Chess

In Playa El Cuco, Antonio asked me if I wanted to play chess, a big smile on his face. He likes it so much that he carries around a small, magnetic board.

Cuco_Chess

He beat the shit out of me twice. Antonio is really good. A sneaky player, it seemed he had moves planned out well in advance. Towards the end of the second game, he got pretty cocky. As I moved a piece, he said, “Really? It is not a good move.” I took it back and thought about it. I made a different move. “Better.” It seemed he wanted the role of chess sensai.

Cuco_Chess_Antonio

In Corinto, Nicaragua, Antonio asked, “You want another chess lesson?” Cocky from the start. We played and after I made a few good moves, including taking his queen, there was silence. And when I got his king cornered, he tipped it over, surrendering, “You win.” He surrendered before I got to beat him. I told him he should keep playing. The next move, I put him in check-mate.

Addition:
Antonio and I played chess a few more times, with him winning more often.  There was a frustrating stalemate when I messed up after getting him down to just his king — he really enjoyed that one.  But on the final night of traveling together, we played twice, both times I won.

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Zacatecoluca to Playa El Cuco (El Salvador)

Stats: 58.84 mi, 12.8 avg, 29.7 mx, 4.5 hrs

Antonio and I decided to try to get to Playa El Cuco, but we had to climb over some mountains to get there. As we were taking a break from riding up the mountain, a truck stopped to offer us a ride. Antonio was going to refuse it, but I told him I was going to hop in, so he came too. He told me that it was his first time in his trip from Alaska to get a ride; he didn’t like it. I told him that I try to just flow like water; if an opportunity presents itself, I’ll take it.

Cuco_Amigos

And the people in the truck were really generous. When we got to the beach, they gave us vodka, and beer, we hung out with their family, who were visiting from New Jersey, and they gave us some food. I told Antonio, “I’m glad we took that ride.” He didn’t seem impressed as he was trying to hold true to his biking-only, purist idea.

Cuco_Amigos_Drink

We found a depressing, cinder-block room with straw-mat bed and hammock and no fan for $5 per night. The bed was a wood frame with rope strung across it and few straw mats placed on top. Antonio said he would sleep in the hammock.

Cuco_Room

The bathroom was a large sink full of water and a washboard, and a toilet where you’d have to pour water into the bowl to flush it down. No shower. Antonio stood naked by the sink lathering himself up with soap. I bathed in the ocean.

Cuco_Sink

We stayed at El Cuco another day to rest and to bide our time before entering Honduras, which was having problems after a military coup.

Cuco_Kids_Eoin

Rodrigo and Malcolm were two kids who were constantly hanging around, and talking to me. It was hard saying, “No entiendo” so much.

Cuco_Kids_Dog

They wanted to show me this wet, dead dog.

Italian Cycling Partner – Antonio

As I was having complimentary breakfast at the hotel in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador, a strange-looking guy with cycling shorts and shoes walked in and sat down. He had a long goatee and a completely shaven head except for a patch of straggle at the back. Antonio is an Italian who’s cycled from Alaska. As we finished breakfast, he asked, “We cycle together, no?” I said yeah, but told him that I have a sore knee and that I hope I could keep up.

Antonio_Sitting

I found out he’s on an old mountain bike loaded with shit. He’s got a stuffed-animal dolphin tied to the back, his bike chain creaks, and his front (disc) brakes don’t work. I rode much faster as I have skinner tires and a bike in good repair.

Cuco_Antonio_Bike_Load

I would ride ahead, then take a break and wait for him. Although we rode at a different pace, it was good to have a partner again to share the experience – to complain about the heat and terrain, to set a goal destination for the day, and to have someone to eat with.

Cuco_Eoin_Antonio_Sitting

We decided to try to get to Playa El Cuco, but we had to climb over some mountains to get there. As we were taking a break from riding up the mountain, a truck stopped to offer us a ride. Antonio was going to refuse it, but I told him I was going to hop in, so he came too. He told me that it was his first time in his trip from Alaska to get a ride; he didn’t like it. I told him that I try to just flow like water; if an opportunity presents itself, I’ll take it.

And the people in the truck were really generous. When we got to the beach, they gave us vodka, and beer, we hung out with their family, who were visiting from New Jersey, and they gave us some food. I told Antonio, “I’m glad we took that ride.” He didn’t seem impressed as he was trying to hold true to his biking-only, purist idea.

We found a depressing, cinder-block room with straw-mat bed and hammock and no fan for $5 per night. The bed was a wood frame with rope strung across it and few straw mats placed on top. Antonio said he would sleep in the hammock.

The bathroom was a large sink full of water and a washboard, and a toilet where you’d have to pour water into the bowl to flush it down. No shower. Antonio stood naked by the sink lathering himself up with soap. I bathed in the ocean.

We stayed at El Cuco another day to rest and to bide our time before entering Honduras, which was having problems after a military coup.

Rodrigo and Malcolm were two kids who were constantly hanging around, and talking to me. It was hard saying, “No entiendo” so much.

They wanted to show me this wet, dead dog.

Playa El Zonte to Zacatecoluca (El Salvador)

Stats: 45.36 mi, 12.1 avg, 30.5 mx, 3.75 hrs

There was no internet access in Playa El Zonte, and it had been almost a week since I contacted my family. It was also my mom’s birthday, so I had to leave to get to an internet cafe. I found one in La Libertad, and read messages between my mom and sister saying, “What will we do if we don’t hear from Eoie?” A grim thought. I found my mom on gchat, wished her happy birthday, and told her I was okay.

Food_Fish_Libertad

I traveled my 2000th mile.  Holding up a Two and a Zero, backwards.  I needed Ryan for the other Zeroes.

Salvador_2000_Mile

Surfing

Jorge let me borrow a tight Spider-Man surfing shirt, and a big yellow surfboard. My surfing lesson began with lying face down on the black sand, acting like I was paddling, and then hopping up to having both feet firmly planted and knees bent, all in one swift movement. It was tough and then even tougher in the water.

Zonte_Surfing_Eoin_2

I think the hardest part was paddling fast enough to have enough speed for the wave. My pathetic arms got weak quickly, and Jorge, my teacher who was standing in the water, pushed the board to give me enough speed to stand up and surf. And I did it a few times, like three.

Then my hour of lesson was up, and I was on my own. I got whipped around by the waves, salt up my nose. It was disheartening as I was paddling out to see a huge wave about to break on top of me. I tried to duck underneath it, but I had a surfboard that floats, and the cable attaching me to the surfboard would pull me back, and sometimes get tangled around my arm, bruising me. I got up on the surfboard a couple more times, but then I gave in; it didn’t take long for the waves to break my spirit.

Zonte_Jorge_Eoin

I came back a few more times to try to surf since I had rented the board for the day, but I started seeing it more as a chore – I didn’t want to face the waves anymore. So I did the easiest thing: I used the surfboard as a body-board. I just rested on top and let the waves bring me in.

I Hate Tortillas

I’m getting sick of eating tortillas with every meal. They’re the thick, home-made ones and they’re tasteless and boring. I usually have to get through three or four of them for each meal because I feel bad about just letting them sit (and they offer a cheap way to get full).

In Guatemala and El Salvador, they’re thick, but across the border in Honduras, they’re the thin kind. Nicaragua also. Still pretty boring though.

Playa El Zonte (El Salvador)

At the first hotel I came to, I could camp for $5 or get a room for $25. Ouch! And the menu was pricey too, around $12 per entree. An American named Dustin offered to split a room. I left my bike at the hotel, and went off to find a better deal.

The next place was $15 per night, and Jorge offered surfing lessons and surfboard rentals for $10. I hadn’t even considered it before, but surfing was something I’ve wanted to learn, and it would give me the opportunity to rest my leg. $15 was too high though.

Zonte_View

After wandering around a little longer, and finding a weird, improvised place to camp under the awning of a comedor’s shack for $3, I came back to the second place and tried to haggle Jorge for a better price since I wanted to do a surfing lesson. He gave me $5 per night for a room. I got my bike from the hotel, and told Dustin about $5 per night. He came with me, and we split a room.

Dustin and Travel Styles

Dustin was an overweight, bearded, nice-guy in his early 30s. He had been planning this backpacking trip through Central and South America for two years. This was his big trip, and he had all the gear, but too much of it, like overpriced technical shirts with zip-off parts and air-vents and Keen water sandals. Dustin was stumbling and fumbling most of the time trying to please, but he snuck in a few remarks indicating that he thought his trip was “better” than mine. He wondered why I was traveling through these countries if I didn’t want to go well off track to see some site like a ruin or church of mediocre importance. “Do you think you’ll come back to these countries later and travel more slowly to see more sights, like I’m doing?” Definitely not. I’ve realized that most sights are boring and unmemorable; I got really sick of these in Eastern Europe – churches, museums, bridges, and buildings. And backpacking kind of sucks – heavy bag, waiting for buses, tourist track, and hostelling friends. The fun and memorable part of travel is the experiences you have along the way – the people, the problems, and the challenges. You get a lot more of this on bike, and especially when you’re not visiting the sights.

Zonte_Dustin_Eoin

Food was also way overpriced. $5 for a hamburger. Expensive El Salvador. Dustin and I had to go back out onto the main highway to find some pupusas, cheese, meat, and bean-filled tortillas, for 3 for $1.