Bikeloads of Smiles

Minia Rex Roman and Carlos Guldris in front of Jenny Star Video Rental in La Antigua   (Tomas Cernikovsky)

Minia Rex Roman and Carlos Guldris in front of Jenny Star Video Rental in La Antigua (Tomas Cernikovsky)

Two years’ work in Ireland proved fun for a couple from Madrid, but with the New Year 2008 they decided it was time for something different: a seven month, 7,000 mile bike trip from Buenos Aires to Guatemala, ending with lots of smiles in La Antigua when the bikes gave out before the Spaniards did.

Minia Rex Roman and Carlos Guldris decided to follow the path of The Motorcycle Diaries, but by pedal instead of motor-power. They flew to Buenos Aires and bought two bikes, solid ones but nothing special. Then came the first, long leg, over the Andes to Sucre, Bolivia, and along some of the highest paths possible on Earth. They enjoyed rides to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, around Lima, and through Bogota to Cartagena, Colombia, where they learned the Darien jungle wouldn’t let them bike all the way to North America.

Tying the bikes to a strut on deck, Minia and Carlos delighted in a few days of sailing around the Darien and into Panama, stopping frequently to dive into the warm Caribbean waters. The bikes didn’t fare quite as well, sprayed as they were with salt water breaking over them regularly. Minia and Carlos made it on their bikes up the Isthmus and Chiriqui, across Costa Rica, through Nicaragua and Honduras, into Guatemala by late July. Barely. Seven months from the bike shop in Argentina, rust was eating at bike parts, and the brakes were going as they cruised down into Antigua.

Smiles had greeted the intrepid cyclists all the way north, people in each town grinning as they heard of the Spaniards’ adventure. The smiles seemed even brighter in Guatemala, Minia and Carlos decided, especially smiles from Jennifer Cernikovsky along the Alameda in Antigua. Jenny manages a not-for-profit video store there, with the proceeds helping children in need. Her smile is a big, warm one, as is her story. Yes, Enrique at Jenny Star can fix up the bikes, and yes, kids can use them with joy.

And that’s where the bike trip ends, with 7,000 miles and seven months of smiles, and two happy children at the Familias de Esperanza school program, winners of two slightly worn but spruced-up bikes, while Minia and Carlos flew home with so many stories of their own.

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