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Old 03-07-2009, 07:18 AM   #16
D.T.
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Nice report!

I spose itd be nice to have your KTM there instead..
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Old 03-07-2009, 07:18 AM   #17
Mr Farkle OP
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Thanks for the feedback. I haven't been to a lot of countries but this place really appeals to me. Lots of freedom, the people are polite and friendly, and the scenery is great. Outside of about four places (Tikal, Guatemala City, Antigua, and Lake Atitlan), there were no tourists, no cell phones, no fast food, no tvs, no mini-vans, and no traffic lights. I hate traffic lights.
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09 Guatemala trip - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=439951
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Old 03-07-2009, 07:30 AM   #18
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Back to Antigua

Here's a shot from Antigua, of the sun setting over Volcan Fuego. This volcano is active and even though we didn't see any lava, we did see an occasional poof of smoke.



In the evening, Taz and Dave joined us at a local nightclub "Another drink in the Wall" where we ate Argentinian food from a restaurant next door. The club, as you might guess, had a Pink Floyd theme but when we'd been there for an hour and I'd still not heard any, I asked the owner to play a song or two and for the next 90 minutes, he played nothing but Pink Floyd, from the popular to the obscure. Great stuff. Taz introduced us to an American writer, Mike, from New York. Taz referred to us a "Lefties" because of our disagreement about some of the recent policies of our government. (I'm politically agnostic) We had a pretty good conversation with Mike challenging us on our opinions of what should or should not be done with those responsible for the Iraq war.

My original opinion of Antigua was not good. The area where we initially went had many tourists and, while I am one, I don't like to be around them. Dave and I had some time so we walked off the beaten paths. We found streets with great restaurants, friendly people, and few tourists. We wandered over to their big market and discovered that we were the only Caucasians in site; this in a town full of tourists. The markets were very cool. Packed with people, there was lots of yelling and selling of anything you could carry including food, clothing, pirated music and DVDs, and pharmaceuticals. Antigua has definitely grown on me.

Antigua to Panajachel (Lago Atitlan)



Following our second night at the Black Cat Hostel we took off for another popular tourist destination, Lake Atitlan. The ride would take us past the local volcanoes and up into the mountains to this lake, described by Antiguans as the most beautiful on the planet. The paved portion of the ride had a bit more traffic than what we become accustomed to but the riding was terrific. We hit a few hours of dirt early on then smooth switchbacks until we had the lake in site. What a view.



We're heading to the volcano off in the distance.





A typical, rural home. I was trying to get a shot of the kids.



Lake Atitlan - it was very hazy from several fires in the valley. We probably sat at this site for a half hour just soaking in the sun and the great views.

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09 Guatemala trip - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=439951
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Old 03-07-2009, 11:08 AM   #19
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Panajachel



Our destination for the day was Panajachel. Almost immediately, I did not like the town. The main strip that we walked along was all targeted to tourists, with mostly tourist prices. There were some exceptions, like my new favorite ice cream bar (5Q).


We sat by the lake for awhile and had an early dinner. One of Taz's friends stopped by and joined us for awhile. Milton was from El Salvador but had moved to Antigua. He had a great accent as, if I understand correctly, he learned how to speak English from a Brit. After a few hours we were off to a cantina before retiring for the night.


I awoke in the middle of the night in a panic. Where was my camera? I had been carrying it with me but had not remembered putting it away. I was devastated. All of the pictures that I was looking forward to showing to my wife, Laura, were now gone. As we were heading out of town, we checked at the restaurant and then the cantina. Amazingly, Taz came out with the camera in his hand. I had left it behind and an honest businessman had recovered it. I gave him a small reward and big hug. What luck!
I understand from some locals that Panajachel has a bad reputation as a tourist trap. That morning, as we stopped for coffee, I did see a more normal side of this village. It's not fair to label it as I have without checking out the entire area so, my opinion is not set.


Panajachel to Antigua


Leaving Panajachel, we had planned to ride along some dirt roads surrounding the lake but our plans were nearly cut short by road construction. We found an alternate route and ended up on the steepest set of gravel covered switchbacks that I've ever encountered.
For some reason, the remaining images are all terribly over-exposed. The camera was dead by the time I got home and is now at the repair shop.



This road is much steeper than it appears. The grassy area to the right of Dave is actually flat. At one point, Dave's bike died and he actually started sliding backwards, even with his wheels locked. The challenge was a rush. :-)



Our third and final night in Antigua


We got back around mid-afternoon and had a great lunch at a Mediterranean restaruant owned by one of Taz's friends. Great food - another place I could easily go to each week. Tonight we stayed in a different Hostel called Umma Gumma - Hmmm, what's the deal with the Pink Floyd references? This was another interesting hostel with a lot of simple amenities for a decent price - 150Q for both of us, for a private room (about $20).

Sunday - the trip is almost over!


But not quite. While Dave stayed in Antigua, I joined Taz and another rider, Bill, from Knoxville for a day in the dirt. What a blast! After leaving town we headed off into some lowlands that challenged us with something like 18 river crossings, racing through some sugar cane fields, past a rubber plantation, and up a volcano where we topped out at over 2700 meters. We'd gone from sweltering heat to downright chilly in under an hour.



Too deep to ride through.

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09 Guatemala trip - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=439951
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Old 03-07-2009, 11:12 AM   #20
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Epilogue of sorts...

Summary

I'm lucky to have a wife that encourages me to go on these trips. She rarely gets a break but tolerates the time away and expense. My hope is that we'll some day be able to travel together.


For riders that have never traveled outside of the US, this is an easy approach to testing the waters. The riding is only as difficult as you request and the language difference is not a barrier unless you don't try. I recommend CATours for anyone wanting to travel to a country not overrun with tourists. Several years ago, Costa Rica was great but by our second trip, people were greeting us in English. In Guatemala, it was nearly all Spanish or Mayan. The cost is not bad either. The 9-day trip cost less than what I would spend flying west for a 3-4 day ski trip.


TACA Airlines was great! A lot of leg room, meals both ways, and under four hour each way from Chicago. The flights took off at 2am and 8:30pm but we benefited by quickly getting through customs and getting almost an entire extra day in Guatemala.
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05 R1200 GS
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09 Guatemala trip - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=439951
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Old 03-07-2009, 02:17 PM   #21
LaOutbackTrail
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Wow! Thanks for taking us along on your great mini-adventure!

CATours is now bookmarked for future reference!
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Old 03-08-2009, 01:35 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaOutbackTrail
Wow! Thanks for taking us along on your great mini-adventure!

CATours is now bookmarked for future reference!
My pleasure. The guys at the place were very cool. Even when were back at their home base and on our own, they went out with us for dinner and drinking.
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09 Guatemala trip - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=439951
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Old 03-09-2009, 09:35 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Farkle

Leaving Panajachel, we had planned to ride along some dirt roads surrounding the lake but our plans were nearly cut short by road construction. We found an alternate route and ended up on the steepest set of gravel covered switchbacks that I've ever encountered.
You have some great pics! The area of semuc champey is some of my favourite riding...

Any word with security threats around Atilan? I was robbed at gunpoint going from Santiago Atilan to San pedro. Word is that those specific guys were caught, but I was wondering if the area is regarded safe?
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Old 03-10-2009, 04:10 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveg
You have some great pics! The area of semuc champey is some of my favourite riding...

Any word with security threats around Atilan? I was robbed at gunpoint going from Santiago Atilan to San pedro. Word is that those specific guys were caught, but I was wondering if the area is regarded safe?
We had heard the same warnings but saw nothing that seemed threatening. It probably helped that we were off the roads and kicking back by the time it turned dark. Still, some of the regions were so rarely traveled that if someone had wanted to rob us, there would have likely been little we could do.
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09 Guatemala trip - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=439951
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Old 03-10-2009, 04:42 AM   #25
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Fantastic, thanks Mr. F!
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