Never listen to a non cyclist describing a route! Technically she was correct: yesterday we did decend from over 500m to sea level, so we set off without looking at the contours expecting an easy ride. But within the first hour we had dropped 300m and climbed 250m twice. For over 100km we rolled along steep hills that required my full range of gears. It was pretty, with lots of friendly waves and considerate drivers. There are many roadside ‘comedors’ ( cheap eats) and families selling plastic cups of chopped pineapple, further sweetened with runny honey. The landscape is severely denuded, simply to harvest the timber, although we did pass some ranches and in the lowland, palm oil production.
I couldn’t bear to photograph the young boys branding cattle and removing their horns. Far too gory. Likewise the tiny grandmother with four siblings, the eldest only eight or nine, all of them burdened with huge bundles of firewood, yet excited to see us and trying to wave as well as balance their loads.
Near Poptun we stayed at Finca Ixabel, a delightful farm with the most fantastic food, log cabins with shared eco-showers and the most incredible food. I wanted to stay for a week and get fat! There we met a cycle club – a LADIES cycle club, in their brand new pink outfits – except for the wealthy, women have absolutely no status in Guatemala ( highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Latin America, femicide – less than 4% conviction rate….7% girls married by 15, 30% by18 which is the official age for marriage…..) Cycle club instigator Annie is a talented German linguist who lives in Poptun.
Poptun has a teeny tiny airport with a rustic air traffic control tower and grassy landing strip: we met the chief controller – with less than one daily flight, perhaps then only controller? And we thought of you Sid Mitchelmore.
Destination Rio Dulce, and for the last 20 km the traffic increased and we were glad of the storm lane. Rio Dulce was once called La Frontera, the end of a remote road withonly a small ferry connecting across to southern Guatemala. But then a huge bridge was constructed linking Rio Dulce to Guatemala city and bingo! In comes development. The first casualty is this small market town with thunderingly huge lorries struggling down the narrow high street. Our hotel room faces the lake but every time a heavy lorry passes the whole building vibrates.
Charles has returned from a haircut and a scraped shave, and his sunglasses keep falling off! It’s extremely neat, perhaps better suited to a fourteen year old: I haven’t seen his chin for years!!
Notice the armed guard by the Christmas tree: this country has 30,000 police and 150,000 armed security guards.