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Old 05-04-2013, 10:21 PM   #91
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
4-30 Tuesday

The crew was feeling better so we decided to head south to Placencia, which is about 170 miles south. The roads are not direct and the trip is about 5 or 6 hrs. Belize is a strange country in that there really are only a few roads. I'm not sure about the national budget but not a lot of it goes toward the roads.

We had spoken to several people about the trip and everyone had warned us that we didn't want to go into Belize City. Apparently the crime there is over the top. Fortunately there is a bypass and we avoided the City.

We passed through Belmopan, the capital city. It was easy to find a lunch stop there. In Belize, unlike Mexico, gas stations are spread out so when we see a gas station we top off.

From Belmopan we headed south on the Hummingbird Hwy. This was a fun road because the terrain changed to lush tropical forests with lots of hills and small mountains. Although we didn't see any animals we felt like there should be some around every corner. We did pass miles and miles of orange groves and a few processing plants.

Eventually we turned off the highway toward Placencia. This area is undergoing a huge real estate boom. The finest houses and communities are going up for miles along the road toward Placencia.

We had hoped to go diving with the whale sharks since was the peak season. When we arrived in Placencia we learned that everybody who dives was in Placencia for the same reason. We tried all around town and could not find a room.

We drove to very end of the road where we met Brenda who runs a very small BBQ and fish shack. She fixed us a fruit drink and an order of her special conch fritters. They were very good. Next we met Donna who runs a dive operation. She wanted us to take a trip with them. She was very fair and said that the whale sharks had not shown up yet. Boats had been out for the past four days but the whale sharks had not been seen so she offered a snorkeling trip to the reef. It turned out that we all felt we had been there, done that so we passed. Although we didn't take a trip with her she did call all around town trying to find us a room. Nice lady!

Soon a guy on a BMW rode up and we all began talking. Paul was a local of sorts. He has been coming down here for years and now lives here most of the time. He suggested that we try the place down the path, they had nice cabanas. We did find two rooms at the South Waters Resort. These were beautiful little cabanas just feet off the water. The price was a bit higher than we generally pay but it was getting late and our options were none. As it turned out the cabanas were just great. The owner, Maria, was as nice and accommodating as we could have asked for. We all slept pretty good and the resort was quiet.
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Old 05-04-2013, 10:22 PM   #92
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Wednesday 5-1

Wednesday 5-1



In the morning, the hotel restaurant, The Crow's Nest serves the best breakfast we have seen since we started the trip. The atmosphere was fresh and clean and the coffee and food was fantastic. Paul showed up just as we finished eating and we got more insight on where to go and what to see when we left Placencia this morning. We had a great visit with him again while we loaded the bikes.



Just before leaving we got all our new friends together for group photo. We had met some really nice people in Placencia.







The trip back toward the Guatemala border was on the same roads we had come in on. We enjoyed the Hummingbird Hwy again. In Belmopan, we stopped at a pizza restaurant for lunch, there were not a lot of options because today was Belize's Labor Day. We met several foreigners at the restaurant. We met a British couple who work in Belize. The owner of the restaurant was a young American who moved down four years ago. A few locals showed up and they we interested in the bikes and our story. Just as we were leaving we met some guys who are traveling around Central America in Land Rovers. We traded stories with them and hit the road.



Before we knew it we were at the border town of San Ignacio. Blake noticed a Land Cruiser truck with Swiss plates and a camper on it. We turned around to meet them. We spent about an hour with them. They are on a four year trip from South America to the USA. They had just come through Guatemala and told us some spots that we need to see. We were able to help them with some Belize and Mexico spots. We traded email addresses with Felix and ------ and took a group picture for the blog.









We looked for a hotel but it turns out that prices in this area are quite high. We ended up finding a camp spot by a river. What luck, it was closed but they let us come in. We have the entire place to ourselves. The river is just below our camp site. There are picnic tables, bathrooms and showers. There is a small restaurant about 100 yds away and they have wi-fi, included in our camp fee of $7.50 U.S. each.





We had picked up some dinner in town so we ate that and took a good long swim in the river. The water is pretty clean and is moving pretty good.



Tomorrow we will cross to Guatemala. To be continued.....














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Old 05-04-2013, 10:23 PM   #93
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5-3 Tikal and more

5-3 Tikal and more



The campgrounds at the Gringo Perdido served us well. It was quiet, very private and right on the beautiful lake. Although the wind died off about the time we went to bed there were no bugs.











We packed up our camping gear and were able to drop off our bags and gear at the nearby hotel we had chosen for the next night. La Casa de Don David is a very accommodating and friendly spot. They stored our gear in the lobby all day while we went up the road to Tikal ruins.



















Tikal is the largest of all the Mayan ruins in Central America. Guatemala has done a nice job of retaining the natural beauty of the area. Unlike Chichen Itza they do not have the tourist traffic and have made the surrounding area a wildlife preserve. The pathways are jungle trails left natural, unpaved, roots everywhere and no hand rails. There are only a few signs to direct tourists to the next ruin site. We took the short path and still walked over 6 miles. The ruins are massive. Some are restored or unearthed while others are almost totally overgrown in grass and huge trees. This site was home to more than 100,000 Mayans in its heyday dating back to 550 A.D.





As we were leaving the Tikal park we met up with two more motorcyclists. This time it was guy (Lily)and gal (Christina) on matching Honda TransAlp 700 bikes, fully loaded. They were from Austria and started in South America and are traveling to Alaska. They were going to camp in the park to be at the ruins at sunrise. We spent about 30 minutes with them. They shared spots for us to see and we felt helpful in that we could offer some nice spots that we have been to.





                                                Check out there webpage www.reise-ecke.at





We went back down toward the lake (Lago Peten Itza) there are several hotel choices there. We decided to stay at La Casa de Don David. This is a superbly done, highly recommended hotel for anyone passing this way. The restaurant is open air on the second floor, overlooking the yard/garden with the lake in the background. They have beautifully manicured grounds here with lots of fruit trees and lots of flowers. It's just a fantastic spot for your morning coffee and to catch up on the news via wi-fi. The food is very good, nicely presented and the rooms very comfortable. The owner Don David is American but has been in this area for years. He has been instrumental in developing and maintaining the natural forest here. He was In construction in the U.S. and has made beautiful use of the local woods. There is a very calming and natural feel to the property. The staff is also as polite as can be the manager, Melver speaks perfect English. He said when Survivor Guatemala was being filmed some of the people stayed here.





Blake and I took a ride back to our campsite from yesterday to take a swim in the lake and cool off. It was a perfect way to wind down after our hike through the ruins.







Just before sunset we went out to the Mirador. The view of the lake with the setting sun is pretty good. They have devised a little cable car that ferries drinks out to the mirador. Pretty clever set up. It probably helps to sell more drinks.




















































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Old 05-05-2013, 07:17 AM   #94
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swamp View Post
hey man!
.. only when it rains
Work is waaaaaaay over rated!
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:27 AM   #95
Cmnthead
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Location: Teeswater Ontario Canada/ Playa Uverito Panama
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Question Where are you guys?

Hey there, I keep checking in a couple of times or more a day to see how you guys are making out! My son and I are taking a similar route to yours in November.
Hope all is well!
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A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.. H Thompson
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Old 05-13-2013, 08:33 AM   #96
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5-4 leave El Remate for Coban

5-4 leave El Remate



We were too comfortable at Casa de Don David in El Remate. We had a great breakfast and sipped coffee while we got current on the Internet. The grounds are so tranquil and relaxing we almost stayed another day. We decide to head south to a town/city called Cobal. It was supposed to about 3 or 4 hours away.

We spent a long time visiting with Melver, the manager who shared a wealth of information on the area. Finally by noon we were underway. The roads are marked but not real well and the GPS wasn't doing such a great job. We made a few wrong turns along the way and had to do a bit of back tracking.



The roads are not as bad as we had thought they would be. There are potholes but worse than that are the speed bumps. In Mexico they were called topes and most were well marked. Here they are called tumulos. They are much steeper than their Mexican cousins. These pretty much require a slow crossing. Sometimes they are marked, sometimes they aren't. Sometimes they are painted yellow and other times they are just exactly the same color as the road. The unpainted ones coincidentally are the ones that are most often unmarked. This is very effective because if you don't see it in time it will really keep you on your toes looking for the next one. They have them about every 50 to 100 yards in the towns. They do work and traffic is pretty slow in the towns.



We reached a point where you have to take a ferry across a river. We arrived just in time and only had to wait a few minutes before we boarded with some large trucks. Once all got aboard the ferry was stuck on the bank. They had the last big truck back up and get a running start. Once he got aboard he slammed on he brakes and t he momentum pushed the barge off the bank. There are 2 outboard motors that propel the barge across. We had to pay 5Q ($0.75) for the service.



The last 120 miles of the ride got real interesting because we got into the mountains. The road was really fun, winding over and around the mountains. It was amazing.

We passed through small towns every 5 minutes and it was really evident just how poor these people are. Some places were covered in litter and trash. One town in particular looked as though a hurricane had just blown through. Dogs sleep in the streets and do not move for vehicles. There are pigs and chickens wandering around on the sides of the roads almost everywhere. You really need to keep your eyes open here.



About 45 minutes from our destination the mountains became higher. We passed over 4600 ft and were not dressed for the cool foggy air. We were trying to arrive before we ran out of daylight so we didn't stop to cover up. Eventually we started descending an finally reached Cobal.



Within 2 minutes of our arrival Blake saw a bike similar to ours. He stopped and we met the owner, Carlos who lives here. He gave us directions to a nearby hotel that had secure parking for the bikes. "Just back down the street two blocks and take a left into traffic on that one way street". It worked sweet, we were at a good hotel with armed security guards and a locking gate.



The most fortunate thing happened next. Carlos had told us of an interesting event that was taking place tonight just a block or two from our hotel. It was a pageant to select the indigenous Mayan princess of the Coban region. As we were unpacking the bikes we noticed groups of women and young girls arriving into the lobby of the hotel. They were all dressed in their native dresses and were adorned in huge quantities of silver necklaces and rings. The mothers and grandmothers were combing the girl's hair and then began wrapping a red woven rope (9 meters long to signify the 9 months of pregnancy) around their ponytails. We got to talk to the girls and ended up taking lots of pictures with them. They were as intrigued with us as we were with them. The area was surrounded by police who were there to provide security to the girls who were each wearing a few pounds of antique silver jewelry that had been in their families for generations. Soon the girls got into a bus to be transported a block or two away to the pageant. They all wanted us to attend but having just gotten off the bikes we had not eaten and we all needed showers badly. We wished them all good luck as they drove off.



We got cleaned up and asked about places to eat. The hotel has a restaurant but we wanted to try something local. They told us there was a town square a few blocks away that has local food so we headed that way. We walked through some pretty dimly lit streets before we got to the square. It was a food festival of street vendors all cooking local meats and tacos. We tried many of them and really they were all good and very reasonably priced. It was great night.








































































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Old 05-13-2013, 08:34 AM   #97
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5-5 Sunday, Cobal to Semuc Champey.

5-5 Sunday Cobal to Semuc Champey

We left Cobal and rode toward Sempuc Champay. Whenever we ask directions people think because we are on motorcycles we will arrive in half the time it takes for an auto. In truth we take about the same time as a car. The ride was very interesting. The road winds around and through mountain villages built on the steep sides of the mountains. The road was seldom straight and most of the time had a serious drop off with no guard rail on one side. It took a good 3 hours for us to finally arrive at Lanquin. There we met a guy who recommended that we stay at Utopia Eco lodge.



We rode for another 30 full minutes and on a very bumpy , rocky road. Finally, at the end of the road we arrived at Utopia. The central part of the lodge is a very cool, open air pavilion overlooking the river with lush jungle mountains beyond. This area also serves as the restaurant and on the second floor is a hostel dormitory. There are usually several travelers in this lobby area visiting or having a drink. They have capacity for as many as 60 guests but at this time there are only 30 or so. There is Internet but it is spotty when it is working at all. All travelers these days are "connected" and the drain on the bandwidth is severe.



We met the owner, John, an american who has spent about half his life in Central America. We got a small cabin with 2 bunk beds for 50 Q ($7US) each. We are only a few minutes from Semuc Champey, which we plan to go to tomorrow. The Eco resort is at the end of the road and has become very popular with Eco travelers.



We had a welcome beer and headed down the hill for an afternoon swim. The current was swift, the water was cool and very refreshing.



The lodge serves only vegetarian meals. They are served family style and are cooked by Pam, John's mother. Initially we were skeptical and thought we would be eating tofu smoothies 3 meals a day. As it turned out Pam is a great cook. Dinner the first night was a pasta with Alfredo sauce and vegetables with homemade rolls and then a nice dessert. Everyone's apprehensions were gone after that dinner.



We visited with new friends and tried to send an email or two. We were beat and hit the bunks early.











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Old 05-13-2013, 08:35 AM   #98
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5-6 Utopia, Semuc Champey and more stupid things

5-6. Utopia, Semuc Champey and more stupid things



The Utopia lodge has turned out to be a great stop for us. The diversity of travelers here is amazing. We have met people here from Iceland, France, England, Australia, Belgium, Russia, the USA and even a girl from Japan. Our little trip on motorcycles pales in comparison to some who are backpacking from the tip of South America, traveling by bus or however they can and have landed here.



The first night we met Stephanie and Cedric and their beautiful 8 year old daughter Joanna. They were both teachers in England when they just decided to sell their car and house and box up their valuables and go see the world. Joanna has become the most knowledgable, grown up 8 yr old we have ever met. What a beautiful experience for this family. This trip isn't for every family but its working well for them. I hope I can meet them again in a few years to see how this beautiful girl has grown up.



We also met 2 girls and a guy, all siblings, one a physicians assistant (Stephanie) another a nurse (Nick) and one still in school (Jen). They had been out here before and had visited Semuc Champey the day before. They planned to go back again and just spend the day at the pools of Semuc. We offered them rides on our bikes since they knew the way. The road is challenging, comprised mostly of large stones and holes. We made our way slowly with added weight and dropped them off near the entrance to Semuc. We continued on to our first stop, the caves of Kan'Ba.



The caves are a separate attraction here but something that anyone in good condition should see or do. The cost with a guide was 60 Quetzals. They stored our shoes and packs for us and issued each of us a candle. We stripped down to only a bathing suit and hiked up maybe a hundred meters to the entrance. The caves are partially filled by a river that runs thru it. We lit our candles and followed our guide in. The going was slow and the guide did a good job of noting the lower rocks overhead so we didn't crack our heads. Soon we were in chest deep water, swimming and kicking toward the next landing area. There were a few thin ropes in strategic places to provide help. The going was slow as we felt for good footing at each step. Once in awhile the bottom would be small pebbles and sand but most often there were rocks or boulders to overcome. When the water was deep enough swimming was the best option, all the while holding your candle overhead. There were a few crudely constructed ladders that we had to climb, all the while water was blasting us from the pools above. We climbed up a rock face using a knotted rope to even higher pools. We met a few other groups along the way, comprised mostly of scantily dressed college age female travelers. It was a strange phenomenon for us that so many had made it this very remote location. For anyone coming this way, if you are condition the cave tour is highly recommended.



From the caves we went to see the Semuc Champey. There is a great secure parking area for cars and motorcycles and the day we arrived we were the only ones parked there. We paid 10 Q for the parking and 50 Q for the admission.

There are two paths to Semuc. One is up to the "mirador" and the other is along the bank of the river. We took the high road and made the climb to the mirador. There is a sign at the beginning that says it is a difficult climb. It is supposed to take an hour and fifteen minutes. You will definitely get your heart beating on this climb. It is like stair master times 10, a very good workout. We humped it to the top, had to take a few quick rest stops but were determined to beat the "expected time" of an hour and fifteen minutes. The view from atop was spectacular and we were anxious to get down there and cool off.



The pools below at the river were definitely worth the climb. If you are not inclined to do the high trail there is a much easier one just above the river banks. Anyhow, we stashed our packs and shoes on the bank by the dozen or so others and jumped in. The water is very clear and quite refreshing. Not too cold but cool enough to keep you moving if you are not in the sun. It's hard to explain but there just are not many places with more natural beauty than this.



The river is an underground river that breaks out from below the surface of the earth and flows overland for about 300 meters. Each pool is like an infinity pool falling into the one below. Finally, after about ten pools the river disappears back into the earth. All of this is surrounded on both sides by very high banks maybe 1500 feet or more, covered in natural, super lush jungle forests. It's almost magical. There are small fish in the pools and if you sit still they will pick at your feet. A natural exfoliation process that not everyone appreciates. I really liked it after spending 30 days in my riding boots.



We spent several hours there swimming and visiting with the steam of tourists. All were very interesting, most all had cool story to share. Many had come up from the south and were able to offer advice and tips on things do see and places to go.



By this time it was getting cool in the water since the sun had moved past the opening in the trees above. We decided to head back to Utopia. The three people who we had given a ride to had already left and were walking back. Since the bikes we free of our bags and gear and hitchhikers we were feeling a bit stupid. I was hot dogging it a bit when some dogs came chasing after us. In one second I was down. Slammed down onto the rocks with the bike partly on top of me. Of course this was the day we were riding in our bathing suits and sneakers. No helmets, jackets or gloves. My boys were right there to pull the bike off me and I got up to check the damage. The rocks won. I had a good scrape from my right hip to my ankle, pretty sure I broke something in my left hand but I was lucky. No head damage and really no serious damage to me or the bike. I have great crash bars on the bike and they saved the bike. The bike and I both have some scars that I can talk about.



We met the hitchhikers along the road and they were tired from the walk. In spite of the fact that I was bleeding and a bit shook up they all accepted a ride the rest of the way back to the lodge. At the lodge I got good attention from the PA and Pam and my 3 boys. I got cleaned up, put on some bandages and long pants then had a Motrin 800 and a few rums and I was good to go.



We all had worked up a great appetite and dinner was great again. I turned in a little early this night. Beaten and tired. It was the first day that I started feeling like the old guy in group.









Pics to come. The other guys have them.








































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Old 05-13-2013, 08:36 AM   #99
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Semuc Champey to Antigua

Semuc Champey was a ton of fun. We planed on staying on one night and stayed four days.

We met great people who are doing year plus long traveling. Many who left there jobs with some savings living cheap in Latin America and South East Asia.







From Semuc Champey we rode to Antigua. It was not a long ride and we made sure to depart at 7:05 AM. Antigua is all cobble stone one way streets. We stayed at the Black Cat Inn for three nights where we met  travelers from all over. As soon as we arrived we noticed another Kawasaki KLR 6that had been uniquely customized in the gardin.









We soon met Lawrence from Oregon who had been backpacking in Nicaragua and stubled into a man from Alabama who was ready to fly home. So he bought it, learned to ride in a local baseball field and is riding it back to California.




We also met this Adventure rider from B.C. on a KTM 950 heading to Panama. I am sure our paths will cross again.




Just As we made ourselves comfortable at the Black Cat Inn i received a email from Julio a resident of Guatemala who allowed me to ship a rear suspension part to him.


Juilo graciously picked us up in his SUV and took us on a tour of a Macadamia farm, local out door museum, lunch, and coffee.





It was so nice to get a local perspective on the what to see and do.


Julio is big into adventure ridding and rode for 10 months from Guatemala to Alaska with his wife on his BMW GS 1200 Adventure.






















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Old 05-13-2013, 08:37 AM   #100
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Antigua to Lake Atitlan

Day two in Antigua we ran errands and got hair cuts, Blake got his tennis shoes glued and sewn ($5) as they were coming apart. They turned out better than new.





 By 2:00 pm our van picked us up for a hike to the top of Pacaya a volcano in above Antigua.  It was a tough hike but worth it. We were able to roast marshmallows in the crevasses of the volcano.







  The above photo is on our hike to the top of Pacaya, we were breathing hard and feeling tired. Then this local guy came by with 80 kilos of fire wood!












We returned back to the Black Cat Inn by 8:00 PM too tired to go out so we just relaxed and visited with other travelers and went to bed early.








 While packing up the Inn manager asked us to sign the guest book and came across this photo of Brad Pitt. He stayed there on a central america motorcycle ride as well.







Just as we were about to leave Juilo (Guatrider) arrived on his BMW GS Adventure with a spring that Blake had mailed to his business in Guatamela city. Julio is a great guy who has been a huge help. He is very active in the motorcycle travler community.  And we hope we get to hang out with him again.









By noon we headed to Lake Atitlan. More to come soon.
















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Old 05-14-2013, 04:36 AM   #101
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It was great meeting you guys and hopefully we'll get a chance to have a before you leave !
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Old 05-14-2013, 07:04 AM   #102
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Originally Posted by GuateRider View Post
It was great meeting you guys and hopefully we'll get a chance to have a before you leave !
Absolutly GuateRider!

Great meeting you also.
See you tonight!
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Old 05-16-2013, 09:41 PM   #103
GuateRider
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Hey guys, I had fun taking you out for a short ride in my backyard and Luisa and I we really enjoyed your company last night for dinner .
Hope you made it well over to Salvador and I hope for Eddy that the pastry chefs over there look better than the ones here in Antigua

Vayan con Dios , mis amigos !!
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Old 05-18-2013, 06:59 AM   #104
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We made it Guatrider.

We had a great time meeting you and Louisa.
Thanks for taking us around, having us over for your home cooked dinner, and showing us those great back roads. We hope to exit El Salvador today.

Will keep you posted on better chefs .

Blake
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Old 05-18-2013, 07:10 PM   #105
Toiretto
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What a great adventure! Keep posting and good luck!
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