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Sep 25

Central Ameri-WHERE?

Where is this road going to take me?!

The other morning I was riding my bike, as I tend to do a lot these days, when I looked up and suddenly found myself in Central America.  Tony and I had crossed the border into Belize.

It was the first day of Stage 5 of the Tour de Zack y Tony.  Stage 5?  What was that?  As I rode along, I realised that I hadn’t really planned anything for Stage 5.  I didn’t even have a funny “AKA Operation: ____” name picked out yet.  As I pedaled along on the first Central American roads of the trip, I mused over the countries we would be passing through over the next few months on and found that I had very mixed feelings about the road ahead.  Primarily, this was because I did not have any thoughts about the road ahead.  I sounded out the names in my mind: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and waited patiently for the echo to bring me something back from the dark recesses in the back of my skull.

Nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. A couple years back I’d read an OK book by a female Australian author that took place in El Salvador in the 90s.  Panama brought me images of the Panama Canal, about which I’ve written several reports on in my life.  Guatemala brought back memories from the weekend trip my compadre JC and I took there a few months back.  Vague recollections drifted in from my History of the Americas class in high-school.  A short conversation I had about Nicaragua in 2003 with my Finnish friend Sampo bizarrely rose up from the depths.  I could dig up fuzzy references, but nothing cohesive enough to form a solid mental image or to conjure up expectations.  I tried to fill in the gaps with the information I’d been collecting from other travelers over the past six months, but even that was not enough to pull the scraps together and put them into context.  The context being that my bicycle tires were now set on a path that would pass through all of these places over the next three months.

I used a finger to rake a drop of sweat out of my eye and reached down to take a swig of water while I chuckled to myself.  Despite 9 months of knowing I would be riding through Central America, I was still surprised to find myself heading there – oh wait, I was already here.

I never had any desire to travel to Central America.  Oh sure, if before this trip you had asked me if I fancied traveling there some day, I would have replied with a resounding yes.  After all, I want to travel everywhere.  Truth be told though, Central America hadn’t even made it onto the list yet and if it weren’t for this tour, “some day” probably would not have come for many, many years.  South America, now there was a destination I knew something about.  When I left Australia a year ago, South America had already been sitting at the top of my list for well over 3 years, I had been casually collecting information on the continent for all that time from books, movies, people, travelers, friends, and photosColombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil… a lot sprang to mind when I thought about any of those southerly countries.

I gently shifted gears and watched as the chain cautiously moved up from the middle ring and sat itself onto the big ring.  My cadence slowed temporarily as my legs adjusted to the more difficult gear and I watched the speedometer jump from 18 to 24 kph.  We were cruising comfortably now.  I could feel a soft headwind pushing against me but the roads were still flat here in Belize and though I was already dripping from the humidity, it was still relatively cool this early in the morning as the sun had yet to push through the clouds low on the horizon.

I like surprises.   The thought started as a whisper in the back of my mind but gained in strength as I paid it more attention.  It was true.  I did like surprises.  I liked being spontaneous.  I liked “flying by the seat of my pants”.  I churned over this information as I rolled along to see if it had enough substance to mold into an attitude.  I reckoned it did.

Just then, the sun came out of hiding and I felt my back warm up as the rays began their daily fight against the sun-screen I had slathered on earlier.  As sun continued to rise I felt my mood rise with it and my doubts and mixed-feelings slowly melt away.  Very well, I decided, Central America is going to be a surprise.  I squinted my eyes to the increasing glare and reached for my sunglasses.  As I slipped them on, I smiled to think of the adage, or song lyric, or whatever it was, that my father used to always say whilst I was growing up.

“My future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

1 comment

  1. Seph

    Yes it is indeed!

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