Guatemala

Day 1750 Friday 31st July

Once again the road surface for a few tens of km from the border was fairly rough and potholed, we made our way to Antigua Guatemala. ‘A quaint colonial town with many surviving buildings from past earthquakes’, said the lying planet. Colonial towns to us mean cobbled streets, bumpy when dry and slippery and bumpy when wet. Finding a cheap hostel we looked for parking as none was available at the hostel. The closest cost forty bucks for eighteen hours parking for two bikes. An American guy told me that the town was a rip off and that was a ‘fair price’. Later we sat on the roof having a beer looking at the local volcano wondering what would happen if if blew its top. Musing of the outcome the hanging plant pots started to swing and the floor shock for ten seconds, our second quake in six months, un-nerving or what???

Walking the charming old city taking many pictures was pleasant, what was not so for us was the amount of European tourists haggling over the cost of coffee and dinner. We ate at a small cafe and had a good feed for eight bucks. The food arrived fast and was good and hot.

Day 1751 Saturday 1st August

We went back to the cafe for a quick breakfast, we drank copious amounts of coffee while we waited for our tamalas and eggs. Half an hour past, the traffic and heat was building up outside, we planned for an early start. I asked the waiter for the coffee bill as we needed to get on. He checked the kitchen and our food came out. At first glance it was looking good, crispy cheese filled tamalas and almost raw eggs!! Sloppy egg first thing turned my gut, I showed our man, looking a little horrified he said he would get them recooked. I thanked him and declined his offer as we needed to get on.

Back at the parking I had the familiar bike no start, a guy with a vehicle offered to get the beast rumbling, half an hour later we rode out.

On the road to the city we met Lex, he spoke good English and asked of our trip, at the base of the hill I caught him up and asked about where to buy a battery, he said “follow me”. We arrived at Moto City, the roller shutter door was raised and we all four rode up the ramp into a large workshop with a clean painted floor and posters adorned the walls, Cristian made us very welcome and I explained my problem. Usually when ran for and hour or so the bike started, I tried this time and nothing so the six year old battery had failed for good. A young guy was dispatched to find a new one and hopefully a replacement water pump re-build kit.

It was obvious that Lex belonged to a patch club, the prospect he rode with did not have much English, Lex was fluent, the guys stayed with us for four or more hours while my mirror glass was cut and fitted by Cristian and the battery when arrived, fitted by me and charge rate checked by an apprentice. As it was Saturday fried chicken, fries and corn tortillas was a meal for all that worked there, however we were invited, and as our breakfast in Antigua was a disaster we were glad of the feed. We arrived at ten and left at three to the house of Hector who offered us a bed for a few days. We were very gratefully for the space to wash our smelly riding clothes and carry out some bike maintenance.

In the evening we took a ride into town with Hector and his girlfriend to take in the night life of downtown Guatemala, there was a large protest in full swing over the people wanting the resident president out. They had recently ousted the vice president and now were going for the top man, apparently his government has been salting away millions of the peoples money into their own off shore banks. A large crowd were outside the palace with burning torches, chanting and beating drums, very peaceful we were told, but un-nerving for us and him probably. There were fourteen candidates in running, all no better we were told. The U.S.A has two, big country, Guatemala is much smaller and that number was a joke so Hector advised us. There are primary elections in September and finals in November so we will watch for news then.

Hector bought us a huge flag of his country which we will keep and post back when we can, lovely souvenir of a nice evening out. The square was hectic with marching bands, from small children to aged people playing instruments all good natured, but with a cause. We watched them passing for fifty minutes, a little hypnotised by it all, especially after a long day. It was surreal to be there after the tourist hype in Antigua.

Day 1752 Sunday 2nd August

We were totally rooted and wanted to sleep late, however we had agreed to go on a ride of seventy clicks for breakfast. Around thirteen of us met at a gas station and head off for a delicious meal, I asked how much we owed, the secretary said ‘no problem, I have paid for you, you are our guests’. How nice is that?

The ride out was a little to fast for me, on the return we spread out a heap so we were able to take in the smouldering volcano scenery that surrounded the highway to the west. We stopped of at the club house for a beer and a game of pool, it was new venture for the club and was a great place in a safe area lots of bike parking under cover. We could have lived there and carried out renovations and modifications, but we need to catch the seasons further Northwest and move on.

Day 1753 Monday 3rd August

Sleeping late was wonderful, spent the day at Hectors house with laundry and bike stuff.

Day 1754 Tuesday 4th August

Took a six km walk to the mall which turned into ten as we got a little lost.

Day 1755 Wednesday 5th August

Day 1756 Thursday 6th August

Leaving later than we wanted, it took and hour to get clear of the traffic

fifty clicks out of town we came across a bakkie on its roof with the driver still inside strapped in and not looking very active from where I sat. His load of tomatoes scattered across the road. We could not figure out how he came to roll it, maybe a moto or an animal miss behaving. As there was nothing we could do, having no medical experience or language we rode on. There was already lots of local motorists there sorting out the poor guy.

A few km on Diane had a rear tyre flat, a small nail, probably from a tomato box. An hour and half later we were rolling again after fitting a new tube, the holes in the old one too much for a patch.

Coban was a great little town with all you need, including a replacement inner tyre for the Honda. Camped in the national park where they seamed to breed mosquitoes we had and interesting camp.

Day 1757 Friday 7th August

Walked the town, checking the churches, which all seemed to have the resident beggar at the door which deterred our entry and Cathedral, which thankfully did not.

Day 1758 Saturday 8th August

Leaving mozzie heaven for the fabled Mayan ruins of Tikel we rode the fifty clicks to find the road went to bad gravel. On the way we turned off to visit caves of awesome spender which we tried to visit but the road was very rocky, not even gravel, but rocks and boulders.

So we headed back to the ‘highway’ to find that a few hundred meters on it went from tar to poor gravel, not rocks, but as our destination lay hundreds of km further on we took the advise of a cafe owner who advised us against it and turned and headed back to the city. We were reluctant to commit to a hectic ride when a micro bus driver said there was gas half an hour away, then telling it was seven clicks away, not a good road. Local advise from local people, got to take it….

So we camping up at a great hotel were they did not give camping we enjoyed a quiet nights sleep and a good fish supper from the trout pond.

Day 1759 Sunday 9th August

Leaving El Rancho camp, swimming pool heaven we thought Sunday would be quiet on the road, sadly we had to contend with convoys of trucks slowly grinding their way up the mountains and crawling down, with engine brakes growling loud and long, close to deafening as we passed them. The concrete highway not only had huge deep potholes, it also had long splits that unnerved me by trying to guide my tyres either across to the oncoming traffic or to the long drop over the crumbling edge. However still making good time we were soon back in the city, stopping for coffee and breakfast of reformed maize chips. No real food available this early on a Sunday at the gas stations.

Managing not to get lost for once we were soon out the other side, riding in the hot sun to Atitlan Largo. The lake had the privilege of the company of three volcanoes, allegedly no longer active. Making the steep descent I was thankful it was not raining as the roads were polished cobbles. Halfway down in a small village our way was blocked by dancing girls that sadly I could not see as they were around the corner. And a large band of trumpets and drums, which I could see..

After a long warm day a cold shower was welcome. Now being late in the afternoon the lake was choppy and grey, the volcanoes almost completely obscured by cloud. The main street to the water had many shops selling different wares. All were made locally we were told, some actually looked like they were. Being almost shocked we did see one lady making an embroidery picture.

Day 1760 Monday 10th August

Taking an early walk to the lake we found it to be the sparking blue as shown in the guide books. With the three volcanoes being cone perfect, and one with wisps of cloud just covering a part of the upper slopes. Finding the supermercardo we dined on tuna pasta, nice change from soup.

Day 1761 Tuesday 11th August

Having good internet once again we carried out a heap of research into our next country.

Differing from our usual routine we went into town late afternoon and watched the tourists haggling over a few cents with traders selling the brightly coloured bags, scarves, table clothes and leather work from finger rings to machete scabbards.

As the light failed the traders packed their wares and gave up to allow the food stalls to set up for the nightly onslaught of young drinkers. We were lucky again in finding a lady making cheese and spinach filled corn dough patties fried on a flat sheet of black steel plate over glowing embers. She had a wide paint scraper which she repeatedly cleaned and polished the cooking surface. Often the filling spilled out of the casing and burnt deliciously crisp and tasty. Unfortunately these tasty treats were very filling and we could only manage one.

It was now steadily raining and we sat sipping a beer under a vacant stall tin roof and people watched, hoping the wet cleared by day break.

Day 1762 Wednesday 12th August

Left Atitlan by a different road as the cobbles and the threatening rain put us off the steep streets of our way in. Soon out of town we were bouncing over a rough broken tar surface, at least it was not cobbles! Often the surface went to wet mud and stones where the near vertical hillside had been washed away. Sometimes the road narrowed to a single lane as the landslide had claimed half the tar as well. Climbing the eight hundred metres back to the highway I watched the lake get smaller from vantage points through the trees. Before long however we were into thick cloud and all disappeared into the wet silver gloom.

Pulling onto the highway was not fun as the traffic as usual saw fit not to use lights or slow their speed from hectic to just fast. Eventually the fog cleared and a pale sun dried my gear and warmed my spirits. Winding our way through densely wooded hillsides steeply carved by many water courses to the Mexican border was a joy after being stationery for three days. It should have taken four hours to reach our goal, however due to he rain taking over from the fog and the road surface not being to flash after five hours we called it a day forty clicks short. Taking a very clean room, reasonably priced, we cooked our supper on a failing stove. The town looked expensive, with posh looking restaurants and smart people avoiding the puddles.

Day 1763 Thursday 13th August

On the road by seven it took the hour and a half to reach the border, via a thoroughly rideable road that switched backed and forth two km down crossing possibly the same steam many times.

We were stamped out and T.I.P surrendered within twenty minuets.

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