Thursday, 14 January 2016

D Day

It's amazing how many decisions you have to make in a day isn't it? The first one for me usually comes at about 5am when I have to decide whether to get up for a pee or not? Will I get back to sleep? Can I sleep now though, now it's on my mind?

Let me run you through some of the decisions we made today. To save my little typing finger, a decision will from now on be called a D.

D. Are we still leaving Suchitoto today? We'd pretty much made our minds up last night but were we sure? Yes was the answer.

D. Breakfast. $2 Pupusas again or back to Gringos cafe where we had dinner, for $7 fruit & pancakes? We both went for the pancakes. We both also D'd that they'd have been much nicer if the El Salvadorian ENT Clearing Team hadn't been in training next door... Want Guacamole with that?

We were soon back out on that lovely Kentish country lane but heading west this time. D. Keep sitting down and twiddle away up the steep climb or change up a gear, stand up and 'get it done'. Bit of both actually... That 20km stretch of road was bloody lovely. We'd actually been wondering if we were going off this cycling lark, on a road like that? Never!

Another easy D was whether to go back to the same cafe where we'd had those mega cakes and coffee. Also an easy D for me to not bother trying to get on the wifi.
A much harder D was which way to go next. We're heading pretty much south to the coast. The obvious route would be to go via San Salvador, the big capital city with a less than great reputation. "Left wing radical art galleries, pumping night clubs and an apparent high number of muggings" didn't really appeal as we sat there sipping on our iced lattes.  Hmm, to not go into the city though meant a fair old detour around it including what looked like a mega climb over a mountain range. How about a compromise? The smaller satellite town of Santa Tecla sits to the south west of the main city and apparently offered some life without risk of death. At a distance of about 65km, it sounded good. According to Kate, had an ok looking hotel available, so, the D was made. 
The ride was never going to be a corker as it followed a few main roads but what to do, better than mega mountain????
After an hour or so the road felt pretty hot and endless

They sell water here in little bags which are a better D for the environment and wallet

We got to the busy town of Apopa and probably didn't make the best D on where to pull over for a quick check of the map

Moving swiftly along we D'd for a KFC style lunch, the lure of the air conditioning winning over the nutrition. The armed doorman welcomed us despite the fact we looked a little 'warm'.

On we went, now on a very hot, busy, noisy dual carriageway ring road around the city. 

The all too familiar sign next to the coconut stall let us know what lay ahead.

How can a hill on what was effectively a motorway demand granniest of granny gear? I don't know but it did. After a km or 2 we stopped for a breather in the shade of a scraggy tree.

Quick D, too hot, move on. I was ahead and saw some decent shade created by a big billboard advertising chicken (they usually are) either that or some Eurasian model with perfect teeth smiling like an idiot for some inane reason. I, on the other hand was not smiling. I stood there straddling my bike, my head down, resting on the handlebars, my pulse beating in my ears, my eyes staring down in a bit of a daze.
kate arrived. Well her left foot did anyway. It came into view just as 2 drops of my sweat landed simultaneously (1 from my head, 1 from inside my shorts - yuk). "I'm getting off for a bit" she said, sitting down on the scrubby grass. I got off and joined her. Just as I sat down my bike fell over. D, any damage done was done, it could wait.
An 'official' stop like this heralds the removal of helmet, headband and sunglasses. I don't waste the sweat caught in my headband though. I ring it out onto any dry bits of my shirt. Quite disgusting but the cooling effect is very welcome. 
Eventually, after another mile or so we made it to the top. That b@stard hill had fought us all the way, hiding the last steep bit around the last turn. 

Quick D. An oasis. A petrol station. We leant the bikes up outside, waved hello to the 2 armed guards, tripped up the step inside the door (who put that there?) and headed for the fridges. Beer? Tempting but we still had too far to ride

We rubbed the cold bottles of Gatorade all over our necks and faces before guzzling them down. What we must have looked like to the 3 young, bored uniformed staff, God only knows.

There was no 'pay back' descent to speak of. My map on my phone said keep straight on the highway, Kate's said turn right onto a smaller road. We D'd to go with hers and were soon pumping our way up 'Calle Volcan', yep, Volcano street. Great! The climb eventually levelled as we skirted around, looking down onto that big ole city of iniquity(?). 

Jeez those buses came close. I'm not sure if riding around here was much more dangerous than any UK City, it was just the implications if anything were to go wrong.

We got into heavier traffic, steep hills and big roundabouts. D time again. Keep wide and out of the way but expose yourself more as you cross the exits or head for the centre and hug the kerb?
More hills, more nutter buses, more roundabouts. Hug or wide? Dyou know, I was D'd out. I know it's when you're tired that accidents happen but I just couldn't be bothered to think about it any more. I'm not convinced either technique is better than the other.

Hadn't we been down this street already? No, they just all looked the same. Chicken shops, tyre shops, exhaust fixers... Most with an armed guard outside, his arms resting casually on his pump action shotgun. I waved, they waved. They actually all looked quite friendly, well I don't suppose that I looked much like enemy No1.

Then, out of the blue a cycle path appeared. Bit potholed, few low hanging branches to duck under but a protected cycle path it was. It didn't last long though, in fact it just stopped. We needed to go straight on down the fast moving dual carriageway but had 2 big sweeping exits one after another to get past. "Let's just get some speed up and go for it" I said, heading off first. The driver who swerved across in front of me clearly hadn't been paying attention in their 'be kind to cyclists' lesson. It was a pretty close thing... 

The roundabout we needed to turn right at was all dug up. It was more like riding through a building site than a major road junction in a capital city. I knew we had about 6.5km to go after the turn. My computer said 58.3. As I bumped through the dirt heading for the exit ramp my brain stuggled with the simple arithmetic. The ramp was steep, my legs struggled with the gravity. Quick glance over my shoulder, yep, Kates back there, just starting the climb. 

Pedestrians walked in the road.  The pavements were clogged with parked cars, building materials and god knows what, making it impossible to walk or ride there. Some of the lady's  were almost the width of a small car, forcing us out into the 'fast lane' as we passed them.  More mad buses. God, would this ever end?

Yes it would. I held the bikes as Kate went into the reception of the Mango Inn. She was soon back out again. I'm sure you can only image the sinking feeling when she announced that they were full. It turned out she hadn't actually booked the hotel when she found it on the net just a few hours (and a lifetime) ago. She's done nothing wrong, just assumed that seeing as it was mid week and availability looked fine that it would be ok. I'd have done the same.

So, more D's.  We rode around in search of an alternative. We found a skanky but expensive one with a grumpy owner so rode on. With 70.2km on the clock we went back to the skanky one. The few other decent places were full and we'd had enough. 

A cold shower and quick change preceded our final decision, which bar to head to?
That was the easiest D of the day


  1. Cor blimey, that sounds like a tough old day! Wondering if you made a final D of the day about whether to move quickly along tomorrow, or was that D already made? Sounds like you deserve a rest, but maybe not the most idyllic of places for it?

  2. We moved swiftly along! A 30km pretty much downhill ride to the beach. And relax😄