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Old 11-18-2012, 11:54 AM   #91
Adv Grifter
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Looks like your FlickR account is acting up. I much prefer Picasa or SmugMug for Photo hosting.
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Old 11-18-2012, 02:27 PM   #92
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Looks like your FlickR account is acting up. I much prefer Picasa or SmugMug for Photo hosting.
Thanks- don't know why it does this. Will try and keep an eye on it. uploads can at times be a challenge with dodgy internet on the road but such are the joys! Bear with me ;)
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Old 11-18-2012, 03:28 PM   #93
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I don’t really know where I am going next- I toy with the idea of Belize but I have also just entered Guatemala and I don’t feel like another border just yet. I get on the road and head south towards Coban, instead. Then, as I miss the turn off to Coban I decide then to go further south to Rio Dulce. This is the way my travel goes at times. I am not a good planner for the little details. I like to keep the process fluid as I dislike the pressure of time constraints and needing to be somewhere.

I arrive in Rio Ducle just on dark, as the first drops of rain are starting to fall. I stay in a backpackers over the water and it pours all night. The sounds of the loud bar rock me to sleep.

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The next day I take leave from the bike and head down the river on a lanche towards Livingstone. The river winds through a jungle clad gorge, and the bird life on the water is phenomenal. Huts line the water, and at times children paddle out towards the boats in dugout canoes selling shells and starfish and jewelry.

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The boat stops in Livinstone, a place unlike any I have seen yet in Central America. It has the feel of the Caribbean. It's home to the Garífuna (descendants of indigenous Carib and shipwrecked African slaves), many people speak a laid back English and local dialect, and I hear much less Spanish. As I am walking into town from the dock with a girl from Belgium, we meet a man on the main street, Philip. He is Garif and proud of it.
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He talks about his culture, and trying to keep the pride of the people, and begs us not to by the coral, and starfish for sale in all of the shops as it is killing the reef. I talk about the local food and he says he will take me on a tour of the local town and show me the restaurant. He states that he is one of the town leaders and asks that we donate to the local children’s feeding program instead of a tour fee. He talks about the poverty of the Grafi and how as a minority they are not represented in government. He points out that the shop owners are all Spanish speakers and states that there is ‘an unofficial l apartheid here”. He goes on to talk about how the feeding program is set up to feed the children of the village one meal a day to try and assist the single mothers from selling their bodies to make money to feed the kids, creating an ongoing cycle of poverty. We walk through the back alleys of the Garífuna community, he shakes hand with everyone and calls out to all that we pass. The children run up and ask for photos, at times playing to the camera.
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I delight in the Tapado De Pesccado, a local specialty seafood stew, with coconut milk and plantains, served with coconut bread.

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Later that afternoon, sitting on the floor of the room I feel another little shake. I look at my location and think of Tsunamis, my mind seeing my bike washed into the ocean on ending up on a strange beach of another land. But the internet tells me another little earthquake has hit the south of Guatemala, on the pacific side, so at least for me I felt a little better. This time thankfully there was little damage.
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Old 11-18-2012, 06:43 PM   #94
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Today was a tough day. It is one that I wouldn’t mind doing backwards. Started off with an early wake to heavy rain. What was I going to do next? Wait it out? Ride on?
After falling back asleep I woke again to sunshine through the clouds. I packed up the bike and headed to the market for a breakfast on the street.

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Just as I was leaving I met a man who had been sailing around central America but after sheltering in Rio Dulce after a hurricane, fell in love with the place. He saw the poverty and decided to stop and assist ... He and his wife- a nurse were setting up a clinic in the small impoverished squatters village beside the hot waterfalls I was about to visit. He told me of the plight of the people, their poverty, being unable to grow food on the best land as this was owned by cooperatives in the USA. Instead having to grow their maize high on the steep hills. He talked about the slash and burn techniques and the resulting problems of the jungle being cleared. He talked about the little village where they looked to set up a clinic, and the problems that resulted as the village was unable to expand physically, as they were all virtually squatting there, and the effects of this overpopulation. We talked about our plans, we talked about my profession in health, and that one day I would return to Mexico or Columbia…. My want to do aid work resurfacing in my mind. He asked me to stay, to come back after the falls and talk longer if I felt compelled, if I felt guilty and needed too do something. I left, my mind ticking over the plans that had laid in the back of my mind for years. The tuk in front of me was plastered with the face of "Che" Guevara. Motorcycle diaries replayed in my head…

Taking my leave I headed off on the dirt tracks to the delightful hot waterfall at El Pradiso. Such a delight. Hot water pummeling down on my neck and back. The cool water below in which to cool off. Sublime setting. Delightful.
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At noon I take leave of the water. Talking to one of the locals that had been minding my bike, he spoke some Spanish, 6 words of English he delighted in telling me- dog, bat, hat, were three of them. But his primary language was not Spanish but a local Mayan dialect, like many in the rural areas of Guatemala, and this was what the local children were speaking. That was why they did not understand my questions!

I head onwards. The road gets worse. The rain starts up. The ground becomes a slippery boggy mess. I creep along at 20km per hour, on the good parts I speed up to 30km/ph. But then I feel like I am flying and the bike starts slipping and bumping all over the place.

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I drop the bike six times, at least twice at each lift up for there is nowhere to put my feet and the wheels are jammed with mud and the bike slips backwards. This is more than the total of the whole trip in one day. I am tired, I am hungry, and I guess a little dehydrated. I break both the indicators and a mirror hold. All the stickers on my pannier are scrapped off.

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The locals help me lift and re-lift the bike. At one point a motorcyclist behind me stops, help me lift the bike, then rides behind me for a while as I fall again again, the bike slipping backwards down the hill (an ongoing theme for today). His side stand is broken so he has to dump his own bike to help me. He passes, but waits for me as I catch up. We dance this way together for about an hour before he stops and wrings out his shirt at his friends house. I wave, yell “Gracias” and continue on. I still have a long way to go.

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Despite being really tired and challenged by the riding, I was actually having fun. I pulled into the service station and was happy that I could converse with the men without problems, talking about the road, my travels and the day. Its so nice to have more Spanish skills.

It starts to get on in the day. I am soaked through. Not having put on my waterproofs as it is so warm. My visor left up and my head soaked. The puddles start getting bigger than any water crossing I have experienced. The water rising past my feet and covering me and the bike in its wake.
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I slip again on a big hill just kilometers from my destination. The locals tell me to go back. The hill gets worse. “Catch a local cab to Semuc Champey in the morning. Don’t ride this, it too bad”. They tell me. But even the thought of trying to go down what I was trying to go up made me want to press on. I drop the bike again. ‘It is possible’ I tell myself. The women look at me. ‘It is possible’. I try again and slip backwards. The mud so slippery I cant get up on my foot stands which I know I so need to do. Finally I make it and bomb my way down towards Champey pulling up next to a hostel right on dark.
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The local Guatemalan men at the hostel watch me with pleasure as I work on the bike in the evening. Cleaning of some of the caked on mud, lubing and tightening the chain. We speak in a mix of Spanish and English. Gluing up my indicators, but sadly the spare part for my broken mirror alludes me. I check the oil and I am pissed at BMW- 1000miles ago having serviced my bike, I did not check the oil after the service, and the levels are dangerously low. The men tell me how I can get into town tomorrow to buy more. I feel like an idiot for letting the oil go so low, but it was the last thing I expected after a recent service, when the bike never uses oil. The last time I had tried to check the cap was on so tight I needed a tool to get it off. But then got distracted and let it slip. Damn. I have three BMW services in the last 6000km. Not happy. Maybe this is how BMW Oaxaca stopped the oil leak? Take off the clutch cover, and not refill the oil! Compounding my poor riding skills over the day, and then this. I feel stupid.
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Old 11-18-2012, 07:09 PM   #95
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Hewby
Once you get to Semuc Champey you will forget all about the bike naps. It is such a great place, just leave your bike and helmet with the guards at the gate and spend a few hours swimming in the most unique swimming hole in the world! I dropped my f650 twice on that road, once on a grader burm going down hill and then again in the middle of one of those crazy 2 tracked cement hills, I was worried I would meet a bus coming down hill as I was going up. The center of those cement hill tracks is about 1 or 2 ft. deep
Riding to Semuc is one of the great rides in Central America!
Oh by the way the spark plug wrench in your tool kit fits the oil filler cap.
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Old 11-18-2012, 07:38 PM   #96
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I know the road from Rio Dulce to Semuc pretty well, doing it at the end of the rainy season is not easy at all.
Well done

Lowering the air pressure substantially on these muddy roads helps a lot
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Old 11-18-2012, 07:49 PM   #97
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Hewby, Think of what you have accomplished to this point. If you rode not another KM yo would have already made a fantastic journey. Don't sweat the small stuff. you are doing great.

Bisbonian and Karen are coming down for a big US style Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Maybe we will put your ride report up on the big screen so everyone can see your fotos. Hang in there girl. And Neville and the boys are still here.
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Old 11-18-2012, 09:20 PM   #98
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Originally Posted by Cal View Post
Hewby
Once you get to Semuc Champey you will forget all about the bike naps. It is such a great place, just leave your bike and helmet with the guards at the gate and spend a few hours swimming in the most unique swimming hole in the world! I dropped my f650 twice on that road, once on a grader burm going down hill and then again in the middle of one of those crazy 2 tracked cement hills, I was worried I would meet a bus coming down hill as I was going up. The center of those cement hill tracks is about 1 or 2 ft. deep
Riding to Semuc is one of the great rides in Central America!
Oh by the way the spark plug wrench in your tool kit fits the oil filler cap.
Thanks for the tip on the spark plug wrench Cal! And yes the swimming at Semuc was wonderful, I have to admit- I am a few days behind in my report as internet has been little to none for a week, and just getting on top of posting my writings now! :)
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Old 11-18-2012, 09:26 PM   #99
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Originally Posted by GuateRider View Post
I know the road from Rio Dulce to Semuc pretty well, doing it at the end of the rainy season is not easy at all.
Well done

Lowering the air pressure substantially on these muddy roads helps a lot
Thanks Julio, it was your advice that got me to the wonderful hot waterfall, and now the delightful company in Guatemala city in which I find safe haven and respite after a really tough week. Amazing people, and I have found a good friend in Petra. I am eternally grateful.

And yes I need to remember to prepare for dirt and mud, even though mostly it catches me by surprise that it is there in the first place ( great planning skills as always!) and not just keep pushing on thinking it will get better soon!
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Old 11-18-2012, 09:28 PM   #100
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Originally Posted by Turkeycreek View Post
Hewby, Think of what you have accomplished to this point. If you rode not another KM yo would have already made a fantastic journey. Don't sweat the small stuff. you are doing great.

Bisbonian and Karen are coming down for a big US style Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Maybe we will put your ride report up on the big screen so everyone can see your fotos. Hang in there girl. And Neville and the boys are still here.
Thanks Tom, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Have a drink for me!
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Old 11-18-2012, 09:53 PM   #101
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I get up early to try and get into town to get more oil. They say to stand out the front and flag down a passing truck. Nothing seems to be coming my way and I think I may as well try walking the 9 km back into town. On the way I meet one of the Guatemalan men from last night walking back towards the hostel. He has walked up the road 2km to check the state of his passage out and says he will give me a lift into town if I want to wait while he and his family take breakfast. I go back with him and much to my protesting he shouts me breakfast too! His family are delightful, and we all jump into the back of the pick up truck to head into town. They load rocks into the back as well trying to increase the weight to help with traction on the hills. The road has significantly dried out but the truck has a hard time on the roads. They can’t believe I made it over this last night. I start to feel a little better. It’s not just me!

IMG_3401

They take me to the shop to ensure I get what I need, and leave me with a renewed sense of delight with hugs all round and joking in the voice of my father to ‘check your oil’ as they left me. I catch a truck back to the hostel and fill up the oil and ride out to the national park for the day.

The waters are amazing. It is a beautiful place.
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As the afternoon wears on the clouds start to gather again and I head back to the hostel to grab my stuff. I want to get out of here before the road turns to mud again.
As I leave I notice a little crack developing in my luggage racks, and as I get into town I head straight for a welder. We work on the racks together, but scarily they use no eye protection!

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While at the welders, people walk past and comment on my safety. The town seems to know where I have been and what I have done. The come up to me and talk. ‘I saw you yesterday! You made it safely we heard!’ Its lovely but kind of funny to be the town gossip for the day!

I head to a lovely hostel on the river for the night and met a lovely Kiwi woman. She reminds me of what it is to be brave, and the challenges in life and how they are all different. Conversations that are rich and fulfilling. I feel I might meet her again someday, somewhere. I love these moments.

IMG_3281
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:25 PM   #102
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The ride from Lanquin to Antigua is a little harder than I envisaged. I thought it might take me a long day but was ready for two. I set off in the morning riding up through the hills over the dirt roads, still muddy with the rain of the last few days. After a hard uphill the bike temp light came on and I looked down to see the radiator had disappeared behind layers of mud. I cleaned it off the best I could with the water I had on hand.

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After an hour or two I hit pavement again and was astonished by the speed of the road. When they make a road here they make it well, unlike the poorly made roads I had found in Mexico. The Google maps tell me once more to turn off. I miss the turn off at first as it is small and nondescript. The ulterior route would take me many miles east and south, then double back on its self to go north again. So I turned off. Possibly a big mistake.
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On my paper map the road looks good. Its short and a good short cut. The road winds up the mountains and then turns into a track. Then starts to degrade. Then I encounter a river crossing. Fun as it is the first I have ever done. Not really very smart as I am totally alone, and haven’t seen another soul on this road. I manage the crossing well and two more come and go.
IMG_3320

I am enjoying myself though I am back to 15- 20kmp/h. Yes it might have been quicker to go the other route at 100km p/h, but I am having fun. The I start to go down hill, through big thick piles of gravel. At one particularly steep corner I loose it and the bike goes over high side down. I smash the windscreen, and break the other indicator, and there seems no way I can get the bike up. My feet just slide, as does the bike, in the loose gravel. I take my time, slowly taking of the luggage and carrying it down the hill and leaving it at a flat space where maybe I think I can park the bike safety to reload. I haven’t seen another person on this road at all so chances of getting help are limited, unless I feel like walking a few miles down the hill and into the town in the distance.
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Finally unloaded I manage to get the bike up. Drive a few meters and then drop her in the gravel again. The only surviving mirror I have falls to the dirt. Brilliant! At least I look more like a local now!

I finally get the bike sorted and limp into the town 2.5 hours after my 20km ‘short cut’. I go to get gas to ask advice of locals. Should I keep on my route, or should I go back east to the sole highway in the region? I am told the road is gravel at times but good. Well better than what I have just encountered so I push on.

I realize I have just spent my last 100 quetzal buying gas. I need money. I carry on through a funeral procession to the next town.
IMG_3326
I search out a bank, asking a traffic cop where to go. He points me in the right direction and alerts the other cops to guard my bike while I go into the bank. The ATm doesn’t work. I try another. Still no joy. I find some US dollars to exchange and go into the bacnk “we only change $50 or $100 notes. Sorry”. So my pile of small change is not cutting it this time! I search my hidden stashes, ‘nope, nope, nope’. I ask if they know another place that will exchange smaller curreny. I walk around the town till I find a place. They wont accept half my money because it it as a small nocth in it, is creased, or they don’t like the look that the the man in green is giving them?! I walk away with a few quetzal, with which I can at least buy something to eat.

I am tired, hungry, thirsty and my body aches. I head back to the bike and take out the lonely planet. I could stay in this town I think… I am trying to get my bearings when a drunk man walks over to me and grabs the bike. He has lost a few teeth and blood is coming out his mouth. He is mumbling something and grabbing at my arm in a drunken way. I cannot understand a word and I doubt he is speaking Spanish. The security guard that was watching my bike comes back and tries to pull the man away. He won’t leave. Children come up and try to distract him, start throwing little bits of food at him. He pays no head and holds tight to my bike. I am getting ready to leave as best I can, talking to him calmly, soothingly, as my heart is racing and my fingers stumbling on my helmet clip. I finally manage to pull out and get away. I feel sorry for him, but I cannot stay there. I leave the town and head on.

I make it to Rabinal and find a little Posada. I get my own room and a courtyard. I have a little bit of light left to fix the bike the best I can. Cleaning and gluing once again. I make the most of having my own bathroom and walk into the shower in my riding suit, trying to scrub away the rusty mud that makes it look like I have been in a bloody knife fight.

I get on the internet and start to read a little more about the area. I stumble on some old Adv reports of bandits, an muggings in Guatemala. Facebook posts in my news feed talk about fear. I feel worn out and in my vulnerability I succumb to the sense of unease that starts to creep in.

I decide to walk out to the market for dinner. It’s a quaint little town that seems not to know the gringo well. After the backpacking hangouts of the last few days its nice to be off the trail again.

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I walk the streets of the simple local night market, and find a full plate of carne and tortillas for $1, and a massive glass of horchata for 30c YUM! The people are calm, and seem to accept me in a quite way. It’s a delightful space.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:39 PM   #103
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Sorry.

Ok, I know the photos are playing up again but I am tired its late and I have an early start. Bear with me.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:51 PM   #104
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Well ... if you survive .. you've got a great book in the making!

When having your bike WELDED ... I would advise removing the main CDI unit (computer) or any other computers your BMW may have.
Remember Ewan & Charlie in Mongolia? Arc Welders grounded to your frame can FRY your CDI. Phhhffft! GONE! BIG MONEY. $$$

Take racks off if possible for welding ... or remove all black boxes.

Maybe you got a false reading on your oil since your bike was on its side so often? Oil may have flowed into air box or leaked out? Be sure to check on level ground after bike fully warm.

Glad you got to explore that area around Livingston. I lived off/on in Guat. for 2 years ... never saw it. I lived in Solola', at Lago Atitlan, very near
Gringotenango. (Panahachel)

If your chain is loosening and needing adjustment ... it's most likely finished. Guat City is good for parts and service ... but avoid the BMW dealer for all but specific parts. Lots of good indie shops around.

Glad you weren't hurt with all the get offs. You must lead a charmed life. Loving the beautiful Pics ... but still can't see all of them! Keep plugging away!
Keep it up! !que le via bien!
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Old 11-20-2012, 08:49 AM   #105
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Hewby,

Tu es una mujer muy valiente, Brava!
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