Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Road to Nowhere
The above photo was taken following my first spill (it really doesn't convey exactly how steep the grade is). After hoisting my steed back up (no small feat) with the help of some wide eyed kids, I asked a local, who seemed to speak a bit of English, if I was heading in the right direction to reach Honduras. He replied, "Si". Reaffirmation in hand I maintained my course. The road did get a bit better but would occasionally lapse back into a surface of easily shifted rocks. After a few kilometers of snail paced progress, I found myself in steep descent and the GPS indicated that an intersecting road was just ahead. SUCCESS! So I thought.
Now in a valley the road was a muddy mess and I was sliding about with only the slightest of control. As I reveled in my victory over the mountain, with light continuing to dwindle, ahead of me there appeared a brand new Caterpillar road grader sticking out of the undeveloped scenery like a sore thumb. I mused, confusedly, at the appearance of the big ticket item in the middle of nowhere. Clearly, the roads here were in need of some development, but this seemed strange. Given a bit more time, I might have considered the potential value of this difficult path for nefarious dealings. I was far too entrenched in search for asphalt to be bothered with such concerns though. Unfortunately (or, in hindsight, perhaps fortunately), I noticed that the road had dwindled into nothing. The GPS indicated that I was where I was supposed to be there was nothing but a lightly worn foot path leading into the woods. I stopped next to the big yellow machine to contemplate my next move. Just as I decided to follow the path into the forest a perturbed man materialized to my right. Though slightly startled I initially dismissed his demeanor as harmless and tried to explain myself as best I could. The Hombre had no interest in my attempts at communication and moved around my motorcycle in a highly erratic fashion, flailing his arms and screaming. It was about this time that I noticed the pistol in his waistband which he was in the process of brandishing. I spun the bike around as quickly as I could. Without looking back I sped through the muddy tracks which had given me problems before, this time at a far higher speed. I climbed back up the mountain as rapidly as I dared, at times outside of my limits, finding that the darkness brought with it a thick fog which had transformed the atmosphere into an opaque haze. At these elevated speeds the large rocks, which were to be handled with the utmost care, often found their way to my wheels before I could react. I was tossed around as if in a rodeo. Struggling to maintain control, my muscles clenched and my mind raced in an adrenaline fueled frenzy. Though I managed to stay upright for longer than I should have, I eventually went down hard. The bike was positioned in such a way, amongst the loose rocks, that lifting it upright was impossible so I dragged it to a more suitable spot and jerked it back up on two wheels with strength I didn't know I possessed. In my rush to leave I immediately lost my footing and once again found myself on the ground. With much haste I repeated my previous technique of dragging the bike around, sideways in the road so the bottom of the wheels were pointing down the mountain, and pulled it upright.
The hazy fog was clouding my mind as well as the air. I was hearing an engine, though I could see no light, and I was almost certain the gun wielding madman was going to emerge from the glum intent on making me pay for my trespass. Following the erection of my BMW for the second time in quick succession, I dismounted and calmed myself before proceeding. After traveling a few more kilometers the fog dissipated and I came upon a road to my left that looked to be in good repair and would take me back down. Though not on my GPS the road lead toward a primary route into El Salvidor. So, rather than backtracking the 70 kilometers to the last town I decided to try my luck and see what the outcome would be. As was becoming the norm, what was a decent road quickly turned to shit once the grade steepened. Following several close calls, my bike was once again on the ground. This time, however, my muscles were not up for the challenge and all my efforts to rite the fully loaded beast were in vein. I was drained. After a couple of failed attempts to lift my fallen steed I took a break and sat by the side of the road, looking at the bike and conversing with God. The two tiny bottles of water I had did little to quench my thirst, but they helped. Following a prolonged break I removed all the luggage I could from the bike and after a deep breath I jerked a much lighter R1150GS upright. I took my time reloading and walked down the road a bit as I tired to decide whether or not to continue on. Being the persistent sort I decided to continue moving in the same direction.
After a short while I came upon a village and passed a church with open doors and loud music. Eventually, I came across a group of people congregating at the the edge of the rocky path. I stopped and asked them, "El Camino? kilometers?" They were perplexed but answered that it was about 10 kilometers to the road. As I attempted to leave they said more, not that I could understand, but the group had grown and as church let out my motorcycle and I had become the center of attention. One of the new arrivals, an elderly man with a cowboy hat, beckoned for me to follow him. I crept along next to him while being followed by the rest of the group and within a few hundred meters I was told to stop. The leader and the rest of the contingent approached a gated house that had JESUS spray painted crudely on one of the surrounding walls and the inhabitants emerged with some concerned dogs. After a rather long conversation the gate opened, I was approached and it was conveyed that the road I was on was impassible (no passa). I wasn't sure I believed them as I had already been told that the road I wanted was ten K ahead but I was beaten, battered, weary, and just put my head down on the tank bag. The owner of the house motioned for me to pull the bike behind the gate, which I did. I covered the bike with a tarp and sat on the the covered porch just as it began to rain in a torrent. I was brought water and the group of 15 or so conversed. The rain was very heavy for a brief period then subsided but continued on in a lighter fashion and the crowd dwindled. A new fellow joined and he spoke a bit of English. His questioning bordered an interrogation but of all the inquiries he made the most unusual was if I was here searching for a church. I simply shook my head and said, "No, Honduras". It was clear that there was much I didn't understand about this encounter and still the mystery of what this community was hiding further down the road invites conjecture. After the inquisition I was offered a bed with a straw mattress in a room with dirt floors and quickly fell into a deep sleep. to be continued...