Barely into our trek on day one we hit our first snag. We had come upon a locked gate blocking the gravel road. Rusty barbed wire was threaded liberally between the slats.
Ronald and Mónica looked to me, the question in their eyes: ‘now what?’. They stood by while I consulted the GPS App on my smartphone. Maybe there was an alternative. We’d recently taken a fork in the road. “Let’s go back and follow the other road and see” I suggested in my mediocre Spanish.
We backtracked briefly before continuing slowly up a rugged switchback. Out of nowhere an old Land Rover came roaring around the next corner. Kicking up a thick plume of dust, it came skidding to a halt beside us.
The driver’s eyes scanned us and our heavily-laden bikes with a puzzled expression. He called out in Spanish, asking where we were going. Ronald responded with our destination – La Esperanza, a small village near the summit of Cordillera Talamanca. The driver shared a confused glance with his passenger. “You can’t go this way. It has a dead end. Only my farm is there”. Looking each of us over, he turned and spoke to me, easily switching to English “Where are you from?” My pale Canadian complexion had given me away as a foreigner.