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Old 12-13-2013, 06:03 PM   #136
SeanPNW OP
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Originally Posted by Ruckusment View Post
If you are headed to Tulum, which is the only coastal Mayan city and amazing, be sure to check out Coba too. I think it would be way more your speed: I think only 30% of it is uncovered, it's in true jungle, you can rent a totally thrashed rust covered bike for $2 and cruise for hours, and you can climb on everything because they haven't even found everything.

Wishing I was down there with you man, the beer freezes in the can when hiking the North Cascades.

Good luck man, keep living the dream.

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Originally Posted by Ruckusment View Post
Nevermind, you are definitely well past where I was talking about. Regardless though your trip is looking amazing, I look forward to your posts, so much so that it is the only one that I have ever had send me email notifications to remind me. You are that important!
Shit, all the way to email notification status that's rad man thanks. I heard about this magical place you speak of near Tulum, I bailed out of Tulum last minute on the day I was going to go to that place so I missed it.

PS I thought I put this in the San Cristobal post but apparently I didn't. I found the Mexico version of your bar, shout out to your spot and Capitol Hill:

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Old 12-13-2013, 11:36 PM   #137
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36. Belize? Was that you? Oh, hey there Guatemala!

I’m in Chetumal, a border town at the very southern edge of the Yucatan. I’m up early in the morning as I want to make a jump into Belize today. Not planning on staying very long in Belize, just transiting to Guatemala. I’m sure Belize has lots of great stuff, but I’m hankering for the Guat’ and a land of cheaper, well...everything. I pulled into a parking lot where a street vender was slinging fast breakfast. I picked up some stuff that I hadn’t had before, some sort of taco like thing though and left the lot via jumping the curb to get onto the road out of town. A few minutes later and the border is close now, 300 yards and I’ll be in a whole new country. Wait, is my front end getting speed wobble at 30 mph? That’s not possible. Yep, flat tire. Damn must have got a pinch-flat when I hopped that curb back in town. I can literally see the border ahead of me. Oh well, off she comes.



I pulled out the tube and follow the ooze of green Slime back to the source. Man this slime shit makes a mess, probably works great for punctures, not so much for pinch-flats.



Hole patched, snack consumed. Cool, let’s try this border thing again.





For anyone wanting up to date logistics on this border crossing here’s the deets:
1. Get your passport stamped at immigration (little hut to the right before you cross)
2. Cross the border, remember what your mother taught you and say “gracias” to the lovely border attendant
3. Ride 200 meters past the Mex border, veer to the right and avoid the duty free zone on the left where all the Mexicans go to shop.
4. Get your bike fumigated, don’t breath the shit in, pay the kind man $4.50(?) $6.50(?) can’t remember but whatever it is it’s cheap so don’t trip.
5. Take the road to the right after the fumigation stop and it will double back in a big loop towards where you just crossed again. This will seem weird and it’s because it is. You need to do it though to cancel the TVIP for the bike (UNLESS you have shit tons of money and don’t care if you ever get your deposit back OR unless you’ll be coming back to Mexico before your TVIP is expired in which case skip this step and just roll on through pretending like you have shit tons of money)
6. Cancel your TVIP in the big building where there are three temporary metal buildings. The ladies will check your VIN, shoot them a wink if appropriate, again remember your mothers manners and say “gracias”
7. Drive back the way you came to the TVIP place and now hook a right at the fumigation spot to the Belize border.
8. Stop before the crossing at immigration on the left, switch your brain back to english and start saying “please, thank you” as everyone here speaks english in Belize. Get your stamps, tell them how long you’ll be in Belize, give them the info on your bike.
9. Leave immigration and cross the border, tell them you have no drugs, weapons, or small children to sell.
10. Hook a left after crossing into Belize as if you want to return to Mexico but stop before the border crossing gates, here you can change money. Hop off your bike, whistle to the guys sitting on the other side of the border and let them haggle for who will give you the best price for Belize dollars.
11. Get what you want and then turn back around and go to the big white building at the ‘T’ intersection, here you will buy insurance. In Belize you ‘need’ insurance. The building to go to is the exhorbitantly large one that has been built with all the money that has been earned peddling expensive insurance to travelers. Walk in and give them more money to put more white on their already very white walls. They offered me 3 days of insurance for $20, 2 days was $29 (don’t ask me why), 20 bones for three days sounds good, but considering a year of insurance costs a local $60 they definitely have a racket going. Risk it if you want, I never had a problem and no-one asked me for it.
12. Walk out the door and now go do whatever the fuck you want, you’re in Belize, go have fun.

I found a dirt road and followed it south for a few miles.



It lead me to a paved road heading south east, I followed it for a while.



I found some clouds, they looked promisingly ominous.



They brought what I expected they would, lots of rain. The weather here is warm though so not too bad. After about 2 hours I rolled into a restaurant for some food. These place seemed pretty random as there weren’t any other restaurants where I had come from but hey, I’ll take it.



It’s weird speaking to people in english, but everyone here in Belize greets you in kriole or English. I asked the lady what was the most typical Belizian dish they had, she said sweet-stew chicken and rice. I said great. The chicken was sweet and wet, but nothing wildly mind blowing, the rice was actually better than the chicken and was pretty full of flavor-flave and seasoning. All in all a good filling meal.



Finished my food and went outside to find a place to stay for the night. Is that a flat tire?



Yep, sure looks like it. Welp, guess it’s time to swap out my rear tire for the replacement I’ve been carrying since San Diego. 8 months ago my old boss (a fellow motorcyclist) came to my desk and said “Hey, I was behind you yesterday after work and noticed your rear tire is pretty squared off. You thinking about changing that soon?” I said “nah man, she’s got more life in her still”. An additional 6k+ miles later and you’ve done good tire, you’ve done real good. You may rest now. I went back into the restaurant and purchased a delicious treat to commemorate the death of this fine tire.

The lady inside said it’s called a “butter tart”. It has, well...butter...and some raisins and honey...then probably a ton more butter...but HOLY SHIT IT IS DELICIOUS!



After settling down from the butter tart I started changing the tire in their parking lot and chatting with the guys that take care of the grounds around the restaurant (it’s an expat place with cabanas to rent and a small farm too). The guys were chill and both from Honduras. They said I could pull my bike into their barn and work on it their out of the rain.





They asked me where I was staying and I said not sure but somewhere near here hopefully, just need a spot to camp. He flipped his phone out and made a call. Afterwards he said his buddy lived nearby and I could camp there, they just don’t have a shower for me. “Look at me, does it look like I care about bathing?” Thanks for the hook-up Juan.



I followed his directions and met his friend Marvin at a bar down the road. He was the manager and he lived out back behind the bar. I set up shop behind his place, even had a covered spot, sweet, thanks Marvin.



I wouldn’t say that I threw on a ‘clean’ shirt but rather a ‘cleaner’ shirt and went to the bar for a cold beer. They have Belikin here as the local beer. It’s a mayan labeled beer and goes down smooth, slightly darker than corona but has much more flaves. Don’t think you are a drunk though when you keep finding the bottom of the bottle sooner than normal, the bottles they come in look like a normal bottle but the glass is much thicker so less liquid. Cheeky trick but well played Belikin. With not much else in terms of social gathering spots being in the immediate vicinity the crowed at the bar is eclectic. There are several floral patterned button-up shirts which identifies them as ‘expats’ to me, a handful of locals, an Asian man drunk-napping on the bar, and several people I presume to be living in the area temporarily but aren’t from around here. A mildly inebriated local man gestures for me to come over to his side of the bar where an empty chair awaits me next to the sleeping asian man who probably hasn’t supplied him with enough conversation. I come over and we chat for a bit in a mix of kriole, spanish, and english about the merits of Christopher Columbus and whether he was a good man for ‘finding’ the americas. Odd conversation to start with, but I believe they have downed a few beers already as his buddy is currently transitioning between struggling to find the correct end of his half burnt cigarette to suck on and being passed out asleep on the counter. We concluded Columbus was the first white guy to bump into the land ‘technically’ but we disagreed about the specific merits of the resulting aftermath. I started chatting with the girl next to me instead and this proved to be a much more cognisant conversation. Jane was here from the states studying monkey populations. She’d been here for several years off-and-on in between spending summers leading month long National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trips into-the-wild style around the world. Rad shit for sure. I was beat so I hit the hay but they ended up going out to the capital city of Belmopan (20 mins away), if I had known they were going there it would have been rad to hit the streets with them and see what’s up in the capital. If you snooze you lose right? When I woke up it looked like they had a good time out.



That night it rained harder than I had ever experienced rain before. The noise was absolutely nuts, someone could have violently strangled several large sows to death right next to my tent and I wouldn’t have been able to hear a thing. I packed up my shit the best I could but everything was pretty wet and wasn’t gonna be getting any dryer anytime soon.



I was able to see Marvin’s pad and the bar in daylight better now. Thanks again for letting me crash man.





I stopped back into the same restaurant from the night before to buy another one of the butter tarts before I left. Since I was there I figured I’d get breakfast and catch up on the ‘american news’ they had laying around.



I jumped back on the road and headed west for the border to Guatemala. I stopped off for a hot minute in the capital city Belmopan just to see it. They had a market so the road was packed.





I strolled around some more just to get a quick feel for the place.





My 24 hour conclusion is that Belize is very intriguing, and I can’t put a finger on this place at all. The people seem nice, the place seems interesting, but with so little time I can’t find a main-vein to get a good pulse reading for any of it. It seems all very weird, with anything happening anywhere, at any time, and with no order to it whatsoever. It’s not chaotic, in fact quite the opposite, like a chaos on horse tranquilizers. It leaves me with more questions than answers and wanting to learn more about this confusing place, but alas, I’m just in transit to Guatemala so I’m left to wonder.

Back on the road I headed for the border. There is never really any ‘rural’ areas with no people, just a general spattering of homes throughout. As I’ve learned so far in Latin America the unfortunate pattern of a large divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” is continued here in Belize. Houses range from the more typical older and rundown places to the newer and obviously wealthier places.









Coming into the border town of San Ignacio and I was lead to a washed out bridge. With how much it has been raining the last few days along with how hard it rained last night I’m not surprised.



I was surprised though when a local told me that yesterday the water had been much higher. Looking at the cable for this power pole you can see where the water line reached by how high up the debris is caked on to it.



Looking back up the hill the guy said that yesterday his red truck in the background of this photo would have been under water.



I found another bridge that was much taller and after that it was smooth sailing, is that sun I see in the distance?



When I got to the border it ended up taking about an hour and a half in total. There was some basic fuckery but nothing out of the ordinary or annoying, just a lot of overworked staff dealing with tired and stressed people. I have all day though and everyone was nice and helpful.



Hey Guatemala nice to meet you, I like your roads.





I see you also have moo-cows here.



And finally some muddy roads! I haven’t had a good dirt road in quite a while. Convenient I put a fresh new rear tire on yesterday.



Still a fair amount of tarmac though. I met this old guy in the road for a minute. He was from New Orleans originally, his Creole was heavy but it seemed like he had been wandering for many years. Maybe a few loose screws but a nice guy. Asked me if Mexico was far away, I said not too far relatively as I was just there yesterday, he said cool and started walking.



The place I headed to is called Flores and is a little island in a lagoon outside of a larger town. When I say little I mean real little.



Near the center of it is a hostel called Los Amigos. The whole island has a cool chilled out feel to it, the hostel is the same.



Walking around the island doesn’t take long. No more than 15 minutes. If you walk uphill from anywhere you eventually get to the centro where, as always, a small park and place for gathering exists.







Likewise, walk downhill from anywhere on the island and all roads lead to the water. Most alley’s do too.



The architecture is old and interesting, as are the streets. I don’t know these people.



The waterfront is pretty and a nice place to walk.



Here you can find typical food for this region and it’s reeeaaallll cheap too. Perfect.



Deserts here are popular apparently.



I tried some fried bananas with fried beans in the center, banana bread, some vanilla milk drank, and something with chicken and a mystery sauce in it. All was tasty, but the banana bread was excellent. The cost was 20Q which is about $2.50, the prices are getting better. Tomorrow I will try the other stuff I didn’t today.



I sat, ate, and chatted for a bit as the sun went down. This is a nice place to come and kick back. Feels like you are on a little island to yourself but everyone isn’t snotty and highbrow like what happens in other places I’ve been when there is a small cool island with limited space. I hear there are ruins nearby, maybe tomorrow I’ll check some out.


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SeanPNW screwed with this post 12-14-2013 at 06:20 AM
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Old 12-16-2013, 10:39 AM   #138
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Hey Sean,

Been to Flores (1981) and it was beautiful. Maybe check out Tecal. Spent a season there with the National Geographic and UT - San Antonio. Maybe the Jaguar Inn is still in business in Tecal?

You truly need to hook up with Becky and crew. They are in your neck of the woods.

http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=904659

Love Guatemala, this next segment is gonna be good.
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Old 12-17-2013, 04:49 PM   #139
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Hey Sean,

Been to Flores (1981) and it was beautiful. Maybe check out Tecal. Spent a season there with the National Geographic and UT - San Antonio. Maybe the Jaguar Inn is still in business in Tecal?

You truly need to hook up with Becky and crew. They are in your neck of the woods.

http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=904659

Love Guatemala, this next segment is gonna be good.

These aren't theirs by any chance are they? If so I just rolled into the same hostel in Antigua.


IMG_2026 by No Moto Boundaries, on Flickr
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Old 12-17-2013, 06:56 PM   #140
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These aren't theirs by any chance are they? If so I just rolled into the same hostel in Antigua.


IMG_2026 by No Moto Boundaries, on Flickr
Looks like it. DRZ's, one of which is from Alaska.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:11 AM   #141
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These aren't theirs by any chance are they? If so I just rolled into the same hostel in Antigua.


My two favorite ride reports meeting up in Antigua, the old capitol of Guatemala. Two DRZ's and a KLR

Oh this is gonna be good.

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Old 12-18-2013, 03:02 PM   #142
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37. Yaxha Ruins

I got to chatting with one of the other guests last night about some local ruins that are pretty quiet. Tikal is the main-vein place and rightfully so as I hear itís amazing. There are several ruins though and the one the guy mentioned to go to if you want a nice place thatís less touristed and a bit cheaper is called Yaxha (Ya-shaw). Itís about an hour drive from Flores so David (french guy who told me about the spot) and I set out on the bike in the morning to check it out. First stop was the local market for some grub-a-lub.



We found a lady selling some sort of mini-tamale? I couldnít really understand what she said when she explained what was in it. The first language here is Maya but depending on your particular job or who you need to interact with people here also learn Spanish as their second language.



The food looked good and at 4-for-5Quetzales (0.63) we both got two orders. I love how much cheaper things are here compared to Mexico. The dorm room is also around 40Q (about $5).



After about an hour of nice sunny riding we turned off onto a discrete dirt road.



There had been a lot of heavy rains recently so the road was a bit sloppy at points. David had to jump off and walk for a couple of the messier bits.



After about 8 kilometers down the road we found the parking area. Handy being able to just ride in rather than pay for a bus from town.



The site is a former ceremonial center and city base for the pre-Columbian Maya civilization and is built on a ridge overlooking a large lake. It was first Ďdiscoveredí in 1904. In 1980 they started excavation but much has been left in a sort of half-buried and half-exposed state.







Lots of the ruins have wooden stairs going up the sides of the ruins that are still engulfed in in jungle.



From the top of most of the sites you have good views of the surrounding areas and the lake.





Unlike some of the other more popular locations, the pieces havenít been replaced with recreations, and thus the originals are still on display.



We climbed to the top of each to get a view of the different areas. There are some 500 sites here supposedly.





There is another associated site called ďNakumĒ that is further into the jungle. Kind of like another city. The road there was impassable due to all the rains but this trail lead to the city if you wanted to make the 16k hike. I wonder if this was the same route out of the main plaza that originally lead the Mayaís to Nakum as well. Interesting looking down it as if it was a main road to another city just as the Mayas may have done. Wonder how many people walked right through that same area on their way to Nakum so long ago.



From the top of a solar observation ruin you could see across the canopy to one of the other ruins. They would communicate via smoke signals from one location to the next if necessary.



Leading down to the water there is a path where graded terraces used to be bring people to and from the shore of the lake.





On the way to the water we ran into an Army Ant raid. Last time I was in central america I was doing research living in the jungle looking for these little fuckers. So glad I donít have to be doing that anymore.



These ones had some sort of invasive fungus growing on them which turned them bright blue. Not sure what happens to the ones infected eventually but I like to think that they maybe turn inside out and an alien invades the colony from within, like a trojan horse of some sort.



This here be croc-land.



We completed the loop and hiked our way back out to the parking lot from the lake. It was a nice trip and cool that we were basically the only people in the park. For half the price of Tikal we got to see something that fewer people venture out to experience. Maybe it was half as cool as Tikal, but with a fraction of the tourists it was twice as relaxing and a great way to meander through a park uninterrupted. We headed back to Flores and stopped in a town along the way for some local food. Decent tacos for $3 total and we topped it off with some more of the killer desserts from the waterfront tiendas back on the island of Flores. This is the last dessert there that I hadnít tried, itís called Tres Leches (Three Milks). I asked what the three different types of milks are and the ladies thought long and hard but could only come up with what 2 of the three where. Tasted good though, like angel food cake soaked in sweet milks.



Itís nice chilling out down here in the evening. Iíll soak it in tonight, tomorrow I think Iíll head somewhere else called Semuc Champey. I hear itís a must.




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Old 12-18-2013, 11:44 PM   #143
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Being Impressed by every single pix in your RR.
Thanks for share.
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Old 12-19-2013, 06:14 AM   #144
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Being Impressed by every single pix in your RR.
Thanks for share.
Sweetsauce, more coming today.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:44 AM   #145
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38. Semuc Fuckn' Champey

Time to roll out of this hostel, just in case anyone is interested itís a cool place, relatively cheap per night, food looked good, bar drinks looked good (I always ate in town and only drank the beer though) and it was definitely a social place. Smooth running and the owners are super involved. No parking indoors for a bike but seemed pretty safe on the street. Place is called Los Amigos on the island of Flores.







Now, off to Semuc Champey. Itís supposed to be a 8 hour bus ride there, Iím hoping 5 hours by bike. First, breaky at the local market.



Find this guy and asked what was his favorite thing that he makes. He said mixed tacos. I said cool Iíll take 3 of those. 10Q (~$1.10)



They were real good, full of flavor, add the typical tomato based sauce and the flavors are rounded out into a nice savory-slightly-sweet blend.



As I finished eating it started to piss rain pretty good so I decided to chill. Hit me with another plate of tacos please amigo.



The weather chilled a bit by the time I finished so I headed out. I turned off the main road that heads East-West and onto a smaller dirt road heading South towards Semuc Champey.



Finally, glad to find some more dirt roads here compared to Mexico.



There was some light traffic but not much.



The dirt road spit me back out onto a paved road where the scenery opened up a bit. So did the sky though and rain began to fall again.



In the heavy rain at pace down the paved road my bike stopped running again. Water in the carb. I pulled over and drained it. Seems like it only sucks in water when Iím clicking down the road at 65 - 70mph. Need to check the airbox hoses out, maybe Iím flinging water into the airbox through a cracked hose or something at higher speedsÖ



Bike fired right back up though, 20second fix. These guys came out of there house right quick though to see if I needed a hand. Nice dudes and we shot the shit for a minute.



The rain cleared again and the road dried enough for some fun rolling curves.



Fucking schizophrenic weather, started to absolutely dump again. I pulled off to wait out the heaviest of it, usually doesnít last more than 10 mins.



Got back on the road and then another 30 minutes later the someone flicked the weather switch again and I found sun again.





The road I was on took me all the way down to the southwestern corner of Belize before cutting back due west towards Semuc Champey. I found a nice little restaurant at this rural junction and stopped for some food. Iím in the habit now of asking whoever is working what their favorite dish is, then just ordering that for a try. This time they brought out soup, some veggies, and some sort of beef. All was savory and tasty. Total price, 20Q (~$2.20).



I find more and more people packing heat in Guatemala. Canít see it here but 5 guys rolled into the restaurant with handguns on their hips and several extra clips. Seemed like perfectly casual blokes, no hard asses here. Wonder if itís just a cultural thing to have a gun around these areas.



Once I turned onto this new road I found the queen bee of pristine tarmac. Not sure why they chose to do this road so nicely but there wasnít a single pothole on the whole thing.



With dry roads and lots of traction I opened her up. Man this is nice. I feel like an absolute rocketship clicking past people in overloaded cars as if they are standing still. Iím just a blur to everything else and only at a mere 70mph.



With all the recent rain everything is super green. These wild horses seemed happy with the excessive food it brought.


Every now and then I hit a patch of construction, usually there was also a bridge under construction at these points. The original was still in use though.





With about 30miles to go I found the turn-off to Semuc Champey. It was getting close to sunset and here I realized the road was going to be all dirt from here on. The road was steep with loose rocks so it was mostly 1st gear grinding with the occasional flip into second. Looks like Iíll be riding in to Semuc in the dark, as I only have about 30 minutes of sunlight.



Iíll enjoy the views then while I have them then.



The road wound up and up as if we Semuc Champey was hidden within the clouds.



The road got less and less groomed as the miles ground away. Constantly jumping from 1st to 2nd, 2nd back down to 1st, suspension jackhammering at a smooth consistent pounding, motor droning on smoothly at around 3500 revs.



It got too dark for pictures after this but my Hella Rally lights did a great job lighting up the road ahead. Good thing since it seemed like there wasnít much of an lip on these roads and there was usually quite the drop-off on the other side. I rolled into the Zephyr lodge in the town of Lanquin (6k south of Semuc Champey) where I would base my stay while visiting Semuc Champey. Itís a party hostel through and through, more like a total party compound. Like a mini drunken oasis in the middle of nowhere packed full of foreigners. If you are looking for other young people to get altered with and party this is the place. If you are looking for a relaxing place to sleep or chill out, this is not your spot. With a tab system for all purchases made during your stay, a full food menu for breaky/lunch/and dinner, and tours going to and from the hostel/compound to Semuc Champey itís an all inclusive resort for young party goers. Bizarre seeing it exist in a place that seems so remote and full of nature but here it is never the less.

Hereís their managers rig.



The compound is up on a ridgeline overlooking valleyís to the front and back. Beautiful views.





Thereís lots of space here and lots of housing, dorms, private, etc itís all here.





With all the young party goers flocking here and looking to pay for a good time business is definitely good. With a tab system too the sweet ring of the cash register bringing in money is only heard by the staff, itís only when you check out that you are reminded that your fun did in fact cost something.



I like to consider myself responsible though and didnít let the tab system lull me into a false sense of the reality about the cost of things. I opted to camp and by more beer with the savings :-)



In the morning I jumped a truck with a bunch of guys from ďOzĒ (australia) and one Israeli and we headed up the 6k climb to see what everyone was flocking here for (besides the good partying ;-))



We wound through town and I got my first look at the area.



Itís a small town with a very local feel to it. Iím kind of glad that Zephyr lodge is a tucked away compound as it sort of buffers this natural place from all of our drunken shenanigans.





On the hour long grind up to Semuc our truck lost 1st gear and it started to piss rain.



We just so happened to break down by a small wooden tienda so we bought some morning beers to smooth out the previous nights hangovers and waited for a different truck to come by.



New truck and road beers acquired.



We made it near to our destination and walked the rest of the way in.





At Semuc there is also a cave system called Kan Ba Cave. It was originally only used for Mayan ceremonies but has been opened up to the public recently for tourism. Itís a very deep cave system and is unique in that it has a flowing river going through it as well as waterfalls on the interior. This was what I really came to Semuc for. I fucking love caves but havenít had very many opportunities to get into them. Iím scared of the vulnerability of it all, itís like crawling into the belly of the earth, and mother nature doesnít give a shit about you or your safety, you are completely responsible for your own outcome. Your adventure in a cave, weather it goes well or terribly wrong isnít going to change the caves existence on bit, it doesnít care about you or why you are there and wonít cut you any slack if you fuck up. I like this. This fear of them is what draws my interest as well, you get a feeling of really being alive when you are confronted with the reminder that you are so miniscule and vulnerable in environments like this.

This cave is normally a pretty safe cave but you are required to have a certified guide take you through as it does have a flowing current and several water falls. With all the rain that had fallen recently things were pretty different at the cave today. Looking at the river below the entrance of we could see that the cave might be flowing a bit faster and higher today.



The walkway to the entrance was still mostly there but the water level was definitely higher than normal.



This is what the waterfall that comes from the entrance of the cave usually looks like (pulled from the web).



This is what that spot looked like today.



After this photo I donít have anything from the inside of the cave. Our guide told us we may not be able to go in but since we were a rowdy group of active dudes he said if we wanted to give it a try we could. We all agreed and went for it. Here is a picture of the entrance on a normal day (pulled off the internet).



Once inside we have candles and move through the network slowly. The current is strong but we are able to push through holding onto the rock formations and pulling ourselves through. At points it is very enclosed. Sometimes you can touch bottom and push with your feet and other times you are swimming with one hand holding the candle above water. There are parts where the water is very deep and the current is strong so they have fixed rope lines to use to pull yourself through. We can tell the water level is much higher than normal as these fixed lines are all submerged several feet below the top of the water and you have to kick around as you swim with your legs to find them. Two guides came in with us and they seemed to be pretty excited about willing and adventurous our group was to push forward.

Hereís a picture I pulled from the web from a normal day in the cave. With the water flowing pretty hard and the spaces much more enclosed than normal at times it did feel a little hectic but still within that perfect line of having fun.



The cave goes several kilometers in and at about half way we came to the first waterfall. Here we all realized that it would be impossible for us to go any further. There was a fixed line that we needed to climb to get up the waterfall but the water was absolutely ferocious. I asked the guides if we could try and one of them and I worked our way climbing along the wall of the cave towards the waterfall. It became impossible to hear anything as the water was just way too loud. We worked our way under the waterfall and to the rope that we would have to climb but it was impossible to even stand up in the flow of water. I could barely make out the headlamp of the guide even though he was right next to me as we both got pummeled under the heavy water. We turned back satisfied that there was no way we could keep going and Iím really glad that they were willing to let us try to get this far. As we slowly worked our way back it was much easier as we were going in the direction of the current. On the way there were several spots where we could jump off a higher point in the cave that was nice and open and fall down into the darkness where a deep pool of water awaited. Itís super scary handing your only source of light, a fucking candle, to the person next to you and jumping off an edge into a pit of darkness hoping to find water. Then having to swim to the edge of the dark pool and hold onto the wall of the cave as your buddy chucks you your candle down snuffing it out as it lands in the water.

When we all made it back out to the front of the cave and back down to the river we could see how much the river had risen while we were inside. The walkway that we had come in on was now gone.



Ever confident though we cracked beers, linked arms, and shuffled our way back to the road.





The usual main attraction here, and what Semuc Champey is actually named after is further up the road and across the river.





The bridge is a nice jumping height and on a normal day our guide said sometimes people jump from here and then swim to the bank on the right. Current was strong but not strong enough to make it impossible to swim towards the bank so we opted to jump as well.



The river was higher so we climbed up on the wire to get that extra height.



The first few of us had to be reminded after landing in the water ďSWIM!!!Ē as we forgot about the current and needing to really swim hard back towards the bank. I decided to front-flip from the wire and slightly over rotated landing, bit a good chunk of my cheek out but was still great fun.



We then got some food and simmered down from the fun of the cave and getting to do some jumping. We hiked in to where the main attraction of Semuc Champey is.



Semuc Champey is a natural limestone bridge spanning 300m. The Cahabon river actually plunges into the earth right under this natural bridge, passes under it the 300m and then reemerges on the other side. There are natural spring water pools that form on the bridge and are usually a crystalline blue color from the sulfur in the rocks that they spring from. The raging river rocketing down into a dark pitted and massive hole is remarkable against the calm natural springs that sit atop it. Here in these springs you can go swimming, slide from one pool to the other on the smoothed out rocks, and go jumping out of trees 35ft up into the little pools that are narrow but super deep. Again I had to leave my camera on the shore so this is all I snapped of the area.



We all agreed the pools were great fun.



But the activities were spent and it was time we caught a ride back to town.



Hey that place sell beer ya think? Yeah letís get roadies.





Mmmm that sweet sweet nectar.



Back to the Zephyr compound gents.



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Old 12-22-2013, 01:03 PM   #146
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39. Enchanted Antigua

Being at a hostel as touristy as Zephyr reminds me of how different my mindset appears to be compared to other vacationers or shorter-term travelers. Due to the way that I’m traveling (via motorcycle and with no end-date) I find it difficult to really connect with the people who are on a 3 week whirlwind tour of all of central america. Jumping from place to place as fast as possible and checking off all the trip-advisor recommended activities before burning on to the next location. The energy of ‘go-go-go-go’ at an all inclusive resort type place like this is cooked into every piece of food and dripped into every cocktail. The thought of ‘we only have tonight!!” is almost palpable and seems to be on the tip of everyones tongue. If I only had a few weeks, shit even if I only had a couple months, I would probably be feeling the same way and doing the same things. But luckily I have much more time to party after this place, and the next, and the next even if I so choose. After seeing so many hostels like this over the last few months they have become less and less interesting. Thus the exciting vibe of ‘wooooohhhhh a bunch of other travelers in one spot, let’s go crazy!’’ is slightly lost on me now. At night when we are all getting blasted at the in-hostel bar off body-shots and beer bongs I find myself slipping away and going outside to shoot the shit and share a drink with the locals or night staff instead. Asking them questions about where they are from, their families, how they got to working here, do they like it, how has the town/city/country changed since they’ve been here etc. I feel much more engaged in these conversations and remember them much more clearly the next day, compared to the inebriated conversation with a sloppy-drunk australian chick who had the exact same things to say about the “cute little hats the locals wear!” as the 5 other girls I met under similar circumstances in the last week. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of other travelers that I have great conversations with or people that I met that were absolutely fascinating to talk with. But at places like this they are sometimes slightly more difficult to come by. Time to head to another spot and see if I can find more of the latter.

Because I came into Lanquin (the town next to Semuc Champey) in the night I haven’t actually seen any of the surrounding area. Even in this wet and foggy haze, man it’s beautiful.





My next stop is going to be the city of Antigua, maybe a 5 hour drive away. It’s supposed to be sunnier on the other side of the mountain range that I’ll cross on the way. I sure hope so, I’ve been wet for 3 days straight now, it would be nice to give my kit a sun beating for a change. I stopped in a bustling little pueblo that seems to be a junction for several main arterial roads, lots of busses and through traffic. I pulled off near one of the main corners in town and found a small food stand for some breaky. Sweet chicken, some sort of noodles (like chow-mein kind of), and a lot of tortillas was 8Q (~$1). I’ve realized that nobody really talks to you as a foreigner around here (central america) until you break the blatant stares (as if you were a rare fish in a fishbowl) by dropping a few words in spanish to them. Then the blank ‘am I looking at a martian’ stares quickly change to smiles and ‘hola!’ followed by interesting conversation. I experienced the same thing here as I sit down at the small table where the locals are eating their ‘fast food’ before work. It’s awkward at first as they seem to feel like they ‘have to’ avoid eye contact with me, or maybe even are uncomfortable that I’m eating their with them. But once I break the ice with something as simple as ‘man it’s cold’ or ‘food looks awesome right?’ (in spanish obviously) they are first surprised and then quickly become much warmer and engaging. At this place we take turns asking eachother questions, where are you from, do you have a family, what are you doing here, do you like it etc. The guy I’m talking to eventually asks how old I am, I say 25 and then he smirks and the ladies cooking the food giggle with amusement. He asks me how old I think he is, I guess 30 as he doesn’t look a day older than 32. He laughs and says he’s 47. Everyone here seems way younger than they actually are. Maybe it’s the food, the physical labor, or something in the water that’s keeping these people looking so young and strong.



About 2.5 hours of rain later I crested the mountain range and began coming back down the other side towards the capital Guatemala City. As if I crossed an imaginary line, the clouds opened up and with every 100ft of elevation dropped I could feel the glorious sun beginning to bake out all the water in my body, as if I were a stinky wet loaf of sourdough bread getting baked in an oven. It was a glorious feeling and I couldn’t help enjoying the immense sense of happiness as my riding gear turned into a nice warm cocoon. Moments like this make the shitty cold riding totally worth it, you just don’t appreciate the good riding as much if it’s not interspersed with some shitty times as well.



I made it into the capital but honestly didn’t see very much. Besides getting lost for a hot minute and running into another ADVrider in traffic I didn’t really experience anything in the city. I know it’s supposedly ‘big’ but seemed pretty chill to me. Guess I am comparing to mexico city which isn’t a fair comparison.





Here’s a shot looking back down at Guat city as I was on my way out towards Antigua.



And a vanity shot of the killer.



En route to Antigua from the east is a long series of steep roads that help kill off a lot of elevation. For some reason these really reminded me of the hollywood hills.



Not knowing where I was going to stay I stopped in at the first hostel that I had plugged into my GPS, El Hacier.



It’s rooms seemed a bit expensive at 80Q a night so I opted to camp instead for 30Q out back where I parked my bike. This allowed me to set up my gear and shit to dry too.



Found two nicely kitted DRZ’s parked out back as well, AteamNM mentioned that two girls riding down from Alaska on DRZ’s were in the same area, pretty sure these are their bikes. Hey Becky and Andrea!



I got my shit set up and then went out walking. Antigua is apparently only 9 blocks by 9 blocks (albeit big blocks) and on a simple grid layout so pretty easy to get around.



There were 4 guys chilling in the sidewalk having heavy conversation so I opted to walk around them off the sidewalk to not interrupt. They called me out as I walked passed them in the road for thinking they were dangerous or going to rob me “yo man we aren’t going to rob you, why are you afraid of us homey?” “In spanish obviously). I don’t think they thought I would understand them so I turned around and walked right up to them. I said I just didn’t want to interrupt their conversation and gave each of them the standard hand-slide and fist bump that is customary amongst friends here in central america. The tension immediately eased and we ended up shooting the shit for a good 45 minutes after that. Talking about the stigma of people south of the US border, why tourists are afraid of locals, the politics and the media that influence those feelings, the prevalence and effect of religion here, and of course women. It may seem obvious to everyone else, and I feel bad that it is still so surprising to me, but I am constantly refreshed and fascinated by the conversations I have in situations like this and how it shows how we are all really so similar even though we are from such different backgrounds. It felt like I was chilling on the street drinking beers with my homies from back home killing the evening going back and forth about women, culture, and politics. Really funny guys too and I enjoyed hanging out with them for that time. Now that I see this photo in the light, one of them may have even peed his pants in laughter at some point.



We parted and I kept walking, now in search of food. I heard live music coming from this joint so I asked how the food was to one of the people lingering outside. She said “It’s amazing, but I’m the cook ;-)”.



I dipped in and ordered a shrimp, bacon, and cheese burrito and listened to the music while I waited.



Holy shit-balls it was an amazing burrito! Definitely in the top 5 burritos that I have ever eaten. My mouth is watering thinking about it right now. More expensive than other meals at 46Q (about $6) but for one of the best burritos I’ve ever had that’s a damn fine price.



I met some other people my age here and ended up kicking it with them the rest of the night. Fun group and good drinks.

--------------------

Over the next few days I relaxed and explored more of this fascinating place. Antigua isn’t very large, and 10 years ago it used to be much more dangerous. With the increase in tourism the place has mellowed out quite a bit but the flair of it’s old ways seem to still be worked into it’s bones. Although there are more tourists, I don’t get the feeling of it being a tourist town. Yeah there’s great cuisine that is scaled up a bit but I don’t physically see that many tourists. I like this, it’s a nice blend of good food and mostly local people.
During the day you can walk around and see the town, there’s lots of ‘ruins’ as this is an older city.







There are several small parks for people to gather in.





One has some pools that appear to be designed back in the day as a place for people to do laundry. Today you can still find people doing this here.



The pace is overall slow and relaxed during the day.





If you look off into the distance from anywhere in town you can usually find a volcano, as long as it’s not hiding in the clouds.



I like the architecture here, and some of the craftsmanship in the old doors is pretty great.





An afternoon drink is a common thing, a nice rum goes well with some guitar as the day lingers on.



If you need some good ol’ Texas ribs check out Pappy’s BBQ. I met up with Becky and Andrea from Motoventuring From Alaska To South America - A Collaborative Video Blog! to try out the grub, it was hands down the best ribs I’ve ever had, but the sauces they had on table almost stole the damn show as well. It was the most expensive meal I have had in a very long time at 114Q ($14ish?) but for a whole pound of the best ribs I’ve ever had I felt OK about it. They only make a limited amount each day and are open until they sell out. Thanks for the meetup ladies and great food idea. Maybe we’ll catch eachother down the road again.



When evening comes it’s great to go grab a drink at Cafe No Se and sample some of their ‘Ilegal Mezcal’, or really anything on their shelf that is tequila. The story behind this place is that a guy traveling in the area about 10 years ago started the bar with his last $500. It was a different time here back then and things were much simpler. He opened it as a cafe to avoid paying for the liquor licences and simply poured people great tequila’s into coffee mugs all day. He would also make runs up into Mexico to Oaxaca (the home of mezcal) and smuggle the liquor back over the border into Antigua Guatemala to serve in his ‘cafe’. There are all kinds of stories about him dressing up as a pastor thinking the cops wouldn’t search his van that way, or rafting crates down the river and across the border. That’s where the name “Ilegal Mezcal” came from. Eventually the authorities caught on and he had to go legit and name his place as well. He didn’t know what to call it so he just named it “Cafe No Se” (Cafe I Don’t Know). Now it’s a growing brand and they distribute all over, into the states as well so go check em out.



The interior shows it’s wear from the past 10 years or being a seedy underground joint. I love the decor, it is the perfect place to drink something called Ilegal Mezcal. Dark, dingy, and usually full of questionable characters. By far my favorite place in town to hang out.



There are several different rooms but are all pretty small, this is the second bar area.



This candle is about 4.5 feet tall and is a pyramid of wax that appears to have been burning and dripping since the place opened 10 years ago.



Love the art too. Just full of bad-ass shit.









Inside on one of the dark unlit walls there is a small entrance that is only about waist height that you crouch down and under that leads to the Ilegal Mezcal bar. Inside here you find ‘shrines’ to the patron saint of anyone involved in the criminal or ‘darker’ activities in life. Here people leave offerings of drinks, cigarettes, or drugs.





I took these pictures in the afternoon one day. A lady was in the Ilegal Mezcal bar area by herself practicing the banjo. I grabbed a stiff drink and listened to her transcribe in music exactly how this town felt. Music seems like the only real way you can describe the unique blend of emotions for this town. Antigua, you are a special place, I like you.





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Old 12-23-2013, 04:54 PM   #147
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40. Sad ending to a great day

Just had an absolutely awesome day of exploring the wilderness and riding the dirt in Guatemala. Unfortunately it ended with me hitting a stray dog at a decent click on the way back to town. Aside from some ground down metal and ripped riding gear the bike and I are fine, but the dog didn't make it. Even with so many strays down here and having seen so many dead dogs on the side of the road, you never want to be responsible for putting one there. The culture here is very different towards dogs, especially strays. I don't think a single person of the 30 or so that where watching understood why I needed to stay with her until she died. Sitting with a dog for 20 minutes as it struggles to accept that it's not going to make it was a pretty shitty way to end the day. All I can hope is that having someone there until the end was slightly comforting, but that might just be a thought to make myself feel better about killing a dog today. Sorry perro...
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Old 12-23-2013, 05:31 PM   #148
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Sorry about the dog. It was good you stayed with him.
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Old 12-23-2013, 06:03 PM   #149
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that sucks

Man that is a definite bummer. I have a soft spot for any dog stray or not. At least you weren't hurt in the ordeal. Have a beer in its honor and be thankful its not the other way around. Safe travels man!
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Old 12-24-2013, 07:07 AM   #150
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Quote:
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Sorry about the dog. It was good you stayed with him.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SOLOKLR View Post
Man that is a definite bummer. I have a soft spot for any dog stray or not. At least you weren't hurt in the ordeal. Have a beer in its honor and be thankful its not the other way around. Safe travels man!
Yeah I feel pretty shitty about the dog, lucky it didn't turn out worse , a toast to the brave perro indeed.
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