I can't even remember where I left off, the past couple of days have been quite the blur. The last I remember posting about was the cold, the damn cold that seems to follow us through these mountains. The rain has passed completely, we have been graced with mostly sunny skies sicne that one day. If I can think back to where I left off, we travelled the farthest we had yet on this trip through that rain. 670 kilometres in one day. Along the way we met a traveller from Alberta fully loaded for a round the world trip. He had he would try and make it to San Cristobal with us, but I doubt he has our stubborness and persistence. We did make it, through, hmmm if I can recall, by passing through 7 TOLLS. Yeah, 7...lucky number, our wallets ran dry three times with the unexpected stops. It ran us a total of $50.00 US, our whole daily budget, just to drive from city to city. I only once we ran through our last toll did I realize that Libre meant free and Cordo (or something similar) meant pay up. As I rode through tropical rainstorms I wondered how the hell most of Mexico's inhabitants can afford routine travel. Let alone Canada (basically no toll roads) in the U.S. Tolls are FAR less expensive, and to take "La Ruta Libre" would mean countless more kilometres in detours and far less impressive roads. We'd pay 15.00 to travel one section of road that would have potholes a foot deep and 3 feet wide. You hit one of those and guarenteed you're not coming out on two wheels. Gotta also account for the whole-lane puddles and nearly no visibility. It was not a pleasant ride but we knew where we had to go, so I compain now, but we sucked it up and rode on. When I do get to upload pictures, I'llshow the better half of that ride we talked about last post.
San Cristobal – not quite as impressive as I read about, but we didn't tour around the whole town. There is a lot of poverty here off the main drag (San Juan etc.) and we found ourselves looking for a hotel in the wrong side of town. We stayed directly in the square at the foot of the historical distract in a place called the Alcatraz Hotel. Funny....because the temrperature in the room/outside felt like the icy waters of that very prison. Nice place though, $25.00 a pop, we came to accept it, because it is more of a tourist town. We found a delicious chinese food chain I wasn't at first so sure about, but if I do see it again, it'll be my first stop. The town has pretty much everything you want, giant supermarket, chain auto shops, and for us a much needed "Laundaria". We were down to our last set of clothes...haha who am I kidding, we wore all our shitty clothes twice before we got them cleaned. The problem here was that it took our laundry lady until 1 pm to finish the clothes. We worked on the bikes, did an oil change, I readjusted my chain again, and goofed around in the sun until they were ready.
1 pm and we're on the road. In terms of Mexican road signs, I'm very pleased. Never did I have to rely on my map to figure out where I'm going (I'm the navigator of the trip: Man with the Maps). The signs always point you in the right direction, but I do have a damn bone to pick. When a road sign gives you a distance, say for example, 200 km to San Cristobal, why when you approach the next one 40 km later, it tells you 212 km to go. This is evident EVERYWHERE. Everytime you think you get somewhere, the next sign will put you 30km behind schedule. Regardless, we had time to make up, we had to get through the Guatemalan border yesterday.
The road out of San Cristobal rose even higher. We're getting on 3500 feet and still climbing. The ride was again spectacular, the Chiapas region is beyond my favourite area to ride. Constant climbs and descents, a great strain on my chain, but who cares, these rides are what motorcycle enthusiasts only dream of. Full hairpin turns at a 15-20 degree slope for 30-40 km. The pavement and road conditions were perfect with barely anyone on the roads. The termperature rose as we approached the border...ha the border, this is always the fun part. So the Frontera (border) towns are busy, I can't explain to you how busy, but it's basically a line of people two deep, both sides of a single lane road. You're also contending with of course traffic, 18 wheelers, motorcycles, the works, on a road that climbs at such an angle it's even hard to walk up. I heard from Central America advice on ADVRider that you can sneak through Mexico exit and go right into Gaute. Not true....must've been old. We were told immediately to go back 4 km to the Mexican migracion to get our exit stamps. It was getting dark fast, and no one....trust me, no one travels Guatemala roads at night. We figure there's no rush, even if we did clear the border we wouldn't have gotten far, so we, along with our bikes "exited" Mexico and dropped into a hotel right beside the Migracion. Again, the only people there, and for 200 pesos, theres no way to go wrong. Locked parking, and a whole house to ourselves, incredible. This place (look for the many pictures at the end of the post) had like 4 oversized (WAY OVERSIZED) interconnected rooms upstairs with a whole enormous wrap around balcony, all to ourselves. "Let's get dinner", we agreed suspiciously.
Not much around other than the post, and its dark. We walk up to the store for some beers, and decide instead to get dinner first. One slightly fellow told us in english that they had beers there. When we walked to get dinner instead, he insisted they had beers, and "you know what, I'll show you where to get some beers"......"wat", I look at Nik. The little feller points over to the darkest corner by some houses, and asks us to follow him over there to get some beers. This was our first encounter with, well we thought he was friendly, dunno what he wanted, but whatever it was, he didn't get it, not from us anyway. Got some local burritos, I loved them; Nik not so much. I'm a newb to burritos, maybe it was the cheap beer that helped it so gracefully wash down. With nothing to do, we fell asleep playing crazy 8's and reading Robb Reports. No internet and no english channels that we were used to everywhere else so far.
Didn't matter, because we were up at 6 to be the first to hit up the border. We hurriedly packed our bags and were the first ones there, luckily.....because it still took well over an hour. Again, we expect this with the knowledge we have. I know for me, when I was planning this trip, the borders scared me the most, but this is our first true crazy border we crossed, and there really was nothing to it. But since it helps to understand it better, I'll point form it again.
1. After Mexico exit, we first went to Migracion. He looked at our documents for 2 minutes, gave us our stuff back, and off we went. Too easy.
2. Going to Aduana, fumigation man stops us and tells us we need it "after", we tell him. Aduana consisted of filling out entry form, correcting the documents they print (make sure to check the VIN's, they seems to most often screw up the numbers), and after 45 minutes here (the printer broke for the copies), he sent us to the bank (right beside the Aduana) to pay the 55 Quetzals.
3. Officer checks your forms, and off we go. Too easy.
**We did have to use a moneychanger, there are no moneychanging banks around our checkpoints, it was 3:2 exchange rate from the buggers......
The best part, well, I don't know if I can say best, but officials seem to treat you with the upmost respect. They push you to the front of the line anywhere you go, interesting. Makes up for all the shady looks and/or "monster" comments about our height (I guess it doesn't help we're 6'4 and 6'5, 1-2 feet taller than most locals).
The ride through Guatemala was very similar to Chiapas, with the exception of more towns and rougher topes. It slowed us down at the beginning, but after taking out some money and getting some gas, we sped up towards Lago de Atitlan. As I was taking a video of one of the crazy roads with a ton of switchbacks, a couple of police wave us over (this is another one of my fears on the trip) but he just asked us where we came from, where we're going, and to have a good time. Super friendly amigo! So, not to jinx us, but we've been lucky. No military checkpoints (they all seem to be northbound), no corrupt cops and friendly locals. Fingers crossed, we just began.
Anyway, by this time the constant hills are taking a huge tolls on my chain, and I'm driving the bike with the upmost care. I don't know the best method to prevent it from too much tension, but I've been riding with low revs (around 2500-3000 rpm at all times) as it seems to not jerk the bike back and forth, which is what the chain tension seems to be doing before this. All's well...so far...hope I make it to San Salvador Kawk. Dealership. We get to Lago Atitlan....like eveyrone says...beautiful..The pictures can only describe it, my weiny words are insignifcant in comparison. There are a ton of white people, an awesome local yelling out that we should buy some cocaine and skunk from him (laff) and turquoise waters. Mind you, if you've ever been to the Florida Keys in the dead of summer, expect similar smells.....not so nice, I wouldn't try swimming in this water. We had a pineapple on the beach and proceeded to get to where we are now, a helluva lot slower than we anticipated.
We came to a fork, and unlike Mexican road signs, Guatemala seems not to care where we have to get to. Both destinations were not on my map, and both looked semi-promising. The one we didn't chose (put my foot in my mouth) ended up what seemed like the wrong direction. We followed the water...
**IF YOU ARE EVER IN LAGO ATITLAN AND NEED TO GET TO CA-2 DO NOT FOLLOW THE WATER***
I didn't take pictures, because I wasn't sure we'd get out of it. I took a small video but it pales in comparison to what the ride would be like. It starts off decent, a lot of nice villas and more white people. Then the road gets narrower...and dustier....and sandier...and more inclined. After about 45 minutes of riding, the road became what appeared to be impassable by most vehicles. There was no one else on it but us, and a lonely villa, and it climbed. It basically rose 2000 feet in the matter of two or three kilometres. Even without the luggage, I have never rode my bike that hard. Nik has already told you about the fall (since I'm posting this first I'm guessing). I wish I could explain it better, but I'll let you know more if my bike falls apart before I get a tune-up. Just when I stopped Nik to ask him if we should turn back......I seriously throught we'd have to go all the way back and go the other route (it was harder going down), the path popped out onto the main road...wow. So we gunned through the coffee route of route 11 and CA-2 and made it to Escuintla. I thought for some reason this town was a landmark, a place to see, but I wish we had a few more hours to keep riding. I wouldn't recommend a stop here, we found only one hotel after riding for twenty minutes. The traffic is insane here, it is not a tourist town by any means. There is a market, but we dare venture out here, there is no key to our room. It cost us 130 Quetzals (15 bucks), no hot water, beds with mats upon bricks, and ants crawling everywhere. Mind you, we have 70-some channels, some of which are in english, but I'm very looking forward to moving on tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow, La Libertad, our first look at the Pacific, and a much anticpated stop along our trip. A lot of riders avoid El Salvador, but if you stay in the tourist towns, it'll be like any other country. Safer than Mexico, and Mexico was like a daycare (almost..). Besides, I have to meet my fiancees family!
|These waves were massive for the Caribbean. The wind was relentless.|
|Hey, if you're handicap, Veracruz will do everything to make life as comfortable as they can for you, just watch out for the potholes.|
|The historical part of town (museum)|
|My favourite vehicle of the trip so far. Plentiful, yet I've never even seen these in Canada|
|But I've seen this beast before.. Note the ceaseless and cold downpour to San Cristobal|
|I told you, cold...|
|A fellow Canadian traveler whose name escapes me now. He's from Alberta and heading anywhere his 800GS takes him. So awesome!|
|As soon as we enter the region of Chiapas, magic happens!|
|Skies clear up, beautiful mountains|
|And climbing 3000 feet looking out over the area.|
|This is the Cristobal mascot; he wasn't as friendly as he looks.|
|In Cristobal our hotel was pretty (if you go to this place and wonder where the hell any of the hotels are, keep going past the "Cristobal Centro/Historico" sign..we took a long time to figure this out.|
|Cold air, breath is visible at all times of the day and night here.|
|Quick and easy oil change. The bikes have a hard time not stalling (full idle for a long time) at this height. We wonder what the Andes would be like.|
|Our border hotel, all to ourselves.|
|Our view, which I kept thinking were clouds as I was not used to scenery so looming.|
|My favourite pic of the trip so far, its just creepy...and it smelled really bad. Burning garbage is a favorite activity of the locals.|
|This is really close to being my favourite pic..You really don't want to take one step back, its a long way down.|
|A look at Lago de Atitlan|
|I was being serious too, this is actually a hairpin curve too.....watch the brakes!|
|Las Pinas son fantastico!!|
|Couple more pics, because its so beautiful.|
|Nik making non-english speaking friends.|
|Cool view of the Atitlan Volcano (tours available, but time was of the essence).|
|We're hurried to make sure we could get the best hotel in Escuintla.|
|Unfortunately...there was only one hotel, and it was a dump of a town.....Note the blood stains / ants everywhere.|
|Our little resort in El Tunco, La Libertad (Yes, I now have internet).|
|The moon looks much bigger in person.|