Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sustainable living in San Jose

Leaving Lanquín in the late afternoon, we pulled into Cobán fairly late, but found a fairly good hostel (Luna, or de Luna, or something like that) just a few blocks from the parque principal, thanks in part to our friend we met while Jill was on the phone. So many people we run into like to practice English, and love motorcycles. However, as it turned dark while we were at the parque, we were more than ready to get ourselves and the bike to a hotel.

The next morning, we headed north towards Flores, a few hours away. We even got to ride a ferry!

We pulled into Santa Elena, just south of the island of Flores, and gave Federico a call, a contact from Federico is Salvadorian, had lived in the States for over 15 years (leaving El Salvador in the 80s due to the war), and has been on Lago de Petén Itza for 8 years now. He his full of positive energy and has a wealth of knowledge of sustainable living that he’s more than happy to share. We had a blast getting to know him while camping in his backyard.

He prides himself on reusing all sorts of discarded goods. One of the most noticeable features is his use of old fridges as worm bins. Those little critters turn already good compost into absolute gold! The soil after earthworms work it is incredibly rich.

On our full day with Federico, we helped create a huge compost pile from horse manure, grass clippings, soil, and some nasty sludge that he was pulling out of a failed biodigester. It actually felt really good to be off the bike for a day and help out with some work around Federico’s place.

There was also a couple from Vancouver staying with Federico for a week. In their disgustingly topical new-age way, they were also looking to learn about sustainable living. But I tell you what, they were bad luck. With no experience ever riding a scooter or motorcycle, they rented a scooter in Mexico, crashing it on the 2nd day of their trip – they had some nasty road rash they were still working on healing up. (I am sorry that they went down, and am glad that all of their injuries were already healing nicely.) Jill and I ended up laying the TA down on a ride into town, because some random dog had a serious vendetta against our front tire. We were cruising on the mellow 2 lane highway when a dog came running out of his front yard, which is a normal occurrence on any road in Central America. This dog was different though. He locked onto our motorcycle like a missile and wanted desperately to head butt it for some reason (new-age, bad luck witch spell is the only reason we can think of). Instead of continuing to cross the road, or doubling back to the shoulder, he seriously ran straight at our front tire, stopping in its path, maintaining eye contact with Mike, letting him know that he meant it. Mike got the bike slowed down to 5-10 mph from 40 or so, when he tried to release the brakes and control a swerve around the kamikaze attacker, avoiding oncoming traffic and a huge shoulder drop off just a meter behind the dog. The front tire caught the be-spelled mutt with enough force to push the front of the TA to the side, quickly putting Jill and Mike on the pavement. We slid a couple of meters (visible in road photo below), but fared ok overall. Thankfully a fairly soft put-down. The oncoming truck (our other, less-forgiving option to crash into besides the canine) happened to be 2 firemen in their pick-up, who pulled over to help divert traffic and to check on us to make sure we were good. They were nice, asked a lot of questions, and repeated one of Jill’s comments in the best Guatemalan accent ever: Fucking DOG!

We bent a couple of brackets (passenger foot peg and chain guard bracket), so got the bike in riding condition and met up with Federico and the not-so-deep, yet-for-some-reason-dark, space cadets at a restaurant. We washed our wounds and drowned the experience with a couple of Gallos. It was also our chance to meet Federico’s daughters who are super smart and cute, and managed to brighten Federico up even more than his usual self, which I would’ve thought impossible before witnessing it.

In the next 24 hours, Federico, who has a ton of experience on bikes and currently has a little 100cc around town machine, had 2 run-ins with dogs, clipping one with his footpeg. That was his first and only instances since living there over the past 8 years. Bad luck, they were. Bad luck, I tell you.

(Note:  Mike does take full responsibility for the accident.  But potential sorcery makes such a better story.)

Aside from that bit of fun, our time in San Jose was absolutely enjoyable. Swimming at the dock in the clear, warm waters of Lago Petén was a perfect way to recover from our work day. In fact, we both jumped in with all of our clothes on, shoes an all, doing our best to keep some of the horse manure out of our saddlebag. The jury is still out on the success of that effort…

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