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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Antigua & ADVentures...

***As you read, play this track.  Jose has been keeping me company during my journey lately.  Great traveling music...***  

I've been in Guatemala for almost a week now.  Time has passed quickly and I just realized I haven't posted an update for awhile.  In my last post I think I left out the actual ride to Antigua, so I'll put a little recap on my first real border crossing day...  

I woke around 5:30am in San Cristobal, alert and ready for the long ride to Antigua.  I packed up and headed out of the hostel.  A few minutes into the ride I felt like something was a bit 'off' with the bike.  I stopped and immediately checked tire pressure.  The front was as expected, but the rear was WAY low.  I spun the tire and realized there was a huge screw sticking out.  I'm not sure if I picked it up the day before on my ride to Oventic (Zapatista compound) or shortly after leaving the hostel.  Anyway, at that point I was losing air quickly and needed to find a place for repairs.  I limped along slowly and found a public estacionamiento (parking lot) off the main road.  I stopped and asked if I could park in a corner of the lot to repair my tire.  They said "of course" and pointed me into a back corner.  I immediately got to work setting the bike on the center stand and pulling the rear wheel.  At this point a group of around 8 - 10 locals started to gather around.  They were checking out the bike, and trying to figure out why a gringo would be getting dirty changing his own tire.  They were all harmless and pretty funny actually.  By the end of it I was known as 'Gringo Loco' due to the length of my trip and that I was doing my own tire change and not taking it to a vulcanizidora (tire shop).  Granted, in retrospect I may want to utilize a tire shop in the future.  Those Heidenau K60's are a BITCH to spoon on and off the rim.  :/  

I finally got everything buttoned up after about an hour and set off for the border.  The ride was beautiful.  The exit from Mexico was painless at the banjercito and immigration (still haven't gotten my $450 deposit back from the Mexican gov't though).  Immigration into Guatemala was quick and easy as well, but I got a bit fleeced by a money changer at the border.  They made me spray the bike, which cost $11Q and wouldn't take Pesos or USD.  Everything was smooth sailing until I went to check the bike into Guatemala.  The computers were down and I ended up having to wait an additional two hours.  They finally reset everything, told me it was my 'lucky day' as sometimes the computers can be down for much longer apparently, and sent me on my way.  I arrived to Antigua fairly late due to the unforeseen delays.  After the long day I really just wanted a shower and bed, but failed to realize that the place I booked was the biggest party hostel in Antigua.  It was FILLED with insanely drunk tourists.  There were Aussie dudes chundering in the bathrooms, girls passed out on tables, and people yelling and partying everywhere.  Not exactly what I was looking for after my long day.  If you want a party stay at the Terrace Hostel...  if you want rest, don't.  I ended up moving the next day.  

While I was in Antigua I had planned to give the bike some love (i.e. clean/tension chain, go over nuts and bolts, oil change, brake pads, etc).  I ended up randomly finding Taz @ MotoMundo, which is a local shop.  He and I got along well and I decided I would just have him look over the bike.  He had a diagnostic tool, so we plugged it in and found a couple of faults.  After an oil change, a once over, and clearing the faults I was good as new.  If you are passing through Antigua on a moto trip I would highly recommend stopping in to see Taz.  If only just for a beer and game of darts.  

During my time in the city I also met up with a fellow ADVrider Cody.  He and I got along well and will probably link up at some point through Central America for a bit of travel together.  He told me about CATours, which is a moto tour and bike rental shop in Antigua.  I ended up checking it out the first day I was in town and loved it.  Both Jose (the owner) and Frenchie (aka David - the guide) are incredibly good guys.  They have a handful of amazing day and multi-day trips all through Guatemala and even the surrounding countries.  If you are a motorbike fan and find yourself passing through Antigua without jumping in a tour you have done yourself a huge disservice.  I ended up riding twice with David.  The first day he had an Australian father/son duo who were both great.  In fact, Peter (the dad) is another fellow ADVrider (aspad) and we had a great time swapping stories and tall tales about motorcycle adventures past.  That day I spent around five hours trying to keep up with the three of them as they ripped around ahead of me on 250's and 450's through tough dirt, sand, rocky sections, and several fairly deep river crossings.  At one point we stopped for a break at a small tienda nestled in a valley under Volcan Fuego.  Just as we stopped, the ground shook and the volcano treated us to a small, but beautiful eruption.  Watching lava, smoke, and ash blast into the air was a first for me...  

Yesterday I joined David and Rob (CATours customer - and all around good dude) for an overnight tour to Atitlan.  We rode for around five hours through dirt, paved two lane, small villages, rivers, and finally ended up descending into Panajachel with astounding views of the lake all around.  The views and ride were amazing, but the highlight of the day was witnessing Rob's first official motorcycle crash.  He caught an edge in some deep sand and went down in a massive cloud of dust and dirt.  I was proud of him though, he has only ridden a motorcycle five or six times and was doing fantastically well.  There are two types...  those who have, and those who will (crash).  Rob is now officially in the latter club.  Good on ya' Rob! ;)  

Last night we all ended up unpacking, showering, and then sitting at a restaurant on the lake to watch a beautiful sunset.  I met four girls in Antigua the night before, and two of them, Sarah and Kayla ended up meeting us in Panajachel.  We caused trouble all over town and had a blast.  Somehow we got the idea that we would draw tattoos on each other and the lot of us ended up with some pretty obscene temporary 'ink'.  I got along well with Kayla, so after finishing this blog post and showering, I'm hopping on the bike and we're meeting on the other side of the lake for a day/night in San Pedro.  I'm waiting on a package to arrive in Antigua that my father sent, which is taking much longer than expected, so I'm in no rush at the moment to make my way south.  

After a day in San Pedro I expect to head back to Antigua for a day or two (maybe a year depending on how long this freaking package takes!).  I've decided that I'll ride south from there through Ruta de las Flores, and then will spend several days surfing and lounging on the beaches/coast in El Salvador.  After that it's south through the borders in Honduras, several days in Nicaragua, some time in Costa Rica, then plan to spend a week or so exploring the beaches in northern Panama.  I board the Stahlratte on March 2nd for the journey to Colombia where I'll begin the next chapter of the adventure through South America.  

I think that's it for now...  I need to grab yet another cup of strong coffee, then pack up and head to San Pedro to rendezvous with the girls.  Loving life, living the dream on two wheels! Habla pronto...  

~ D

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