4 years and 50,000 kilometers ……
Four loooong years and 50,000 long kilometers ….
I crossed the river which marks the border to Guatemala with a small boat at the Frontera Corozal and was curious what lies ahead. I had great hopes for nice people and more intact nature.
In the first village, I was immediately surrounded by at least 50 Maya children, none of whom spoke Spanish. Also, the other villagers were curious about who I am and received me with laughing faces. WOW, what a difference to Mexico.
The gravel road was in good condition. The border formalities were carried out without difficulty at immigration about 10 km after the actual border – I simply got a stamp without further questions.
As always when I am in a new country I am very careful with my pictures and very often I wait and see how people behave towards me. Most of the time I try to feel if it is okay for the people when I photograph them. Therefore, there are hardly any pictures from the very first days in Guatemala.
In a tiny accommodation, the only one on the whole slope, I cooked something with my hobo stove and was immediately surrounded by children. It is always super easy to have fun with the youngest of a country, often much more than with the adults. They also have much more patience and repeat their questions several times when I tell them I do not understand them. In Mexico, I was even laughed at by men when I made mistakes.
It is often easier for me to ask something in Spanish than to understand the answer. I can say a hundred times that they should speak slowly, but that does not help anything, they still just talk too fast.
I had imagined that I was traveling in an area where there was mainly jungle, but I was completely wrong. There was no jungle left. Dead land. Cattle as far as the eye can see.
Guatemala was not only a new country for me, but Guatemala was the country where I expected two special moments. My 4-year anniversary and 50,000 KM mark.
Somehow, I was nervous, although there was nothing there that I should have been nervous about but still I was.
What changes one more? The distance, which has always widened or the time I had spent in so many countries? In the end, the distance to normal life and to my home is probably a combination of both and certainly did not pass without a trace.
So, the question is, am I still the same Heike as four years ago?
I was on a sentimental rollercoaster that took me high and brought me low. Certainly, I was in a rather unstable condition because I did not have a good time in Mexico, but I also believe that I would have had some morale issues in any other area as well, or better, many morale moments.
I think for the first time I was really aware of how long I’ve been away from home. How long I have not seen my people and how often I missed them. And how many times I’ve been wondering what has been their life for the last 4 years? Have they changed at all? Or is that exclusively me? What will happen when I get home again? Can I stay there for a long time? Do we have anything to talk about? More than just the normal telephone call? Will I then realize how far I have been away and will forever be?
If one asks long-term travelers what is the most difficult part in a traveler’s life the answer will most often be: “To go home”.
Yes, to go home. You have to go back to where you had started. In my case FOUR years ago in the small town of Großsachsen where my parents’ house stands. Back to the starting point of a fantastic time, which I don’t want to come to an end. There is still so much to discover, yet so many countries that I haven’t seen, so many cultures which are still waiting to be discovered.
The date of the anniversary came rather unfavorably and put my mood on the rollercoaster again, which I really didn’t need, because I wanted to free myself from the bad mood I was in while being in Mexico and didn’t want to have even more stress. I really wanted to get to know a new country in good spirits. But somehow my power was lost and this anniversary made me struggle. In addition, Mexico had really drained me.
All sorts of pictures bounced around in my head. From my childhood, my family, from the different people I had met, from the great places I had been and the many great moments I had on the trip. I jumped from here to there and from top to bottom, then started thinking again from the beginning.
I remembered with melancholy at the 10,000-kilometer marker in Armenia, when I shot a mega proud selfie picture at the roadside in the ice-cold evening. I was highly motivated and nothing could have stopped me.
Then at 20,000 KM when I had to think of a 20,000 KM photo in the Gobi Desert in China in piping hot conditions, and despite the long journey through the massive country I still had huge motivation to really master the way.
30,000 KM was in South Korea a country which I did not particularly like and yet I was just happy that I had already come so far and I was looking forward to MORE.
40,000 KM was in Oregon in the USA where it had previously been pouring rain by the bucket for 10 days, but I was much too excited about getting to Canada, to really get moody through the wet conditions I was in. The next milestone gladly worked as a motivation and pushed me towards the border. In addition, the US was simply amazing and my life seemed perfect.
Since the US, my pace has slowed down tremendously, although it was more because I simply wanted to stay longer in one place and rather wanted to enjoy the world more than to rush from one country to another. In addition, I chose increasingly difficult routes to bring a lot of variety into my bike life, which alone reduced my distance and pace.
And now it was already 50,000 KM. But this time the motivation thrust did not really want to happen. This time unfortunately not.
However, as always, I tried to see it as positively as I could and to somehow also take pride in the jubilee, because I had fulfilled my dream. A genius dream – and even if there were low points, these helped to make the highlights all the more fantastic.
I had had a sensational time! I have learned and experienced as much as most people will ever experience, even if they have the chance to do so. They might not choose to do it and others can’t do it, because they lack the possibilities.
For me, life has never been about possessing riches. I grew up in a prosperous society, possessions bore me. I never saw the purpose of working hard for an object. I wanted to travel, I wanted to see the world from childhood on. Working for me was the entrance fee for freedom – freedom on my journeys, that has always been my thing and will always remain.
My room when I was little was not covered with pop stars, no, my walls were decorated with world maps. With pictures of Australia, with the Australian flag and a boomerang I had bought at the flea market. It was clear to me, at the age of six, that I was flying to Australia after I finished school. Back then, almost 40 years ago, Down Under was far away, far further away than it is today. Australia was almost another planet, but it was my vision, my dream!
I worked in a factory for 10 weeks to earn money for the flight and started a new life. The childhood was over, my travels had started and have never stopped, no it became even more extreme! Until this crazy day, when the 50,000 KM mark came closer and I looked back on 4 great years and fought with my tears.
Who have I actually become? Am I really so different from before?
Then there are thoughts like: “Are you crazy to have cycled the planet for the last 4 years?” But those thoughts are then pushed aside with: “You’re nuts, nothing is stupid here, my life is awesome out here “.
My “50,000 KM Day” had been a really good day. I was in a good mood, as usual, although it has become much less recently. I was soaked in sweat when I laid in the red dirt of the streets of Guatemala and smiled at the camera but also proud and happy. The selfie action distracted me from the actual EVENT.
I was a little sad and lonely because I could not share this moment with anyone.
But there was no reason to share it, because no one would EVER have understood my state of mind anyway, except the ones who had already taken a picture at such a 50,000 KM point themselves and had been on the road for a few years. But they were not here – they were somewhere in this world and probably as alone as I am. But they certainly had similar feelings.
In Flores, a tourist village near the famous Mayan village of Tikal, the 4 years anniversary was there. But here, too, there was no real joy, rather surprise at myself.
I could have been facing a huge blue whale, or visited by an extraterrestrial or witnessing the birth of an elephant’s baby, and probably would have simply smiled a bit but not much more than that. I had a head full to the top with what I had seen and learned in my four years on the road. I was proud of my performance and perseverance but I was mired in my leaden fatigue.
It was almost like Basta – Finito. The end.
But no, it won’t be it!
One thing is definitely clear and I can say without doubt that these 4 years were the absolute best 4 years of my life. So, I am happy with the choices I made and am looking forward to how I will continue. My curiosity is still present and I also hear the world continue to call me, even if it is a bit quieter than usual.
A break seems to be urgently necessary, but so far, I haven’t wanted to admit it and I’ve wanted to wait first to see what Central America has to offer.
After a few days in Flores it was time for Tikal. Maya ruins I had been wanting to visit for decades. Supposedly the most beautiful ancient Maya city there is.
It was hot! The landscape was not very exciting. A few hills, a few villages that’s it. 10 KM cycling, 30 minutes break in the shade and a cold drink, then again 10 KM cycle etc.
At the entrance to the national park, I finally found myself in the jungle. Really a pity, if you experience it as it should be in all the other areas. We humans are great at destroying nature.
Tikal was great. The mist hung in the jungle and lay in delicate mystic gray tones over the ancient walls and pyramids. At first, I had the area almost to myself, except for the few tourists who had paid even more than the $15 entrance fee to be allowed in two hours earlier than everyone else was.
I stayed all day and watched not only the pyramids, but also lots of animals. Finally! I especially enjoyed the howler monkeys, which I watched fascinated and amazed for hours, and also the toucans of which I discovered 3 different species, inspired me.
After, I didn’t want to pay another $5 for a meadow to camp in, I asked the police if they had an idea where I was allowed to camp the night. In the end, I had a free ride with the police and was allowed to set up my tent at the police station. Really great people!
Shortly before the Yaxha ruins I met Karin from Germany and Consuelo from Guatemala. The two women were really fun to be with and we had a lot of fun at these huge ancient ruins, which were however somewhat less impressive than Tikal.
With more strength, it is time for Belize.