Saturday, June 26, 2010

The bike

I don't usually elaborate too about the equipment I happen to be using, for me they are just tools, a mean to an end and in no way should they ever be the focal point of any endeavor they are a part of. But given how the bike have dictated many of memorable experiences on this particular ride, I feel I am obligated to reminiscent a bit about my poor old Trek touring bike.

This bike was an replacement of my first touring bike that was stolen in Granada Spain, and it has performed admirably for the past 11 years and well over 15 000 kms spanning several continents. So much so that I have completely neglected the fact that machine do age and do require regular cares. That was certainly very true with my saddle bags. They are more than 20 years old and the company made them is no longer making them. Though they still sort of working, but the rigorousness of the road have taken their toll and they will be put to retirement at the end of this ride, unless I can somehow rejuvenated them back to their former glory.

Given how trusty my riding equipments have been, I did not spend too much time inspecting all my equipments before setting out for this ride. To a point that I even neglecting to change to semi worn tires, thinking they should be good enough for this relatively small ride. Big mistake.

So this is a brief compilation of all that went wrong with the bike as associated equipments.
Both tire were replaced, one in Costa Rica, one is El Salvador. Rear rim was cracked, had the spokes realigned and trued once before swap it to the front where the load is significantly lighter.
I had more punctures on this ride than any of my previous rides, maybe just bad luck but I almost exhausted all my puncture patches and is now down to just two healthy spare tubes. had to replaced the bike chain and the freewheel hub body is about to go. Replaced the rear brake pads. Both rear bike panniers also experience break downs as the plastic back panel final gave away due to old age. The rain covers for both pannier is long lost its ability to keep rain out. The front derailleur do not shift up to the large chain ring despite all the effort in adjusting it.

Let see what else have gone wrong, oh, the MSR stove sprung a fuel leak the first day, the flash light has severe battery leak and despite my best effort in cleaning it, it worked on and off through out the trip. Both turtle blinking lights' batteries decide to die out together. It made the few tunnel crossing quite hairy as I rode in almost total darkness.

Moral of the story, make sure everything works and working well before embarking on any journey, luck favors those who are well prepared.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wash your

It's been a long while since I used the hostels, and I almost forgotten how it was. There are some strange characters at these places and because of that, sometime magic spark flairs out when all the right elements come together in one comic collision. It also mean that there can be very weird vibes, usually further enhanced by drugs and alcohol. Yes, there are healthy amount of drugs and alcohol here in central America. Oh, I finally learned that weed is actually the same thing as marijuana. I did say I don't get out much. No longer are there only the international hostel association hostels, private hostel have over taken what once a almost militant approach to cheap stays, now it's more or less a cheap hotel experiences. There is a wide range in both quality and style of managements. Some are very easy going, spacious and clean spaces while others are cramp and dirty. Some are tranquil while there are others that are more like a non stop party place. Gone are usual rules like partake in daily cleanings and curfew hours...except that they still want you to wash your dishes, now.

The average of the wandering wonders/backpackers are still around 20-30 years of age, grungy, edgy, hippy and you can tell them apart miles away. Their typical attires are, sandals, baggy trousers, local made tops, long hair, nose/ear rings and tattoos. They walk around with an air of superiority, a mix of both disdain and wonderment looking at the locals, specially the one dressed in traditional wares. They are guarded, alert when alone as if any approach to them is a want or a potential danger/ripoffs, yet when in a large group, they have this attitude that the world is their playground, or better yet, the place where they are merely visitors is a living zoo or museum to them, they are the masters.

Gears they carry also have changed somewhat, where once the coolest electronic gear is a Sony walkman, now they walk around with cell phones/netbooks. A large portion of their hostel experience is spend online on either facebook or youtube. Most are going through the usual angst, what is the meaning of life, how to get this and that the cheapest way possible, bus schedules, feeling soured feeling being ripped off by local merchants or how they scored one on a local merchant.

How things change and don't change....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

$20 Hair Cut

The last time I got a hair cut on this trip was in Nigaragua, 007 Hair Salon. Yes, I did ask for a James Bond cut and it costed fair market price, just like the the little kid next to me who got himself a cocky-de-doo-a much geled spike upfront that is the rage of central america hair style.

All through out the trip, in my most excellent broken, bastarized Spanish I would just ask for what I want, most of the time I do get what I want but sometime there are some happy surprises and I nevered felt the typical price gouching. I never felt the inclination the bargain either since what I have been charged is consistent with what every one else is paying and charging. But since been in Mexico, I felt I have been over charged twic already. As the title says, I just had a $20 hair cut, the most expensive hair cut in my life. I could have rant and rave but since I didn't ask for the price first, I figure I was in no position to argue. Second, the amount will not make her rich nor make me poor so I just bite the bullet. Lesson learned, ask for the price first if it may be beyond what you what to pay for something.

Don't get me wrong, the people here here are extremely friendly and polite, I refuse to let these few negative experiences cause to lose faith in humanity. That has to worth a whole lot more than a few dollars.

Fire and water, elements of life and my misery

So incase you have not been following the world news, Volcano Pacaya just erupted and Tropical storm, almost Hurrican Agatha just hit Guatemala. So there I was riding and camping in this rian and ash muck, not knowing what was hitting the area exactly, thinking: they don´t call it the rainy season for no good reason. For the first time I was afraid that my tent will not hold up. So much so that I went and bought bought a black plastic tarp to help out my super light tent fly. It rained five days straight. Actually to call it rain is putting it mildly, it's more like torraintial down pour, as if one is camped underneath Niagara fall, and have Lake Erie poured directly over your tent, all night long complete with lightning ripped apart the night sky and thunders tugs and tears one's nerve. Then the ash from Pacaya came into the mix, nothing was being cleaned, and nothing was ever dry...I thought I was the most miserable creature to walk the earth. That was until I rode into Antigua and found out what was happening to the people and their see the old lady crying in the market because her house has collasped and family members missing. Although I was still wet and cold but all of a sudden, I felt I was still being the fortunate one.

So live life as if it's your last day because you just don't know what can happen tomorrow!