directions to the “Pension Mesa”.
Walking my bike into the courtyard I felt like I’d stepped right into the Twilight Zone and beamed to Height-Asbury circa 1974. The Patron, who ran this happy hippy hideaway guesthouse, thought we were Germans until he saw our passports. Once the paperwork was done he pushed back the dark hair spilling onto to his forehead and said, “You Americans are crazy”.
We laughed and made jokes with him about having pedaled over 5,000 kilometers to stay at his, “ famous pension.” Considering this talk about crossing El Salvador, maybe he was right…
Read More about Steve on his website, and view pictures from his incredible journey.