Day 89 – Cemuc Champey, GU to Sebol, GU

Day 89 – Cemuc Champey, GU to Sebol, GU 11/18/10 Mileage: 47

I was looking to move on today but the weather was not cooperating. The road coming in is of course very bad and the rain makes things 10 times worse as the road gets slippery. Worse than that is the concrete pads on the steep hills that get covered with mud dragged on there by the 4×4 trucks wheels. I gave it a whirl but it was just too slick, so it was back to the hostel to wait it out. If the sun came out and dried things out enough to leave in the afternoon, I would make a run for it…otherwise I was stuck here another night. Luckily, that’s what happened and I gave it another go. The road was still muddy but had definitely dried out a bit including the concrete tracks on the steep sections, so it was not too bad. I also lowered my tire pressures which also helped quite a bit. Once back to the main road, I could go left and backtrack to Coban on the paved road, or go right and continue towards Sebol through the mountains on the dirt. You know how much I hate to backtrack, so with two hours of daylight left I made run for it.

The going was painfully slow in the mud and daylight was beginning to become a problem. Luckily the road widened and improved enough towards the end so I could pick up the pace despite that it started to pour.

I arrived in Sebol about 15 minutes after dark and went straight for the nearest hotel. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was dry, only $9 and I was soaked. The bathroom was particularly, umm, unsightly and the sink was actually in one end of the shower. It also had one of those electric shower heads to heat the water as the majority of buildings down here only have plumbing for cold. What’s worse, this one had the electrical breaker box in the shower as well which is a first!

Needless to say I didn’t need a shower bad enough to risk electrocution! I also didn’t trust the bedding, so I did the old ground sheet over the bed trick and slept in my sleeping bag liner.

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Day 88 – Cemuc Champey, GU

Day 88 – Cemuc Champey, GU     11/17/10     Mileage: 0

It was a good nights sleep as everyone turned in before 11, me included. After breakfast it was off to Cemuc Champey which was a 2 minute walk from the hostel. Cemuc is essentially a unique geological feature where the Cahabon River goes underground beneath a natural limestone “bridge” and then emerges several hundred yards down stream. On top of the limestone bridge are a series of beautiful and inviting turquoise pools that cascade downwards and rejoin the river that emerges from underground. Our guide from the hostel led us up to the top of a cliff where we could see the whole of Cemuc Champey and the view was magnificent.

I also had my first toucan sighting which was really cool!

After that he led us to the point where the river disappears underground which was an awesome sight.

To give you an idea of scale, look at the people on the side of the river in the photo above.

The last part was the highlight for sure as our guide led us to the top pool and showed us where to jump in. We then spent the next hour diving, jumping and sliding from pool to pool down the length of the limestone bridge until the main river emerged from underground. It was a blast for sure!

Back at the hostel we all had some lunch and I chilled for the afternoon. At night dinner is served at 7pm for all the guests which is nice as you can meet and chat with the other travelers. After dinner I played poker for a while with 4 other Americans who are down here traveling around after attending a wedding. Without playing chips the bets were in beer and after that ran out it was shots of Agua Diente…a local fire water. I steered clear of the shots thankfully, and we all packed it in around 11.

Day 87 – Finca El Naranjo, GU to Cemuc Champey, GU

Day 87 – Finca El Naranjo, GU to Cemuc Champey, GU     11/16/10     Mileage: 84

Breakfast at the Posada Montana was tasty and after an hour of studying I hit the road.

Breakfast….not bad for $3.

My destination for today was Cemuc Champey via Coban and Lanquin. The road from Coban to the turnoff for Lanquin was good fun and for the most part in good condition.

The 15 or so miles from the turn off of the highway to Cemuc Champey is another story all together! The road was steep and rutted in spots and was so narrow that two vehicles could not pass at the same time forcing one to backup or pull off into driveway if there was one. In the steepest sections they laid two concrete tracks, one for each set of wheels, or some vehicles would not make it up. It wasn’t bad on the KLR, but that is exactly why I brought that bike and not a more comfortable touring bike…for roads just like that.

Near the entrance to Semuc Champey I found the El Portal hostel which is situated in a great setting right on the river.

That afternoon I signed on for a underground river cave tour which was great fun, mostly because it violated nearly every safety precaution that would have been deemed necessary by some inspector in the U.S.! To start off with, the only light in the cave was from the candles they gave you. Oh, and I did mention that this was an underground river tour, so you had to swim through, and sometimes jump into the water…all wile not getting your candle wet.

Here are some with the camera flash on…

There were also several ladders to go up and down as well as one rope you had to climb up into the onrushing water! After that it was back to the hostel for some dinner, drinks and good conversation with the other travelers.

Day 86 – Antigua, GU to Finca El Naranjo, GU

Day 86 – Antigua, GU to Finca El Naranjo, GU     11/15/10     Mileage: 127

I’ve been in Antigua for almost 3 weeks all together now, and although it’s a great town, I can’t wait to get back on the road. My plan is to head north towards Coban, Semuc Champey, Flores, the ruins in Tikal and then on to Belize. After catching up on some email and packing up, I was off and it felt great to be back in the bike. The air was cool and dry and the road heading northeast out of Antigua is 20 miles of twisty goodness before hitting Guatemala city. The KLR was running good and I was grinning ear to ear in my helmet.

Once on the other side of Guatemala City the road descends out of the mountains into a picturesque valley to the town of El Rancho where I passed by a nice looking restaurant. About a mile down the road, I decided to turn around and head back to get a bite to eat. As I as walking towards the front door, I was greeted (in english) by a man wearing a “Harley” style leather motorcycle vest. Well, it turns out that he is in Guatemala with 20 or so other members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association donating motorcycles (Honda CR200 dual-sports) to local pastors so they can get around…how cool is that! I guess you can spread the word of God just a little faster on a motorcycle! They offered to bless me and my bike and I gladly accepted. It was a moving moment as they all gathered around me and the bike and said a nice prayer for me, the bike and my safe travels.

The members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association and my KLR

This bike was blessed

Whether it was a growling stomach or divine intervention, either way I can’t tell you how glad I am that I turned around and came back to the restaurant to meet all those wonderful people. It seems as if I made 20 new friends just like that. If they had bikes it would have been great to ride with them…maybe another day.

To all the members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association…Godspeed to you in your work and travels.

So after saying goodbye and having a quick bite, I was back on the bike hoping to make it to Coban before nightfall. The road was awesome as it twisted its way higher into the mountains and I was enjoying every mile of it.

But it soon became apparent that the night was going to catch me before I got to Coban, and I was starting to really get concerned as dusk gave way to darkness. “Never ride at night” is the golden rule of adventure motorcycling, and I don’t relish breaking it in the remote mountains of Guatemala. Just then I passed by a hotel with a brightly lit sign, so I turned the KLR around to have a look. They did in fact have a room available, it cost only $20 and was a really nice place. So OK, the fact that a hotel appeared on an empty stretch of road at exactly the time and place I needed it is well short of a miracle, but I did thank my new friends in the Christian Motorcyclists Association for it anyway.

Day 85 – Antigua, GU

Day 85 – Antigua, GU     11/14/10     Mileage: 0

Nothing that interesting today…studying, chores and I spent a few hours cross posting the blog to an adventure motorcycle website called AdvRider.com which I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. I did meet two more fellow travelers that were great fun to talk to. Dominik is from Germany and Jeanette is from the Sacramento, CA area and we had many good laughs over a few beers. Tomorrow it’s back on the bike!!

Day 84 – Antigua, GU

Day 84 – Antigua, GU     11/13/10     Mileage: 0

Today was a work day of sorts as I had a list of chores to do before I leave Antigua. The first order of business was to give the KLR a good check-up seeing as she’s basically been sitting for two weeks. I topped up the oil, the tire pressure, oiled the chain and a gave her a quick wash. Next was laundry and a trip to the market to get more 10w-40 oil…which the KLR drinks like keg beer in a frat house. Next I sorted through my gear to get rid of some dead weight which I will ship home first thing Monday. I also studied and did the Rosetta Stone (which is very good BTW) for a few hours and plotted some waypoints and routes between here and Belize City to download into the GPS. I’ve picked up a bit of a cold and didn’t feel like venturing out for dinner, so I just ate at the Black Cat. Fortunately the food is quite good here and somewhat reasonable by Antigua standards. I also caught up with my friends Paul, Kim and Andria from Colorado on Skype which was great. After a bit more studying of spanish and road maps, I packed it in for the night.

Here is my one token picture for today, the Fuego Volcano throwing up some ash, taken from the roof-top patio at the Black Cat. It’s like Guatemala’s answer to Old Faithful in Yellowstone! Lol

Day 83 – Antigua, GU

Day 83 – Antigua, GU     11/12/10     Mileage: 0

Last day of school (for now) today and despite what I think was a good effort I’m still struggling with even the most basic conversation. The students had another “recital” and mine was a recipe for cocadas…a local favorite similar to macaroons. So after bidding farewell to Christina and Probigua, I went back to the hotel to study before dinner. I actually had dinner plans tonight, not with some hot Latin number, but with two of my classmates…Max (from Zurich, Switzerland) and Alan (from Bavaria in southern Germany). I had mentioned to Max that I love fondue and have several fondue pots from Switzerland…and even a Swissmar raclette grill. Well, he saw an ad for a restaurant in Antigua that had Swiss fondue, so he proposed we give it a try. It was a short walk from the Black Cat to Cafe Teatro which is a very quaint place.

L to R: Alan, me and Max

The cool mountain air and setting also seemed to make fondue a more appropriate dinner choice than one might think. It also of course helps that we stumbled into the one place in Antigua that is owned by a Swiss ex-pat!

 Alan, the owner of Cafe Teatro has been living in Antigua for 11 years and is originally from Lozan, Switzerland!

Me and Alan, the owner of Cafe Teatro

Needless to say the fondue was excellent, and I even learned something new! Just before the fondue was finished, Alan (the owner) came over and asked if we’d like a raw egg. Max said yes and Alan cracked an egg into what was left of the fondue which gave us a few more savory bites. It was an awesome meal and great fun, and what would make it perfect was of course to cap it off with a nice strong schnapps! Well, unfortunately Alan didn’t have any on hand but Max asked what he would recommend as an alternate digestive, and he recommended…tequila! Lol! Well, we are still in Central America after all, so you work with what you got.

After we finished sipping our top shelf tequila, we said auf wiedersehen to Alan and Cafe Teatro and went out for a beer. We ended up in Cafe No Se where we had another couple of beers before sampling what Café No Se is really known for…mescal! The owner has his own mescal distillery in southern Mexico and he imports it. We tried 3 ages…joven (non-aged), 6 months and 1 year. There was quite a taste difference between the 3 which was interesting, but neither of us really cared for it much. I also bumped in Caroline who was there with some other Peace Corp friends.

We chatted for a bit and she helped me with my Spanish…it seems I learn better with a few drinks in me! Lol. After that it was back to the Black Cat to call it a night.