I saw the mysterious flying insect about half a second before it hit me in the Adams apple at 100 kilometers per hour. First there was a smack, then a sting, then a burning sensation that spread across my neck and along my jaw line. As the burning intensified, I felt something on my nose. When I slowed down to wipe it and looked at my riding glove, it was spotted with blood.
While wondering what kind of hell-spawned insect causes spontaneous nosebleeds, in a sense I was glad to get it out of the way. After all, at least one colossally weird thing seems to happen every day on this trip and I was glad to get this one out of the way early in the day. Little did I realize at that point that the day had just begun.
About 50 miles from the Mexico/Guatemala border at Tapachula I ran into traffic.
You know you may be in for a long wait when the truck divers have their engines off and are standing around on the highway. You know you may be in for a very long wait when the bus drivers have strung up hammocks under their buses in the cargo areas and are fast asleep. Luckily, I was able to circumvent the stoppage by riding the shoulder on the motorcycle. I checked the GPS maps and found a series of dirt roads that took me 30 miles out of my way and deposited me back on the highway ten miles further on. When I arrived at the highway, the scene was the same.
I sat there looking befuddled. A man in a red shirt and white baseball cap must have sensed my bewilderment because he walked over and said, “Ingles?”
I answered, “Si,” and he motioned for me to follow.
He led me to a battered blue pickup truck under which a thick set, heavily tattooed 30-ish man was lying in the shade, his shaved head resting on a spare tire. The red shirted guy spoke to him in Spanish.
Juan Carlos, the guy under the truck, looked over and said, “Hey man, where you going?” in an accent that sounded like he may have grown up in East L.A.
I told him that I was trying to get to the border at Tapachula. He said that he was as well and I asked him what the problem was.
“The problem is all these people can’t go nowhere, man.”
As I had already ascertained this, I pried for more details.
“See, the politician guy in this town area here,” he continued, “they sent him money to fix this bridge. But dude took the money and he’s gone and so now they’re all pissed off and they blocked the bridge. Some dude tried to drive through and they beat him up and broke his windows, smashed up his car, man. But we ain’t got nothing to do with this (expletive) bridge.”
I asked if he had any idea when this would clear, as I didn’t expect the mayor to return with the money any time soon.
“They say, maybe like noon, they might let people through. Or they might start charging money to go across. I don’t know, man. There’s a lot of rumors.”
Noon was two hours away so I told Juan Carlos that I was going to try some more farm roads on the bike to try to get around.
“Cool, man. If you come back, bring me a beer.”
I could see the river on my GPS and there were some one-lane dirt roads that led across it. Across the river, past the bridge, problem solved, I thought. I crossed the river and came to a town where half the road was blocked by rocks, the other half by a red Ford pickup truck. A group of people was standing around, some with machetes and others with baseball bats. I doubted that they were there for Little League practice.
There were only a couple of cars in front of me and an older grey-haired gentleman, whose expression said to me that he was simply over the whole thing, motioned to the driver of the pickup truck to back up, creating a lane past the rocks. He motioned us through. I soon rejoined the highway and sped toward the border at Tapachula.
I finally arrived at the border and, due to some paperwork issues (which is another story), had to leave the bike at the border crossing and take a taxi 25 minutes into Guatemala to find an ATM. We ran into more traffic.
“The people are mad about the elections. They block the road,” Manuel, the taxi driver, told me.
“This could be a long trip,” I thought.