Since recovering from being sick shortly after Christmas, we’ve been lowlanders. We left Tziscao, Mexico (elevation 4850 feet / ~1480 m) and descended into la selva (the jungle) on to the coast, where it was constantly hot, wet, humid and buggy. The exception to the discomfort was on the coast where we could see the water and the winds would help keep the mosquitoes at bay while providing some relief from the heat.
The combination of heat, humidity and exercise have left us dehydrated several times on this trip and our recent respite from bicycling made us forget that we need to drink early and often. We tried to counteract the effects of dehydration with the combination of stopping to rest more frequently, forcing ourselves to drink more and eating fruit.
The good news/bad news story of the day was a teacher protest. It was fortunate for us that the road was blocked by a throng of teachers chanting and holding placards (with perfect penmanship, and to their credit, all spelled correctly), agitating for higher wages. Traffic was not so lucky since the protestors’ actions shut down the intersection of CA-9 (the main highway running from Puerto Barrios to the capital city) and CA-10. Apparently the protests were nationwide.
We took advantage of the situation by resting in the shade of the bridge crossing the Rio Hondo and swimming in the river while the police, in full riot gear, and the protestors negotiated an end to the blockade.
About two hours later the traffic started to roll again and we joined the trucks, that were moving not much faster than we were. One benefit of the stream of slow moving eighteen wheelers was that they created a wall that blocked the sun, providing some shade from the late afternoon sun. We found further relief and rehydration in the form of a watermelon, purchased from a friendly lady at a stall in the middle of about twenty stalls, lined up on the side of the road. Even though it seems to be the norm, it still is an odd site to see so many vendors clumped together, all selling the same goods.
Later, it was almost a shock how quickly our surroundings changed when we started climbing away from the lowlands and followed a sharp bend in the road through a pass. We were back over 1000 feet (~300 m) in elevation. As we searched for a campsite we noticed the humidity had significantly dropped and the air almost felt cool. Gone were the black flies and mosquitoes intent on taking their nips of flesh and drinks of blood. The lush and dense greenery was replaced with plants and cacti that wanted to poke, snag and tear. This will be a test for the thorn-resistant tubes we recently installed (courtesy of the Cait & Mark delivery service).
The quick change in micro climates reminded me of traveling through the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and Oregon, where rounding a bend or changing elevations produced a noticeable change in flora. The changes in our surroundings also made me think of the changes, especially in technology, that have made the large world seem so much smaller compared to my bicycle trip from England to Singapore twelve years ago.
Andy, a compatriot on that trip, commented recently regarding the ability to follow our stories and see our pictures almost in real time. Twelve years ago, internet connectivity, when it even existed, was nothing like it is today. We had the ability to email stories about once every four to six weeks but battery technology precluded carrying laptops or using digital cameras. Likewise, telephony has changed. Now, we’re able to talk to our families, call our bank or credit card company when there are problems, etc. via Skype. Twelve years ago, it required a costly phone card.
With ubiquitous online shopping, goods can be had from all over the globe, not confined to a few specialty retailers with limited stock. A French couple we met in San Ignacio and later again in Placencia, Belize, commented on our Opinel knife when we were cooking dinner. They had not seen one outside of France, where they are common. This example of the knife was another case of a big world shrinking — we purchased ours online before we left.