Day 66 – Santiago de Atitlan, GU to Antigua, GU

Day 66 – Santiago de Atitlan, GU to Antigua, GU     10/26/10     Mileage: 106

 The weather this morning was great and we had a nice breakfast on the patio overlooking the lake.

Me in front of the Toliman volcano from the Hotel Bamboo...

...and Tracy too.

After letting breakfast settle we took the hotels’ kayak for a quick spin which was good fun and provided spectacular views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Kayaking on Lake Atitlan...

A nice setting to kayak for sure...

View of the Hotel Bamboo from the kayak...

Once the bike was packed, we rode over to Panajachel on the other side of the lake where we had a great lunch.

Lake Atitlan from the road to Panajachel...

Welcome to Panajachel!

Lunch in Panajachel on the north side of Lake Atitlan...

We took a quick spin around town before heading for our final destination today…Antigua, which is a cool Spanish colonial town. It took around two hours to get there and we pulled into town shortly before dark.

Antigua, Guatemala...

The Casa Florencia, our home base in Antigua...

After finding a room we set off to have dinner and settled on a place right on the town square called Chimino’s.

Chimino's is right on the town square in Antigua...

It was a fantastic dinner in a great setting complete with a very talented acoustic guitarist playing some Latin songs. Afterwards we walked around a bit more and capped off the night with desert and a glass of port.

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Day 65 – Monterrico, GU to Santiago de Atitlan, GU

Day 65 – Monterrico, GU to Santiago de Atitlan, GU     10/25/10     Mileage: 113

The hotel cocina was buttoned up tight as we seemed to be the only guests…so we made the morning coffee on my backpacking stove and snacked on some tortillas I’ve been carrying. So after our “home cooked” breakfast, we set out for Santiago on the southern shore of Lake Atitlan. The condition of the roads deteriorated once we started up into the mountains, but that was inevitable.

Back on the dirt...

On the road to Santiago de Atitlan, we bottomed the bike on some nasty speed bumps...this wasn't one of them though.

Along the road to Santiago de Atitlan...

 We bottomed out the rear suspension a few times over some large speed bumps…even though I was going dead slow. The skid plate took some hits as did the center stand and lower rear suspension linkage, but it seems OK.

Looks like we're going to get wet...and we did. Fortunately it didn't last long.

We pulled into Santiago de Atitlan mid afternoon and tracked down lunch at the Hotel Bamboo which has a fantastic setting right on Lake Atitlan looking across the water at downtown Santiago.

Lunch at the Hotel Bamboo

Looking across the lake at downtown Santiago from the patio of the Hotel Bamboo...

Tracy had seen this place online as well and we decided to stay the night there. The room was $65 including breakfast…steep by Guatemala standards, but worth every penny.

The view from the landing in front of our room...not too shaby at all!

After lunch we took a manic tuk-tuk ride into town, walked around a bit, had a coffee and did some shopping.

Here's our tuk-tuk taxi...heading for downtown Santiago...

Tracy and the tuk-tuk...

Tracy on the hunt...

We had a funny exchange with this shop keeper. Nothing is priced and everything is for sale…you better like to haggle!
Back at the hotel we had a late bite to eat, used the wifi and then called it a night.

Day 64 – Monterrico, GU

Day 64 – Monterrico, GU     10/24/10     Mileage: Local miles

 We were up relatively early and after the morning coffee, I did some maintenance on the KLR. The air filter was long overdue (again) to be cleaned and I had a new swingarm chain slider to put on that Tracy brought me from the States.

Giving the KLR some much needed luv...

After I was done giving the KLR some love, we went into “town” for breakfast…huevos of course.

I had to dodge a pelican on the way to breakfast....that doesn't happen everyday for sure!

"Main street" Monterrico...

Around town in Monterrico...

Tracy getting her cookie fix...

The policia ride dual-sport motorcycles...cool!

We walked off the huevos around town and then took the KLR further up the coast to the town of Hawaii. Once back at the hotel we did more pool time and just chilled out.

The ocean was very rough and the waves were huge. Nobody was swimming and all you could do is wade in up to your knees or you might get sucked out to sea!

That night we walked back into town for dinner and followed that up with a drink at Johnny’s before packing it in.

Fish, it's what's for dinner...

The aftermath...

Day 63 – Guatemala City, GU to Monterrico, GU

Day 63 – Guatemala City, GU to Monterrico, GU     10/23/10     Mileage: 87

 We were up relatively early but waited for rush hour to pass before setting out towards San Jose and the Pacific coast of Guatemala. I was a bit concerned about overloading the bike riding two up with all the gear, but the KLR actually handled it just fine! It was needless to say pretty ass heavy and handled like ox cart, but it was totally ride-able.

Packed and ready to go...

The ride down to the coast couldn’t have been easier as it was on a baby bottom smooth toll road that connects Guatemala City to the Pacific coast. The cool dry mountain air gave way to the moist warm tropical air with each passing mile and in 90 minutes we arrived at the Pacific Ocean. We rode along the coast in search of a beach front hotel to park ourselves for 2 days and knew we found the right spot when we pulled into beach side town of Monterrico. There were several hotels on the beach, but we liked the Hotel Mangle which cost Q650…or around $80 for 2 nights!

The Hotel Mangle in Monterrico...

The Hotel Mangle from the beach...

The restaurant patio...

The cozy pool area...

Our room looking out on our balcony...

Our own private balcony overlooking the beach...

We quickly parked the bike, changed into our swimsuits and hit the pool…beers in hand of course!  After some pool time, we split a pizza over a few more drinks.

Thin crust pizza + beer + beach = a thin slice of heaven!

That night we went down the beach a bit to another cool beach front joint called Johnny’s where we had dinner and a drink.

Chillin at Johnny's Place...

Afterwards we walked back to our hotel and chilled out on our private deck overlooking the beach before turning in.

Still a week behind…

Hi Everyone!

The blog is still a week behind…sorry for that! I am currently in Antigua, Guatemala and will be for the next week at least attending a language school, so I should have time to get caught up soon…

Thanks!

-Lenny

Day 62 – San Cristobal de las Casas, MX to Guatemala City, GU

Day 62 – San Cristobal de las Casas, MX  to Guatemala City, GU   10/22/10     Mileage: 324

Today I say goodbye to Mexico and hello to Guatemala! I’d also be saying hello to my friend Tracy who was flying into Guatemala City to meet me later today and ride with me for the next week around Guatemala! I was up and out the door by 8am this morning so I could get to the border relatively early in the day.

Getting ready for the last few miles in Mexico!

Passing through Teopisca, MX...

Not much going on in Teopisca this morning!

Last PEMEX and chance for gas before the border, so I topped up the tank...

I’ve heard and read accounts of border crossings in Central America that range from not too bad to 8+ hour ordeals, so I wanted to give myself as much time as possible in case of the worst. The air this morning was downright cold…I even had to put on my heavier riding gloves which I haven’t used since Oregon. As I descended out of the mountains it warmed up and became more humid, and after about 2 hours I was at the Mexican side of the border. The first job was to “export” the bike from Mexico which is done at the Banjercito. There were throngs of people on various lines in front of nameless offices waiting for some official stamp or signature so they can get on with their lives. Mercifully, there was nobody on line at the Banjercito….but then again there was nobody working in the office either. After confirming I was in the right spot, now I just had to wait for someone to show up. After 30 minutes an official came out and began to slowly, but deliberately cancel my import permit. Once all that paperwork had been properly shuffled, I was now able to go to the immigration to get stamped out of Mexico. Now with both me and the bike exported from Mexico, I was off to cross the 3 miles of “no-mans” land to Guatemala. As I approached the border, I came upon what I would describe as a cross between a Turkish bizarre and the running of the bulls in Pamplona. The narrow road was lined on both sides with stalls selling everything from farm produce to Nike sneakers to car parts. Squeezed between the stalls on either side of the narrow road was a river of humanity flowing (or trying to at least) in both directions on foot, in cars, buses, horse drawn carts, tuk-tuk’s and one gringo on a moto. I wanted to take a picture but I was focused on managing the craziness!

Here is pic after the crowds and craziness thinned out a bit and I was able to stop and get out my camera.

Here's another after the crowd thinned out...

Once at the border, an official stopped me in the road and informed me that my bike needed to be disinfected and that it would 12.50…payable only in quetzales, the local Guatemalan currency. I had read about this and it is legit and I even got an official receipt. Of course, I’m pretty sure it was just water he sprayed my tires with…but for the equivalent of $1.50, who cares.

Here is my bike being "disinfected" at the Guatemala border, which is 5 feet behind where my bike is parked.

Next I proceeded to the immigration office, and unbelievably there was nobody in line, so I had my stamp in under a minute! Now I was off to import the bike at the aduana office a few doors down. There was nobody in line there either and after filling out a form, doing some other paperwork and paying the fee’s at the bank office next door, I was in! All told it took me only around 2 hours to cross the border, which is better than I expected.

This is right at the border just past the immigration office looking into Guatemala...

 Now I had plenty of time to get to Guatemala City to the hotel and then to meet Tracy at the airport at 9pm. The CA1 road from the border was a twisty jumble of ups and downs through the rural countryside and the same as Mexico with regard to the quality (or lack thereof) of the road. There were however fewer animals in the road…but still some.

On the CA1 south towards Guatemala City...

Another from the CA1 south...

Guatemala is very mountainous, the few shots I got with my helmet camera do not do it justice!

The road is closed, I think I'll scoot to the front past all of this traffic!

I hit Guatemala City at 5:30pm, just in time to have to fight my way through manic rush hour traffic. I had the address of the hotel programmed into my GPS, but there was no hotel in sight when I arrived at the address and I found myself in the shady part of town. I’m not sure what was wrong, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to stay there in the street to figure it out…so I dropped it in gear and hit the gas. I tracked down and checked into a hotel near the airport that had secure parking and dropped my bags in the room. It was now almost 8:15 so I got back on the bike and went to the airport to meet Tracy. Her flight was right on time and we were back at the hotel by 9:45. After a quick drink and a bite to eat at the hotel lounge, we packed it in to rest up for the ride to the coast tomorrow.

Day 61 – Puerto Escondito, MX to San Cristobal de las Casas, MX

Day 61 – Puerto Escondito, MX to San Cristobal de las Casas, MX     10/21/10     Mileage:  401

It was hard to peel myself from the sheets this morning, but the road beckons. So after another shower just because I could, I set off in hopes of making it to San Cristobal de las Casas high in the mountainous interior of southern Mexico.

Twists and turns on MEX 200 south...

Passing through Salina Cruz, MX

Lane splitting for motorcycles is legal in Mexico and a great way to get through traffic...

PEMEX is more or less the national gas station of Mexico, and they are generally very well maintained, clean, plentiful and often have a little convenience store. They are sometimes like a little concrete oasis in the dusty craziness of Mexico.

Cattle crossing...

The first few hours of riding were nice but average until I reached Tapanatepec, where I had a decision to make. I could stay on the Pan American highway with the relative safety it offers by being the main road north/south or I could veer inland into the mountainous interior region that borders Guatemala where San Cristobal de las Casas was located. I had just enough daylight left to make it to San Cristobal, so I decided to make a run for it. The road climbed away from the coast with each twist and turn and the air was getting cool and dry. After 20 miles I was beginning to second guess my decision as I had not seen a building or another vehicle on the road save for a truck heading down the other way. If something were to happen, I would be completely on my own. I remembered a conversation I had with my friend John shortly before crossing into Mexico, and his advice was that speed is safety…and he’s right. As long as I’m moving, I’m OK. It’s if I stop, or am stopped…that’s when the situation could get beyond my control. So with that in mind, and my loathing to backtrack, I leaned on the KLR’s throttle and hoped for the best. After a while I began to see some cars, buildings and other signs of life and was more at ease. After passing through the bustling city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the road turned sharply uphill towards San Cristobal and the air got downright….dare I say…cold! At the top of the pass, the GPS read 8,500 feet above sea level and San Cristobal was not much lower than that. As I pulled into town I got caught up in a manic maze of people and traffic on the narrow colonial era streets. It took quite a while to find my way to the town center, but once I did I knew I liked it here! The town center was alive with people and music and I couldn’t wait to get off the bike to soak it all in.

San Cristobal de las Casas town center...

San Cristobal de las Casas city center...

San Cristobal pedestrian only street...

San Cristobal town square...

I found a hotel 2 blocks from the town square with a center courtyard for the KLR and the price was more than right at $200 pesos…or $16 USD. Once settled I was off to find dinner, some drinks and to take in the atmosphere. A few of the streets near the town square were pedestrian only and some of the bars and cafe’s had tables out on the sidewalk. The cool mountain air was a welcome change from the heat and humidity of the coast and it was enjoyable just to walk around and enjoy the scene.

San Cristobal...

I forgot the name of this church...sorry!

There were many inviting places to eat, but I finally parked myself at a cute cafe called La Vina de Bocco for a glass of wine (or 2 or 3!) and some tapas.

La Vina de Bocca...

Afterwards I took another stroll around the town center and called it a night.