Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And So It Ends...

One of my worst fears was played out and as a result, the cycling trip has unfortunately ended.  On September 10th we were about 5km from the Nicaraguan border when two young bandits jumped out from the side of the road with a gun and machete.  They ordered us off the road and to get down so no one would see us.  At first I thought it may be a possible kidnapping but later it was clear they just wanted as much as they could get.  It was obviously one of the worst experiences of my life and I am quite thankful both Trevor and I made it out in one piece alive.  They threatened us many times by pretending they were going to shoot their gun and even gave me a couple of whacks with the machete (only hitting me at the last second with the flat side, not the sharp edge).

We gave them our money, but they continued to take all our cameras, music players and both our front pannier bags.  As a result, I also lost my Netbook.  Luckily they didn't take our Canadian passports but got our Swiss one's.  I am somewhat surprised they didn't take everything.  

They eventually were satisfied and crept back into the bush with our things.  We then jetted off on our bikes towards the Nicaraguan border to seek help.  A few kilometers later we met with the police.  I explained the situation but they were useless.  They kind of laughed it off and said nothing could be done.  This incident totally proved the point you are pretty much on your own when you enter Mexico and head south.  

Since we had no credit or debit cards, we were left in a predicament of how to return home.  Luckily Trevor had some Euros in one of the pannier bags they didn't take.  He also had his laptop.  Major lifesaver.  That night we took a minibus back to Choluteca and spent the night there cancelling our credit and debit cards.

The next morning was frustrating as it was Sunday and nothing was open.  We first needed to exchange more Euro into Honduran Lempira and that took a lot of time and stress.  But eventually I managed to find a place to exchange (Texaco of all places).  From there we took another bus to the international airport in Tegucigalpa, the capital city.  Since we still had the bikes we wanted to know the logistics with shipping them back home.  It again was a frustrating process as no one down there does anything or helps much.  Seemed like we couldn't catch a break anywhere.  To make matters worse I also purchased some chocolate milk at this grocery store nearby and drank a good quarter of it before confirming with others it had gone bad even though it hadn't yet expired.  Ugh.  Luck has definitely not been on my side these past few days.    

After spending a night in a filthy hotel, we cycled to a good bike shop where we finally caught a break.  The owner spoke fluent English and provided us with a ride to the airport once the bikes were disassembled and packaged.

That night I wasn't feeling great again so it was another rough night.  To pass time, however, it was nice watching the men's US Open tennis finals and later the GOP debate on CNN.  

The next morning (Sept 13), the owner of the bike shop kindly drove us to the airport with our packaged bicycles.  We still needed to pay the excess fees as we couldn't pay them online.  This caused another problem and once again added to our ongoing frustration.  The agents made it clear we could only pay the excess fees in cash or by credit card.  When I told them what happened and that we do not have any credit cards they said there was nothing they could do.  We did have a card number but they said they needed to physically see the card.  Money was tight as we still needed to pay the steep airport tax of $37.80USD each (what we were paying for I have no clue because that airport is crap).  I tried to persuade them to make some sort of an exception but got no where.  Time was of the essence as I only had about an hour or so to sort everything before the flight took off.  I then rushed to a nearby HSBC to see if I could exchange more Euro.  Of course, nothing ever goes right when you need it to as they didn't exchange Euro.  I then went to a local bank, same thing.  I finally found a bank that exchanged but they wouldn't accept our 100EUR note as it was not crisp and clean.  I ended up exchanging what I could and then rushed back to the airport.  I was quoted beforehand it would cost us 3,166 Lempira ($168USD) to transport both bikes and returned with that amount and some.  Unfortunately the agent forgot to mention that was just for one bike.  Major frustration as we didn't have enough for the two bicycles.  I was getting real annoyed but was determined to leave that hell hole as I didn't want to stay another night.  The agent suggested calling the credit card company to see if she could work something out.  Trevor had a scan of the card on his laptop and showed it to her.  She then said why didn't we show her this in the first place as that was all she needed to put the transaction through.  Geez, thanks for letting us know that in the first place.  So all that running around turned out to be all for not.

From there we still had a few obstacles to go through as we had a few connections in Atlanta and LA.  All in all it worked out and we are now back in Vancouver with the bikes.  YAY!

Leading up to the robbery, our time in Central America was alright.  We had a great time in Guatemala.  We met a young journalist who works for one of the national newspapers called Prensa and interviewed me about our journey.  It was very cool to do the interview.  We also did a half day in Antigua and climbed up Pacaya Volcano.  I love checking out volcanoes so this was pretty neat.  Unfortunately we didn't see any red hot lava nor did we get to walk around the crater.  

In El Salvador, the roads were smoother to ride on but I had my first punctures since Washington which was strange.  I think it was all that wear and tear on the tire.  On September 9th, the first day of my string of stressful days, we had some problems withdrawing money.  In a town called San Miguel, Trevor tried to withdraw money from an ATM but it ended up eating his card.  We spent the entire morning trying to get it back but in the end it was no use.  It took me ages to get help and when I finally got someone on the phone, they told me we had to go the center and pay some money in order to get it back.  It sounded too complicated so he cancelled the card and we left.    
So all in all, the last 5 days or so have been horrific.  From here, we plan to do what we need to do to get back on our feet and then we will decide what to do next.  Right now, there is talk of continuing to travel around but this time doing it the old-fashioned backpacking way.  Then possibly in the springtime of next year we will hop back on the bikes and cycle the USA and Canada from West to East and circumvent Europe.  Of course these are just thoughts running in my head at the moment.  We'll see though.  At the end of the day one of the main reasons for embarking on this adventure was to see more of the world.  Just have to decide what the next step is to go about doing this.  Stay tuned...        

Here is the small article in the Guatemalan newspaper, Prensa.  
Me on Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mexico Done and Dusted

After a month we finally finished Mexico!  Not a whole lot of excitement though in the last two states of Oaxaca (pronounced ‘Wahaca’, just like that restaurant bar in Canary Wharf) and Chiapas.  However, we have had a lot of tough times on the mainland so I guess no news is good news. 

I liked the last state, Chiapas, as it had a Mexican feel to it.  Also the terrain was pretty much flat so we were cruising and getting good mileage in.     

It is always exciting entering a new country, with different food, culture, sites and sounds.  We are currently in Coatepeque, Guatemala.  Apparently this town is a major stopover on the Colombia – Mexico drugs ‘n’ guns route.  Oh joy. 

We saw a handful of tarantulas crossing the road, or at least trying to.  Unfortunately this one never made it to the other side.  
Nice stretch of beach in Oaxaca. 
It is unfortunate, but most dogs aren’t looked after very well in Mexico.  This St. Bernard didn’t look so healthy and started to bark at me when I took its photo (maybe he is camera shy).  I must say though, there are far too many stray dogs in Mexico.  Also, it is extremely annoying when domestic dogs start chasing us on our bikes.  They don’t pay attention to the road and just run out into the open oblivious to the oncoming traffic.  No wonder we see so many dogs as road kill.  They aren’t the brightest of species it seems.  
One of many rivers we passed in Chiapas. 
A macaw at the last hotel we stayed at in Mexico. 

Mexico: A Dog’s Life

It sucks to be a dog in Mexico. As a dog you start your life all cute and fuzzy. You get all the attention in the world. The kids won’t stop playing with you. They’ll squish you, punch you, and basically beat you up. While that might not sound like fun at least you’re getting attention. Come the time when you lose your good looks, cuteness and fuzziness then the humans will lose interest in you. You’ll be relegated to the streets to fend for yourself. You’ll spend your days wandering the streets in search of food while at the same time watching out for the other dogs out there that’ll rape you. You’ll do the best you can but you can’t avoid them all and one day you’ll end up pregnant, have your babies and wind up all decrepit looking. Then one day you’ll wake up with your butt attached to another dog’s butt via... I don't know what. How that happened nobody knows (Yes, Kevin and I actually saw two dogs stuck together like this. It was not a pretty sight.) You and the other dog try hopelessly to break free of each other while other dogs attack you and have their way with you. Eventually a big dog comes by and gives you a good walloping causing you to flip over the other dog and break free. Ashamed you and the other dog limp off in separate ways. If you’re lucky in life maybe two cyclists will pass you by and give you the opportunity to chase and bark at them. They come and go and you return to wandering the streets. Eventually your misery ends with a large truck spreading your entrails all over the road.

Meanwhile the humans have gone off to the market in search of a new fuzzy playtoy from the collection of puppies being carted around town in small cages.

Journal Entries - September 3rd, 2011 - Adiós Mexico, Bienvenidos Guatemala

We have been travelling through Mexico for 30 days and it’s time for a change. Today we crossed into Guatemala. Border crossings are exciting and daunting at the same time. It means you need to learn and experience new things: how to cross the border, the customs of the people, a new currency, how to find a place to stay at night, the expected cost of food, how to treat people (are they withdrawn or social), how to deal with traffic, the road conditions, the weather, the terrain, etc… Getting to the border was easy enough. We choose the southern border so we would avoid the highlands in Guatemala which have 3000 meter mountain climbs. The Pacific Coastal region only has 800 meter climbs (though Antigua will take us to 1600 meters). Looking to the east we can see the huge mountains off in the distance. The border crossing went smoothly. We had to pay 1 Peso each to exit Mexico, we didn’t even need to get stamped out on our passport. The visa stamp on the Guatemala side was 10 Quetzals each. Immediately I noticed a difference from Mexico. The border town seemed more lively than its counterpart on the Mexican side. It seems like there’s just more stuff here and more stuff going on and the people just seem happier. So far there aren’t huge distances between towns, and even between towns there’s stuff. Hopefully that’ll continue and we won’t be short on food like we were in Mexico where you could go 50km – 80km and see nothing. As we headed off to the next town (40km down the road) it started to rain (all through Mexico we only experienced rain two or three times while cycling). It seems like the rain always starts around 4pm in Guatemala whereas in Mexico it starts around 8pm. Weird how that change occurred as soon as we crossed the border. Halfway to the town we stopped at a market to pick up dinner. Kevin noticed that the prices in Guatemala were a little higher than in Mexico (which in turn was higher than in the USA). The quality of the produce is lower than in Mexico. The roads are potholed, much like they were in Mexico (though that improved as we headed further south), but the roads are much wider than they were in Mexico. The people seem more social. Two vehicles cruised alongside Kevin talking to him about where we were headed (that only happened twice all throughout Mexico). Within the first 40km of Guatemala we saw the aftermath of three accidents whereas in Mexico we’d see an accident every 600km. Toyota seems to be the vehicle of choice here whereas in Mexico it was Nissan. We also climbed to 500 meters during that first 40km. The grade was very gradual though so we didn’t really notice we were going up to 500 meters. In Mexico the grades were much steeper so you’d know when you were climbing to 500 meters. Hopefully that won’t change but I doubt we’ll be that lucky. The hotel at the end of the day was of the same quality we found in Mexico.

Overall I’m just feeling better in Guatemala than I did in Mexico.

PS: Kevin went to the supermarket in the evening and was really pleased to find a 1 gallon jug of milk reduced from 36.60 Quetzals (~$5.50 US) to 9.65 (~$1.50 US) Quetzals. That made Kevin’s day.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Day in the Life – Episode III: Mexico (Mainland)

Our life on the mainland of Mexico is quite different from our days in Baja so here’s our new life.

***

September 2nd, 2011 – Started in Arriaga

5:50am – Kevin gets up and goes to the washroom.

6:00am – Trevor gets up and uses the laptop that was left on overnight. Kevin prepares his breakfast (corn flakes, oats and milk) and turns on the TV to watch Married With Children (his old favorite).

6:07am – Trevor goes to the washroom.

6:11am – Trevor returns, prepares his breakfast, and uploads the news podcasts he downloaded overnight to his MP3 player.

6:23am – Kevin prepares his 2nd bowl of cereal.

6:27am – Kevin uses Trevor’s laptop to Tweet and check his e-mail.

6:30am – Trevor changes the channel to CNN.

6:33am – Trevor goes to the washroom again.

6:38am – Trevor returns and changes the channel (same crappy CNN interview that was on last night is being rerun).

6:43am – Trevor settles on a Mexican news channel talking about some shooting. Trevor makes his 2nd bowl of cereal.

6:51am – Kevin goes to the washroom again.

6:53am – Kevin returns from the washroom and continues using the laptop.

6:57am – Trevor finishes his 2nd bowl of cereal.

6:59am – Trevor unplugs GPS and MP3 player which were charging overnight.

7:02am – Trevor tops up his rear tire.

7:06am – Kevin prepares his 3rd cereal and changes the channel to CNN (covering Libya).

7:08am – Trevor packs away the Tabasco sauce he used last night for dinner and goes to the washroom for a 3rd time.

7:15am – Trevor returns to have watermelon that Kevin’s already started.

7:23am – Throw away ¾ of the watermelon as we are too full to eat it. Trevor also passes on his third bowl of cereal. Trevor washes his bowl.

7:26am – We both pack our stuff away.

7:30am – Trevor has his remaining milk from breakfast and the apple juice he didn’t finish the night before.

7:32am – Trevor makes one last attempt at updating the blog map. Only successfully uploads 2 tracks (28th and 29th of August).

7:34am – Kevin goes to the washroom for a 3rd time and Trevor packs away the laptop.

7:38am – We head outside.

7:40am (0.00km) – Trevor turns on the GPS and starts listening to the podcasts on his MP3 player.

7:43am – We start cycling.

8:02am (5.26km) – We stop at a gas station (Pemex) so Trevor can go to the washroom for a 4th time.

8:05am – Kevin takes 2 photos.

8:06am – Kevin applies sunscreen.

8:07am – Trevor returns.

8:11am – We start cycling again.

9:35am (36.50km) – Stopped at a military checkpoint. Asked where we’re headed and about the GoPro camera on Kevin’s bike before being waved on.

9:39am (36.90km) – Stop for a drink of water.

9:44am – We start cycling again.

9:51am (38.76km) – Kevin stops to take photos of an iguana he’s spied on the road. It runs off before he can take a photo though. Instead he takes photos of the landscape. Trevor listens to a dog endlessly bark from across the road.

9:54am – Kevin takes a sip of water.

9:55am – We start cycling again.

10:37am (53.57km) – Kevin stops to get rid of a bug in his shirt. Both of us take a sip of water. Trevor puts on some sunscreen.

10:41am – We start cycling again.

11:14am (64.74am) – Stop for a water break.

11:18am – We start cycling again.

1:07pm (102.5km) – We stop at a market for food.

1:15pm – Kevin returns with a 3.78L jug of orange juice, 4 pastries and cereal for tomorrow. Total cost is 48 pesos.

1:26pm – We start cycling again. A guy wasn’t pleased that we parked our bikes on the sidewalk partially blocking pedestrians. Essentially we got kicked out.

1:34pm (104.2km) – We stop to drink more orange juice. Trevor also eats two buns he saved from the day before.

1:42pm – A guy named Rosario comes to talk with us in English. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness and tells us he’s been all over central and eastern USA.

1:45pm – Rosario leaves and Kevin says he thought the guy was going to give us a pamphlet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

1:46pm – Rosario, now in his car, drives by and hands us a pamphlet.

1:54pm – We start cycling again.

2:24pm (114.0km) – Two guys on a motorbike cruise beside us and talk with Kevin about where we’re going and that the guy has been to the USA.

3:25pm (137.7km) – We stop for a drink of orange juice.

3:35pm – We start cycling again.

3:39pm (138.1km) – Trevor has a flat rear tire and just pumps it back up.

3:41pm – Kevin, doubling back after realising Trevor wasn’t following, returns to Trevor.

3:43pm – We start cycling again.

4:08pm (147.2km) – We stop at OXXO.

4:18pm – Kevin comes out with 1L of milk for himself, 2L of fruity pop for Trevor, and condiments for dinner (toppings for the tortillas). Total cost is 20.10 pesos.

4:30pm – We start cycling again.

5:42pm (176.6km) – We stop to decide where to go. Trevor takes a leak on the side of the road.

5:47pm – Trevor has a sip of pop.

5:49pm – Trevor pumps up his rear tire again.

5:52pm – We start cycling again.

6:16pm (185.0km) – Kevin stops for a leak on the side of the road.

6:17pm – We start cycling again.

6:38pm (191.5km) – We stop at Hotel Lisboa to check the price.

6:43pm – The top floor is 170 pesos but the bikes aren’t allowed up there. The bottom floor is 230 pesos and the bikes are allowed there. Kevin’s not pleased and continues to haggle.

6:47pm – Kevin gives up (the owner was getting annoyed) and gets directed to another hotel.

6:51pm (192.0km) – We find Hotel Narcia.

6:53pm – The hotel is 236 pesos but is closer to the markets so we choose to stay at Hotel Narcia.

7:00pm – Kevin argues that he should have the bed directly under the fan (because, having lived in Singapore, he can’t handle the heat at night like Trevor can—go figure). However, Trevor’s already parked his bike beside that bed and doesn’t want to bother moving his bike. We move our bikes and Kevin takes the bed directly under the fan.

7:04pm – Kevin goes shopping for dinner.

7:06pm – Trevor unpacks bike to patch the tube.

7:16pm – Trevor unpacks his laptop and charges the GPS and MP3 player. Downloads the day’s GPS track.

7:17pm – Trevor starts fixing the flat.

7:38pm – Trevor can’t find a leak in the tube so he puts everything back. Decides to see what happens in the morning. Kevin returns with dinner. Total cost is 75 pesos.

7:45pm – Kevin has a shower.

7:48pm – Trevor starts writing this post.

7:53pm – Kevin finishes his shower.

7:57pm – Trevor has a shower. Kevin unpacks dinner and starts making his tortillas.

8:07pm – Trevor finishes his shower and comes out to find that his rear tire is flat. Why couldn’t that happen before the shower? He’ll eat first and fix it later.

8:10pm – Trevor starts making his tortillas.

9:00pm – Trevor finishes eating and starts unpacking his bicycle to fix the flat.

9:16pm – Kevin finishes eating his tortillas. Both start watching a September 11th show which interviewed George W. Bush.

9:29pm – Trevor finishes fixing the flat (probably due to a shard of metal left over from when he modded the rim to fit a Schrader valve).

9:32pm – Kevin starts making a bowl of cereal (bran flakes, oats, milk) for himself and another for Trevor. Trevor resumes writing this post.

9:43pm – Trevor starts eating his bowl of cereal and Kevin makes himself a second bowl of cereal (chocolate flakes, oats, milk).

9:52pm – Trevor finishes his first bowl and Kevin finishes his second.

9:56pm – Kevin prepares Trevor’s second bowl of cereal.

10:00pm – Kevin changes the channel and settles on 50 First Dates.

10:01pm – Kevin washes his dishes in the sink and watches TV.

10:11pm – Trevor finishes his second bowl and washes his dishes in the sink. Finds he’s still got a flat rear tire. Trevor’s not happy and just lays down on the bed in frustration.

10:15pm – Trevor continues writing this post.

10:55pm – Kevin brushes his teeth and goes to the washroom

11:00pm – Kevin returns and continues watching TV.

11:09pm – Trevor finishes writing this post and starts working on fixing the flat tire once again.

11:16pm – Kevin turns off the TV and goes to sleep.

11:42pm – Trevor finishes fixing the flat tire (decided to replace tube as the hole was near the valve and the patch was leaking).

11:43pm – Trevor brushes his teeth.

11:50pm – Trevor packs away laptop and goes to sleep.

***

For all but three or four days on the mainland we’ve stayed at hotels. It tends to pour overnight and most land is either private or overgrown with vegetation so camping is just too much trouble. Also we have started having large breakfasts and doing longer legs before stopping again for a food break.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Journal Entries – September 1st, 2011 – A Recap: Mexico, The Last Days

Nothing much has happened since our experience in Acapulco until today. Ever since leaving the USA the stomach pains never returned until today. And return they did: with a vengeance. He experienced his worst case of them. After drinking almost a litre of orange juice and eating three buns he didn’t feel good and went off to the washroom. After returned he didn’t look well and was basically immobilized. He complained of a fever, excessive sweating and feeling like he was about to faint. He didn’t even have the energy to dig inside his bags to find the Pepto Bismol. He took the Pepto Bismol and two Tums before he lay down on the ground using my sleeping bag as a pillow. We were in a park and school just let out so a lot of kids were walking past Kevin as he rested on the ground. None of them really paid any attention though as they seemed more focused on their social lives. I just sat on the bench and waited. After 45 minutes or so Kevin eventually rose from his stupor and sat down. Five minutes later he was good as new. He licked the remainder of the Pepto Bismol, cleaned the cup, packed it away and off we went.

In other news I also lost my water bottle a couple of days ago. I think it got knocked out of its holder when my rear tire fell into a grating. I’m not sure as I didn’t notice it was missing until we found our hotel at the end of the day. It was my 750ml water bottle and my favorite water bottle. Sucks, I really liked that water bottle. It had the squirty nozzle and everything.

Other than those two events nothing much else has happened. I guess I’ll just mention that many of the people we see on the road (road workers, people walking/cycling, people in stores on the side of the road, people riding in the back of pickup trucks) just stare at us with a dumbfounded look on their faces. When I get that look I usually give a wave and then they often break out of their blank stares and start hooting, hollering and waving back at us. Sometimes people will initiate the waves, hoots and hollers. One guy in a passing car puckered his lips at me. Not sure how to respond to that one. I just waved back. For the most part though I’d say Mexicans are a little on the shy side. A fifth of the people initiate waves, hoots and hollers; another two fifths give us a dumbfounded look until we wave to them; with the remainder not caring at all about the two cyclists on the road.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Robbed Leaving Acapulco

A nightmare day.  We were robbed for about $155USD.  Just after climbing a killer hill to leave Acapulco, Trevor and I descended down this road overlooking Puerto Marques Bay.  All was fine and dandy until we were pulled over by the municipal transit police.  This fat lard with shades on starts rambling in Spanish to me that we had done something wrong while his dumbass partner tries to give attitude towards Trevor.  Once he knew my Spanish wasn't great he started to speak in the little English he knew.  He said that we were not allowed to ride on that road as it was dangerous.  He insisted there was a sign at the top.  I said BS (well I didn't actually say that but I said there wasn't).  He also said we were caught on camera.  He then asked for our passports and we complied.  Stupid move on my part to hand them over as possession is nine-tenths the law.  He showed me a chart outlining fines associated with various wrong doings.  He said not obeying the road signs carries a MEX5,000 pesos fine for each person. That is about $400USD each.  Anyway, I could tell from the get go that something didn't feel right.  This was a classic textbook case of the paying off the cops.  I pleaded with him to let us go with our passports and if he can make an exception but he was stubborn as a mule.  He then said we either we pay in full back at the police station or we pay them there.  I asked how much and he said MEX6,000 pesos.  I then negotiated with him as we didn't have that much on us.  He then lowered his price to MEX4,000 pesos and then finally MEX2,000 pesos.  Since we didn't have that on us I got him to accept just what we had which was MEX750 pesos, $32USD and $60CAD.  Once we exchanged the money back for the passports he told us to leave promptly.  I think they were being radioed by the station to do something and needed to move.

Leaving I desperately tried to note the licence plate or something but his partner was blocking the rear and there was nothing on the front.  I looked for anything but wasn't very successful as I just wanted to get out of there asap.

Afterwards we spent a good 2 hours trying to find a police station to report the incidence.  Trevor didn't really want to report this but I did.  You don't let stuff like this happen and do nothing.  I admit nothing probably will happen but we had to do something.  Unfortunately we weren't very successful.  After asking around numerous times we found 2 police stations and told them what happened.  They agreed that we were allowed to cycle down that road and that we had been swindled, however, they didn't write reports.  They told me to go to the tourist police which is way back in Acapulco.  It is tough at times when something like this happens and I have to communicate in Spanish.  My Spanish is elementary so the stuff I was being told didn't always come across clear as day.  I was being told many things that afternoon and getting mixed information of where things were and what to do.  It was very frustrating.  So as of now we still haven't officially filed a police report and I am not very optimistic that we will.  I will look to see if I can report this online as that would be much easier.

All in all I was shaken up a bit.  Being a victim of crime is obviously never fun.  I couldn't stop thinking about the whole ordeal and kept thinking woulda, coulda, shoulda.  But what's done is done so I must brush this off and keep going.  However, I will still be on the lookout for police stations and whatever else I can find to possibly report this.  I am real pissed.  I hate that those lowlife transit cops can get away with stuff like this.

We are approaching our second to last state in Mexico.  It will be nice to get out of Guerrero as I want to put this ordeal behind me.

The morning started great as we entered Acapulco.  We cycled to one of the most famous sites of the area, La Quebrada.  This is where cliff divers come to do their thing and entertain tourists.  The cliffs certainly look quite dangerous to dive from.  None were jumping while we were there but the setting was very nice.  

Acapulco Bay.  Aside from getting jacked by the transit police I really liked the 'Pearl of the Pacific'.  Back in the day this was the playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Liz Taylor and Judy Garland.  I would rate this town better than the other well known party resort towns Puerto Vallarta and Ixtapa.  

A dejected and shaken me.  Shortly after the police incident we went to reload our funds and met a very nice Mexican man from Mexico City.  He asked about our trip and where we were going.  I then told him about the police robbing us and he got all riled up.  He was very annoyed with his nation's social state of affairs and sad for us that it happened.  He immediately took out MEX200 pesos from his pocket and said to take it.  I said no but he insisted.  It is a shame because there are a lot of really nice people in this country but the crime seems to be getting way out of hand.  We also spoke of the arson attack on a casino in Monterrey that happened a few days ago.  


Rant – Mexico’s Cops: What Use Are They?

After a better than expected stroll through Acapulco (the traffic wasn’t as bad as we had read it was going to be and the roads were pretty good) we get extorted by some cops. They must do this a lot because they set things up perfectly. Basically it went down like this we were on our way out of Acapulco and just crested the 200+ meter hill that blocked our way. At the top we took a breather. Kevin had waited for me to catch up so he had time to notice a cop car sitting there at the top too. After catching our breath we start heading down. About half way down the hill I see a cop car drive by and start waving at Kevin to pull over. Great! What did we do? Ride too far out on the road or something? We both pull over and the rotund cop with shades starts talking to Kevin while the skinny cop starts talking to me. The copy talking to me seemed to be trying to give me attitude, but as he was blabbering on in Spanish I really had no idea what he was trying to tell me. I just responded with my usual, “No hablo español. Hablo ingles?” He continued giving me attitude and then finally started cluing in that I didn’t what he was talking about. He finally responded with, “No hablo español?” To which I nod and point at Kevin saying, “He hablo español.” This on for a bit but he finally gets it, gives up, and joins the other cop who’s been talking with Kevin. They then wave us over behind the cop car away from the road.

The skinny cop stands guard at the back of the cop car (watching the traffic and us). The rotund cop starts talking in English. Kevin, as usual, does all the talking. While I just sit back and watch the show. The cop says we’ve broken the law and that bicycles are not allowed on the road we’re on. He insisted that a sign saying no bicycles allows was posted at the beginning of the hill. Kevin insists that we never saw any such sign and are pretty sure bicycles are allowed. I concur. The cop says no we are wrong and they have video evidence of us going by the sign. He points out that it is unsafe for us to be travelling on this road and it’s unsafe for the drivers too. (Uhhmmm… has he been reading the blog? There are plenty of other roads in Mexico on which are a whole lot more dangerous than this one and bikes are allowed on those. This road actually has pavement without potholes. That’s a pretty safe road in my books.) Anyway he then shows us a sheet which supposedly shows the fine we’ll have to pay. The fine came to 5000 pesos each or something like that (almost $1000 US). He says we’ll have to go back up the hill to the police station and pay the fine. Kevin starts getting pissed at this point and asks the cop to prove that bicycles aren’t allowed. He repeats that they have video evidence. That gets nowhere. Kevin then asks if they’ll make an exception this one time. He repeats that it is dangerous to ride a bike on this road so we’ll have to pay the fine at the station. Oh and by the way the station is closed today (Sunday) so we’ll have to pay it on Monday. He then asks for our passports which we reluctantly hand over. He checks the visas which are all good, but then he holds on to the passports. He says he’ll take them back to the station and after we pay the fine we’ll get them back. Kevin pleads to have the passports back now. The cop won’t budge. Kevin then asks can we pay the fine on the spot so we don’t have to go to the station. The cop seems to be receptive to this suggestion. He says yes that we can pay the full fine now and then we can be on our way. He still says we need to pay 10000 pesos though. Kevin tells the cop we don’t have that much. After some more back and forth the cop reduces the on-the-spot fine to 6000 pesos and gets in the car (the skinny guy is still standing guard). Kevin asks me how many pesos we have and I pull out 600 pesos. Kevin asks if 600 pesos is enough and the cop says no. We must pay 6000 pesos. This 600 vs 6000 goes on for a bit until Kevin asks if they’ll take American money. The cop says yes. Kevin then asks me to pull out all the money we have and I do (dumb me I should’ve pulled out half). Kevin counts it and then shows the cop. At this point the cop got a call on the radio (Kevin told me this later as I didn’t see this). Kevin then asks is this enough money? The cop says yes. Before handing over the money Kevin insists that we get our passports back first. After a little back and forth the cop reluctantly hands over the passports and Kevin hands over the money. Kevin then asks are we good. The cop waves us off. Kevin and I check our passports and then Kevin heads off down the road. I then follow and see the skinny cop checking to see that no cars are coming so that it’s safe for me to get back on the road. How nice of him. As I head down the road I look back to see if the cop car is following. I never see it pass us. I assume they headed back up the hill.

Okay, that’s how it all went down and I’m sure Kevin will retell the story from his perspective in his post too. Now let’s analyze what happened.

Q: If we did something wrong why didn’t the cops stop us at the top of the hill when we we’re taking a breather for five minutes just meters from their car?

A: By waiting until we’re halfway down the hill they’re putting us in a situation where we’d have to climb back up the hill to get to the police station. Not something a cyclist wants to do. Essentially they we’re trying to dissuade us from ever going to the police station as they wanted us to pay them the bribe.

Q: Why were they giving us attitude?

A: They we’re trying to make it look like it was a given that we were in the wrong. That there charge shouldn’t even be questioned. “Of course bicycles aren’t allowed.” However we never saw this supposed sign. And Kevin later confirmed by asking locals and even other cops. Cyclists are allowed to ride that road.

Q: Why say that the police station isn’t open today?

A: All the more reason to pay the bribe on the spot. We’re leaving Acapulco, it isn’t likely that we’d want to go back and have to stay another night waiting for the police station to open.

Q: Why is the skinny cop keeping guard watching the passing traffic?

A: To make sure bigger fish don’t come along and spoil the fun. These we’re lowly municipal cops. If non-corrupt cops (municipal, tourist, state, federal) came by they might stop and ask questions.

Q: Why did the cop come down in his asking price so quickly?

A: Two reasons. First they’re breaking the law and are taking a risk trying to extort us. Second they got a call and needed to go.

So what can be learned from this?

  1. The cops will try to put you in a situation where you’d rather pay the bribe rather than go to the police station. It might be best to call they’re bluff and threaten to go to the police station. Either they’ll give up or you’ll have to argue with them at the police station (which might be worse, but I’ve read in the guide books that this is the recommended way).
  2. Time is on your side. The cops are taking a risk so they want to get your money quickly. Just stall by asking questions and don’t budge. They’ll either give up, reduce the bribe, or get a call on the radio.

I think Kevin handled the situation very well. I was kind of surprised when he started giving the cops attitude. I wonder how I would’ve handled it if I were doing the talking. Not sure I would’ve done as good a job. On the whole I think this was just another experience Kevin and I now have under our belts. Sure we’re out $150 or so but when it comes down to it that’s not really a big deal. We’re still cycling and that’s what matters.

Now for my rant. Before leaving on this trip my biggest fear was not getting sick, getting hit by a car, the weather, terrorists or criminals. It was the cops. Everywhere I travel it is always the cops that I fear most. Why? Because they are essentially the biggest street gang in any country. And worse yet they are government sponsored. They can harass you, they can intimidate you, and they can extort you. Who can argue with them? They have the guns. In Mexico for example they carry around huge assault rifles. If you’re a regular citizen or a tourist you can’t do anything but comply with whatever they want. In first world countries at least there’s some oversight to weed out the bad apples (e.g. the internal affairs department). In poorer countries this oversight doesn’t exist and this corruption is allowed to continue. I just did a quick search online and it seems that a lot of other people had similar occurrences all around the same area we got scammed. That just goes to show that nothings being done about it. Cops will continue on being corrupt. Not all of them mind you, but enough to make me not trust the lot of them. This begs the question. What use are the cops if you can’t trust them and they’re the ones committing crime? A useless job if you ask me. Either get them to do their job properly or get rid of them. No use wasting tax dollars supporting another street gang.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trevor's Troubles

Ever since we entered Michoacan state we have seen a lot more military and police presence.  They have been fully armed with machine guns ready to go into battle.  We met a fellow Canadian cyclist from Quebec who is riding solo from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego who told us that Michoacan and the current state we are in, Guerrero, are red zones.  Meaning not the safest places in the world.  Apparently they are drop off points for drugs that come in from South America.  As a result we are making sure we are not cycling when it starts getting dark.  The French Canadian, who I might add is a grandfather, told us of 4 English motorcyclists who were touring about 3 months ago were held at gunpoint in and around this region.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear but it is better to be aware than not at all.  

The last couple of days haven't been so great for Trevor.  He had comfort problems downstairs again, been sick and had bike troubles.  His back tire kept deflating but there was no puncture.  So when he decided enough is enough, he'll put in a new inner tube, he realized the valve of the spare Schrader's we have do not fit the hole in the wheel.  As such he had to keep pumping up his tire every so often for about a 50km stretch in the blistering heat until we got to a bike shop for assistance.  When we arrived in the next town called La Mira, the bicycle shop (a little shack on the side of the road) did not have the Presta inner tubes we needed.  So we were in a bit of a predicament.  Then to make matters worse Trevor breaks the Presta valve which was on its last heels.  Oh joy.  As a result, Trevor spends the next hour or so filing the hole in his wheel to make it bigger so the Schrader valve can fit.  Not entirely sure if that was the best idea but right now things are working fine.  So good on him.  

Today we stopped in Zihuatanejo to look for a bicycle shop because Trevor's bike had been making ticking noises.  When we cycled around the Big Island of Hawaii in 2009 he had the same noise and the bike mechanic there ended up taking his bike apart and replacing some ring inside the bottom bracket.  This time around the mechanic just tightened up some bolts and that seemed to do the trick.  So fingers crossed we don't hear that noise again.    


Me somewhere in Michoacan state chilling while the rain comes down and down and down.  Doesn't look that bad here but seriously the rain came down and didn't stop on one particular day.  It was like I was swimming all day in the rain.   

They call Michoacan the untouched state.  I would have to agree because there wasn't much there.  But it did have some nice beaches and landscapes.

Vultures lurking about.  We saw plenty feasting on these dead pigs.  The smell was quite bad.  

Mr. Fix-It.  Here is Trevor filing that hole in his wheel.  

Zihuatanejo.  You may remember this place from The Shawshank Redemption as it is the coastal town where the characters of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman reunite after they get out of prison.  I totally forget that scene and most of the movie so I need to watch it again because it was pretty good.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journal Entries - August 24th, 2011 - Bad Things Come in Threes

After experiencing two bad days in a row why not make it a third? The day started well; the rain decided to take the day off and the sun was out. My kind of weather. And my cold was on the mend. Finally we should get a decent day under our belts. Our first stop was just 5km down the road from our hotel. We stopped to have a bite to eat for breakfast. Before sitting down to eat we argued for a couple of minutes about where to place the bikes. Nothing out of the ordinary. Well actually that’s not quite true, upon entering the town I did notice a couple of guys in a black truck pulled out onto the road just as we entered the town and they just sat in the middle of the road for a couple of minutes watching us (or at least that’s what it felt like). They eventually drove on but not before giving us a good stare down. That made me feel a little uneasy given the story the French Canadian told us the day before about the motorcyclists getting robbed. Also the town had a military garrison stationed across the street from where we parked ourselves for breakfast. Not the kind of place I’d like to get stuck repairing the bicycle. The only positive vibe I got was from a jolly Mexican across the street yelling at everyone who passed by to come and have some of tacos he was selling. We declined and instead chose to go to the mini-market to get Froot Loops and some bananas. Most of the locals took up his offer and went over to eat his tacos. Even a bunch of the military guys did too.

After breakfast we head onward. As usual the town was littered with speed bumps. After going over the third or fourth speed bump my rear tire feels a little mushy. I look back and, yup, I’ve got myself a flat tire. Why, of all the towns, did it have to happen in this one? We back track and find a place to repair the flat. I unpack everything and tear apart the tire only to find nothing. The patches are fine, there’s no puncture that I can see; the tube seems fine. I suspect a valve leak and pump up the tire to see what happens down the road. Off we go again. As we ride I’m constantly looking for that black pickup truck I saw in town as I’m paranoid thinking they’re waiting for us down the road, just waiting to rob us or something like that. Somewhere between 20 and 30km down the road, as we crest a hill, we do see a black pickup trunk ahead. Seconds later it hits a telephone pole and the hood pops off. Two other trucks stop to see if the occupants are all right. As we approach two guys get out of the black truck and look to be unharmed. The driver shrugs his shoulders and then begins speaking to who pulled over to help out. We slow down but continue on. Kevin saw it unfold better than I did and says he saw a delivery truck pass the black trunk which forced it off the road into the telephone pole. That’s one thing we’ve noticed, Mexicans pass all the time. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dotted yellow line, a solid yellow line, a double yellow line, a hill, a curve, or someone already coming in the other direction; they’ll pass. So this type of accident isn’t really that surprising. A little later at a point where Kevin stops to take a picture of some vultures I see the black pickup speed by with its hood back on. I’m not sure but that could have been the same pickup I was afraid of in that first town. Nothing to worry about, just some crazy Mexican drivers that’s all.

What I should have been worrying about was my tube. Shortly after it gave out again. As we were only 5 or 10km outside of another town I just pumped it up again. As I was pretty sure it was the tube’s valve failing I would replace the tube while we snacked in town. We reach the town and sit down in a park. I get to work on the tube while Kevin goes in search of food. I unload the bike, tear apart the tire, pull out the replacement tube, put the replacement tube in the tire and try to feed the valve into the rim. Only to find that the replacement tube’s valve doesn’t fit through the valve hole in the tire rim. This is a problem, a rather serious problem. The tubes that are currently installed on the bikes are Presta tubes. All the spare tubes I’ve brought are Schrader tubes. Schrader tube valves are wider than Presta tube valves. The tire rim on the bikes only have enough space to fit the Presta tubes. This sucks. And here I thought that the rim would fit both valve types. Okay so now what? I can try filing the valve hole in the rim to make it bigger and fit a Schrader tube or I can continue pumping up the tube every 5km or so until we reach a town with Presta tubes. I chose the latter since I worry that filing the rim will structurally weaken it and make it fail sooner. So I put the Presta tube back in and pump it up. The next town, Playa Azula, is around 50km down the road so I’m going to be doing a lot of pumping.

3km down the road, after a stretch of speed bumps and potholes, the tube goes flat again. Off I get and pump it up once again. 5km down the road the tube goes flat again. Off I get and pump it up. Let me tell you that pumping up tires in the tropical humidity with the sun blaring down on you is sweaty work. The sweat was pouring off of me. So I go for a drink of water. I’m all out. Kevin gives me what remains of his water: 250ml. I down it and off we go again. 6km down the road the tube goes flat. Again I pump it up, but this time without water. This goes on and on until we make it 5km from Playa Azula. The tube goes flat again and again I get off and pump it up. However, this time, after I remove the pump, I notice that something is missing. The tube’s valve lock (the piece that keeps the air from escaping and allows air to get in when you pump it up) is missing. Fortunately it’s in the locked position but I don’t think I’ll be able to pump it up again the next time it goes flat. We’re only 5km from town so if the roads don’t get any worse than they’ve been we should be okay assuming the town has a bike shop with a Presta tube.

We make it Playa Azula, but my tube is on its last legs and probably can’t go any further. There had better be something here. Kevin asks someone and they say Playa Azula doesn’t have a bike shop but the next town 3km down the road does. I look at the road leading to the town and it doesn’t look pretty. The road is riddled with potholes, hills and speed bumps. I attempt it anyway but am only able to make it 1.5km before the tube goes completely flat. Kevin goes on ahead while I walk.

Walking wasn’t fun so I decide to try pumping the tube one more time and ended up being successful at getting some air in the tube, enough to get me down the hill into town where I find Kevin who says the bike shop is just 2 blocks ahead. We cycle to the bike shop only to find that it is literally a hole in the wall. As soon as I see the shop I know there’s no way this place is going to have a Presta tube. It doesn’t even look like a bicycle shop. Sure it has three beater bikes sitting in front, but so does the mini-mart situated next to it. Other than that I don’t see anything that even resembles a bicycle part. We’d probably have more luck getting the tube at the mini-mart than we will at this so called bicycles shop. We give it a shot anyway. Two guys sitting on the stoop out front try to help (one guy can speak a little English). We show them the tube that needs replacing and the owner doesn’t give us a very optimistic look. However, he goes off in search of the tube. Not at the bike shop though. He heads off down the road in search of the tube. Uhmmm… Hold on a second. If we’re standing in front of the bike shop why is he going somewhere else to get bicycle parts? Isn’t that what the bicycle shop is for? Where’s he going off to? The mini-mart? Anyway, he returns with, as I predicted, another Schrader tube and it’s even the wrong size. Well this isn’t going to work. Kevin asks where then next bike shop is. They say it’s in the next town which is 17km down the road. I don’t think my bike can make that distance. I’ll be pumping up the tire every kilometer. At this point we’re hungry so we decide to have a snack while we think about our predicament.

We cross the street, park our bikes and while Kevin again searches for food I pump up the tire. I find that I can completely pump up the tire after tightening the pump’s head. This is good news; maybe I can make it the 17km to the next town. Kevin comes back with only drinks as the mini-mart didn’t have pastries. We’re still hungry so we cycle a couple of blocks and stop in front of another mini-mart confident that my tube can make it to the next town. We park the bikes and Kevin searches for food. He tries several mini-marts before settling on the first one he had entered (none of them really had the best selection). He emerges and we finally eat.

After replenishing ourselves we get up to leave only to find that my rear tire has deflated yet again. No matter I go ahead and pump it up again. I remove the pump from the valve and… Pop! Phhssssssszzzzzz! What remained of the Presta valve is no more. The piece that was holding in the air blew out. I hate Presta tubes (this isn’t the first time this has happened to me)! I uselessly try to pump up the tube several more times. Maybe if I’m quick enough I can get the cap on before the tire completely deflates. That doesn’t work as half the air escapes before I can screw the cap on, and even if I were quick enough the cap would blow off after I hit some potholes. What to do? Get a hotel here and bus into the next town? Or find someone with a file so I can make the valve hole bigger? I even played with the idea of taping the keeping the pump attached to the valve (so the air doesn’t escape) and then taping the pump to the spokes of the wheel. I dropped that idea as it was just stupid.

Kevin remembers he has a swiss army knife which should have a file. It doesn’t. I end up using the small knife and carve the hole bigger. This takes me a good 45 minutes but finally I make the hole big enough to fit a Schrader tube. The Presta tube goes into the trash where it belongs. However, I’m worried the filing I’ve done to the rim will cause the rim to fail prematurely (something I’ll need to research the next time we find some WiFi—I’ve just checked and it looks like it’s safe to do). In either case I now have a rim which can take Schrader tubes. That makes life a whole lot easier because not very many bike shops in the countries we’re headed to probably won’t have Presta tubes either.

All sorted we tackle the remaining 17km to our final destination. The 17km road was riddled with potholes and upon entering the town there were speed bumps galore. There’s no way the Presta would have survived that. As it was approaching 6:30pm we decided to skip looking for the supposed bicycle shop. There should be one in Zihuatanejo which is only 100km down the road (I hope I don’t eat those words tomorrow). Instead we look for food and a hotel. There was a Walmart but it was still under construction so we settled on a Bodega Aurrera. As usual I waited outside guarding the bikes while Kevin went inside.

This supermarket was pretty busy. Out front a bunch of taxi drivers were trying to drum up some business, some Walmart spies were conducting a survey (actually Kevin tells me Bodega Aurrera is associated with Walmart), and a guy who sells useless car accessories (window wipers, car wax) was trying to make some sales. The guy ends up selling a pair of window wipers to one of the taxi drivers. He then goes on to demonstrate his car wax to some lady before she enters supermarket. After his demonstration the lady heads towards the supermarket entrance with a shopping cart. A shopping cart that won’t fit past the bikes. So I start moving them. The guy who sells the car accessories sees me doing this and to show his potential customer he’s a good guy he helps me move the bikes. But he does so in a rush and bumps Kevin’s bike into mine. Not a big deal but Kevin wouldn’t have been pleased had it known. The lady passes but the guy stays as now he’s interested in the bikes. He starts talking to me in Spanish, none of which I understand. So I respond with, “No hablo español.” Then he comes back with, “Ahh. Inglés.” And after a pause continues with, “Cuanto.” And points at Kevin’s bike. Crap, the dreaded question: how much are the bikes. This is a question that you always want to avoid as you don’t want to give potential thieves an idea of how much money you have. So I umm and ahh and play stupid (which isn’t too hard). Eventually he gives up and goes in search of someone who can speak English. It seems like one of the taxi guys could speak a little English but was too embarrassed to try his English on me. Good. Unable to find an English translator he resumes trying to find potential buyers of his wares.

Kevin returns after what took ages. The supermarket was really, really busy. We head off in search of a hotel. We happen upon our cheapest hotel to date in Mexico. Only 120 pesos ($11 US). And for that price it’s much better than that 250 peso box we found ourselves in the night before. By the time we get in it’s 7:30pm and we only accomplished 116km on the day. Yet another pathetic showing.

As they say, bad things come in threes. So tomorrow things should finally turn themselves around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Journal Entries – August 23rd, 2011 – Trevor vs The Rain

My chafing problems from yesterday have been solved but as predicted my cold has progressed into the sniffles and coughs. Nothing I can’t handle. So we set of to tackle what we know will be a day of rolling hills on cliffs by the ocean. We’re also expecting some rain as a couple of days earlier I had looked at the cloud patterns in Google Earth and saw that the entire Michoacán state is covered by cloud. I’m expecting a day of rain but the morning was cloudy, without rain and the sun was making an effort to peek through. So at our first stop not 10km away from where we set off that morning I went ahead and performed a long overdue oiling of the chains. Hopefully the rain won’t wash away my work.

As I’m working on the bikes Kevin meets Michel Beaudoin (you can read about his travels here: http://beaudoinavelo.wordpress.com/) who’s from Quebec. He started in Alaska and is going to the tip of South America too. He told Kevin that the current state we’re cycling through, Michoacán, and the next, Guerrero, are in the Red Zone. Meaning that they are known for having aggressive bandits, either bandits disguised as police or the police are the bandits themselves. He said that 3 months ago four motorcyclists from England doing a tour from Alaska to South America were stopped on the road by 16 or so guys with machine guns. The bandits took everything from two of the motorcyclists—passports, everything. The other two motorcyclists were able to speed off before the bandits got to them. This would explain why we’ve been seeing lots of military jeeps/trucks driving up and down this road. All of them loaded with guys in fatigues with their assault rifles ready. When I see the trucks go by I’m not sure what I prefer: them heading in our direction or in the opposite direction. Anyway, all the more reason to stay at hotels (as we have been doing as of late) rather than camp out.

Red Zone or not we head onwards. And just minutes after we leave town it starts to rain. Great, all my work on the chains all for not. It’s not even the type of rain I’m expecting. It’s not that tropical downpour that comes out of the sky in buckets. It’s not even really that warm. Rather it is kind of like the rain that I’m accustomed to back home in Vancouver Canada. That dreary unrelenting rain. This sucks. All day it rain never letting up. Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it showers, sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours, but it never stops.

Well if it’s going to rain then so be it. I’m from Vancouver, dammit, I can take it. This rain isn’t going to get the better me. I’m not going to take cover, I’ll outlast it. Completely soak me for all I care, after all I can’t get any wetter than I already am. As I battled with the rain I tried to distract my mind by paying a little more attention than usual to my surroundings. For instance did you know that there are a lot of vultures down here in Mexico. Big black ones. And they usually hang out in groups of 20 or more. And they usually are hiding around a corner which is freaky because they just appear as you round the turn. All of them just turn their heads and just stare at you with their beady little eyes from behind their masks. Wishing that you’d turn in to road kill so they can feast. It’s freaky I tell you.

Speaking of road kill, did you know there’s a lot of it down here in Mexico? Today we saw a large python dead on the road. We see a lot of dead snakes, possums, dogs, armadillos (Which surprisingly can’t piece themselves back together again like they can in the movie Rango. I guess you really can’t believe everything you see in the movies.), vultures, other unnamed birds, cows, pigs, large grasshoppers, large crickets, lizards, butterflies, and even crabs. I even saw a live crab (quite large) on the road and we were over a kilometer away from the ocean. What’s a crab doing way out here? From the ocean to the road it would have had to travel through a lot of dense jungle. However it got here it was just as stupid as dogs are when it comes to bikes and tried to attack me. It started running towards me with both claws on the ready. Hah! Stupid crab you’re no match for my Schwalbe Marathon tires. Don’t worry I didn’t run it over, but I’m pretty sure the car behind me did. That’s what happens to anything that ventures on the road it turns into road kill in minutes. When are these critters going to learn you don’t mess with vehicles?

That reminds me. A couple of days ago we saw our first tarantula. A medium sized hairy brown one. Unfortunately it ventured onto the road so you know what happened next right? Upon seeing it crossing the road (I nearly ran over it myself) I yelled ahead to Kevin knowing he’d want to take a picture. He stopped and took the camera to take a shot. As he approached the tarantula three cars passed. They all missed the tarantula. Kevin gets ready to take a picture. A fourth car wizzes by and splat! No more tarantula. It’s now an unrecognizable pancake on the road. Kevin retuned to the bike pictureless.

Having spent the day distracted by the things you find on the road we eventually reached the hotel we were told about. The rain was really coming down now (on the verge of torrential rain). Kevin went in to get the hotel situation sorted. I on the other hand, not wanting to lose to the rain, stood with my bicycle in the pouring rain. Kevin returns frustrated because this will be our most expensive hotel thus far: 250 pesos (or ~$23 US). But they’ve got us by the balls. There’s no other hotel for miles and we’re not camping in the Red Zone. Kevin needs more money to pay the owners. So I finally give up my battle with the rain and move under a covered area so I can open up my bag to get some money. Looks like this round goes to The Rain. At least it didn’t score a K.O like it did in our last battle. I’ll be back for a third round, Rain. I won’t let you go that easily, you can count on that.

Frustrated we head down to our room and find that it is a little square room. Our most expensive room to date and also our worst room to date. Great! To make matters worse a large spider crawls up the wall as Kevin is parking his bicycle. I hate spiders so I jump into the washroom while Kevin coaxes it into the trashcan and throws it over the balcony.

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