Rain welcomed our arrival into Chiapas. Mountainsides became waterfalls, every other kilometer we crossed a raging river, and the percipitation was so heavy we had to blow air forcibly from our nostrils to avoid drowning.

It did not deter drivers that the highway lay under a few inches of water, they exercized little extra caution. Struggling to maintain that thin line alloted as a shoulder, I waited for the inevitable hydroplaning auto to swerve, collide, and repeatedly roll over my bike and body as it made its way to the bottom of a ditch. It felt at times that we were no longer biking, but tunneling through a wall which resisted with indefatigable force.

Nobody could really see what was in front of them, not me with my fogged glasses, nor the drivers with their wiperless windshields. When we felt like we had tested our luck long enough, we searched for shelter to wait out the torrential downpour. One day I pulled over to a small grocers stand. It had a tin awning providing shelter for the customers who stood outside and conducted business through a barred window. I was thrilled to escape the monsoon until I realized that the roof was full of holes. A stream of water ran down my neck as I asked for some fresh rolls. An old woman slouched against the ordering counter next to me and smiled; not a drop of water had touched her. Her hair even had that frizzy texture reminiscent of a sun baked desert.

“When do you think the rain will stop?� I asked my fellow stranded companion.
“It´s been like this for three days now, and I don´t think it will let up soon�. She replied, continuing to smile.

Had she been leaning up against the same tienda for the past three days? Was that her secret?
“Well, I´m going to be in Guatemala in a day…â€�
“Ah�. She gasped, “There´s much more water there than here.� She sounded a bit concerned for my wellbeing.

At this point the grocer lady intervened; “Joven (young one) what are you doing riding on this road? You know we have many pretty girls here.¨

The rain seemed to be hiding them; perhaps there were classier tiendas with less leaky awnings upon which they leaned and displayed their voluptuous bodies. Yet now the grocer lady was pointing to a television screen perched on top of her refrigerator, that between intervals of static related a Pan-Latin American dating show.

“Just like them…â€� she wagged her finger at a Honduras girl, thin as a stick and hair dyed guerro style, her potential male suitor was informing her that she just didn´t have the goods. Her heart exploded into flames that ravaged her amber face. “We have girls like them here! And they aren´t in schoolâ€�.

She explained something about the school teacher having fled on an unannounced leave of absence.

At that moment Goat rode by. He was clothed only in board shorts. The rain pounded at him like a sledge hammer. I yelled, but he twisted his head wildly in numerous directions, unable to locate the source of the voice. I was close enough to hit him in the head with my stale pan dulce (sweet bread). Being momentarily removed the process of blind highway cycling allowed me the meditation time to observe just how insanely perverse this whole operation was becoming. What the hell was I doing pedaling down this crazy flooded highway anyway?

A feeling of profundity overwhelmed my soul; I was about to make a life-altering decision here and now. Turning to the match-maker grocer I nodded and murmered, “O.K.� What I meant to say was, “You´ve convinced me lady, lead the way to these idle beauties.� Of course at that essential moment my Spanish failed me. The two old match makers laughed and laughed. It must have been etched into the lines of my face that I was already married, that my heart and soul were invested into a piece of cold steel. After finishing off the grocers basket of stale pan dulce I returned to the slow process of drilling through that impenetrable wall.

In Chiapas, towns, farms, and houses were in close proximity to one another. Unused or unsupervised land was hard to find, hence It was becoming difficult to locate campsites that offered suitable trees to string hammocks from. One night as darkness closed in we decided to hang our hammocks from the beams of a high tension tower, not realizing that we were a few feet from a honey bee farm. When the family of bee keepers noticed our presence they engaged us heatedly, asserting the land underneath the tower was not their own, and that we should not camp there. Goat managed to pacify their concerns with some patient dialogue, and later that night the family presented each of us with a bottle of delicious honey.

The following evening we were again in a fix for a discrete location to camp. Much of the late afternoon had been spent navigating Tapachula, a large sprawling urban disaster with labyrinths of congested one-way streets. Luckily we found a beautiful grove of cocoa trees right outside the city limits, just as night approached. Surprisingly no fence obstructed our entrance into the field. Emboldened by the sight a clear sky, the first in nearly a week, I cycled back to town to pick up some beers. Being only ten kilometers from the Guatemalan border I felt that we had reason to celebrate.

A little after dawn we were awakened by heated shouts. Clumsily I twisted my body around in my wobbling hammock to see the source of commotion; a gang of farmers, armed with machetes had surrounded Goat´s hammock. The oldest among the gang talked in rapid fire bursts but it was clear that he wanted us all out of our cacoons and ready to explain our presence. Some small kid felt that Goat wasn´t acting with enough urgency, and proded at his hammock with a sharpened stick, as if tormenting an animal in a cage.

By the time each of us had dressed and emerged into the chaos, two other men had arrived on the scene. Each was barefoot, clad only in boxer shorts. Wedged as they were in a crowd of dark skinned indeginous farmers their paisty complexions screamed of disparity. Their sweaty brows and paranoid expressions revealed that someone had abruptly woken them with severe news; it wasn´t the threat of mere bandits or robbers, but some kind of godless creatures incubating in hovering green cacoons preparing to overtake the property. When the younger of the two -a thin balding man adorned in boxer shorts decorated by Simpsons characters- saw that we were just weird gringos he embarked on a lengthy tirade. The phrase, “puta madreâ€� was applied in many new fascinating ways. When he attempted to reprimand us, the nasal tone of his voice revealed a kind of childish disappointment, like we had just played with his toy train without permission, and belligerently smashed all model freight cars to pieces. “Next time ask, just ask!â€� he whined. Eventually he pulled his foreman aside and imparted some wisdom, “Next time just ask what they´re doing…â€� -volley of expletives- “before you get me out of bedâ€�.

There had been an older bigger fellow with a stout white mustache and protruding naked belly, but he was already gone. Early on in the reactionary tantrum, he had been silently dwelling in resentment at the unamusing prank of his early morning rousing. He shook his head, like the gringos were just a weird dream to be cast out the ears, and trotted back to his bed.

Among the faces of the armed gang, expressions betrayed disappointment that a lynching would not be taking place. The boss man told them to disperse, but he and his foreman stayed awhile to chat and diffuse the tense situation, and eventually let us be.

We set about cooking up our breakfast, casually eating, resting and digesting. Then suddenly the boss man was back, still clad only his Simpson boxer shorts, accompanied by his machete wielding foreman. Their reappearance put us back on guard. They asked the same exact questions they had asked the first time, mainly who we were, what we were doing. We were a bit worried that we were dealing with an amnesiac man of volatile temperment who may very well allow his armed farmers to hack us to bits. But then he asked us if we wanted to have coffee, maybe something for breakfast. He was vague. He asked his foreman what he could offer us, and before a response was offered he just took off. I could only fathom that his sporadic departures were due to the high volume of vicious mosquitos buzzing about. The near nude boss man must have been accumulating a devastating amount of bites. The quesiton remains; why, if he was going to reconfront us, wouldn´t he at least put on some shoes? As he parted from our company the second time, I feared his absence would be but an ephemeral gesture, that perhaps he was really lurking behind a tree waiting for us to plunder his cocoa fruit and thus have a pretense to nail us. Hastily we removed our hammocks and packed up our things. Leaving our cocoa tree refuge, we encountered a sign designating the place as Finca de la Paz, (Peaceful Plantation).