Lost on the way to the End of the World

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by El Explorador, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    I am quickly adopted by Cecilia’s sister Adriana and her friends, Oso, Junior, and their wives Adilene and Adilene. They tell me about the local tradition of “stealing” girls – when a man wants to declare his intentions he takes the girl away, either to another village or to somewhere hidden up in the barranco, until enough time has passed that he can return and declare her his. Since parents are often opposed, if the duration is too short or they find out where the couple are hiding out, they can go and the culturally obedient daughter typically returns to the family. We get a good laugh out of Junior’s account of stealing Adilene to go hide out in the cliffs, her inexplicably trekking along in heels.

    My new friends and I explore the canyons and enjoy excellent socializing across the road from Luz, the agreeable storeowner who at any hour will respond to the cry “Luz! Una seiz!” with a six pack. The local girls teach me how they dance and play pingpong in my boxers, and the local guys teach me to respect the alcohol content of Tecate and how to make a delicious michelada– sort of a Mexican bloody mary. Everyone wants to know who I’m going to “steal”, and times slows down for a siesta as the days are packed with hiking and grilling and drinks. Every morning I ride to the canyon summit, whooping back down again, a good mood guaranteed til I close my eyes dreaming of the next morning's ride.

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    While investigating options for continuing through the canyon, I meet Alonso who introduces me to two of the canyon’s most powerful substances. First, he offers to introduce me to lechugilla, local agave moonshine. I expect a shot, he hands me a whole glassful, and to demonstrate its potency spills some on the ground and lights it. Despite the kick, it’s actually incredibly smooth and has a light flavour and clean finish. When he offers me a pint-sized chilli pepper, I eat the tiny berry in one bite. My first mistake. The second was grabbing the nearest glass at hand and reflexively chugging it.

    When everyone stops laughing, my face still feels flushed red and I am bright eyed; fortunately I don’t have far to take the motorcycle to the other end of town.

    Tomas’ nephew Tony takes me out to the next town over to try and get a ride lined up to take me over the rain-swollen river. No luck, he gets in a hummer with some Cicarioswho are passing by and heads up the cliffs to ask around for me while I sit and chill with his younger cousin. The lanky Rogelio sidles up to us with a manic laugh that bursts out and cuts off abruptly at random intervals, making awkward conversation. I offer him one of the dobladas I’d bought from a passing lady but he hefts a bag of corn flour and says that’s his food, poor people food. He goes quiet as another man strides up forcefully, surprisingly blue eyes set hard and fists clenched. Rogelio drops the flour and picks up a rock, while blue-eyes screams out at him “Why did you hit her!?” over and over as they circle, him relentlessly pursuing and the other dancing out of reach keeping his attacker at bay swinging the rock. Tomas’ nephew explains Rogelio got drunk and punched blue eyes’ wife. The scene becomes surreal when blue eyes heads off to go get his “steel”; Rogelio returns to his bag of flour, rips it open and pours it on the ground in an X, yelling to the skies, “Today there will be blood!”
    He is almost flattened as a white pickup truck barrels down on him, family members finally emerge to diffuse the situation and by the time Tony gets back nothing remains of the madness but an X on the ground.

    [​IMG]

    I also manage to lose my laptop among all this. Too comfortable, I suppose – in my evening walks I have come to meet most of the locals who sit out on The Street for lack of anything urgent, as if anything is urgent here. I hone the art of sitting around and passing the time with them, enjoying conversations and absorbing the atmosphere of silent conviviality. However, it was still stupid of me to go climbing the cliffs with the gang while my laptop lay unsecured in the unlocked kitchen, on the one day the caretaker was in a different town no less. At least the idiots didn’t recognize my USB drive – all photos are saved, though blog entries up to present date were not backed up. A generous donation for lessons on overconfidence, I hope not to need them again. The police chief is less than helpful, and considering that the gun toting cicarios roll through in hummers and trucks undisturbed, I have a feeling his interpretation of lawful might be a bit more exclusive than mine; his request for the password and unprompted description of the laptop sink any hopes of recuperating it.

    The tranquility at my hostel ends with the arrival of new guests, but they’re mostly cute international girls studying at Guadalajara university and one über chill German guy who offers Schmlz & Schn as Germany's answer to Four Tet. Keep trying, Germany. Convival backpacker life is shared and I take the opportunity to guide them around “my” Urique. We enjoy the spicy shrimp agua chile at Mama Tita’s and in the morning they make crêpes, to my delight. We trek to Guapalayna where a local lady empties her larder to feed us and the local drunks offer us a ride, leering at the girls. I end up negotiating driving us to Urique in their truck; the road tilting crazily, everyone in the truck silently praying we don’t teeter over into the river. We make it and the poor guys circle town, hoping for another chance. We grab some beers and retreat to the hostel where a good night is had and I am given good reason to believe I’d not regret going to Guadalajara.

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    I’m warned by Alonso that the local Cicarios gang is asking about me, insinuating I might be affiliated with their rivals la Linea. A story another friend I’ve made here told me comes to mind. Like many locals, he worked picking marijuana. One day the rival gang appeared and started shooting the workers. He and his friend were caught and tied to a tree, but managed wriggle free and make a break for it. He made it out and didn’t look back, but never heard from his friend again. The gangs are serious business here, and I’ve figured out how to continue the road along the canyon; it might finally be time to leave. One last time I sit with my new friends and enjoy tecate until too-late, but despite their entreaties and promises of parties and grills, the time has arrived once again.

    Blearily the next day I load the bike into the back of a pickup truck to cross the river. I tell Alonso to just leave me on the other side but he insists on taking me up a few hundred meters, the truck slipping and sliding on the loose rockslide they consider a road here.

    Unloading the bike I survey the path. I thought I had ridden some gnarly roads before, but the rainy season has removed all the dirt from between the rocks and created a formidable obstacle course.

    I turn the ignition and smile.

    Today is going to be a most tubular day.
  2. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Anybody on here good with premiere? Trying to get the video of the ride done but warp stabilizer is giving me some weird artifacts.
  3. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,908
    Another amazing story and photos, El X! Keeping my fingers crossed you make it out of gang territory safely! Seriously. Another American riding through gangland was killed a few months ago. The killers may have mistaken his blogging activity as undercover DEA action. That may be why your laptop was taken and why the cops wanted the password....so whoever has it could go through it and see if you're a threat to the gangs. I hope that by the time you read this you are well clear of gangland.
  4. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    My thoughts exactly Blader... I will consider this to be my "horse head in the blankets".
  5. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    933
    Location:
    closer to Baja
    Thank you for continuing with your excellent writing and photography.
    I'm looking forward to being able to buy your book one day.
  6. dvmweb

    dvmweb Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    Oddometer:
    50
    What a great R and R. Wonderful pics and interesting writing. Waiting for more.
  7. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Thank you so much gents, Whynotwhen I will be sure to remember to notify you! I'm thinking it's going to have to be divided by continents :D
  8. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
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    1,908
    Hey El Ex....whatcha been up to?
  9. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Just spent ten minutes trying to upload photos with phone . No dice. Broke laptop ( just stopped responding from abuse I guess)
    So now on phone exclusively. Dad came Down to visit and brought a shock gifted by a most excellent gent from 650.net

    Been rising mointains, meeting ladies, enjoying local brews, moonshine etc.

    More updates to come soon as I can digress out computer situation.

    Cheers from Peru
  10. RandyLove

    RandyLove Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
    35
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    El Ex,

    If you had a PayPal account, I'd pitch in $10-$20 bucks to go towards a laptop to get you back online. I bet a few others would do what they could to help as well, and when you get to Lima or some other big city you could pick a replacement laptop. Let's crowd-source this!

    Your thread is one of the best I've read and I'd like to see you continue to post your fine work. I really appreciate that you're revealing how safe and genuinely beautiful those regions are, and you're demystifying the fears so many people have about anywhere south of the U.S. Keep up the good work!

    -Randy

    http://pretirement2012.blogspot.com
  11. OscarCharlie

    OscarCharlie Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2013
    Oddometer:
    93
    Location:
    Texas
    Would also consider contributing if you were to set up a Pay-Pal account, compadre. Es que me gusta mucho tu relato. :deal
  12. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Howdy Gents, and thank you for bringing up an interesting topic!

    I'll start by thanking you very much OscarCharlie and RandyLove - I get a real kick out of how people enjoy what is at its core for me a very personal project. That you dig it and want to support it means a bunch to me. I managed to fix my computer thanks to long hours of internet surfing, but it's kind of the software equivalent of using duct tape to fix a cracked engine case. Tripod became a casualty of the road though. Tripod fund? Hah. There will always be something. Which leads to my great (no longer) internal debate:

    So, when I left, the big dream was to one day lose it all in a financial catastrophe of some kind, and then surf a crowdsourced wave of _just enough_ all the way to the end of the world. I didn't want to presume to ask for support before proving myself on the road, and besides I had made enough cash for the 1 year plan so a point of pride was to do it within my means and on my own steam. I never lost it all, and I never needed more.

    Now, nearly 26 months later, things have progressed. Belying the glacial pace of my posts, I've actually made it to Ushuaia and am currently in Bolivia, not planning on stopping until I've made it to every country plausible by motorcycle (so no, not thinking of spending much time drinking Ebola soup or getting a bullet body mods)

    This suggests a LOT of money. Also, I hurt my back quite badly working last summer and it may well cost me my source of income. I'd rather be poor in one place and run all over it than mostly immobile all over the world, so heavy labour is a maybe at best. And expensive things keep breaking or disappearing from my bike or camera. RIP tripod, you were the best.

    So, patreon has been suggested; people have offered donations. But while the kneejerk is naturally YES!!!! - there is a caveat.

    I've seen the Americas, and faced the reflection of my own privilege as I play class tourist around the globe. I am glad to play the part that I play bringing some much needed cash to areas rarely visited, and help where I can however I can, but in the end I'm just another tourist. Being on the economic fringes is a _choice_ for me. Why do I deserve any financial support, how can I accept it, when I walk by men hobbling by on all fours with blocks strapped to their knees and elbows begging for change, when I eat a full meal and watch a little old lady come by with a plastic bag to collect the rice left over from meals for her own sustenance, when a million other people need and deserve it more than I?

    The obvious answer is that I am passing the money on as I go, spending directly, and that people get something back from my (sporadic at best) posts and thus it's an investment they want to make. But it doesn't feel so much like being paid for work as it does accepting money that falls into the "charity" category, which in turn makes me feel like I'm taking money from the beggar's cup to buy an espresso at Starbucks.

    Not that I've got anyone offering me winning lottery tickets, but once I start accepting money I'm _committed_. I would want anyone sending their hard earned bucks to get value for them, and am not sure I could deliver on the daily/weekly schedule most professional bloggers seem to without compromising the spirit of the journey, or even if it would be possible for me to gain any momentum and make it a source of actual income; if I have the marketing savvy to SELL what I know is a good product. And of course first priority is my freedom to say - I can upload stuff later, but I can only go and catch the adventures waiting outside the wifi zone _now_.

    Discipline is possible, but is it worth it? I feel like Bill Watterson would have something to say on that matter.

    TL;DR - I'd love to take the money but I wonder if people might not have better causes for their cash, and besides if I do it's like a job offer and quite frankly I'm not confident I'd be able to squeeze much out of it relative to the work involved in maintaining an actively updated blog. I want to make money doing this _eventually_, but is the time now? If not now, when...
  13. RhinoVonHawkrider

    RhinoVonHawkrider Long timer

    Joined:
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    2,079
    Location:
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    El Ex

    Great post & I think ur right not to take donations for ur efforts. I've been following for a while & think ur prose is some of the Best! Kudos Sir.

    But if I'm sending U $, I'll want regular updates!

    As for why you can afford this trip and/or believe that life has some how been better to U than others, it's the lottery of the doGs. But while some in the world have been born into better circumstances, i.e. 1st World nations, I'm a firm believer that motivation can pull people out of the worst places and there are success stories from all corners of the globe.

    Be thankful of your lot in life, help others where you can, Good Karma & all...

    Stay safe & Have Fun
  14. cyberdos

    cyberdos Easy Bonus Loop ♦♦

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    48,641
    Location:
    Queen Creek, AZ
    Blake-
    :thumb

    Sigue hacia adelante mi hermano. Tu tienes mi admiración y respeto.

    You're doing it right.
  15. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Fun is a relative term. That’s why some people’s favourite roads are what others would call “bad”.

    The road, to use the term loosely, to Batopilas from Urique is one of those roads I think everyone can agree is bad, no matter how much fun you have on it.

    I have never dropped my bike so many times in one day. The steep inclines and washed out roads cluttered with boulders keep pushing me to the limits of my abilities as a rider; I am consistently outclassed by this dilapidated pathway. I am focused with all my being on keeping the bike up, but around every hairpin a new rutted ruin of a road further taxes my overspent resources. There’s no going back, so I grit my teeth and pick the bike up every time, my ragged tires slip and twist as I fight a battle for every foot of progress. With the hefty weight of the panniers on either side, the slightest tilt off balance is a struggle to recover from. I twist the throttle to keep the bike up as it threatens to fall, only to hit a patch of loose rocks that slip out from underneath; now I’m trying to save it from falling on the other side. At one point Lost tips over onto the shifter on an especially steep and slippery slope, the impact knocking the gear into neutral. I try to lift her but now she slips down the slope and falls again every time, the incline too sharp for the front brake to keep the bike up. Eventually I have to find a good rock and dig away at the road to reach the shifter, straining in the dust to switch into first so the bike will lock into place when lifted. The going doesn’t get any easier. It’s a Sisyphean endeavour, and I lose my sense of self completely as every fiber of my being focuses on keeping the bike upright, moving forward, and away from that patiently waiting edge cliff edge. Occasionally the road will branch into two equally rugged choices, never an indication of where they lead.

    After about the fifteenth (!) time I lose the battle (but not the war!) against the trials, one of my aluminum panniers decides to fall off in protest to being used as a cushion. I skid to a wobbly halt as my unbalanced ride yaws towards the edge. I empty the pannier and bash the box back into a more or less square shape again with one of the readily available rocks.
    Fits good as new – after all this I hope I’m going the right way.

    Occasionally a dwelling will be accessible from the path, but the locals are maddeningly unhelpful when it comes to asking directions. The native people of these cliffs are shy or unfriendly, and will pretend they don’t notice you unless you address them directly.

    I spot a man repairing a fence, and yell hello. No answer. I walk over a few feet away and say good day, he acknowledges me by looking at me expectantly.

    I ask the man, “Batopilas, is it that way?”
    Yes.
    I point in the opposite direction. “Batopilas, is it that way?”
    Yes.

    I’m concerned because gates are blocking the roads, wood lattices I have to take apart and put back together after crossing. Where the hell is this path taking me?
    The canyon is no less breathtaking as I make my slow progress, so I decide not to worry about it. I’m going somewhere, best to embrace it wherever it is.

    [​IMG]

    Standing on the pegs to better control the bike, I suddenly jerk to the left when my footpeg spins off – a bolt fell out! I can’t find it on the road, but fortunately I've been warned single cylinder thumpers like mine are notorious for rattling bolts off and am prepared with spares. I repair Lost in the shade of a pine tree, my boots crunching on the dirt road, the only company I’ve had all day. After several hours of wandering the meandering canyons open up before me to reveal a massive valley and a town below. Batopilas, in sight at last! At least I hope it’s Batopilas...

    The intensity of the day has driven my focus inward, the voices in my helmet quiet as my energies concentrate on the immediacy of the moment. This inner silence sharpens my appreciation of the landscape around me, raw contentment and a feeling of achievement suffuse each moment on what is, to me, the top of the world. I sit and observe in the afternoon sun and silence, not yet ready to enter the town and switch on.

    Eventually a truck drives by and breaks the spell. I take some photos for retrospect and head on down, the descent ludicrously simple after the day’s challenges; I enjoy the heightened feeling of awareness as the rear tire slips on the switchbacks and I simply twist the throttle for more speed, let the bike straighten itself out, no fear left for today, that inner animal conquered. If only I could capture and keep this feeling I could ride all the way to the top of the highest mountain, never need a road again.

    [​IMG]

    Batopilas is intriguing, I ride around its tilted streets after finding a place for the night – 150 pesos. Lost and I go wander. A cute girl winks at me as I pass by - hopefully I run into her later - but for now there’s exploring to do. Across from town a set of ostentatious buildings in ruins catch my eye, the evening sun highlighting the paper thin scarlet bougainvillea flowers covering the brick towers.

    Nobody seems to be around. I stroll through alone after a yelling out a couple of greetings, trying not to think of horror movie tropes. There are pickup trucks parked here, but everything seems to be vacant and falling apart. The trees grab my attention most of all; graceful forms contrasting against their effortless destruction of man’s fragile works. I see signs of habitation in the smaller structures closer to town – plastic chairs, clothes hanging on lines - but still no people. Strange.

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    Back in town I wander around and eventually sit down to chat with some locals. The conversation turns to my quest to discover a source of lechugilla moonshine – for its multiple uses such as fuel and sterilization of course. I’m entertained by hunting down a fellow named Lazaro Torres in a group of dwellings clustered together on the skirts of the cliffside. As soon as I get off the bike and start wandering around, the dogs approach growling and barking. A handy trick I picked up in Guatemala – I crouch and make as if to grab a rock and they quickly turn and run. Poor beasts have been trained harshly to fear people, here. I eventually get pointed to Lazaro’s house and a beautiful young woman comes to the door. He’s out working, but has sold all his hooch for now. I won’t be around long enough to catch the next batch, unfortunately, but get a lead on another town where I can find some on the way out of the canyon – Korareachi.

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    I park the bike inside the hotel and walk the streets at night, looking for something to fill my belly, and maybe run into that cute girl from earlier. I ask the armed police officer in front of the presidencia municipal building about the safety of wandering around at night. He says it’s fine, no worries. As I wander father towards the outskirts I fall into step with a middle aged woman of classically round Mexican proportions. She tells me I will get robbed, and that she never walks the streets alone at night. She explains to me that transient workers are housed at the hacienda across the river, and that robberies have increased with their presence. I ask her what she is doing out in that case, and she says, “Well I live here”. I walk with her until she turns at a door and wishes me a good night, and blesses me in the name of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I take it in stride and carry on, less than ten bucks in my pockets and ambivalent about the most likely imagined dangers.

    I have a burger at a food stand, curious if it will be different so far from the beaten path. It is, and not for the better, but it’s food. Kids play with a soccer ball in the street, and I think of the friends I left behind in Urique. The people here are friendly but it doesn’t feel the same here – I’m a tourist again. It makes me wonder why it is that I don’t miss my vastly more intimately friendly community back in the frozen North, but I suppose it is merely the immediacy of the departure – eventually it will all fade into memory, overwhelmed by the present. I enjoyed the change of pace, but it’s good to be moving again. Too quickly I settle into a comfortable rhythm, my shallow root system taking hold. Need to keep the momentum, or the adventure decays into indulgence.

    Nothing wrong with stopping to savour the places I pass, but there is a long road ahead of me. There will be time enough for comfort, for the now I seek adventure.

    Be careful what you wish for...
  16. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Gracias Cyberdos and Vonhawkrider, good to hear the support from my adoring fans :rofl:rofl
  17. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    (but seriously thanks, good to hear from yous!)
  18. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,908
    El Ex! So good to see another posting from you! This remains a completely unique and fascinating ride report! To steal a line from Kerouac: 'you got eyes.'
  19. GAS GUY

    GAS GUY MILE EATER

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,267
    Location:
    Garden City, Michigan
    Best moto travel writing and photos combined that I have come across,and that includes all the published stuff.
    Keep up the awsome reports,and thanks !!!!:clap
  20. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    High praise gents, I'll have to be sure to keep it coming :cheers: