Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Next Chapter

January 11th to January 31st

Cycle tours never begin smoothly.....
At least that's my experience of them.

Arriving at Manchester airport 50 minutes later than planned due to snow related cancellation of the early train, I attempt to check-in. What can go wrong this time? I don't even have a bike with me, and thus disguised as just another normal traveller, all should be well - me thinks.

That is until an official checks my itinerary and states categorically that I cannot fly!
Hmmm – that sounds bad....

I'm returning via the United States and I'm informed that as a British citizen, I cannot fly to America on the return part of a ticket. She becomes suspicious when I explain I am on a bicycle tour and after checking my luggage she can't find a bike anywhere. She calls reinforcements and now there are 3 of them.
I left the bike in a pub in Guatemala three months ago I casually explain to them.
Their faces are a dead giveaway - they don't seem to believe me and time is pressing.....

After returning with proof of an onward flight to Guatemala and pages from my blog hastily printed at an internet terminal, they finally begin to waver. Shreds of truth supporting my story are beginning to emerge, but they don't back down that easily. The final debate seems to surround whether Guatemala is 'contiguous' with the United States - whatever that means. If it is – I still can't fly.

In the time honoured tradition of bureaucrats the world over they finally make a decision....
To pass the buck....
'Cameron' should have the final say.... So I am standing at an empty check-in area – (all other passengers have long since gone and are sipping coffee by the departure gate) whilst a phone call is placed to some bloke who gets to decide if Guatemala is indeed 'contiguous' and whether or not I fly today.

Finally, Cameron he say 'Yes'..... and I have 40 minutes to get that plane! Sprinting through airports is becoming a form of warm up exercise before cycle tours.

Sue on a separate flight, is also affected by the cycle tour curse. She gets delayed in Manchester misses her connection at Heathrow and is diverted an extra 2000 miles and ten hours via Los Angeles.
Of course her luggage isn't.

We are reunited at 6am outside Guatemala airport and agree it's all been worth it to swap the big freeze in the UK.....

To finally be back in the heat and colour that is Guatemala.....

We head for Antigua to await Sue's bag and collect bicycle number one.
That takes 3 days....

We head for San Pedro to collect my bike.....
That takes 7 days.
Well, getting the bike takes a day as Simon the guy who has my bike at The Alegre Pub is a fine fellow and there are no problems there. No the only problem is leaving Lake Atitlan again. Sue signs up for another Spanish school and I set up a cycle maintenance school as all the locals start bringing me their bikes once they see me overhauling ours.

Leaving this behind is hard....

Luckily we have a deadline to meet and cannot stay longer. We need to meet a friend of my brother's 'Mona Lisa' who is volunteering at an orphanage - 'Nuestros Hermanos Pequenos' (Our Little Brothers) close to Antigua. We have to deliver her bank cards which have been following her from Germany, via my brother's house in Kansas City. It's been in transit for nearly 2 months and it's good to see German banks are almost as useless as the ones in the UK. We catch up with her on her day off.

Milk Shakes – Guatemala style....

Big grins by Sue, me and Mona Lisa....

Thrown in at the deep end, she starts 10 straight shifts of 12 to 14 hours the following morning looking after pre-school age orphans in what promises to be a challenging and rewarding year ahead. It's made all the more tricky by her lack of Spanish which she is rapidly trying to learn. Good luck Mona Lisa – a brave move and it was nice meeting you.

Then follows 7 days I would rather forget as the local bugs test out my immune system gone soft after 4 months back in Blighty. My head fills with lead and my face and body aches as my nasal passages turn to stone. I am Mr Mucus!

Now I am not known for my stoicism in the face of illness, and Sue is not known for her nursing skills, so we slowly learn to despise each other as our hotel walls close in on us. We set the world record for least number of miles cycled in the first month of a cycle tour....

It cannot last – and finally, just like Lazarus before me, I miraculously rise from my death bed in a display of heroic fortitude....
Well, actually Sue tells me she's sick of my moaning, to stop malingering and kicking and screaming she throws me out of my death bed.

Finally – the tour can begin again.
WE RIDE.....


Anonymous said...

I miss the 4Q liquados from the cobblestone streets of San Pedro. And 7 days by Lago Atitlan was a quick escape! People can get stuck for months!

If you weren't a crazy cyclist & were instead holidaying i would suggest to cross the lake to San Marcos & have a relaxing meditation experience.... but since you are raving mad ;) have a fun ride!

Emma from Australia :)

Anonymous said...

Those "milk shakes" suspiciously look like they have alcohol in them - which may explain your "illness." Nice try, Martin - no sympathy from the US contingent!
Glad you and your blog are up and riding again. xxoo to you and Sue.


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