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Old 09-17-2013, 10:39 AM   #1321
Klutch
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"Awesome" doesn't even begin to describe your travels!
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:56 AM   #1322
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/109.html



From Coban, we are going to be journeying westwards through the mountainous department of Quiche - not named after the food, it's pronounced Kee-Chay after the Mayan dialect Ki'Che' so popular in this region. And there's no quiche in this entry either...


No drybag and topcase means less weight on the back of the bike. Mac and Cheese and Huevos con Salsa means more weight in the middle of the bike...


Single-lane construction zone, uphill in the dirt, facing an oncoming bus too large to squeeze past...


...So we pull off into the shoulder and my bike is so wide I have to lean it to the right to give the bus 2 inches to pass *gahhh*


Half of the roads we are doing are unpaved, good chance to try out my new Heidenau rear


Neda threads her way through a road carved out of the mountainside


The Quiche department is dominated by the Sierra de los Cuchamatanes - the largest non-volcanic moutain-range in Central America


Making trax...


We are climbing up twisty roads towards Nebaj

The paved roads towards Nebaj are heavenly, first-gear switchbacks climbing high into the mountains. However, we are puzzled by two different kinds of logos painted on rocks, mountainsides and everywhere along the side of the road - blue "Todos" and red "Lider". We find out later that it's two political parties and there's either an election coming up or one has just passed.


Asking for directions to Acul - Neda trys out her Ki'Che'

Speaking of languages, I have a new Spanish teacher - Neda. We do lessons over the communicator while riding. Along with verb conjugation I am also learning how to swear at Chicken Buses en Espanol. In these roads up here in the mountains, it's best not to ride too close to the centre line while apexing, as oncoming cars and buses regularly cross the line.


Moo-ving right along...


The scenery here becomes very European-alpine-countryside


Pulling into our destination for the next couple of nights


Bungalows in the background - ours is the one in the middle

As per Julio's recommendation, we're relaxing in a great little cheese farm outside of Acul called Mil Amores (Spanish for a Thousand Loves). It's such a bucolic setting, very quiet save for the soft ka-tunkle of the bells tied around the cows and goats. A nice place to just kick back, relax and enjoy the surroundings, and the food is fresh from the farm - cheese and beans served during every meal. Did I mention we are both a little bit lactose intolerant? After every meal, our little bungalow rocks with the sounds of two-stroke motorcycles... *BRAAAAP*


I never thought Guatemala could look like this - everything is so lush from the Guatemalan winter rains

The region around Nebaj and Acul is like the Guatemalan version of the Alps. In fact, the farm was settled in the 1930s by a family of Italian artisan cheese makers who honed their craft in the Swiss alps, and searched the Americas for a similar place - high altitudes, eternal green grass. Looks like they found it.


Wine, and a little fuel for our two-strokes


Afternoon rains give our bikes a bit of a wash


We are timing our travels well during the rainy season


Warm and dry inside the kitchen with a Kindle, a candle and a hot cup of tea


Outside, the farm's dog guards our motos - his snoring is louder than our two-strokes


Neda contemplating Blue Angels

It was such a great relaxing couple of days and we're now ready to hit the road again!
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Old 09-20-2013, 01:10 AM   #1323
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What a trip!

Stil enjoy it!



Greets from Germany!
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Old 09-20-2013, 07:47 AM   #1324
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Thanks for sharing your trip with us! What an amazing adventure!
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Old 09-20-2013, 04:29 PM   #1325
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Very nice.....As always, I am sure the pictures don't even come close to living in the moment. It looks beautiful!
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Old 09-21-2013, 08:02 AM   #1326
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Thank you all for your encouragement and wonderful comments, Neda and I love reading them while we're on the road!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
I am always interested in the effect that long journeys have on riders [..] The person is still away from "home" and the things and people that they are most comfortable with. Add to that spending quite a long time in a place where you cannot freely converse with the locals.
You are spot-on. The time back in Toronto did us good, I found I was more "myself" when speaking English again. Traveling through Latin America, I feel like I'm in encased in a mummy's coffin. All anyone sees is the blank expression painted on the front and the muffled sounds of the few words of Spanish I know coming from within! :)

I like how you put "home" in quotes. For us, it's definitely not a place, but the people. Social media has helped a lot, Neda has remarked how she Skypes a lot more with her family now than when we were living and working in Toronto.

I think part of travel fatigue is the constant foraging for food and shelter. We've spoken to many travelers along the way and a common theme is how friends and family back home always ask, "What do you guys do all day? Sip mojitos on the beach?" They don't realize that without a fridge or closet, you are always searching for a grocery store every day and trying to find a laundromat on a regular basis, on top of trying to secure a bed for the night. Staying put for a few days or longer really frees up time to breathe, plan or just relax.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kuntor View Post
I have been following your trip report and I hope they come for Argentina.
I would like to show them the best places of my country
Thank you so much for the offer, we would love to come to Argentina, it sounds lovely! However, we are traveling very slowly so please wait for us!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shibby! View Post
I regret not doing Semuc Champey when I spent a few days in Coban.
We missed it the first time we were in Guatemala, and everyone that's been through the area raves about it, so it was high on the list this time around. Mexico had really friendly people, but I'm finding Guatemala has a lot more to offer from a shutter-bug's viewpoint (viewfinder?). I'm captivated with the indigenous Mayan culture, they are such a beautiful people!
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Old 09-21-2013, 03:51 PM   #1327
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Great points about travel fatigue. Many of us who have travelled extensively on business experience the same problems. Maybe on a different scale, but even living out of a suitcase in one or more motel rooms for a month at a time really drags on you. Personally, after 3 weeks of nothing but restaurant food, I start getting edgy.
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Old 09-21-2013, 09:17 PM   #1328
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On the Road

I can really appreciate your travel experiences and reaction to them. I am all in favour of setting up base in a place for a while and exploring the country form there, it makes for a much more rewarding experience by giving you time to try things that you would otherwise not have the time to. I think you've found the right formula.
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Old 09-22-2013, 06:01 PM   #1329
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Very Impressed!

Neda and Gene, you guys are amazing! I really like the way you guys adapt your plans so fluidly to your physical and mental state. I can totally relate to your quote below. Travel can be really tiring and sometimes you just need to stop. In so many ride reports it seems that the riders become slaves to the journey and just keep pushing themselves on, sometimes to their detriment. Your extended stays in the little towns where you guys seem to adapt so well to the local rhythm of life are refreshing. Almost reminiscent of a Hemingway novel minus the heavy drinking and womanizing


"It is so amazing having a home-base to dump all our stuff in and just relax without having to worry about foraging for food and shelter. Stocking up the fridge means not having to grocery shop everyday, and with a hot stove, spices and cookware, we're able to make meals that were not possible while we were on the road. Being nomadic is a great lifestyle for us, but we still need some kind of sedentary life to balance the intensity of all the new things we're seeing and experiencing."
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Old 09-22-2013, 10:50 PM   #1330
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reboundrider View Post
Almost reminiscent of a Hemingway novel minus the heavy drinking and womanizing
Yes, Neda stopped all of that a lot time ago...
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Old 09-23-2013, 01:26 AM   #1331
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reboundrider View Post
Almost reminiscent of a Hemingway novel minus the heavy drinking and womanizing
Quote:
Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post
Yes, Neda stopped all of that a lot time ago...
Neda was a heavy drinker & womaniser?

Oh, now I get it
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Old 09-23-2013, 09:23 PM   #1332
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After a restful two days at Mil Amores, we are ready to hit the road once again, heading south through the Guatemalan Highlands, rolling through the smooth pavement switching back up and down the mountains. Along the way we pass small towns and even smaller villages.


Pausing in traffic to window shop at the roadside tiendas (stalls) selling food and refreshments


What's the holdup?

We tiptoe on the dirt shoulder, past a lineup of stopped chicken buses. Passengers are grabbing their belongings off the buses and abandoning them, walking further ahead. There is lots of confusion at the roadblock, drivers and pedestrians give us conflicting information: "You can't pass, turn back!", "Take this stony road that goes into the jungle to get to the otherside".


When we get past the front, we see the road has fallen away into the valley below. Oops.

In the end, we followed another biker as he pushed his way past people on the sidewalk. That turned out to be the correct call and we're back on the road again, leaving the stranded trucks and chicken buses fuming impatiently on the other side!

Ah, the pitfalls (literally) of riding through the Guatemalan winter.


Passing through colourful, mystical arches

My bike is not doing well with the regular gas I am feeding her. Lots of engine pinging in the low revs while climbing up the hills in the past few days, and I have to keep the revs high in order to keep her from complaining too loudly. As we near our destination of Panajachel, I treat her with some premium drink. I glance at the bill and shake my head - she's dining a lot better than I am.

Perhaps she goes back on a diet when we reach flatter terrain. Her and I, both!


Panajachel, down by Lake Atitlan

We checked into the same hostel that we stayed in the first time, the one with the parrot security guard. I had a little conversation with our feathered friend. I've provided some subtitles.


Bloody bird speaks more Spanish than I do. FML.

It's very interesting walking around Pana almost 6 months since the last time we visited. We are really getting to see this place and the country in two different seasons. The streets are bare of tourists and the late morning sky already darkens with imminent rain clouds every day, obscuring the tops of the volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan.


We take a day-trip by water-taxi to San Marcos, on the other side of the lake

Part of the reason why we are staying a couple of days in Panajachel is because this was the last place we were before we had to abandon our leisurely pace to rush through Central America. We missed out on all the little Mayan towns and villages dotting the shores of Lake Atitlan, some of which are only accessible by water because of the volcanoes surrounding the lake.


Some really swanky digs built along the shores and slopes of the mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan


Big business along the shores of the lake

There is a public ferry that shuttles travelers from town to town on the lake, it only costs Q25 (about $3). However, private boats offer faster, more direct service for a higher fee. We watched as they filled their seats with their sales pitches to impatient tourists. One well-dressed Frenchman dished out Q200 ($25). He sat in the boat and waited angrily as the captain kept lowering his price to fill all the seats on the boat. Other tourists bargained down to Q100 ($13). We waited till the very last minute before the public ferry was to arrive and scored seats for Q50 ($6) each!

The French guy was livid!


Walking around "downtown" San Marcos

San Marcos is a very small Mayan village where yoga retreats and alternative medicine centres have inexplicably sprung up. It felt weird walking the narrow dirt paths between closely packed buildings offering gourmet health food and boutique hotels, squeezing past western women in Lululemon yoga gear, sweaty from a morning session of Downward Dirty Dogs and Cameltoe Poses.


Sanity returned as we left the Dharma Initiative complex

Outside the Fruity Yoga centre, we spent more time strolling through the real San Marcos. Children had just broke from school and were running and playing in the streets. We got quite a workout walking up and down the very steep hills of the town, peeking into buildings to get a glimpse of what life is like here.


The higher we got, the better view we got of the lake


Public ferry back to Panajachel

We thought we did so well negotiating with the private boat. We found out that the actual public ferry didn't take much longer and it was exactly the same kind of boat, but this one had a roof. It docked at another site just outside of Panajachel and cost Q20, not Q25! This was what the locals took! Those private boats were making a killing!


Tight, but scenic exit from our hostel parking spot
No flowers were hurt leaving Panajachel


This was a great week-long road trip touring around the Guatemalan mountains, some entertaining dual-sport roads and lots of tight, twisty asphalt. There are a couple of ways to get back to Antigua, the main PanAmerican highway, and shorter way that looked pretty good on the GPS - lots of switchbacks and more mountainous scenery. We asked a local on the way out which was better. He said the "shortcut" was less time, but was less "secure" (seguridad).

Less secure, like in bandits? We didn't quite understand. But seeing how it was the middle of the day, we thought we'd chance it. So off we went...


This is what "less secure" means. We rode though broken roads, some washed completely away.
Neda is testing to see where the lowest point in the river was to cross.



Aiming the bike, ready to point and shoot

Married couples often develop an understanding of the things they say to each other, and the things they really mean. Here is an example:

Neda: You go first.
Translation: (You go first so if you fall, I know where not to go.)

Gene: Yes, dear.
Translation: (Yes, dear.)


Guatemalan Bike Wash


A local helps direct Neda through the water crossing
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lightcycle screwed with this post 09-23-2013 at 10:07 PM
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Old 09-23-2013, 10:22 PM   #1333
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post
U

My bike is not doing well with the regular gas I am feeding her. Lots of engine pinging in the low revs while climbing up the hills in the past few days, and I have to keep the revs high in order to keep her from complaining too loudly. As we near our destination of Panajachel, I treat her with some premium drink. I glance at the bill and shake my head - she's dining a lot better than I am.

Perhaps she goes back on a diet when we reach flatter terrain. Her and I, both!

Aiming the bike, ready to point and shoot

Few bits of info you may or may not want:

1) Octane is required more at lower elevation. You were riding quite high and still had issues. As you mentioned, reducing load is key (higher RPM). Doesn't the BMW have a switch to run lower octane? Or is that just the KTM 990? (not rubbing it in, seriously don't know)

2) Don't stop just before a water crossing. The "flow" you get from riding is ruined and often upsets you when normally it wouldn't if you rolled into it. This is more prevalent with offroad riding when riders stop at logs, hill climbs, and water crossings. Always turns out for the worse. If you have to stop (to check depth, etc) stop further back so you can get comfy before getting technical. It's also always shallowest closest to the "break".

I crossed that same river. It wasn't much more of than a small stream when I did. Nice to see how things differently!

Thanks for the update!

Loved the comment about the Yoga people. haha. Had me laughing with the cameltoe...
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Old 09-25-2013, 06:58 AM   #1334
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shibby! View Post
1) Octane is required more at lower elevation. You were riding quite high and still had issues. As you mentioned, reducing load is key (higher RPM). Doesn't the BMW have a switch to run lower octane? Or is that just the KTM 990? (not rubbing it in, seriously don't know)
The R1200GS has a knock sensor, which will adjust to lower octane fuel. However, the steep hills needed to be attacked at a lower gear/higher revs than what could be run at with higher octane fuel.
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:26 AM   #1335
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Try adding some of the local moonshine to boost the octane
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