Guatemala

2/13/12

Exiting Mexico was a piece of cake. TVIP’s canceled and passports stamped in under an hour. Then entered Guatemala. Fumigation was $1.50 and then on to importation of ourselves. Passports stamped in record time. Then to the Aduana where we imported the bikes (cost $20). Total time on this side of the line was 1-1/2 hours. Then saddled up for Huehuetenango. Did I mention I was up at 2:00 AM with a case of the shits last night….it continued through the morning the subsided  right before we got to the border.

Sitting at the passport stamping zone after fumegation

Driving into Guatemala at the Cauhtemoc border crossing was fantastic. Deep valley canyon with mountain cliffs that shot up extremely steep with a small river flowing through the divide.

Entering the canyon

First impression is much better than Mexico. There seems to be some industry besides taco stands and mini marts. The other great thing about Guatemala is that the roads are more “interesting” and there are tons of higher end motos. Lots of cool Honda’s running around (even CRF’s on the streets).

Main highway collapsed so this is the go-around. Dropping down to the river….

Semi steep muddy hill to climb out of to get back to Highway. The cars were getting running starts….Awesome

Collapsed highway on hillside

 

Arriving in Huehue it was the typical cluster fuck. Found a nice hotel for $25. Best bang for the buck thus far. Ate in the hotel lobby ($2 cheesburger w/fries).

Planning, uploading, etc…. in HueHue

2/14/12

I have been anticipating this day for a while now (not because it’s Valentines day). We are going to Antigua where we plan to stay for 10 whole days. Finally a break!

Load up the bikes and try to start mine….nothing. Crank it over 30 times with throttle wide open and it finally comes to life. Idles down and dies….shit. Then get it running and hit the street. A mile down the road it just dies out. Anything under 4K RPM and it quits. Ride back to the hotel and tear the bike apart.

Solving Problems!

A giant grasshopper thing watching me do carb work

 

I figure it has to be the carb so I pull it out and walk down the street to a fabrication shop for some compressed air. Met Ronald the owner….super nice friendly guy. After discussing the problem we break apart the carb and he cleans with air and some fuel and then reassembles. No charge! Just happy to help. I make sure the petcock is flowing and it is. Get back to the hotel, install carb, install gas tank, etc… Jump on the bike, it fires right up and we are off. Get down the street 2 blocks and it dies. FUCK!! In my haste to reinstall everything I failed to reconnect the fuel line….phew! Problem solved. Then snap a photo with my new friend from the fab shop.

Ronald and I….he was great!

Two miles out of town we roll into a gas station and bike dies. I don’t know what’s wrong but I crank the idle up to 3K and after some difficulty getting it started we hit the road for Antigua. It is now noon. So much for an early start.

The ride from HueHue to Antigua is even better. Twisty as all hell surmounting mountain pass after pass. Our highest elevation was 9,848 feet. Up in the clouds it gets quite chilly.

Up in the clouds….with a broke down tuk tuk….and a donkey….just shy of 10,000 feet

There are lots of traditional Mayan folks who live on these steep hillsides right off the road that are quite interesting to view. I didn’t get many photos because I refused to shut the bike off until we got to Antigua. We even saw an incredible waterfall on the opposite mountain side falling probably 250’ or so. Tried to snap a pick…didn’t turn out so well.

Giant waterfall that appears quite small in the photo

Rolled into the cobble stone streets of Antigua and straight to a Hostel that we had chosen the night before. $16 for a private room with double beds. Walked up the street and got cheap delicious tacos.

The front of our hostel for the evening

Rooftop of the hostel

More rooftop….

I’ve got the idle back to usually on the bike and did stop and start once today with no problems. Hopefully the carb just passed some gunk but I’m still concerned. Going to check valves this week but I don’t have any shims so not too sure what to do with the info.

2/15/13

Not much happened today. We looked for a Spanish school and tooled around town to just get a feel for it. Had a burn a few hours because we couldn’t check into the hotel until 3:00 PM.

The highlight of the day was when we were sitting in the hotel lobby we were approached by Sebastian and his beautiful wife both originally from Colombia. Sebastian lives in Florida and rides a KTM 990. He told us about some epic areas of Colombia to ride. I have not seen these areas explored in other ride reports so it should offer a little different insight to the area. No, I’m not going to explain where it is, you’ll just have to wait and find out. We are also going to try and meet up with Sebastian’s uncle in Medellin who is a fellow rider. Thanks a million Sebastian!

2/16/13

We have been debating whether or not to extend our stay in Antigua and Central America in general. We are currently booked on a sailboat out of Panama for March 7th. The other available date is March 21st. The first boat doesn’t give us much time. The second boat gives us too much time in CA but ultimately will hold us back from making it to Argentina (time=money). An email has been sent to the boat captain just to see if there is any room on the voyage for the 21st.

If we have to make the boat by the 7th then we have to leave Antigua immediately after our Spanish school at the end of the week. Therefore I want to ride to lake Atitlan today while I have the chance. Alex decided to do laundry instead.

Packed up some tools and a med kit and hit the road. At 9,000 feet it started to rain. My KLIM suit is still waterproof even after the gasoline…YES!! Dropping down into the town of Panjechel right on the lake the rain stopped and clouds started to evaporate. The lake is quite a spectacle with all the volcanoes surrounding the area. Even better is the road around the lake…..well, not that good but at least it wasn’t pavement most of the way. The road is very steep and the dirt sections appear to be just dirt with gravel on top but it is actually a road of rocks with the sharp edges just barely protruding from the surface and then in-filled with dirt. Traction was almost nonexistent and higher speeds tough to achieve.

Sweet roads….

More high quality roads…this mountain edge is super steep!

Here is a video of a few clips put together. A little slow speed fixation issue on the 20” ditch and then I was almost taken out by a bus around 5:00. Taking the corner at 60 mph there is a bus fully in my lane and I swerve into the dirt almost hitting the guardrail and falling off the cliff. It would have been a head on collision if I were in a car. Ridiculous!

 

The ride home was wet and cloudy up in the mountains (first rain of the whole trip). Most cars don’t have taillights (or don’t have them on). Quite precarious.

That night we ate at Monoloco and had the biggest plate of nachos I have ever seen. The menu said “nachos bigger than your head”…..and I have a big head so I put them to the test. They checked out alright!! Even Robert would have been satisfied.

2/17/13

Signed up for a week of language school. School is 4 hours/day from 8:00 to 12:00. Should give us time for a good activity/ride each day after class. Stay tuned for daily activities.

Entry to the non-descript hotel

Parrot’s in the hotel courtyard

The pool in courtyard central

Our room on the upper level to the right

 

2/18/13

First day of Spanish class. My mind is not excited about being back in school. Must admit I feel a little discouraged that the Spanish I learned back in high school is not coming back to me.

View from the breakfast table

Lunch menu from our regular place….Super tacos are the my “go to”

After class I headed out for a ride to try and get to the base of the Pacaya Volcano. Made my way up into some mountains that overlooked Antigua. Then drove 15 miles down a horrible rocky road and entered a town called Palin that seemed rather dangerous and there was literally no way out of town. Went off-road through some brush and found a hole in the fence line along the freeway to sneak my bike through. Then merged into traffic and ended up in the outskirts of Guatemala city. Thirty minutes later I pulled into Antigua feeling better about things. Didn’t accomplish much but it was an adventure.

Looking down on Antigua

Found a neat flower

Really nice highway through the mountains

Went out for dinner. Found more drinks than food. Met an Aussie named Dave who was quite entertaining and bought us a round.

But before dinner Al wanted to “cook” in the hotel room:

Michaladas………..in our bathroom

Guacamole…..on the desk

 

2/19/13

Struggled to get up and get to school. Then struggled to stay awake at the table listening to my teacher. Then I heard a rumbling and about 30 people congregated behind me looking at something. I stood up and walked over to see that Volcan de Fuego had just had a decent eruption and spewed ashes a few hundred feet in the air.

School courtyard with volcano erupting in background

Zoomed in on Volcan de Fuego

My teacher didn’t think much of it and said it was a common occurrence. I knew the volcanoes were active but didn’t know they were this active. Apparently Pacaya is just as busy so we are going to ride our motorcycles up as far as we can….or are allowed.

Despite my struggles in the morning I made quite a bit of progress with my Spanish skills. Still heavily lacking but doing better. After class our teacher walked Alex and I to the street market where we could buy cheap Ceviche and a knockoff iPhone cord so that I can use my phone again. Teacher says I’m limited to dos Cervezas this evening and I need to study my verbs. Unfortunately it is ladies night in town so we will see what happens….

Nothing happened….didn’t feel well enough to study verbs and barely made it out of the hotel for a Michalada. Got a good lesson at the Sky Cafe though.

Volcan de Agua with cloud cover taken from Sky Cafe

2/20/13

Up early trying to navigate the cobble stone one-way streets…..ridiculous pain in the ass. Finally parked at school and walked a ½ mile to get coffee and crepes. Made it back to class only slightly late.

The first half of school was typical and then we went for a walk. First thing I wanted to do was buy some firecrackers…..the teachers helped me out with that in no time flat.

Then encouraged me to light some of them right in front of the minute mart we just purchased them from. Super loud in the alleyway but no one seemed to care.

Moving along we made it to a nice church.

Inside the church next to the alter was a large “rug”. It is made from wood pulp that is died. They create a new one every Friday.

And then to some older ruins right next to the church.

Built in the mid 1500′s. This is a fountain where virgins used to bath in the nude. At least this is what my teacher tells me….???

A neat flower hanging out on the rooftop

And avocado trees. They were all out of reach though….Alex will have to go back to the supermercado

Apartments next door for all of the Fathers

Then off to a small marketplace that was carrying top notch goods:

Enough Said

The volcanoes seem to present themselves in a unique way no matter where you are in Antigua.

I FINALLY got an email response from PDX Alamo saying he is ready for that drink. We met up at Ocelot where we drank numerous $5Q ($0.50) cuba libre’s. Another ADVrider was there making an attempt to get with some girl so we didn’t have a chance to talk. Feeling pretty good about myself I did take a seat on his stead on my way out (glad I didn’t tip it over).

Shortly after I stumbled and hurt my toe.

2/21/13

Gotta admit I’m not real excited about class today. I think my teacher was impressed with the number of cuba libre’s I drank and still made it to class. There was a celebration at class for the owner’s son with cake and more importantly fireworks.

The courtyard where we study

Coffee beans in the middle of the courtyard (among avocados, bananas, limes, & oranges)

Back at the hotel I soaked up some sun by the pool and enjoyed my last day in luxury.

2/22/13

Finished off the last day of class by taking my teacher to the marketplace so she could help me do some shopping. Stickers,  oil, fuel line, and hose clamps were at the top of the list. 2,000 km’s and the bike is about 4oz low. Seems excessive to me but no black smoke yet. First thing I found that I couldn’t resist was a Frisbee for $1. Some form of entertainment on the beach could prove useful…or invaluable.

In short order I picked up a Guatemala crest for the tank as well as the Gallo bird. Spent some time in search of the Patron Saint of Guadulupe (figured this couldn’t hurt me at border crossings or traveling in general). No luck on this one.

Next found a good auto parts store with decent oil, fuel line, and clamps. They had a neat dumb waiter to transfer products from upstairs. Definitely recommend La Revolucion if in Antigua. Plenty of moto parts including carbs, gloves, bars, hand guards, pegs, etc….

With class over we raced back to the Porta and packed our stuff for a hasty departure to new living quarters. Then I got busy installing my new Pingel petcock and vacuum operated valve. No more shutting off the gas for this guy.

Went out for more cuba libre’s and met PDX Alama again and Rainman (eclectic male on advrider). Got some good pointers for central America and found out that the KLR I was sitting on the other night was NOT his. Late night finished off at Monoloco….gonna be rough morning.

2/23/13

I called it! Rough morning. No problem; we’ll just ride through it. Studying Google maps in the morning we found an area that appeared to have a bunch of river crossings. We set out from Antigua and 10 miles later turned off for El Rodeo. Finally some off-road had begun.

Almost forgot, I ran my tank damn near dry before installing the new petcock so I got to see how much it will hold. The Safari Aqualine 17L has 5 USEABLE Gallons!!! If I ran out I could even tip it over and grab an extra ¼ gallon or so from the other side. In desperate measures I could probably pull off 300 miles out of a full tank. More than I expected.

So excited at the first water crossing we hit it with speed (rather shallow) and soaked our legs. Then realized it was more or less sewage water….stunk terribly! Up and down through the hills and through the rivers passing majestic rock formations and thick jungle canopies.

Only a few miles into it with my stomach gurgling I knew I had to take care of some business. Stopping at a backwoods tienda and asking for paper she looked at me like that stuff is reserved for rich folk and we don’t carry here. Pushing on I found a trail that split off the main road, raced up and around the corner and let fly. Luckily, I’ve been packing a small notepad that contains hundreds of crossed off items. It was my “to-do” list for this trip. I meant to burn that damn thing for being such a pain in my ass but I one up’d that I used to to “clean” myself. With bugs swarming my ass and sweaty face I made quick work and got back on the road. I’ll save you the photos :)

All of the river crossings were fun but were more like streams. Deepest was probably only 12” or so.

During the last one of the day I watched Alex cross and he obviously hit some large rocks and almost dumped the bike. I picked a slightly different route but still encountered rather large rocks and dumped the bike right in the middle of the river. I had hit the record button on the camera but the battery had already died (of course), so I have no footage or photos. Just a little aftermath of dumping water from the boots. I do know that my gps is pretty waterproof as it was completely submerged and never even blinked.

 

I put together a short video of the water works. My cheap computer (DAVE H) didn’t process the first 15 seconds correctly so please ignore……

 

2/24/13

Woke up very sore…got breakfast…got sweats…got the runs….switched hostels and laid in bed ALL day.

2/25/13

Feeling much better but not great. Just lying in bed researching Honduras and thinking about making an attempt on Pacaya. Don’t think it is going to happen though. Will be back on the road tomorrow to check out some natural wonders.

The Dutch couple rolled into to town and we managed to meet up for a quick meal and swapped some stories before going our separate ways again. Lisan & Marnix, we will meet again in the not so distant future. Suerte!

2/26/13

Pacaya didn’t happen….it will have to wait for the next adventure. We packed up, jumped on the bikes, grabbed some decent oil to pack with us, a cup of joe and we’ll see you later Antigua.

Thirty miles and two hours later we exited Guatemala city…what a shit show. Not much to say about the first 100 miles heading north (high altitudes & desert terrain) but the last 50 miles or so were beautiful rainforest like vegetation with many farming operations. A few hundred twists and turns dropped us into Coban. An old German settlement with little reflection of times past.

An hour later the highway transformed from nice concrete to a steep rocky road that was to take us into the town of Lanquin. I prefer the offroad but this was not that enjoyable especially when loaded down with gear. Every bounce and jar I was cringing just feeling my subframe cracking about to give way or certain that I bent a rim or punctured a tire (not really; just overly anxious).

 

Not much to see in Lanquin but another 15Km and we came to rest at the El Portal hostel/cabins at Semuc Champey. Grabbed an overpriced cabin and headed for the blue pools.

View from our cabin doorstep

The river runs a dirty brown and flows underneath the 5 blue pools of Semuc Champey. The water was a perfect temperature in the muggy rainforest. Surprisingly little to no bugs in this area (not sure how that works).

The trail to the pools…

Stealing a glance from the trail

 

Down a bunch of stairs

Exiting river

Below the pools

Back on top to the middle pools

Up above the pools the water was flowing fast.

 

Stepping around the caution tape I snagged this photo. Instant death if you fell in. This is the river rushing into the underground cavern beneath the pools.

Really moving swift

Headed back to the cabin and started dinner. The service members at the Portel were quite rude and pressured people into taking trips and quickly ordering food/drinks etc. Not impressed I decided to cook my last pair of MRE’s on my loud stove right on our porch (which is 20ft. from the restaurant/bar). I think my chili mac was better than anything they were producing.

Cashed in early for the evening but couldn’t sleep at all with the wild dogs barking and fighting all night on top of the insomniac rooster that was raising a fuss somewhere from 2:00-4:00 AM.

2/27/13

Without any sleep we loaded up and were on the road by 7:30. Today we head for Rio Dulce. Looking for a border town to stay in before reaching Honduras there proved to be few options.

Rio Dulce was supposed to be an easy ride after studying google maps but the bold yellow roads were most definitely not paved. Up and down the mountains passing little Mayan villages on terrible roads we traveled. Really fantastic scenery and after dropping 10psi out of each tire my ride was much more comfortable. There are small sections (10-20 ft) of packed clay that will have a tiny stream over it that is slicker than KY. Around a corner I encountered one such passes and the front tire slid right out from under me at about 30 mph; hit the ground hard and slid a bit right in front of a traditionally dressed Mayan woman and her child. They just stopped and stared in awe. Wanting to take a photo but I felt rude so just picked up the bike (with much struggle) and checked for damage. Minor bend to the HDB guards and the Wolfman luggage was scratched but not torn so saddle back up. Finally dropped down on to “Highway” 7E that runs along the north edge of Lake Izabel only to find that it is gravel. At least it was a rather straight road and I could manage 55mph on the gravel for the majority.

Somewhere along the way we stopped for a break. Alex told me that these are where chocolate comes from. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to open one up. No idea what it is.

 

We thought we were hot, sweaty, and overworked.

Almost hit this guy

Road straight to the Backpackers Hostel because Alex is quite excited about it. I read my share of bad reviews but it is located right on the water and he wants to fish. He watches the bike and I check the rooms/rates. The rate is good ($15) for a private room for the both of us. The room is not so good. About the size of a king size bed with two singles in it. Planked walls and floor I feel like I’m in the little house on the prairie. Sheets do look fairly clean so I suck it up and pay the woman. You better fucking catch something Alex.

With overpriced food and drinks I ate/drank and watch Alex not get a bite. Then the owner clued us in on “Movie Night” at the Yacht club just down the street. For $6 we had chicken Florentine with steamed veggies and mashed potatoes with country gravy….and a free cocktail to boot. Sat and watched a portion of some movie (The Beasts of Southerland…I believe) while we dined with the power dropping out 2 or 3 times. Also found some mammoth toads just behind the yacht club (poor photos but the size of two fists).

Back in the room we plugged in a fan and tried to sleep. Just a sweaty mess on a mattress that was like a supersaturated sponge not wicking up a drop. It was wicked hot and every time the power would drop out my eyes would fly open desperately hoping the jerk off fuck’in with the transformer has something more than a high school diploma. The dogs also seemed to be fighting in this pleasant little river town as well. No sleep for two nights in a row.

2/28/13

Not able to sleep I was drinking terrible coffee by 7 in the morn. I will say that the Backpackers can make exceptionally good hashbrowns….and that is all.

Two hours later we hit the border. The only reason I stopped at the Guatemala exit was because someone was waving a stack of money telling me to get my passport stamped. These are the guys that want to exchange your money at a poor rate on the border. Stopped and quickly got a stamp and exchanged the few dollars I had left. Then was told that we passed the customs 4 miles back. Raced back and checked our bikes out of the country.

All along the road they were “mowing” the side of the highway. Machetes, tough wrists, and backs. My last photo of Guatemala was a good old cattle herding up the border highway.

15 thoughts on “Guatemala

  1. Glad to see that you made it to Guatemala with not much hassle. So what is the fumigation process they put you through? I need to know what the ingredients are of your Michaladas, I get thirsty just looking at the pictures of you guys drinking them! Those hammocks on the top of the hostel look like a good place to post up for a few days and relax! Good luck with the Spanish lessons!

    • Some guy just sprays tires with something. Very light mist. Probably water with a touch of soap. It’s BS. I bet you’re not as thirsty as Alex….I’ll try to get you the exact ingredients next time we go out….tonight?? We moved on to a new residence that is pretty incredible. I’ll get you some photos soon. I’m dreading the spanish after Mr. Cina’s courses. Hah!

        • That shouldn’t be a problem. It’s funny how easy it is to get a Michilada but V8 and beer is damn near impossible…Clamato is available and works fine though

  2. OK! now I want to know what a michilada is? I’m going out to your Mom’s on Thursday to plant a rose in memory of your Aunt Suzanne, I will have to get filled in on that too! I just followed your recent excursion thru Guatamala etc. WOW! what a journey, and I so enjoy your photography. The video ride is a bit scary at times. Oh! yes and that was some plate of nachos!
    Take care Andrew and stay safe,
    Pam

  3. Ohhh man! My envy grows deeper with evey photo. What an awesome time this looks like. It’s like college; drinking everyday, motorcycles, not wanting to go to class, Alex coming up with off the wall ideas, and fireworks! The best part is nobody is calling the federales when you light fireworks off in town, it’s just normal and expected?? Well, I can’t imagine its too long now until you both decide to take permanent residence there, I can’t say that i would blame you. Keep the good times rolling and keep the photos coming!

  4. Hey! I’ve loved following you guys on your trip! Wanted to pass along a message to Alex — I hung out w/ my friend Tyson this weekend, as he was departing on a trip to South America yesterday (2/25). I THINK (can’t remember 100% for sure if that’s where he said he was headed) he’ll be in Honduras for the next couple of months. I gave him your site address in case your paths can/do cross. I think he is staying with some friends that live there for awhile, surfing, etc.
    Enjoy the rest of your adventure! Bon vivant! :)

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