El Cuco to León

Y El Cuco to Leon
I feel naked.

As I was biking through El Cuco this morning, a bunch of guys said “nice bike!” and I took the opportunity to ask if they wanted to buy it.

I suggested $70 USD, as I actually really wanted to get rid of it. I also wanted to include my pump, padlock, spare tire and repair tools in the deal, since I’d have no use for it anymore. But they were a tough crowd (probably more experienced businessmen than I), and my bus was about to leave, so after a bit of haggling, I accepted $50 for the bike but kept the rest of the stuff.
rip bike
I hope to get at least $10 dollars for my remaining bike stuff later somewhere. Throwing it away seems dumb, and no way I’d give it to those guys, even though they tried to get their hands on them for free after the deal was done.

I think I could have done better with the haggling, but getting back half of what I paid for the bike still seems okay. With this, I should have enough cash for my final week in Central America! No more Western Union! \o/

Bus from El CucoAt 8:30, I took the bus from El Cuco to San Miguel, arrived at 10:00 and immediately left with the next bus to Santa Rosa. Got there an hour later, and once again switched bus very quickly to reach the Honduran border. Three hours of travel time, $3 in total.

To be fair, El Salvador seems very bikeable. Flat roads, not very far between cities. Would have been nice if I were not already tired of this biking thing!

pupusa
The goal of the day was to reach as far as possible towards my final destination, which is Managua, Nicaragua. It was not yet noon, and I took a break at an eatery by the border to have my first and only authentic El Salvadorian pupusa for $1. It was okay I guess.

imigration honduras
So far on my trip, there has barely been any lines at all when crossing borders, but now they felt endless. Definitely another advantage of biking and not arriving at the same time as a lot of buses. Had to pay $3 once again to enter Honduras.

I got through the customs at 12:20, and this time I wasn’t to lucky with the timing: The next minivan leaving for Guasaule by the Nicaraguan border didn’t leave for another hour! I was not in a hurry though, and sat down in the shade to read.

Amatillo - Guasaule
The trip in the van was $6 USD, was long and uncomfortable. My leg particularly was hurting more and more, as we made no stops and I couldn’t stretch it once during the 2.5 hour drive.

Endless line of trucks
This does not seem to be a touristic border crossing. Mostly tons of trucks that we could luckily pass.

It was very nice to finally get off! Then I was attacked by loads of people wanting to drive me to the supposedly impossible distance to the border, but it’s just 400 meters and a nice little walk. Don’t get fooled!

Exiting Honduras was fast, but entering Nicaragua is a little more complicated. Lots of forms and receipts I need to keep, and there’s also a $12 USD fee! I didn’t have smaller bills than a ten and a five, and he told me he only had $2 to change. Hard to believe that the entire office was out of one dollar bills, but I didn’t want to make a fuzz, and agreed to pay $13 instead.

wild west
The small town on the other side of the border was like coming to the wild west! Ducks and chickens running around, people getting around by horse. An old lady had her boobs hanging out.
wild west horses
So many horses! Felt like a big contrast compared to other places I’ve been recently.

I got on the bus, but it didn’t depart until an hour later, at 6pm. And when I arrived in León two hours later, it was already dark outside. Also, the terminal was four kilometers from the hostel I had looked up online.  If only I had a bike, it would have been no problem, but now, I had to catch a taxi, another $2 spent.

All in all probably my most expensive day on my trip:
– Buses from El Cuco to the border, $3
– Enter Honduras, $3
– Minivan to next border, $6
– Enter Nicaragua, $13
– Bus to León, $2
– Taxi to hostel, $2
$29 US dollars excluding food!!

That’s what happens when being in three countries the same day, I guess.

At least the hostel, Punche de Oro, is really cheap. $5.5 per night, including breakfast! The guy working tonight was really friendly as well.
We’ll see tomorrow if it’s a good breakfast or not.

laundry
Before going to bed, I did manual laundry. I’m new at this, so I hope the clothes won’t stink tomorrow.

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Mahahual – Bacalar

g mahaual - bacalar
First I want to tell about apparently the only laundry place in Mahahual. It can be found next to the restaurant The Krazy Lobster; they charge 20 pesos per kilo, so it’s not too bad if you don’t have much to be washed.
They said it would be done by 1pm the next day though, but when I came at 2:30pm, it was still not finished. “Only two minutes left!” they told me, so I walked around a little bit and came back five minutes later. “Only five minutes left!”

And so it kept going on, and I didn’t get them until past 3pm. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, because everything is slow in small villages like these, including the restaurant service. Just take a deep breath and you’ll be fine. But this time, my bike trip was delayed by an hour, which would turn out to have dire consequences.

So, on to the biking of the day!

Because of the late laundry, I didn’t start biking until 3:30pm. I was not sure yet what my plan would be, if I’d find a hostel in Pedro Antonio Santos, 65 km ahead, or if I would have to go all the way to Bacalar, 104 km away. But that could wait until later, I was optimistic and looked forward to get back on the road!

And everything started so well. The wind was at my back and I thought that maybe I’ll make this return distance at half the time compared to the other way around!

Half-way there, I suddenly felt that something was wrong. It was heavier and unbalanced. I stopped by the road, fearing the worst. And for good reason:
The tire was flat.

Crap.

I unwrapped my newly bought pump and wondered how the heck one fixes a flat tire.
48 flat tire
I started by simply pumping, to see if the air would stay. Once the tire was hard, it was a bit tricky to remove the pump without leaking out air. But I did it okay. And bounced a little on the bike to see the results.

The air was already almost gone again.

“This is bad!” I thought, as I looked for the repair kit I had also bought. Then I started unhinging the outer part of the tire, as I recall grandpa did so many years ago. It seemed to go well! But where was the leak?!
49 flat tireI kept pressing on the rubber tube, keeping my ear close to one spot at a time. Not a damn sound. I turned the bike upside down in an attempt to hear it better, but no such luck.

After I don’t know how long, and my attempt to stop a car or bus had failed too many times, I decided to just wrap it up and bike little by little, stopping regularly to refill air as to not break the wheel.

I got started. And kept going. And kept going. I wondered when I would hear metal from below me or something, but. It never happened! Was my tire not broken after all?! I don’t understand bikes, but I kept on biking with no more breaks.
50 flat tire
(Picture showing how I successfully managed to put back the tire to its original state again.)

I arrived on the highway around 7pm. Despite a long reparation break, I had made the same distance in 3:30 hours, 90 minutes less than it took to go the other direction. So I definitely recommend bus to get to Mahahual, biking back!

I saw a bus stop and wondered if I should just continue biking the last 46 km, or hope that a bus or colectivo (a cheap white van/bus) would pick up both me and the bike.
I decided for the latter, sat down and made a banana sandwich. (It’s my special recipe; peel a banana and put between two slices of bread. Squeeze. It’s quite juicy!)

One colectivo actually stopped for me! But it was full. The driver said something about how the next one would be emptier, and something that was either “veinte y uno” (21:00) or “veinte hay uno” (20:00 there’s one).
I wished with all my powers that it was the latter, or something even better, because it was already getting dark, and the mosquitoes were getting annoying.

It was a frustrating waiting game. I wondered if I should just bike the final 2 hours to Bacalar instead of finding a bus, but once the time passed 8pm, I realized that this would not be possible; it was already pitch-black outside, and I have no lights on my bike.

By 8:30, I gave up in frustration, got on my bike and started riding despite the darkness. Pedro Antonio Santos was only 6 km away, and I figured that I might have better luck there.

I biked. It was actually easier with no traffic around, because the moon lit up the road well enough for me to avoid the holes. Traffic coming from behind was also nice, I could see well for a long distance ahead. Meeting traffic was horrible, as I only saw their lights and the road in front of me was completely black.

Yes, this was dangerous. Not recommended.

But I made it to a bus stop in the tiny village Pedro Antonio Santos in one piece! An old man kept talking to me about how he’s always wanted to visit Europe, and I believe he also said that there’s a big house further ahead, where I can ask to stay the night, so I can continue biking the next morning.
I considered it for a little, but then finally, a bus came and stopped! RESCUED.
51 nice bus
We put the bike in the spare tire trunk, and arrived in Bacalar 40 minutes later. Only 30 pesos for the ride!

Here, I biked around until I saw a sign that said “hostal”. It’s called El mesón del pirata, on calle 20 / ave 5, and it costs 200 pesos per bed in a dorm. Not the cheapest, but not bad either.

This was the most adventurous day so far! I’m kind of relieved that it all went well.