15.11.09 Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Major Mike "Mad Dog" Anderson - ex RAF Search-and-Rescue, British (as opposed to English) to the bone - wins first prize in the "what's the coolest thing you can have strapped to the back of your bike" contest - a walking stick. It's a big BMW - we'll let that pass - and it also sports a British "Blue Badge", signifying that the holder is disabled and needs to be closer to the Sainsbury's exit than you do. Dodgy knees and really quite short legs notwithstanding, he's ridden the length of the Americas and continues to do so. His theories about why British potatoes hold their heat better than their foreign counterparts may be open to scrutiny, but his commitment to drinking beer and riding motorbikes is not. Major* Anderson - I salute you.
As a pensioner, I imagine he would appreciate Igor the Czech's t-shirt slogan:
Close to inarguable, assuming only those two options.
If not the way his bike is packed:
Where, in fact, is the actual bike?
The Major and I rendezvous in Antigua. It takes us a stupendous amount of Gallo, featuring both diarrhoea and vomiting, to come to the conclusion that it would have been better to call it "Draino". Any other Guatemalan lager causes only the usual problems, but there's something terribly wrong with Gallo. I swear on the holy bread of Jesus: I will never touch Gallo again, unless it's all they've got.
Major Anderson and I tootle off to the Mayan city ("ruins" is the wrong word) of Tikal. It's a 2 day ride from Antigua, and it's way beyond what I'd imagined. There's something very Doctor Who about it, partly because the huge temples look like thousand-year-old stone Daleks, and partly because it's just spooky. Tikal is one of those places where you find yourself walking round a corner and involuntarily saying "no fucking way!" every 20 minutes. Like Woking, but good.
Given that Mexico - North America by any reasonable definition - is the next stop, it might be time to rank Central American countries in order of good-ness. Factors at play include:
-jaw-dropping places to see
-cost of hotels and booze
-ease of border crossings
-friendliness of people
-corruption level of cops.
With all that in mind, and in reverse order, here it is;
In last place, Honduras. Mainly because of the cops.
5th: Costa Rica. Slightly too expensive.
4th: Panama. Good-ish on all factors.
3rd: El Salvador. A combination of easy borders, good cops and friendly folks.
2nd: Nicaragua. Let down by a tedious border, otherwise - good work!
1st: Guatemala. Fantastic in almost every respect.
*Mike may or may not be a Major. It just sounds good that way.
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