The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions,
and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world.
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all 3 book)
Cindie's Travel Journal for Guatemala #1:
La Mesilla to Antigua, Guatemala
(Nov. 8 - Dec. 15, 2002)
||La Mesilla, Guatemala to somewhere on the road to Huehuetenango. We
slept in and got kind of a late start. I always dislike border towns and could not
get away fast enough. On the way out of town we passed a trash heap and people were
walking all over it. I thought what are these people doing living in a trash heap.
Then Tim said, "They are looking for food or things to sell". I was
quite unnerved by the scene.
We steadily climbed up and away from La Mesilla. We
thought that there would be little towns and then open stretches of road but it seemed
that for the first 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) there were little houses lining the road all
along the way. These houses were made of concrete, discarded building materials, and
sometimes adobe. We saw wash basins outside of the house, and women weaving on the
porch. We moved on up the road and began riding in a narrow canyon. The height
of the canyon walls ranged from 1000 to 2000 feet of shear limestone cliff. The
river below was raging through a deep ravine and over large blocks of limestone.
Waterfalls were abundant and springs gushed out of the rock near the road. The sky
was beginning to cloud up and the ceiling started to drop quickly. We decided to
start looking for a place to camp. We rode ten kilometers (6.2 miles) and still
could not find a place to camp. When there was a flat spot between the river and the cliff
there was always a little house placed there.
While we were riding through one particular stretch I saw what I though was a rock hit
the ground. I looked up and could not even see the top of the cliff. Then in
front of me to the right a piece of fruit smashed to pieces. Oh s**t. I said,
"Lets get out of here, someone is throwing fruit at us and trying to hit us."
I put it in high gear and rode as fast and hard as I could. I could hear
things hitting the ground behind me. Tim was behind me. He had a full water
bag strapped on top of his rack along with everything else he was carrying. This added an
extra 20 lbs. so he was a bit slower. It was obvious that the fruit (the size and
weight of a cantaloupe) was being thrown from high above (200 feet or more). I knew
that if it hit me in the head I could seriously be injured if not killed. I did not
want to met my demised by getting hit by a piece of fruit. I was worried that Tim
being larger and a bit slower was a better target then I. We got away but Tim had a
close call with fruit hitting directly in front of him (he had to ride through the spray)
and inches away from his right side. We both were a bit shaken after that ordeal. We
still had to find a camp site and it began to rain. We searched in vain but found
nothing. We turned a corner and saw a structure with a tin roof that looked like a
rickety car port. The sign said that it was a bus stop for school children. We
pushed our bikes under just before the down pour. We discussed what kind of damage
to your spine a cantaloupe thrown from 200 feet above would cause. We concluded
We settled in and the locals were wondering why a couple of gringos were camped out in
their bus stop. A few men came over to talk. They were indigenous to the area,
friendly and polite. The women wore colorful scarves in their hair and beautifully
woven skirts and blouse. It is obvious that these people live a hard life.
They carry their burdens on their back with a strap around their forehead. The
mountains are steep and the trails look like only billy goats could go up them.
We stayed the night without incident, however, it did rain most of the night. Tim
did not get much sleep but he said he knew I was sleeping when he heard me snoring.
||The bus stop to Huehuetenango. We woke up bright and early and it
seemed that everyone else was up early too. People were at the bus stop
any car or bus (chicken bus)
they could. We packed up and continued up the canyon. This area of the canyon
is very narrow and there was evidence of landslides at every turn. Our pace slowed
down to a crawl.
At one point we saw a cluster of new graves on the side of the
road and people were placing flowers and candles on them. We later found out that a
bus had gone over the cliff here and dropped 300 meters (1000 ft.) to the river. The
only survivors were three people who were thrown from the bus on the way down. I
think it is safer to be on a bike right now.
We stopped for some lunch near Colotenango. We had eggs and beans. In
Guatemala their currency is the quetzal. One US dollar equals 7.8 quetzales.
The only quetzales note I had was 100, ($12.80) but I could not find anyone at the
restaurant, store or market who had change. Finally, I found a merchant who had
We continued to climb out of the canyon. The homes here are without electricity
and running water. We passed a group of men making cinder blocks by hand.
Whole families passed us carrying wood on their backs. Everyone had a burden
including grandpa and grandson. Women carry everything on their head from vases full
of water to vegetables. I am glad we are here at harvest time because I think that
food would be hard to come by at other times. I have never seen people struggling so
hard just to eat and stay alive. I felt over weight and spoiled. Its times
like this I realize what a great land of opportunity the United States is. We may
consider some people to be poor in the US but rarely do they struggle for survival the way
these people do.
We finally arrived in Huehuetenango. and went out for dinner. We were so hungry
that we had two dinners a piece. Food and lodging are much cheaper here than Mexico.
Our hotel room at Hotel Gobernador is 41 quetzales ($5.30) with a shared bath with
plenty of hot water. Our dinner cost 30 quetzales ($3.80) each. My favorite
snack is a frozen banana covered with chocolate and nuts. I use to eat these as a
kid on the New Jersey shore. They are a bit cheaper here at 1 quetzal ($0.12).
||It is Sunday in Guatemala and it is pretty much the same as Mexico,
everything is closed. We walked around for an hour looking for a bank machine and
finally found one that took our Visa ATM debit card. We were worried that we could
not get quetzales (local currency) with our card. No problem, Honduras will be
another story but we do not have to worry about that now.
Huehuetenango is a town of
about 20,000. The town is run down and has abandoned buildings here and there.
The people are not as smartly dressed as in Mexico and there is a sense of sadness
in the air. This area of Guatemala saw heavy fighting during the civil war and this
town was virtually a ghost town for many years. It seems that it takes a long time
to heal the wounds of war.
We learned this evening that the electricity could go out at any time. Right in the
middle of a movie is not the best time but that is exactly what happened. Ah well,
it was a B movie anyway.
||Our mission for today was to get our laundry done. Easier said then
done. Normally we wash it by hand, but it was pretty dirty from sweat and the damp
jungle. The one laundry mat in town had lost power the night before and was without
electricity. All this dirty laundry and no place to go. I could hardly stand
carrying it any where. With nothing else to do, we made our way to the internet cafe
to check email. While there we met Nellie from Texas. She said she knew a women who would
wash our cloths by hand. She said that Juanita needed the work because she had just
lost her job and she had three kids to feed. So we made arrangements to meet the
When we returned from the internet we met Juan who had worked in the state
of Maryland and spoke pretty good English. He was impressed with our trip and took
us out to dinner at a local cafe. We had chili Rellenos, not the kind in Arizona
where they cover a chili with batter, stuff it with cheese and then fry it. This chili
Rellenos was a mixture of carrots, onions, and chilies rolled in batter and fried.
||I dropped the laundry off at Nellie's house. It was an adventure
just finding it. I stopped and asked people along the way lots of questions and rode
up and down streets two or three times. The whole place is half built and in need of
paint. The roads are so full of pot holes they might as well be dirt. The
outside of Nellie's condominium looked run down. However, when I went inside it
looked like any modern condominium in the USA. Appearances are deceiving in
Guatemala. I dropped off our clothes and made plans to pick them up tomorrow.
I paid 33 quetzales ($4.25) to get three loads of laundry cleaned by hand. That was
a days wage for this women. I paid her the same amount I would the laundry mat. Most
people pay her less. I suggested to her to put up a sign in the hotels for
travelers. I hope she gets more work out of travelers who come here.
||I picked our clothes up this morning and was extremely happy with the
work Juanita did. I had pine sap on a pair of white pants that would not come out.
Juanita cleaned every bit of it out. Yahoo!!! Clean again.
all rested up and planned to leave town today. No such luck. The clouds rolled
in and the sky looked like it was ready to burst so we postponed our departure for another
day. I will take the time to study Spanish and catch up on my journal.
I do not feel totally comfortable in Huehuetenango. I have never experienced what
real poverty is, and I see it every where here and in the surrounding country side.
It is both frightening and gives me a sense of hopelessness at the same time.
I have experienced poverty (what I thought was poverty) during my early college
years, yet I did not have the hopelessness with it. On the contrary, I knew with
hard work and persistence that I could eventually change my situation. This is not
so here. The despair, sadness and struggle is to get through the day, not to a
better place in life. I realize now, that seeing the world is just not looking at
the pretty places.
||Left Huehuetenango for Quetzaltenango. We rode 30 km (19 miles) in
rolling terrain. Up 1000 feet down 800 feet up 800 feet down 500 feet and so
on. We could see the large mountain looming in the distance. We stopped at the
base of the mountain with enough time to relax and enjoy the rest of the day. We
found a great camping spot away from the road, flat and secluded. We decided that we did
not need the tent. Not a good decision, the mosquitoes (at 2100 meters (7000 ft))
kept us both up all night.
||We climbed the endless mountain today the road went from new pavement to
gravel and back to pavement again. We began our climb at 2100 meters (7000 ft) and
ended at 2815 meters (9230 feet). The climate changed from warm to cold. A
welcome change from the hot jungle of Chiapas. We passed many little villages along
the way. The people here are truly frightened of foreigners. At one point a
women collecting water near the road saw us coming and ran for her life while hiding her
baby from us. Rumor has it that foreigner, white women in particular, have been
known to come to Guatemala and take young children away from their families and sell them
for adoption. A disturbing thought to me is they may mistake me for one of those
women. But where would I carry a baby on a bike?
Later in the afternoon we found a
pleasant camp site in the pine forest. Right before the sun went down a group of
children with what appeared to be their grandfather showed up at our camp site When
Tim stood up to greet them, the young children ran for their lives. The grandfather
kept his distance, was nervous and told us that it was dangerous to camp here. That
made us feel real comfortable. Consequently, Tim and I were awake all night.
However, we had no problems during the night.
||In the morning a group of women were gathering pine needles near our
campsite. They were obviously curious and asked us to their house for some lunch.
We were obviously curious and accepted the invitation while not being sure what we
were getting into. We followed the women who were carrying their very large loads of pine needles to the
village. We descended down a steep hill that was wet and slippery. I was not looking
forward to the return trip. As we entered the village an older gentlemen asked Tim
if we brought bibles. Maria's house was on the other side of the village and
everyone stood in their doorway and stared in curiosity.
We traveled through a
corn field and arrived at Maria's house. The house had no electricity, no running
water and a dirt floor. Along side the house was a large kiln/oven for
cooking. The corn field came right up to the back of the house, they were in the
process of drying blue corn in the sun. On close inspection, beans were also planted
in the corn field and the beans grew on the corn stalks. There was a couple of
chickens, pigs, and dogs running around the small yard as well.
Maria was the only one of the five women who would tell us her name. She had at a
young child she breast feed and another four year old running around. The other
women were her sisters or perhaps daughters as well. I could not tell. Maria
showed me her beautiful embroidery. We decided that it was time to leave but Maria
insisted on giving us attole to drink. Attole (in Guatemala) is made of corn meal
and water. Not very tasty but it would be rude not to drink it. We hoped that
this would not lead to stomach upset in the future. Then Maria went into the
cornfield and picked some corn and cooked it on an open fire. This tasted more like
popcorn then the sweet corn I love in the USA. We said our good-byes and tackled the
steep slippery hill back to the road.
The ride into Quetzaltenango was down hill and quick. We dropped 500 meters (1500
feet). We went to the plaza as usual. While in the plaza we met Jin, a young man from
Japan who is also
bike touring, he spoke a little more Spanish then we did and hardly spoke any
English. We had a great time talking about his travels in Spanish. Later in
the afternoon we found Casa Argentina, the youth hostel we plan to stay at for a while.
||Quetzaltenango (Xela, in Mayan). Checked out two Spanish schools today,
Utitlan and Celsa Mayan. I first looked at Celsa Mayan. The cost to study
Spanish for one week one on one including activities, without a home
stay is US $90.
The facility is pleasant with nicely displayed plants and an internet cafe. I then
looked at the Spanish school Utitlan. It was not as pretty but to study Spanish for
one on one including activities, without a home stay is US $75.
both options are for 5 hours a day five days a week. I signed up for the
Spanish school Utitlan. I went for the cheaper option.
||Started school today! I started at 8:00 am with a half hour break
at 10:30 am and finishing at 1:00 PM. We spent the day reviewing vocabulary and the
conjugation of regular verbs.
||Second day in school. We reviewed grammar in the morning and went to the
market and bakery in the afternoon. We spoke Spanish the entire time. In the
afternoon a group of us from the school and Tim went to San Andres Xecul. San Andres Xecul has
the most colorful church in Central America. Near the center square is the town well
and just down stream is the community
laundry washing area. While in town we witnessed a Religious Procession MPEG Movie through town.
||Third day in school. Reviewed irregular verbs. I was tired
today and had a hard time getting it. I was frustrated with my homework.
||Reviewed yesterday's lessons. Went to the cemetery and learned
about the customs of Guatemaltecas. Rather than celebrate the day of the dead on
November 1 and 2 like the Mexicans they celebrate Saints day. All the families
gather in the cemetery to remember their dead family members. This cemetery is the
largest I have ever seen. Attended a benefit for Quetaltrekkers. The benefit
was for street children in Quetzaltenango. The organization provides shelter and
schooling for about 75 youths.
||Went to the market in San Francisco de Alto. It is a traditional
market where traditional dress is sold. It was also like a 4-H club outing. In
a large parking lot there were cows, horses, pigs, dogs, cats, turkeys, ducks, cats, sheep, goats,
rabbits and chickens were for sale. Not all of them were for eating.
Everything is carried to the market on peoples backs. Huge loads of clothing are
carried on the backs of men and baskets full of turkeys are carried in a basket on the
top of women's heads.
||We woke up this morning at 4:00 am to meet every one at the school to
catch a taxi to the base of the volcano Santa Maria. The climb started out slow and
we passed cornfields on both sides of us. The climb began to get steep and it stayed
steep. In areas the trail was muddy and slippery. At one point Tim was hanging
from a root trying to get a grip to climb up. Tim carried most of our water, 7.5
liters in all, plus food, we had squished chocolate cupcakes for lunch. Tim was
using a red backpack that he had since he was in the boy scouts. It could not handle
the strain today and one of the straps pulled through the grommet half way up the hill.
Tim repaired the backpack quickly using a stick. I am afraid that it will be
it's last outing.
Climbing to the top of a volcano is different than climbing up
to the top of a mountain. Unlike a mountain top there was no summit and then a ridge
to the top it was straight up and then boom we were at the top. The group from the Utitlan
Spanish school were waiting for us at the top. While we were eating lunch at the top
we watched a near by volcano
Santiaguito erupt. Excellent!
||Stayed in Quetzaltenango and recovered from the hike up Santa Maria.
My legs hurt so much I could hardly walk. We gingerly walked around town
today and I studied Spanish.
||Started my second week of Spanish with Edna at Spanish School Utitlan.
||Went to Spanish School and the afternoon activity of going to the town of
Almolongo. Almolongo is a
rich valley where they grow vegetable year round. The fields are tended by each
family. The locals water the gardens by hand. Water is brought to the fields
via irrigation canals or in some areas cisterns. The water is spread over the
plants by shoveling the water from the canals and cisterns, what a laborious way to water
Almolongo use to predominantly Catholic but in the last five years the
evangelists have made their way into the community. The law in this area is more
like vigilante justice then the way we think of law and order in the United States.
We were told that three years ago three youths from the neighboring town of Quetzaltenango
came to Almolongo and started stealing vegetables. I have no idea how much they
stole. They were caught by the locals in charge, found guilty, dosed with gasoline,
and set on fire. Wow, what an extreme way to take care of problems. We were
also told that the surrounding villages were afraid of this town. I can see why.
We then went to the Balanarios where we rented a hot tube for 25 Q ($3.33) for three
people (Tim, Robert from Germany, and me). A pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
||Went to Spanish School.
||Thanksgiving Day. We went to a vegetarian Thanksgiving Day feast.
I missed the turkey and cranberry sauce. Otherwise it was a great meal.
We met Jasmine from Costa Rica and Paul from the US. They are traveling in
Central America for as long as they can. We also met Peggy from Michigan who has
been in the Peace Corp in Senegal and is currently teaching at an American School in
Guatemala City. We plan to meet her in Guatemala City in the next couple of weeks.
We also invited her on a hike we are doing with the Spanish school to Lake Chicabal
on Saturday. Jasmine and Paul want to go also.
||My last day of class, I was sad to say good-bye to Edna. I could
stay her for two months and go to Spanish School. Unfortunately at this time we do
not have the time or money to stay here much longer. We attended the dinner with the
school. The director of the school warned us of robberies that were taking place on
the highways and to be careful when we travel.
We washed the tent and some laundry
||We met at the school at 6:00 am to go to Lake Chicabal. We did not see
Peggy, Paul or Jasmine. We walked to the bus station on the other side of town.
Before we left we met Casper from the school and Peggy, there was ten people in all
on the hike.
Lake Chicabal is to the north of Volcano Santa Maria, it took us about 45
minutes by bus to arrive there. Lake Chicabal is located in a dormant volcano.
The Mayans consider the lake a sacred place and still perform Mayan rituals there.
This volcano was not near as difficult as Santa Maria, it was a steep climb to the
rim of the volcano and the a very steep decent down to the lake. We relaxed at the
rim for lunch and then descended down to the lake. I watched a Mayan ceremony where
they sacrificed a chicken, burned it, and made offerings of coke and alcohol to the gods.
We had dinner with Peggy, Rodney from Israel, Joe from Alaska. It was hilarious
to listen to Joe explain to Rodney what a moose looked like. Tim asked if he had
ever watched Rocky and Bullwinkle, Rodney said no, I have a hole in my education.
Then Rodney asked, Is it the size of that Toyota 4-Runner. Joe replied, no a moose
would eat that truck for lunch. It was difficult for an Israeli to imagine how large
a moose really is.
||We spent the day getting ready to leave tomorrow. Sundays are a
difficult time to go shopping, nothing is open.
The room looks like a boom exploded in
it. I am often amazed that we carry all this stuff. Before we head to South
America I intend to lighten the load some more. I am considering sending another
package home from Guatemala city.
We had dinner with Rodney. Rodney made the rice, Persian style. I made
beans, Arizona style. I added one too many jalapeños so it was a bit hot. We
were socializing and having a good time so we did not finish packing completely so we
decided to stay another day.
||We spent the day packing a running the last of our chores. We had
an awesome pizza with the crew from Casa Argentina. We were packed and ready to head
out the door tomorrow. Our map indicates that we will be going over the highest pass
on the Pan-American highway at 3600 meters (12,000 feet). I have not been on my bike
in two weeks and I hope I have not lost a lot of my fitness. Otherwise it is going
to be a long day. Some of you may be wondering what Tim was doing while I was
studying Spanish for 5 hours a day. Well he worked on the web page, wrote a
newsletter home, answered a ton of email (we always answer our email), and I suspect
watched cable TV.
||We stopped by the school on our way out of town. We said good-bye
to Casper, Edna, Marvin and the other students at school. Jin from Japan said he
would meet us in Antigua in a week or so.
The wind was blowing hard as we left and of
course into our face. The road was narrow and the drivers impatient so we would ride
in the dirt along side the road when traffic got heavy. When we were passing through
a small town with narrow streets traffic was backed up for at least 2 kilometers.
Tim and I cruised right on through. Sometimes a bike is faster and easier. We
stopped for lunch and then tackled the hill towards the pass. The pan-American
highway has been recently paved and it has a wide shoulder. The only thing that is
bothersome is that the new pavement is only to the white line except through curves.
So we end up riding up and down a lip on the pavement. Otherwise there is plenty of
room for traffic and us. Amazing for Central America!
We climbed from 2300 to 2800 meters (1,500 feet). We made camp at the top of the
hill out of site of the road. While setting up camp we met the locals. Among
other things, they asked us to take them back to the US. It was pretty cold during
the night and when we woke up there was frost on the ground.
||The pass was actually at 2960 meters, more or less, rather than 3620
meters labeled on the map.. What a relief. We knew we had a nice down hill
some where, and we did, for about 10 k. We stopped for lunch just after a police
checkpoint, they waved us on through.
We met Tony from New Zealand at the
restaurant. He is riding his motorcycle, a Honda Enduro 650 from Denver, Colorado to
Panama City, Panama and back. We told him about our route to the Lake Atitlan, it
was nice to know that some knew we were on this side road. We turned off the
Pan-American highway down towards Lake Atitlan at KM 148. The lake is in the middle
of a caldera, a blown out volcano, in this case a large blown out volcano. Locals
say that the ash from this volcano was found as far south as Panama and as far east as
Before we descended into the caldera, we first had to ride up to the rim of the volcano
on a steep narrow road. It was so steep that I had to switchback across the road to
ride up it. We were going as hard as we could because we did not want to get caught
out on the road near dark. When we finally made it to the rim it was misty and
chilly. We descended down the steepest windiest paved road I have ever been
on. I felt like I was mountain biking not touring. We stopped many times to
cool our brakes. Tim is going to have to put on new brake pads in San Pedro.
When we got below the clouds we could see the towns that rim the lake, magical. The
road down was not completely downhill, we still had spurts of short steep up hills.
The roads through the towns were cobblestone and difficult. We asked directions
along the way because there were not many signs. The vegetation has gone from pine
and corn at the rim to banana and coffee at the lake shore. My legs were sore and I
was feeling tired by the time we reached town. We did not know where the hotels were
and a local girl took us to the tourist part of town. We did not see any tourists in
the main part of town, it was eerie because we knew that there were many boat loads of
We found a room at the Hotel
Bella Vista in San Pedro,
near the boat dock for Panajachel. We are paying 24 Q ($3.20) per night. We
have access to a nice kitchen, however, the water temperature went from hot to luke warm
in a day. They always tell you that they have hot water, I suggest that you
check. In this case we were better off with our own solar shower. Still a
pleasant place to stay.
||Laid around and rested. Explored San Pedro, found cafe munchies, the name
should tell you what they make there, brownies and cookies. Met Kate, Cody, and Andrew
from Cape Cod. Kate and Cody plan on building a house here and Andrew came down to
help them build the house. We plan on hiking up Volcano San Pedro tomorrow.
||Tim woke up with an upset stomach so we had to skip the volcano for
today. We needed to buy a backpack anyway. We went to the market and found a
Guatemalan style pack for $5. Hopefully it will last a while. We decided to
hike from Santa Cruz to San Marcos on the other side lake. These towns (except San
Marcos) are accessible by foot or boat only.
The weather here at San Pedro (elevation
approximately 1550 meters) is temperate, about 75 - 80 during the day, dry (dry for
Guatemala), and cool 55 at night. The temperature does not change much here all year
long. The rainy season May - October is known as winter and the dry season November
- April is known as summer. So it is summer time now.
||Packed a lunch and caught a boat to Santa Cruz. Just like the bus,
when we got in it was not crowded but we picked up people along the way. The lake
was rough so we were bouncing around and getting wet. Great fun. We were glad
to get off the boat and I was amazed that Tim was not seasick. We started up the
road towards the town of Santa
Cruz. We asked where the trail was for San Marcos and found out that we had gone
the wrong way. Oh well it was a pretty town. We had great views of the lake
all along the trail. The trail meandered up and down
the cliffs. We met locals along the way in native dress and had great views of the Volcano San Pedro.
They grow coffee here and I think that it is harvest time. The beans are laid out to
dry and sorted by kids. We stopped in the next town called Jaibalito for lunch at the
Vulcano Lodge. An awesome place run by Norwegians, clean, beautiful gardens and
wonderful food. A recommended retreat for those who want peace and quiet. It
was another hour and a half to Tzununa and another hour and a half to San Marcos.
Most of the time the trail was easy to find, sometimes we headed off in the wrong
direction and just asked a local where to go. We asked a little girl which way to go
and she said she would tell us for 2 quetzals, we said no thank you and moved on.
Then we came upon two little
girls who asked us to take their photo. We then gave them a quetzal a piece for
the photo. The entire hike took a leisurely four hours to complete. At San
Marcos we waited for a boat back to San Pedro, we waited for an hour and a half and
finally a boat arrived. I would highly recommend this hike to anyone who likes to
explore new areas and see what some of the less visited towns along the lake are like.
Warning, people have been robbed on this trail, read my journal for Dec. 9.
back in San Pedro I felt a bit sick to my stomach, not so much from the boat ride, more
like from something I ate.
||I woke up not feeling very well. So I just relaxed the entire day.
Tonight is the Festival of the Virgin Mary. The festival is with the Catholic
church. A statue of the Virgin Mary is paraded through town from the catholic church
around to the market and back. The entire procession takes two hours to return.
In the mean time firecrackers, bottle rockets and fireworks are lit by the men (yes
the men, not the kids) of the town announcing the processions arrival. Just before
the Virgin Mary re-enters the church, a man with an apparatus that looks like a bull
covered with fire works runs through the street chasing kids and foreigners alike. I
spoke to an Englishmen who said that he was coming out of a restaurant and was trapped in
the doorway while the bull was running for him fireworks a blazing. He said it was
the craziest thing he ever experienced in his life. After the fireworks display, the
best I have ever seen, I returned to the hotel to go to sleep. It took some time to
unwind from all the excitement of the evening.
||Tim decided he wanted to try horseback riding here.
We thought a two hour ride would be long enough for a newbie. The horse they gave me
was frisky and liked to run, I was happy with that and we would run ahead. Tim on
the other hand did not fit in the saddle, we had to stop and adjust the stirrups for
him. He felt better after that. Tim asked our guide how much weight the horse
could carry and he replied, 100 kilograms. This made Tim feel terrible, Tim weights
more than 100 kilograms. So he did not push the horse much, and just enjoyed the
sites. Tim kept saying, " I could ride my bike here". So in the end
Tim decided that he preferred riding his bike over riding a horse. The next time we
ride, I will make sure that Tim gets the big horse, so he feels more comfortable.
met Nacho and Melinda from Uruguay at the hotel. There are only three million people
who live in Uruguay. Uruguay is wedged between Argentina and Brazil in South America.
As we were talking to them Andrew came up to us and told us he was just robbed.
It took me a second to register what he had told me. I asked him where, and
he said near the village of Tzununa. The village where we had hiked through two days
earlier. He said that he had his day pack and was planning on walking over to
Panajachel to do some shopping. He had a change of cloths, a notebook and camera in
the bag. He happen to have his passport is his pocket and not his day pack. He
said that four teenagers with machetes came up from behind him and pulled the pack off of
him. One of them held a machete to his throat and demanded his money. They
cussed at him in English and were very impatient with the amount of time it took him to
hand over his money. After the robbery, he walked back to San Pedro and the hotel to
tell Kate and Cody. They went back to San Marcos to file a police report and search
for the stolen notebook. They did not come back until after 8:00 PM. We (Tim,
Francisco the hotel owner and I) were all a bit worried about them.
||Our plan for today was to do laundry and pack to leave tomorrow. We
got our laundry done in the morning, the old fashion way, by hand in a wash basin. I
think I prefer a washing machine, washing clothes by hand is laborious.
Cody and Kate
showed us the land they bought and plan to build a house on soon. Wow, an incredible
view of the lake. The land was cleared two years ago, it has young coffee plants, lime
trees, avocado and other fruit trees on it. The growing season here is year round so their
vegetable garden is going to be awesome. What an awesome project to take on, build your
own house, garden, outhouse ect. A task that could take years to finish. I
hope to come back again and see how they are doing.
So much for packing today. We went out to dinner and ran into Roberto and Marco
who went to Spanish school with me in Quetzaltenango.
||San Pedro for Panajachel. We woke up this morning and started
packing for the trip across the lake. We took photos of Francisco and Family, they
were such great hosts at the Hotel Bella Vista, they gave the place a homey feel. We
caught a boat to
we were not sure if our bikes would fit in the boat, it was a tight squeeze. We
arrived in Panajachel and began searching for a room. I could not seem to find a
room that was cheap enough and big enough for our two bikes. We decided to follow a
couple of local kids to a hotel they recommended. We should know better.
After winding through some side streets we came to a hotel that looked like it would suit
our needs. Before we followed our guides to the hotel I though we had agreed that
the price was 25 Q. ($3.20). When we arrived they said that it was 25 Q per
person. We got the price down to 40Q. I do not remember the name of the hotel,
it doesn't matter, I would not recommend it any way. We went out to dinner,
witnessed a drunk fall on to a table and pull everything to the ground. I do not
think I like this town, at least my first impression isn't very good. Tim bought a
Gallo (Guatemalan beer) T-shirt.
We discussed whether we were going to ride the road out
of Panajachel to the Pan-American or if we were going to hitch a ride in a pick up
truck. We are concerned with safety. We read on the US Embassy page that there
have been a number of armed robberies on this stretch of road. We decided to take
the fact that Andrew was robbed two days ago as a wake up call and decided to get a ride
up to the highway in a truck and then ride our bikes on the busier Pan-American highway to
||Panajachel to Km 103 (Pan-American Highway). We thought that it
would be easy to get money in such a tourist town as Panajachel but no such luck.
Both ATMs were not working so we had to go to the bank (Bank Agromercantil) to get money
out with our Visa card, the only bank that would take a credit card. This stalled
our departure for some time. As we were heading to the docks to haggle for a ride to
the Pan American highway, Tim found us a pick up truck driver who would take us to the
Pan-American Highway, bikes and all, for 50 Q. It turned out the driver was 14 and
his companions all jumped in the back for fun. The three boys spoke quite a bit of
English. I asked the oldest boy if he went to school (They are on break at the
moment) and he said that his father died and his mother could not afford to pay for
school, uniforms, books ect. Then he asked me if I wanted to buy a necklace.
Tim said, "You can always believe a street wise kid". I think he is right
in this case. The boys spoke a Mayan dialect called X. I told the oldest boy I
thought that the his language sounded beautiful, I meant it. He seemed to like this
comment and he settled down after that. In the mean time Tim caught one of the other
boys going through the (empty) pockets of my panniers.
The ride up the hill was
fascinating and a relief at the same time, the road was narrow, steep and full of traffic.
I know that it would not have been a pleasant ride, on the other hand the views
were spectacular. We went through the town of Solola, it did not look particularly
friendly but it had a beautiful church and a stunning view of the Lake. Lake Atitlan
is a awesome special place, just a unique place to live on the edge of a huge caldera.
The elevation of Panajachel was 1700 meters and the intersection of the highway is
2300 meters, 18 kilometers long.
Highway was a bit crowded, not something I thought I would ever welcome, but I
did. The road is wide with a large shoulder so we felt like we had a bike lane of
our own. The locals also use the wide pavement to sell crafts, since the Christmas
season is here, we saw mangers, Reindeer (some with 4 antlers, I'm guessing they have
never seen one), and wreaths made with straw and pine. We steadily climbed up hills
and then descended into valleys. We found a place to camp up on a hill among tall
vegetation with some very sharp leaves.
||Km 103 to Chimaltenango. I woke up, looked at my watch and noticed
that it was Friday the 13th, traditionally a day of bad luck. I shrugged off the
warning and moved on. It would turn out to be a Friday the 13th more for Tim then I.
We got an early start and I though we would get pretty far today. Tim started
loading his bike and noticed that he had a flat front tire. He fixed it, adjusted
my brakes, we need new pads soon, and we headed down the road. We road for 25
minutes up hill and Tim was changing a flat tire again. Hmm
we thought the valve was bad on this one.
We pushed on the scenery was wonderful,
the weather chilly, but comfortable. We finally made the pass and saw a truck stop
area and stopped for lunch. Tim had Carne Adobado and I had Chicken. The
lunch was absolutely delicious, the best we have had in the past 6 months.
Satisfied and in good spirits we pressed on, we even had a tail wind. After a long
down hill glide the road turned from wide and smooth to narrow and bumpy. Because
there was so much traffic we moved over to the side of the road in the dirt. With a
tail wind we were still making good time, then it happen while riding about 17 miles an
hour, Tim hit a good sized pot hole and knocked his rear wheel out of true badly.
Tim spent 45 minutes trying to true the wheel, and we pushed on. He was bummed, he
thinks he bent the rim and we may need to replace it in Antigua. We slowed our pace
and pushed on. As we were rounding a corner Tim felt his front tire go soft.
Lets see, flat tire number three. Tim was frustrated beyond belief. On the
road again we cruised to Chimaltenango and arrived about 4:00 PM. What a scruffy
looking town. We asked directions to a hotel and could not understand the
response. It sounded like a mixture of Spanish and an Indian dialect. We then
encountered some police on motor bikes and asked about a cheap but secure place to
stay. They took us to hospedaje Popular. A welcome site, the room was 30 Q
($4.00), we had the room with a new paint job pink and green.
||I woke up with stomach problems again and Tim did not feel like riding
today. So we decided to stay in Chimaltenango for one more night. Besides we
wanted to go to the shrine for San Simon, the cigar smoking, rum drink, womanizing saint.
He is worshiped by prostitutes, drug addicts, and drunks. Tim had to see what
this place looked like, was it a myth or what. We took a taxi from Chimaltenango to
San Andres Itzapa. The taxi driver dropped us off at the door. We walked into
a courtyard with mounds of burnt ash scattered around. We walked into the chapel
full of people. There was a line on the left to go up and visit the statue of San Simon. We got in line
and read the plaques on the wall as we made our way forward. Most of the plaques
thanked San Simon for the miracle that they had experienced. We were behind a
gentlemen who offered alcohol, money and cigarette to San Simon. Then he beat
himself with a bundle of sweet smelling flowers. I certainly did not understand this
ritual at all. We left after inspecting the statue that had his face and hand
covered with plastic (I am guessing to protect it from alcohol spray), a lap full of money
and bottles of opened booze bottles at his feet. Strange.
||I was hoping that we would have an easy ride down into Antigua. We
first passed a recreational area with a lake that also had a large circle of concrete
structures to wash cloths. At least 25 people could wash their clothes all at once.
Few people around here have indoor plumbing.
Except for two short very steep
hills the entire ride to Antigua was down hill. Good thing too, Tim's wheel was
starting to wobble and hit his brake pad. I guess we have to except the fact that
that wheel is history. I shutter to think how much this is going to cost. Only
time will tell. We arrived in Antigua at around noon, went to the central park and
immediately ran into Jin from Japan. We also saw Marco from Switzerland, Robert from
Germany, and Joel and Katie from Canada. I guess we are all on the same circuit.
A pleasant bunch of traveling companions.
In search of a cheap hotel, I looked at six different hotels and we decided to take the
cheapest for the night and then look elsewhere in the morning, Hotel Posada Ruiz II at 37Q
($4.90). We pushed our bikes in the room, put our own pad lock on the door and went
to eat, we were starving. I looked for the women who showed us the room but I could
not find her. I thought, I will just pay later, at other hotels we have often paid
for our room at a later time, even the next day. When we returned from dinner the
women was extremely upset, I would say pissed that we did not pay for the room before we
left. She put another lock on our door and wrapped a wire around the door hinge, why she
did this I do not know, all she did was create work for herself. I paid for the
room, not understanding why she was so bend out of shape. It may be an indication of
the kind of clientele they get here. At this point I am up for going to another
hotel in the morning.
Taking a break along the road to Huehuetenango.
An interesting use of the American Flag.
Tim with a full water bag from the village well to his right.
The steep and curvy road down to Lake Atitlan
Tim and Cindie near San Pedro.
The edge of the Caldera is left and Volcano San Pedro is to the right.
Local children in the village of Tzununa pose for a photograph.
The boat dock at San Marcos.
Tim watching the loading of our bikes on to the boat to Panajachel.
North and Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03
(July 18 - Aug 22, 2002)
The State of
Guanajuato to Toluca, Mexico
Other essays by Tim
Into the Mist State
of Michoacan, Mexico
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Michoacan,
Full size Picture
- Guanajuato to
Penjamillo to Patzcuaro, Mexico
Patzcuaro to Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan,
Into the Mist Mexican highway 15
Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, to Toluca, Mexico
The Velodrome in Toluca, Mexico
(Oct. 12 - Nov. 8, 2002)
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas,
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Tabasco and
Chiapas, Mexico Pictures
Full size Picture
- Museum La Venta and the
Olmec Heads Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Ocosingo,
Palenque #1 Photo Picture Page
Palenque #2 Photo Picture Page
Misol-Ha Waterfall Chiapas, Mexico
Agua Azul Chiapas, Mexico
Tonina Mayan Ruins Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
Mexico's Day of the Dead Ocosingo, Chiapas,
Ocosingo to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico
(March 15 - April 10, 2003)
Costa Rica #2
Manual Antonio to Monteverde
Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Tim's Emailed Newsletters
Costa Rica #2 (incomplete)
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #2 Pictures
Full size Picture
Parque National Manuel Antonio, #2
City of Santa Elena
Santa Elena, Monteverde
Frog Pond (Ranario), Santa
Santa Elena, Cloud
Forest, National Park
Sky Walk, Suspension
Bridge, Canopy Tour
Sky Trek Zip Line,
Tips & Advice
Tools and Spares
Pots and Pans
Preventing Flat Tires
Bike Touring Shorts
Have Learned On The Road
Injustice of Poverty
Much MORE Gear Here!
Cycle Touring Racks
Tents and ground