After leaving Vera Cruz, we headed south east through Mexico enjoying good roads and weather all the way to San Cristobal de las Casas where we stayed at the aptly-named Rossco Backpackers Hostel. Hostels are always fun because you meet fellow travellers in the common area where you can share stories and get tips and information. This one had a Korean, a Kiwi, a Brit and two Irish, all young people who entertained us with their travels and checked out the bikes. Price was right at about $30 for king bed, private bath, balcony, internet, secure courtyard and breakfast!
Crossing out of Mexico and into Guatemala was uneventful and was a home-coming for Steve and Ruth Ann who had lived there in 1977. Here we had our first, and hopefully last, flat. It happened about an hour out and Ross was able to pull off into a small pueblo to do the work. No sooner did he have the tools out then along came all the kids to check out the gringos. So while Ross and Steve worked and Ruth Ann helped, I pulled out Mr. Happy to entertain and keep them out of the way. It was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, which they thoroughly enjoyed correcting, and to teach them a few words of English. I'm still trying to figure out what conjugation of the verb 'to know' sent them into hysterical laughter and stifled giggles.
Guatemala certainly is full of spectacular scenery with the many volcanoes and beautiful lakes but the roads were horrific due to the recent heavy rains. At one point, the road was washed out and we had to do a river crossing-hopefully the last. The guys were perfect gentlemen and rode our bikes across while we provided moral support.
El Salvador was our next border and again we were able to cross unassisted although we did meet a young man on his way home to Costa Rica who helped expedite the process. And here is where we took some time out of the saddle. First we were invited to visit a former student of Ruth Ann's, Emily Boland, who is a Peace Corps worker here and then the Country Head, Jamie Kuklinski, invited us to his home in San Salvador. Jamie is a fascinating person who has worked all over the world and, as Country Head of El Salvador has 147 Peace Corps workers spread throughout the country. We spent a wonderful evening hearing about the Corps and visiting with Richard and Rosemary, friends of his from Wisconsin!
The next day, we headed north to Emily's pueblo, Neuvo Esparta, in the north east. Our arrival in this small town created quite a stir and we were invited to the Mayor's home for dinner followed by he and his wife serenading us with local music. Everyone loves Emily! Everywhere we go, people stop to chat and kids run up to give her a hug. She's been here two years and has been instrumental in helping the residents incorporate constituencies that will allow them to apply for municipal development incentives and has organized 'food festivals' to draw tourists and raise funds. This morning we had breakfast in the town square comprised of papusas, a tortia filled with beans, cheese and pork, a local speciality. We've been invited to a birthday party this afternoon so Ross is going to have to force himself to drink some local cerveza, just to be polite you understand!