Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The highs and lows of a solo rider.

Wonderful memories from Costa Rica
Times can be tough on the road just as they can be at home. Nick Sanders wrote about 'the loneliness of the long distance biker'. Nathan Millward wrote about his 'black periods'. I have had my fair share of both and I am sure that most solo riders find themselves here at some stage or another. I think most will agree that it's no fairy tale - but it IS worth it. Its a roller coaster ride and as long as you can accept these down times as being part of the ride - well then you are half way there. It's what makes the good times special. The longer you travel, the more chance you have of experiencing them. It's not realistic to expect anything less. This is where your endurance comes in.

I had been feeling pretty low this last week. The heat and humidity was getting to me, my energy levels were low, my joints ached and everything was breaking. 18 months on the road and I was tired! This - in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. All you can do is rest, smell the flowers and then carry on. Ride on! Slowly the brain starts functioning again and something reminds you why you are doing it in the first place. For me it wasn't the beautiful scenery, or the amazing wildlife I had seen recently. It wasn't even the kindness of fellow bikers on route who had put me up (although that helped a lot, giving me time to rest). Perhaps it was a combination of those things. I have seen and experienced some wonderful things here in Central America - but what really snapped me out of it, was a little old man in a workshop in Nicaragua. This is not your usual happy ending story but it certainly made me smile.....

During my last stop for coffee I had realised that my chain was very loose. Rather than attempt to tighten it there and then, in the full glare of the midday sun, I decided to potter on slowly to see if I could find a garage with a jack to make life easier. I just didn't have the energy to do this simple task. Within a couple of miles I found one. Sat in the shade on a plastic chair, reading his paper, was an elderly man - lets say at least 75 if not more. I pulled in and pointed to my chain. He saw it was loose and gestured for his son to come and sort it while he insisted I take his chair in the shade and ran (ok ambled) off to get me some water. He could see I was dripping with sweat and cooking in my full riding gear - AGAIN!

While the son cracked on, under my watchful eye, I smiled at how much easier it was, rather than doing it myself on the side of the road in the heat. I smiled at the lovely old man who was now reading the list of countries on the front of my bike.

The son finished quickly, getting the perfect tension, and then wacked a load of grease on to finish the job. I got up and thanked him very much. Then, I turned to the old man and asked 'Quanto?' (how much). Quite openly, and without shame, he suggested that I keep my money and accompany him to the back room instead! I smiled and said 'No entiendo' (I don't understand) - but I did. He rubbed his fingers together in a way that depicted what he had in mind and took my elbow. I pulled away gently and said, as best I could 'I'll pay with cash if it's all the same to you'!

The old man took no offence at my refusal and stated his price - in cash this time. It was the equivalent of £2.50!!! That was what really made me laugh! Was that all I was worth? I like to think he would have given me change, had I opted for the other form of payment!

This moment really did brighten my mood. There was no cloak and dagger, just an offer! Hey, if you don't ask you don't get right? You don't get anyway in this case but you never know! I've always lived by this rule and in a way I respected him for his honest approach! We parted, both with smiles, and he waved as I rode out, and onwards to my next destination.

I giggled all the way. £2.50??? A girl could be offended at that! I was grateful for a little bit of craziness in this rural part of Nicaragua. It reminded me why I travel - Because you just can't make this stuff up! It's the little things that make the journey. That is what I needed reminding of. It was enough to give me the little boost I needed, and enough to restore my motivation.

I have flown through this country. It's a shame really as there is a lot to see. However, sometimes you just want to ride. Sometimes you just need to move forward and sometimes you need to get to a city that can repair all your failing electrical equipment!

The Nicaraguan border from Costa Rica was confusing to say the least. It was also expensive (around $40). Tomorrow I face the Honduras border and the next day will be the border in to El Salvador. I'm looking forward to getting these out of the way before meeting up with a local biker in San Salvador who is going to show me some of the sights over the weekend. Neither of these countries have a great reputation of late, but I'm recharged and ready to face whatever the road brings!

Sorry for lack of pictures but my camera and laptop have been broken. Normal service will resume shortly!


  1. £2.50 that's like 7 dollars Aussie Steph, you drive a hard bargain.
    Those little stories along the way are such great memories. xx

    1. Hi again Steph' ... First of all, don't worry about the camera too much, as your writing paints a pretty good picture. The first paragraph, rang a bell with me, as I remember moments of near-depression and complete exhaustion when over-landing. But as you say, it usually doesn't last too long, as there's always something to help to shrug it all off. As a reminder about why you're there in the first place.

      A great tale, on being propositioned by an old guy in the middle of nowhere. Part of me pays respect to the old fella for making such an audacious offer. Was he thinking, maybe ... just maybe. It's gotta be worth a shot? You don't ask, ya don't get ... and all that. Or, as one of my mates (when I was young and stoopid, with more energy, than was common sense ... ) used to tell me each time we were out on the town ... If you ask enough women, whether they'd fancy a *&^%! (oblige), then one of 'em's bound to say 'yes'.

      Many thanks for brightening a dull as dishwater, early autumn Tuesday at work, here in the UK ... Lenzzzzzzzzzz

    2. Thanks Lenz. Glad you didn't miss the pics too much and both are very true. It was worth a shot right? Good on him for still having the energy!

  2. Hilarious! Just goes to show that you're never too old… Keep giggling Steph and do know that you're worth more than £2.50! x

    1. Thanks Lisa. BTW - I am still carrying (and using) the purple Sarong!

  3. For the amount £2.50 to be fully appreciated, I think needs perspective... what can you buy in his town for £2.50? Here in Vietnam, that will get you a quite nice dinner for two.

    Okay, still not a lot... but does it help at all? ;-)

  4. Steph, Thanks again for another story. As one of your followers I have to admit I look foward to the next chapter of your adventures. There are a lot of us from around the world that follow along with you. So during those dark times remember we are out there and we care about you. So take care and keep writing so we can get our "Steph Fix".