February 21, 2005

El Salvador: Cycling away from the Retrovirus


Somewhere between Panama City and San Salvador we switched from being sun worshipping Canadians and became sun shy troglodites. With our shortsleeved shirts and good sunscreen we basked in the blinding tropical light for several days knowing it is cold at home. That is until the sunscreen ran out in Nicaragua and all we found was very fragrant coco beach oily mess with a non-existant spf. Since then the climate has steadily warmed and become very dry. We can now do our laundry, barely wring it out, eat dinner and once we are done eating, take down the laundry. It is definitely the dry season on the Pacific coast of Central America.

Last week (Feb 15) was Armel's birthday in Leon, Nicaragua. Tania and I have discovered that he has a new fascination for Bob esponga (Sponge Bob square pants). We went to see the movie in David, Panama, and his bike now sports a small Bob Esponga mascot. So for his birthday we found a nice Bob Esponga pinata and unveiled it for his birthday at 7am in the hostel courtyard. All the travellers, with reason thought that we were loosing it, whacking pinatas that early, stuffing our pockets with the candy inside and taking off to cycle in 38 degree weather.

Leaving Leon, we found that the nice paved road that followed us out of Managua deteriorated into a dry dusty gravel road for 45km before the Honduran border. I started to feel a small stomach ache that combined with the hot afternoon sun sapped all my energy.
Thankfully, Armel who was feeling fine offered to take the trailer. This is a very nice advantage of the trailer that allows us to repartition the load this easily.
We pushed on and made it to the border town of Somotillo at 8pm well in the dark and very tired after 117km. We unfortunately did not manage to heed Armel's birthday request to finish cycling at least 20 minutes before sunset.

The next morning I woke up with a nasty fever and stomach ache. And despite the newpaper article anouncing a retrovirus outbrake of more than 10 000 people in Honduras and El Salvador, I decided that I would rather brave 50km of hot cycling than spend an another day in a dirty border town.
Without too much trouble we made it to Chuloteca in Honduras by 12pm. Where we saw a large group of students with buckets watering all the plants in the central plaza of the city. Every day at noon during the dry season they come out to keep the thirsty plants happy.
I spent the next day sweating out my fever and after a good day of rest we cycled to the El Salvador border after only 3 short days in Honduras. One thing to mention about Honduras was a marked change in children's reaction to three funny looking cyclists rolling through their backyard. They are very enthusiastic, an we are getting rousing calls and even the three year olds are jumping up and down in excitement as we pass. Tania has also noted that the cat-calling that was almost non-existent earlier is now very frequent: "mamasita, que ricas piernas", "dejas tu a mi cama", "mi amor", "I love you" etc.... Tania can also claim at least five marriage proposals per day.

El Salvador is not very big but the people we have met all have big hearts and we definitely do not feel as if we are in a small country even though after two days of riding we are already half way through. We knew it was coming but our gastronomic discovery of the week is definitely Pupusas. A fried corn or rice tortilla that holds a pocket of chicharon (fried pig skin), beans, cheese, and squash inside. It is very good and packs in a sufficient amount of calories to satisfy even the most demanding cycling calorie hound and it tastes so very good.

In San Salvador we are staying with Philip, a canuck, for a couple days of well deserved rest. However he managed to organize a presentation to half the staff of the Canadian Embassy and a few other friends here in San Salvador. It was the first time we had the opportunity to put together a slide show with a digital projector and all the fancy technology that normally is not available to us on the road. I was a little nervous, not knowing how I was going to summerise 395 days of cycling adventure into 45 minutes... I didn't and the presentation went on for almost two hours.

Posted by gwendal at 11:29 PM | Comments (5)