Day 241 – Crazy nice

Day 241 / Antigua – Taxisco, Guatemala / 50 miles (Total 6290)

As it started to down pour I looked around and a nice shelter was waiting for me. It's been so long i'm not even sure which saddlebag my rain gears in.

As it started to down pour I looked around and a nice shelter was waiting for me. It’s been so long i’m not even sure which saddlebag my rain gears in.

Woke up to the thought of staying one more day in Antigua. Taking a long break from touring can rejuvenate you, wanting you to get back on the road for more, or it can do the opposite. These past few weeks has put me in the lazy mood. My legs feel like jello, the comfort of my bed has taken over the thoughts of pedaling, and I’m use to my daily routine of seeing the same people, eating large meals and internet at my finger tips. I needed something to snap me out of this funk, and opening up Facebook did just that.

Crazy to think I met James and Sara back in August 2011. Congratulations!!

Crazy to think I met James and Sara back in August 2011. Congratulations!!

The first post I seen was one from James and Sara from England. They are the couple that put the idea of the Pan-American Cancer Tour into play. When I was starting to pedal around the loop of Alaska for the Minnesota to Alaska tour, I bumped into the inspiring couple. They were just starting their grand adventure from Alaska to Ushuaia. With bike touring being new to me, I never knew people actually pedaled to South America. I saw the look of excitement in their eyes, and I wanted that look. Over the past few years I have been following along with their blog, and routing them on. Well, today they made it to Ushuaia after 1009 days of a true adventure, and a million memories. Congratulations to the most inspiring couple I know.

Heading for a ride between two giant volcanoes.

Heading for a ride between two giant volcanoes.

Out of the hotel with a new attitude and Antigua’s cobblestone roads are horrible to ride, so I end up walking my bike till I make it out of the city. Last night I decided to head in a different direction then the usual course bike tourist take. Most head east into Guatemala city and follow the Pan-American highway. I was ready for a little coast line, and after a E-mail from Raphael (he is a couple days ahead of me now) saying that the city is nothing worth seeing, I headed south out of the city, and it was a great choice. A few miles out of Antigua I was headed in between two giant volcanoes. If there was a day that pictures did no justice, today would be it. One of the most amazing rides of the trip and my photo’s don’t come close to capturing the moment. Add 45 kilometers (27 miles) of downhill riding, and it makes for an amazing days ride. 

Volcano to my left

Volcano to my left

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The entire day was filled with mountains and small waterfalls

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The volcano to my right

Halfway’s through today’s ride the heat turned up and the day started to get hard to pedal. A few small hills make me work hard for awhile, and something started to fall from the sky. Malibu, California has been the last time I rode in the rain, over 4 months of dry riding. It started as a few drops of rain, and out of nowhere a down pouring rain started washing out the road. It felt great to ride in the cool rain, once it calmed down a bit. By 5:00 I was ready to get off the saddle and out of the rain, so I pulled into Taxisco. Asked around for a hotel and the Spanish lessons/studying are starting to pay off. Without even thinking about it, the directions were clear as English to me now. I found the hotel and its a great price of $6.00 and a comfy bed. I jumped into the ice cold shower to cool of and spent the rest of the night studying a little more Spanish.

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Some crazy tree’s today. Looks like letters etched into the bark.

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A perfect road today. Shade, shoulder, and light traffic made for a peaceful ride.

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Buckle up for safety. Kinda fun when I saw this. A lady on a moped came whipping by with a 4 year old holding on in the back while she was holding a new born and breast feeding. Of course no helmets on anyone. Some crazy things go down on the road here.

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Guatemala’s hospitality. My room was stifling hot, so I asked the front desk for a fan. The man didn’t have one so he ran home and grabbed one of his, plus a bottle of power aid. Crazy nice!

 


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Day 236 – 240 / Semana Santa in Antigua

Day 236 – 240 / Antigua, Guatemala / 0 miles (Total 6240)

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Fresh warm cinnamon rolls around every corner. A pocket of change will fill your stomach.

Antigua is a Spanish colonial town, previously the capital of the whole of Central America. It was destroyed twice in the 18th Century by earthquakes, leaving the town with a large number of huge and picture perfect ruins, before the capital and its inhabitants were moved to Guatemala City. The place is pretty unreal, full of swanky restaurants and bars with Gringos, rushing around looking busy and clutching their expensive coffees, just like home. There’s an artificial feel to this city after pedaling through the small, poor villages, a false sense of a perfect city in Guatemala. This gringopolis has brought the McDonald’s, high-end hotels, and the rich to visit this beautiful destination. The locals still have their traditions that will never fade with money, and I showed up at a perfect time to witness Semana Santa.

The flag of Guatemala flying high in Antigua.

The flag of Guatemala flying high in Antigua.

I knew for a while now that I wanted to spend sometime in this beautiful city, even after my extended stay at Lake Atitlan. After eight months on the road I can feel myself getting burnt out in a bad way. Guatemala is a small, but beautiful country that I could pedal through in a week, and I don’t want to rush this amazing country. I found a great hostel, met some incredible people and it feels right to visit more of this country. So I am just playing it one day at a time, till my bike addiction comes back.

Colonial Archway with Volcan de Agua in the background.

Colonial Archway with Volcan de Agua in the background.

Throughout my stay I walked around and captured the city with photo’s. My first plan was to kick down some more money on Spanish lessons, but it’s a little to rich for my blood here. I decided to home school myself with all the information I got from Francisco, and burn out my eyes on hours, and hours behind the computer screen with Rosetta Stone (pretty impressed with that). With my extended stay at the hostel it was time to stop eating out and back to cooking 3 meals a day. That worked out perfect with a giant super market filled with cheap food, I have not seen one so big for sometime now.

One of the many churches throughout Antigua.

One of the many churches throughout Antigua.

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ

Inside one of the churches. Some beautiful art work, statues, and architect here.

Inside one of the churches. Some beautiful art work, statues, and architect here. Once again, pictures don’t do justice for this place.

Around each corner on Antigua is something to stare at.

Around each corner in Antigua there is something to stare at.

Doenst look like all the statue survived the earthquake.

Doesn’t look like all the statue survived the last earthquake in 1974

A statue and a pigeon

A statue and a pigeon

Another view that sucked me in

Pillars and cobblestone streets throughout the city

The always crowded market where you can get just about anything you want.

The always crowded market where you can get just about anything you want, and a little claustrophobia to go with it

Throughout Guatemala I keep bumping into Ingla on the streets. She is heading back to Chile next week and told me she has family throughout the country and would be happy to help out for a place to stay.

Throughout Guatemala I keep bumping into Luna on the streets. She is heading back to Chile next week and told me she has family throughout the country and would be happy to help me out for a place to stay.

A peaceful courtyard in the town center.

A peaceful courtyard in the town center.  After a while I had enough of getting bumped into, items thrown in my face to buy, fliers handed out, and the loud music.  A nice place to get away from the busy streets and have a little piece of mind.

Having a perfect advocate on a afternoon walk.

A perfect advocate on an afternoon walk.

What a great experience this was. I had no clue it would be this huge.

What a great experience this was. I had no clue it would be this huge.

The Semana Santa celebration begins on Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent, and reaches its climax on Good Friday. The processions consist of big floats, or ‘andas’, bearing statues of Christ with a cross, that are carried by hundreds of purple-robed men. A float with the Virgin Mary follows by women dressed in black clothing. The processions moves slowly through Antigua’s cobblestone streets, the feet of the bearers cushioned in the sawdust carpet, which are destroyed as the procession passes over.

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Did some people watching today. The start of Semana Santa. The city is buzzing with energy.

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These kids looked like they were having a tough time holding the float up.

This kid cracked me up. Full of smiles and joking around, while his mother tried to contain him.
This kid cracked me up. Full of smiles and joking around, while his mother tried to contain him.

Just one of the many street decorations to celebrate Semana Santa. They use colored sand, pine needles, wood chips and anything else to tell their story. The parade starts and runs through the street art, and then they start all over from scratch rebuilding what they just made. The people have to pay for the spaces to layout the artwork. Here are some of the ones that caught my eye.

These beautiful carpets are called Alfombras. Just one of the many street decorations to celebrate Semana Santa. They use colored sand, pine needles, wood chips and anything else to tell their story. The parade starts and runs through the street art, and then they start all over from scratch rebuilding what they just made. The people have to pay for the spaces to layout the artwork. Here are some of the ones that caught my eye.

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Peanuts in a wheel barrel.

Peanuts in a wheel barrel.

Always fresh fruit around town.

Always fresh fruit around town.

I was going to leave on Monday after the celebration winded down, but my insides told me one more day of rest before I make it to El Salvador. My decision to stay turned out to be the best thing. Early in the morning I met up with Julius, and he is coming to an end of his 4 year world tour. We talked about the countries I will be traveling through and the subject of Gps’s came up. My Garmin 800 edge Gps has been worthless since I crossed over into Central America, and I have not been able to find a card with the info I need. Julius took sometime and walked me through a website, and now I have a detailed map of Central America. During the downloading of the maps we started to talk about riding through small towns and the hundreds of eyes that stare. Some days I’m fine with it, but others it’s hard. I will be sitting down to eat, and a family will walk over, stop a few feet in front of me and just stare at me while I eat. Then Julius told me a story that makes my experiences seem so small. Words from Julius.

“As I was riding through a small village in India, I became violently sick with diarrhea. I stopped there for the night knowing I wouldn’t be able to make it far without a bathroom. There was only one bathroom for the entire village that everyone shared, and that bathroom had no door for privacy. Every time I would have to go to the bathroom, people would follow me, and peak in while I was doing my business. Sometimes there would be 10 people at once watching me flush out my system. That was hard not to freak out, but it’s their land and they are curious I guess.”

I won’t think it’s to bad when people stare ate me know. Thanks Julius for the stories, and safe travels my friend.

Julius and his whip. An amazing tour coming to an  end.

Julius and his whip. An amazing tour coming to an end.

Four years on the road, a lot of countries, and some great stories.

Four years on the road, a lot of countries, and some great stories.

 

 


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Day 235 – Lost and loving it

Day 235 / Patzun – Antigua, Guatemala / 30 miles (Total 6240)

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More giant volcanoes as I approach Antigua.

Think I pigged out a little to much before bedtime last night. My stomach was aching with all the food sitting in my belly and not much sleep last night. All through the night roosters, dogs and loud vehicles had me tossing and turning. Around 3am a car alarm went off below my hotel room and never shut off. My morning was slow going, the body was stiff from the hard push of yesterday, and the thought of riding more hills had me shaking my head. I laid out a blanket on the cold tile floor and stretched out for a while, hoping it would loosen me up and settle my stomach. 20 minutes later I was feeling a little better and decided to go for a bike ride.

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As I made my way out of the hotel, Juan got my attention by waving his arms and yelling out “amigo”. His eyes grew with every question about the trip, and there was plenty of them. We sat on the curb talking for a while and each friend that passed he would wave over to hear the stories. A little conversation and some laughs had me feeling %100 again.

I made it out of the towns center and seen a dirt road up ahead that was calling my name. I checked my map, gps, and google maps and none showed this back ally dirt road. So I thought to myself why not head out for another adventure. The dirt road went through a few farming fields and past some small little homes with locals working on their crops,  and they me blank stairs as I passed by. I take it not many gringos come through this road, or I was on a dead end road with no business being here. About 3/4 of a mile into the ride the width of the road shrunk and became a rough ride. Another 1/2 mile and the dirt road turned into a path, leaving me questioning my decision to turn around. Just one more corner and I’ll turn around, I told myself. That turned into another 1/2 mile of riding and the path ended. I started to pick the bike up for a 180 when I noticed a walking path leading into the thick forest of pine trees.

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The small path I noticed tucked away out of site. Curiosity got the best of me and decided to pedal around a few corners before making the decision to continue or turn around.

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The path was slowly making a decent down the mountain side and the view was covered by thick forest. I needed to make a choice of heading on wards or turning around before it was to late.

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No houses, people, or signs of anyone around. I was loving the seclusion of the small path leading me to who knows where.

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This was the moment I surrendered to the road. It would have taken me hours to drag the bike back up the hill if I decided to turn around, so I just took in the views and enjoyed one crazy downhill ride.

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The path brought me through some rough terrain, but I was in my happy place. I couldn’t imagine a better ride for the day. I had no clue where I was, or where I would end up, but that thought enhanced the fun.

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After a few steep swithbacks heading down the mountain, the path brought me through a beautiful pine forest. Not a sound in the air of any humans around. Piece and quiet filled the air. Wildlife was alive and I sat back in the woods enjoying nature at it’s finest.

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After sometime I made it to the bottom of the mountain side and noticed a fast moving river blocking me from the road ahead. I searched around for a while and stumbled upon this bridge.

I made it to a paved road that eventually lead me to a tiny little village where I stopped for a snack. I asked the lady in the store about directions to Antigua and somehow I was on the right road. A breath of fresh air knowing I didn’t have to back track at all and I jumped back on the bike heading towards my destination. Once again, a dirt path makes me feel alive, adventurous, and wanting more out of this life.

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After a long climb out of the valley the views opened up and I’m left taking in Guatemala’s incredible sight’s

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A mural that grabbed my attention

A long pleasant descent brought me into the busy city of Chimaltenango, where I thought I was riding through a parade. Hundreds of people were busy running around doing their thing, and half of them waved, said hola, and welcomed me to their town. It was an incredible experience seeing so much kindness.

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I made the turn off for Antigua and another long steep descent was ahead of me. This time the road was smooth and I was ready for some speed. Before I started the fun I ran into these kids on bikes. They were all bombing the hill for fun and they were all carrying passengers on their rear pegs. I noticed this kid wasn’t running any kind of breaks and asked him for a photo. All the kids started to laugh and yell out loud, giving each other high fives and that made their day. Excited for this photo is a understatement

The rest of the ride to Antigua was all downhill, but the roads were horrible. By the time I rolled near the outskirt of the town, the road turned to cobblestone and my butt was destroyed. The next few miles were rough on the butt and everything else on my body and bike. I was ready to get off and find a hotel asap. A few minutes of looking around and I stumbled on Hostel Imperial. A nice, well kept hostel with good internet service, and I paid a little more then I wanted to. I wasn’t in the mood for a dorm room, with loud kids partying till morning, so I dropped an extra 3 dollars for a private room. I’m going to stay in Antigua for a few days to check out the sights.


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