Cycling the Old Highway
There is a man made highway from near where I live through to Guatemala City. It is 40 kms shorter than the paved highway people take with their vehicles, but takes many hours more of travel because of sharp climbs and descents.
In the spirit of adventure, I think it would be a cool experience to travel a local portion of this highway on bicycle. We leave at 6:30 AM to beat the noon-day sun. We cycle 14 kms south of Tactic to a place called Pantin. The mist is still rising from the valley when we pull off the highway onto the old #5.
I think maybe I have over packed with water (2.6 L), but as it would happen we could have used perhaps 4 more litres. I also carry snacks, the patch kit, the human patch kit, tools, cameras, swimming trunks in case we come upon some pools, money, Swiss Army Knife, and TP.
My neighbour Walter and a visiting friend, Garth from Calgary accompany me on this trek. Early parts of the road remind me a lot of some country roads in eastern Canada, the pine trees especially. We climb steadily up for the first few kms. It is rough going due to the heavy bikes, unreliable gears, gravel/dusty road, and our combined lack of biking preparation.
After the initial climb, we descend the first of two passes. The landscape changes dramatically; there is virtually no green except the lingering pines and "mague" plants. The heat becomes intolerable and the sun climbs up over our heads.
We take a break every couple minutes, usually when we find shade, often to fix a rear wheel that keeps kicking out of position so it rubs against the frame. Going down hurts more than going up because the road is rough and we have to ride our brakes down, bruising our hands.
Though going up becomes more tedious as time wears on. We are getting dehydrated, exhausted, and hot. We have a second mountain pass before we reach our destination in Salamá.
After riding down an incredibly steep road into the Salamá valley, we arrive at a small store where we buy 3.5 L of water and some other cold drinks. We recuperate quickly and finish the last 4 kms to the city where we have a lunch at Pollo Campero.
The decision is unanimous: we take the bus back to Tactic.