Though most of this leg was culturally rich, Mexico was just for fun. I figured since I’ve been to Mexico so many times before, I was ok with just having a good time with some friends. Six guys and I started in LA and rode the entire length of Baja California, Mexico on motorcycles. This had been the plan for months, but there was one little problem the night before our early start… I didn’t have a motorcycle! So in a matter of minutes I found one on Craigslist that worked and I picked it up early the next morning. Sometimes you just have to go for it!
The next morning the seven of us riders and three support crew all rendezvoused at a Home Depot parking lot a couple exits from the California-Mexico border and officially began the journey from there. One last minute swap though. I traded my cruiser I’d just bought for my buddies dirt bike style motorcycle. He was less experienced and was getting whipped around by the wind on the taller lighter bike, so he asked of he could ride my heavier more stable cruiser. You kidding? The ability to go on and off road, plus long-travel suspension? Yes please. A win for both of us.
The ride was a lot colder at first and a lot hotter in the end than I had expected. I was glad to have my high-tech Dare Denim on to battle the cold and be comfortable in the heat. I had to layer and un-layer on top, but the jeans could stay the same at least! We somehow managed to get down to Cabo with no injuries and six of the seven bikes still working. I’d call that a success. My buddies rode the same path back, but I could only stay with them for one more day after Cabo. I had to move on to Barbados.
Barbados is a tiny country, but with my friend “Money” Mike’s help, I packed my days full of exploring and hanging out with some cool locals. The highlight of the trip besides acting Bajan for a couple days with Mike, had to be the Animal Flower Cave on the northern most tip of the island. This place is normally a cave with calm pools of clear water surrounded by thousands of sea anemones that look like blooming flowers. When I got there, however, the huge winter swells were crashing occasionally into the cave. With the assurance of the land owner that there was a deep water buffer between me and the opening to the cave that would prevent me from being washed out on the rocks below, I braved the waves coming in and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t get sucked out onto the jagged coral getting smashed by massive waves below.
Barbados and the next country Guyana both had their official languages as English, and the locals claim to be speaking it, but when they talk to each other I only understand about thirty percent of it! There’s a different vocabulary, sentence structure and accent… Very different. I was glad to have met Kevin, a guy I quickly became friends with in Georgetown, Guyana. He showed me the “real Guyana” and seemed to know everyone in the country. He is a young, but sharp business minded guy that I think is going to do well in life. He was the one who got me in contact with the local Amerindian tribe in Santa Mission where I was able to teach a little math to the children in the schoolhouse and witness how the villagers successfully hold onto their culture with the world changing around them.
After I got some help finding the local bus to get me to the ferry to Suriname, my next country, I finally gave into the pressure of catching up on some things. I locked myself in a fifteen dollar hotel room where there was internet in Paramaribo for two nights and caught up on blogs, finances, pictures, family, friends and everything else I had to neglect in my whirlwind of travel. After two solid days in front of a computer, I was ready to explore again!
My main goal in Suriname was to get to a remote fishing village of Caribb natives at the mouth of the Moroni River called Longamankondre. I had no contact there, nor did I know anyone who had been there. I had just read about it accidentally in a random search of Suriname several months earlier. So I found a little fishing boat that was going there captained by the Longamankondrean fisherman that would ultimately take me under his wing. After getting permission from the village chief to stay once we arrived, I was shown where I could set up camp: right next to the chief’s house in a hammock under the grass roof of an open-walled hut. It was perfect. There was only a sprinkling of rain that first night, but by morning I was greeted by an incredible sunrise coming up over the French Guianan rainforest across the river.
That day, a Sunday of rest for the villagers, I helped mend some fishing nets for fishing the next day before I went exploring the beach along the mouth of the river at low tide. I had a little moment of panic when I realized I couldn’t take my same path back. The tide had come up and my route had been cut off by the muddy river water, which had completely covered the beaches all the way to the thick jungle. I was surprised to find that my escape route back to the village was easier than I expected. The seemingly impenetrable jungle that lined the river was actually zigzagged by trails cut through by humans and animals. Besides some unwanted spider webs and lots of mosquitos, I was able to get back pretty painlessly.
I got back in time to go with a couple hunters into the jungle that night. The thick forest seemed much less overwhelming with two guys that knew what they were doing. One held the camera and the other one and I held a gun each. Not for hunting, but for protection from jaguars! They said the chances of attack were low, but it still added some excitement to the journey. I got to try out some catch-and-release hunting skills they taught me. I even caught my first wild bird by hand! On part of the journey when we canoed through a tight waterway cutting through the jungle, I even nabbed myself a baby crocodile!
The next morning I woke up just before sunrise on my last day to go along fishing with the village fishermen. It was another perfect morning. Just a few puffy clouds lit up red-orange by the rising sun and calm water. Luck was on our side that morning too. Maybe it was the necklace the chief’s sister beaded for me and gave to me for luck the night before. We cast in the nets and when we pulled them out an hour later, we got so many fish the fishing day was done! The father and son team dropped me off on the other side of the river in a little village in French Guiana so I could make it to the airport on my way to Paris. It was a perfect end to my short stay. I just met these two, but I knew I would miss them.