22nd-26th December 2015 Christmas in Panajachel, Guatemala

We moved into a wonderful house for 5 days over Xmas. The beautiful, 2 bedroom casa is behind a mysterious green door in a very ordinary street, leading down to the lake and cemetery.It is hard to imagine that such a lush, tropical garden lies behind the green door.

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The house is amazingly comfortable and a fully functioning home, with a full kitchen and two fireplaces plus wonderful outside space and three dogs to keep us company.

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Yes a sofa outdoors

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Helen before her morning cup of coffee

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We walked into town each day to buy everything we needed for Xmas dinner and drink beer or smoothies.

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The views across the lake towards the volcanoes are exceptional.

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The tourist market is full of the textiles that Guatemala is famous for.

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We decided not to do presents this year but I did get a poncho and Dave bought a purse from a gorgeous, wrinkly, old lady in full traditional dress. Actually all of the women wear traditional woven fabrics, with each village having its own distinctive designs.

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Helen the chevron

 

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Dave looking oddly pleased with his purse (when did I turn into the bloke from Mythbusters? [Dave])

We really enjoyed our Xmas dinner of stuffed peppers, stuffing, roast potatoes, cauliflower puree, carrots and cabbage. We followed it up with a banana and mango crumble.

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We were lucky to find a shop selling vegan chocolate truffles and cookies so we did not go without treats. We watched a lot of cheesy movies on the computer and had roaring log fires going in both the lounge and bedroom on different nights.

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Clearly already the wrong side of a bottle or two

It has been a really wonderful Xmas and we feel very lucky to be here. We are also thankful for Facebook and Skype giving us the chance to keep in touch with family and friends over the holiday.

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Tomorrow we move on to Antigua, Guatemala. This is another stunning colonial town. We will be there until the New Year and then cross into El Salvador.

 

Monday 21st-Tuesday 22nd December Arriving at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

We have had an amazing couple of days travelling from Coban to Panajachel. It is funny how the hardest days are often the best. Yesterday we we riding for over 7 hours, including  getting lost and finding our way back to the correct road. We did not get off the bike for over 4 hours at one point. We were rewarded with a wonderful view of a volcano and a cold beer at the end. We cooked a lentil curry and fell asleep in a very comfy bed.

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This morning after admiring the view from our apartment again, we left for the 90 minute journey to the lake.

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We expected it to be easy as it is a major tourist route. We went through a town with the steepest roads I have ever seen. Must have been a 1:2 incline. I had to shut my eyes going down so no photos. It was like a fairground ride. The road was very remote, except for the occasional truck.SAMSUNG CSC

 

There were some great potholes and Dave did  a lot of standing on the pegs.

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Then really very unexpectedly, we came to a river where the road and bridge had completely collapsed, probably some years ago and we had to ford the river.

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That’s not me, it’s a bloke on a moped

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That’s me

I got off to test the waters and take pictures as Dave rode through.

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Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God (Dave)

I am pleased to say that although I was calf deep in water, my Timberlands did not let in and my feet stayed dry. Dave did a great job getting himself and the bike across. I am glad he has been going on these off road holidays with Jason over the past few years.

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Dave’s keen to do more dirt roads; Helen less so

As if by way of reward, we then reached a really exceptionally stunning viewpoint where the lake and volcanoes could be seen in all their glory.

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Another Big Day

 

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Believe it or not, I am standing on the pegs, here. The bars are a bit low.

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This was supposed to be an easy day, just a ride along the highway to the lakeside, where we’ll stay for Christmas.

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Helen contentedly stares at our destination while I wonder how the hell we are going to get down there without falling off. Downhill is more difficult.

16th-20th December Belize and Northern Guatemala

We crossed into Belize without any problems at the border. We actually bumped into another Brit riding a Triumph Tiger who was doing a round the world trip solo. The first overland biker we have spoken to in 5 months.

We were quite shocked to see how desperately poor Northern Belize is. As poor as anywhere we have been including Malawi, Nepal and Cambodia. People were living in tiny, falling down shacks and the landscape was pretty desolate.

Belize is tiny and you can ride across in a day but we decided to take two days so we could visit the coast. The stunning islands or cages are not accessible by bike or on our budget so we went to Hopkins on the mainland Caribbean coast instead. En route we took the Hummingbird Highway. We did not see any hummingbirds but there were plenty of potholes and some rough road surfaces at times.

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We loved Hopkins. It is a real Belizean village with just a few cabanas and small guesthouses. It is pretty poor but the people are friendly and there is a real community feel.

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The language in Belize is English and it was great to chat to local people without a language barrier.

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We treated ourselves to a beachfront cabana as it was only for one night and we were greeted with a coconut each cut down from the nearest tree. We had a few beers and some veggie curry at a beach shack and chilled out.

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A local dog adopted us as is always the case.

 

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Belize was a British colony right up until the 1980s and in the local shop we could buy PG Tips and McVities Digestives. The biscuits were stale but our dog friend enjoyed them.

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The next day we rode to San Ignacio and I spent the night with a high fever. I am pleased to say the the antibiotics have now worked and I am completely recovered from the tooth extraction.

The border crossing into Guatemala was something we had dreaded, expecting it to be long and hard. Arriving at the Guatemala side, we met a couple of young boys who were trying to earn a few dollars helping tourists through the formalities. Douglas and Osman were a pleasure to have around and we enjoyed their company and valued their assistance. The Guatemalan border staff were helpful and friendly and we crossed both sides in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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We rode straight to Tikal. This is one of the major Mayan ruins in Central America. The Mayans built this city a little after same the Romans built Ancient Rome. When you think about it like that, it is not that impressive but they did not have the wheel or metal tools.

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These Mayan cities made up of dwellings, administrative buildings and temples were right in the heart of the jungle and still are today.

SAM_2465.JPGWe arrived in the middle of the afternoon but in doing so avoided the other foreign tourists who throng in their thousands at sunrise. We loved the fact that there were Guatemalan families sitting around on the grass with children running around, as if it was still a living city.SAM_2473.JPG

 

We really enjoyed the brief jungle experience a lot. We saw an endangered  howler monkey and a few other animals and birds. I made sure I got up at 5am to hear the jungle come to life and I could hear the terrifying growls and scream of the howler monkeys in the distance. We hope to encounter them more later in the trip.

The staff at the hotel in Tikal were truly amazing and it was a wonderful welcome to Guatemala.

The next day, we rode to Flores, a tiny islet, in a large lake, linked to the mainland by a causeway. There were some lovely colourful buildings and cool looking restaurants.

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We stayed in a nice apartment overlooking the lake which was very comfy and we were able to cook.

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Yesterday we left early for a long journey to Coban on our way to Lake Atitlan for Xmas. The journey started and ended with a lot of potholes.

SAM_2526.JPGAt one of the towns, there is no bridge and so you have to use a ferry.2015-12-19 10.16.04Dave and I love a ferry so it was a real treat. We also go to chat with another Brit from Nuneaton who is travelling here for three weeks.

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Ah, my beloved Dr Martens; bloke in green tee shirt is doing Morcombe and Wise walk

We passed some amazing Mayan towns with huge markets that we had to ride straight through. The women still wear local dress but don’t like having the pictures taken.SAMSUNG CSC

 

SAM_2541.JPGLate in the day, the rain started coming down and the roads become a bit worrying. Some of the bridges were out at points during the day and roads were being resurfaced in patches.SAM_2545.JPGThere were also some uneven surfaces and huge potholes.SAM_2564.JPGThe cloud came down low but it was still pretty.SAM_2566.JPGWe were pretty wet and a little cold when we arrived but the hotel was cosy and welcoming and the owner brought us hot tea. We are holed up here today waiting for the rain to pass. Just two more days until we get to Panajachel and Xmas can start.

 

 

Tiger at 14,000 Miles


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Cyclegear is run by rotund, jolly Mayan types… do the spannering yourself

Front Tyre

About ten years ago, somebody told me that if you put Metzeler Tourance (original) tyres on your bike, you can then forget about them; they will never puncture and they will never wear out.  Well, our front wore out; it has the dubious honour of being the first part to be replaced twice on this trip (or any of our trips).

Going over these blog posts, it looks like it did 7,000 miles; that’s not all that much for a front tyre but, in fairness, we are fully loaded and the rear suspension is high making us more nose down than usual.

By this point we were heading for Belize and Guatemala and really had no idea where to get a tyre.  With a vague feeling akin to dowsing, we headed for the Yucatan and the cities of Merida and Cancun.

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Cyclegear – go there and buy a tyre


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Bridgestone Battle Wing shown here with some Guatemalan mud

In Merida, we tried Ducati, Kawasaki, Motomundo (closed down) and a BMW dealer that only had cars till we happened upon Cyclegear.  Cyclegear had a rack of modern large capacity motorbike tyres like it was just normal.  They didn’t have a Metz in our size so we got a Bridgestone Battle Wing.

Oil

I used my last filter and did  an oil change in Puerto Escondido on the coast in Mexico.  Till then, we had topped up with USA sourced 15w50 Mobil 1 but, once that ran out, we needed to do a change because in Mexico, Mobil 1 is 5w50.  Silver seems happy with the new oil and we have brought a spare litre with us through Belize and into Guatemala.

General Wear and Tear

Silver is now so filthy he must only be photographed at a distance.  Two bolts have rattled loose, one from the dash and one from the hugger that already has a tenuous grasp of life.  I haven’t cleaned him properly since sometime in California although I did wave a hosepipe at him in Merida on the Yucatan.

Triumph triples are really smooth; the bolts have rattled loose because of the increasingly poor surfaces we are traversing.