First day in Guatemala, and we had a serious butt-kicking day long hill climb! This kid passed us with the bed of his truck stacked obscenely high with massive bags precariously roped on. A while later, we ride up to where a few bags have come loose, busted open on the pavement, and he is trying to scoop up the remnants on the side of the road. Of course, we pulled over to help. And that is how we ended up with about 7 lbs/3 kilos of unroasted coffee beans.
, on empty Leaving San Cristobal De Las Casas and Edu's place was rough. We enjoyed the time off with a cool guy in a really neat town. Was like ripping off a Band-Aid. But easy-peasy rolling hills, lot's of elevation dropping into Comitan where we camped a night at a Warmshowers host's yard, complete with a pack of dogs, chickens and even ducks, oh boy! We rolled out early and had another pretty hot, but easy day into the border town, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, where we got a cheap hotel to spend the last of our pesos before heading to Guatemala.
The next morning we rode to the Mexico Immigration to stamp out, and was the first time we were yelled at and treated poorly by any Mexicans! But it was fast and then the hill climbing began, immediately leaving Mexico. And since we waited to get breakfast until getting to the Guatemala side after finding an ATM, the climb was straight up hill for three miles and even passed the city garbage pile before finding Guatemala Immigration, we were pedaling on empty growling stomachs. But Ville came out of Immigration all smiles because the man working there was super friendly and had a great sense of humor. Good start to Guatemala. We found a working ATM somewhere in the chaos of the border and a nice place to grab breakfast before the climb commenced.
The climb was intense, but incredibly scenic and we climbed through numerous small villages where all the women were out in front of their homes weaving on looms and in the yards were hundreds of varying ages of coffee bean plants. When we rode up to the kid who passed us in his pick-up, trying to scrape some white things into a broken bag, we pulled over to help. I pulled out a bunch of Ziplock bags and Ville pulled out his knife to help sew the large broken bag closed. As we said goodbye and rode away, he insisted we take two of the giant Ziplock bags full of unroasted coffee beans. He said they were really expensive, on their way to be sold to Starbucks and we would surly be able to find a coffee roaster in Quetzaltenango. With still a long way to climb, we gladly accepted the bags, stuffed them into our panniers, and climbed up to just outside Huehuetenango where we scored a not super cheap Auto Motel.
The next day, we had a lot of very scenic ups and downs on a very deteriorated road, littered with potholes, and crazy traffic. My shifting had been off the entire previous day and now was continually getting worse. We pulled over to adjust it numerous times, with no luck, until finally not too far away from Quetzaltenango, I hear a loud SNAP and look down to see my chain on the ground. Damn. We dig out the Quick Link to fix it, and no luck. My chain was shot and so we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride really quick (everyone in Guatemala seems to be incredibly kind) with Celestino. We strapped the bikes in the back with the trash and crammed into the front bench seat. As we hit the road, we both quickly realized we must be riding with a professional race car driver, because no one corners like Celestino. I mean, NO ONE. I don't know how my pants stayed dry. It was completely terrifying! We almost killed 3 dogs, 2 motorcyclists, and had near head-ons with multiple giant trucks and buses. Very nice man, appreciate the ride, but not sure if I was happier to know people like that are on the road with us. After a quick stop on the side of the road, Ville got out to help with the trash, and realized after packing every piece of his own garbage to a garbage can, he was helping this guy just chuck giant plastic bags of garbage down the hillside (not in a designated garbage site). And then after Celestino drove the truck tire into a giant hole, floored it squealing out and back on the road, we were back heading for town. My fingernails firmly planted into the dashboard and Ville's arm.
He dropped us outside town and we walked our bikes to a safe spot for me to sit while Ville rode around town to find a bike shop (unfortunately these bikes take a special size chain), and then we walked a ways to the shop where we were greeted by some great guys at BiciCasa. They had my chain, put it on, and even gave us a discount. Thanks BiciCasa, great stop for bike parts in Guatemala folks. We then headed to a friend of a friend, Lucy's, house. After planning to only stay a couple nights, we stayed three. Lucy and her daughter, Leah, fed us, walked us all over the city, and I even was given a Spanish lesson! Thanks so much for all the hospitality girls, plan on another visit soon! We also found a great coffee bean roaster, Tostaduria Grano de Cafe, where they kindly let us help roast the beans and explained all the steps. And now Ville is carrying four and a half pounds of coffee until we can bring it to Oregon. Will be the best dang coffee in the world.
We had been warned that climbing up to Lake Atitlan would be rough, but we had no idea what we were in for. We left early from Quetzaltenango, and started a slow easy climb that turned into a very steep climb, but had a spectacular view and rode through more villages full of very friendly indigenous Guatemalans. A cop rode by us and invited us back to his house to give us some avocados and play us some tunes on his guitar. After the climb, the drop down into the lake was extreme. We had to take a few breaks our hands hurt from gripping the breaks and we happened upon a car that had lost control on the downhill into a concrete wall (everyone was ok). And then, we took a wrong turn.
Google Maps has been awful in Guatemala, and boy did we really learn a lesson on this one. After heading straight downhill a few miles on the wrong road, everyone we asked said we could not continue the way we were heading. But we were sure they just didn't understand what bad-ass cyclists we were and we decided to forge ahead and rely on Google. We figured the dirt road was what they meant was not passable. Then the dirt turned into switchbacks straight up hill. Then we came to a giant overlook where Google told us the "road meant for a car" went over the cliff and landed in the town about a mile and a half down. For about 30 yards, the trail appeared to be a really rough mountain bike trail, and then the boulder field started and the trail turned into, at best, a goat trail of boulders, burning plants, where we took turns helping each other lift the bikes over rocks on the cliff. We honestly debated tying rope to the bikes and lowering them down the hill it was so steep.
Three and a half hours later and nearly dark now, we were both completely drenched in sweat, madder than hornets, and covered in bloody wounds, but luckily no irreparable bike-trip ending damage. When we finally made it into a town, past the town's garbage dump, we were told not to go that way. Uh, ya, noted. And then back on the bikes we still had a mile over the hill into San Pedro and up some steep hills to a hotel. After the best showers of our lives, we were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow at 8pm. We took a mandatory day off to explore the very touristy town and agreed to leave the next morning heading to Antigua. We had beers with Nile and Andrea (another cyclist couple we met up with again after seeing each other in California whom also started in very northern Canada) over looking the lake with the surrounding volcanoes towering around us. Lake Antigua really is a beautiful place, touristy, but beautiful.
We got up early this morning, all four of us loaded our bikes on top of a boat taxi, tied them on, and once we arrived in Panajachel, began our insane climb up and out of the lake. The views from the top of the rim were stunning, and as the road turned to a cratered mess straight downhill, we realized were in for a roller-coaster day of the steepest roads we have been on so far, for just about the entire 45 mile day. At one point the road was completely washed out and we rode through a cute waste-water stream to get back to a road. By the time we hobbled into this cheap hotel on the outskirts of Antigua (there is a giant week long pre-Easter festival going on in Antigua, filling all the overpriced hotels and we are gladly going to stay away from) we are both so sore we can't climb stairs or bend over. I feel like I'm 90. So this is what I have to look forwards to? Except how I abuse my body on goat trail cliffs with a fully loaded bike torpedoing downhill, I will be dang lucky to make it to 50.
Tomorrow we are heading through Antigua, will plan to stay somewhere at about 50 miles. And should have another day to the border before we will cross into El Salvador. After Mexico, I feel like we are flying through countries now. Well kids, I am off to bed. Thanks for reading, following, and supporting us. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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