We are now well and truly in the lowlands of Guatemala. On our last rest day in Santa Cruz Verapaz, we visited a shopping mall in Coban, one of the major towns of Guatemala. We found a scale and we have both lost weight and in fact Dad might have to make a new hole in his belt. I am now using a belt for the first time in since earlier this year which is positive news.
On Saturday, 15 December, we descended from 1400m to 200m above sea level and we truly felt the difference in temperature. However there was also 1200m of climbing on that day and so we still had to work hard and deal with tropical heat and humidity. The vegetation in the lowlands is more lush with more trees and it is a typical tropical climate. There was a lovely swimming pool at our overnight hotel in Chisec where everybody relaxed, Dad wearing one of his church shirts, and there was a good atmosphere. Unfortunately we could not get our hotel room door to unlock with the key which was irritating but I learnt later how to manoeuvre the key to open the door. There are enough challenges on this expedition.
We set off yesterday, 16 December, on a long ride of 119km mostly on a straight, uphill and downhill road from Chisec to Sayaxche. The ride went fine until around 90km when I got two punctures on the road with no shade to take shelter and change the tubes. We had made such good progress and I had a good average speed of over 26km per hour when the punctures happened. Dad had a good day too even with the repressive heat. We were riding together as we have done apart from 4 stages when I rode part of the way on my own.
I must say Dad was in no mood to help me fix the first tube and I stupidly managed to lose the two springs on the spindle of the wheel, silly thing to do and Dad told me so too. Finally after 108km we stopped at our first coke stop of the day after the two punctures and a little boy gave us two chairs for us to sit on. He certainly didn’t speak any English and so we just said ‘gracias,’ which means thank you in Spanish.
The local people in Central America are generally timid but not prone to steeling which according to Dad was the case while cycling through Africa. They shout ‘hola,’ meaning hello and smile at us. Unfortunately Dad and I can’t say much more than ‘Hola, buenos dias, buenos tardes’ meaning hello good morning or afternoon. But we appreciate the support of all the people that we pass along the road.
Last night in Sayaxche. Yes, this is obviously and indigenous American Indian name for a town. And the town is not up to much, at least not on a Sunday. Of course the people of the town were welcoming but unfortunately the food at the hotel this morning was not quite satisfactory. No coffee for Dad and no egg or ham. This is cyclist nutrition but fortunately today, 17 December was our easiest stage of the tour. It was only 64km and virtually all flat with an adequate coke stop at 48km.
All the Tour D’ Afrique cyclists pretty much know each other by know as we have now entered the last 5 days of the expedition with 3 cycling days left. There is healthy conversation in the group and most people enjoy a Gallo beer after a day’s cycling. I am trying to finish a book about the Mayans by tonight but will be hard pushed.
We are staying tonight on Isla de Flores, an island on a lake near the Mayan ruins of Tikal which we will visit tomorrow morning at sunrise. In fact we will leave our hotel tomorrow morning at 3am in order to do a sunrise tour of Tikal which is an hour and a half’s drive from here. Will tell you all about it later.
Noreen, glad to hear from you again and good luck with the operation. Nargaret, keep up the hartd work at SANCCOB. Mom and Julie enjoy the festive season, see you soon Mom.