Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Guatemala Re-entry Vehicle (GRV) ?

I’ve been considering an alternate GRV. Other than the boat, I've always used an airplane, but in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, wherever I am, I spend a awful lot of time pining over motorcycles, often lurking around the dealerships like a stalker, while even the humblest 125cc Hondas popular in that region fire up my heart’s desire. The climate is great for biking, even when raining it is never cold, and the bugs, though some are Jurassic Park-esque gigantic (in the Rio Dulce I once observed butterfly from my kayak that had an 7” wingspan and you could actually hear its wings go “whuff whuff whuff” as it flew by) they are not as bad as here on the prairies as somehow they seem to know to stay off the roads. I think it is because they have all year to do what they need to do. There is a certain manic "Oh shit, winter's coming again" kind of urgency to the bugs in Canada. The last ride I did I inadvertently slaughtered legions of dragonflies. They were too busy fornicating to notice.

Last year after riding my Triumph Tiger through the mean streets of LA, across the US, back into Alberta and actually resuming my IT Consulting business using only the bike as transport, rain or shine, the Tiger and I grew weary of each other, much like Pi and Richard Parker trapped in the lifeboat, familiarity breeding a whole litter of toothy angry contempt. When the comfy Camry came into my life it was like discovering 4 wheels, leather seats and shelter for the first time—a sort of civilization I had been denied. I sold my Tiger soon after and never looked back, but this year when my sister-in-law Lorna offered to sell me her beautiful Triumph Speed Triple for a song, I could not pass it up.

With its hard saddlebags, fairing, giant fuel tank and heated grips the Tiger was built for the long haul—and took me across Canada and back in 2011—but the Speed Triple on the other hand has none of that. It is a naked sport bike with minimal plastic, pretence or comforts. The Triple is made to kick ass on the streets and I would like it to do just that in Latin America when I return this fall. 

The trouble is, as much as the idea thrills me to have a beautiful, powerful motorcycle along in the jungle to get down-to and around that part of the world, my heart is filled with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation at the idea. Besides the pain-in-the ass that is inherent in the border crossings of the region, there are two other issues of much greater concern:

1. Robbery
My bike, though modest here, down there screams, “Hi, I'm a Rich Gringo, and I’m alone!” In addition, both the Northern and Southern border regions of Mexico are ruled by the narcotraficantes. Anyone have any friends in Los Zetas? If so, I have a message for them, "I come in peace."

2. Sharing the road with Latin man
Someone described the traffic flow in Latin America as ‘marbles rolling down a hill.’ There are no lanes, and even when there are lanes, they are ignored whilst everyone goes as fast as possible and cuts in where they can, always without signalling. Pragmatism dictates some of this behaviour because they simply do not have the road network infrastructure we do here, and there are too many cars. Many of these vehicles are poorly maintained, with failing brakes and tires, overloaded with too many people and driven by drunks. In addition, if you don’t have the wherewithal to own a proper vehicle, and the bigger the better, you simply don’t matter. 

The ranking is as follows:  pedestrians on the bottom (you can leave your Canadian crosswalk-self righteousness at home. They will not stop for you at a crosswalk. I nearly learned this the hardest possible way jogging like an idiot in Guatemala City), followed by scooters, motorcycles, cars, pickups and then buses and larger trucks and finally semi-tractor trucks. Some semi truck drivers are so confident in their status that they do not bother to repair their headlights after having a smashup (with something—probably something smaller and now dead) and roar down the road blacked out, at night! Motorcyclists get no respect. An example: if a larger vehicle wishes to pass, but a motorcycle is in the oncoming lane, they will simply pass and run the motorcyclist off the road. I have seen it repeatedly while riding the buses of Guatemala. Sometimes it is a scooter with a family of 5 aboard. It is nothing personal, they just don’t care. In addition, there are stray dogs, goats, chickens, jesus lizards, and other bullcrap that just runs out onto the road whenever it feels like, and even without the animals there is plenty of debris from the parts and cargo of the aforementioned poorly-maintained vehicles that also finds its way there, along with garbage people just chuck willy-nilly. Nobody is paid to clean it up. All in all, it is a dodgy idea, willfully submitting oneself to this kind of carmageddon.

Whilst in Roatan, speaking to a friend of a friend about buying a motorcycle to ride there he said, “You. Will. Die.” his crooked index finger pointing at me like an old gypsy prophet adding, “Those Mosquito Coast motherf*ckers driving the taxis here have no common sense at all and, trust me when I say, they will kill you. They will kill you, leave you on the side of the road and go out for fried chicken right after without a care in the world.”

And yet, I still want to do it. 

1 comment:

Keith Gray said...

Hey Darwin, nice to see you back on a bike. I will be riding into Calgary on Wednesday and if you are interested in going for a ride on Saturday that would be nice.