Avoiding seasonal depression when faced with the “Dark Months” - Portland to Panama!

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by 0theories, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

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    Nice job riding around the lake! I didn't get to do that, scared off by the stories.

    Well the DR's are great, but for what you're doing now, you have the perfect ride. I will never be happy until I have a bike for every purpose (that would be four bikes) :D Keep up the great RR,
    Dorian

    Ps - thanks for visiting my RR, I didn't get enough views for the amount of work it was :)
  2. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    So I pretty much got stuck here and started living normal life "más o menos". I haven't been riding much so there isn't much to report but I know I have to at least catch up to Xela. This will be coming soon. In the meantime I'm living in Xela, hanging out, meeting many cool people, but getting the bike in and out of the school is a hassle, so I ride only once a week or less :cry The monitor on my laptop has vibrated loose so only works intermittently, which makes any computer related task a chore. Sorry.

    Thanks Wander. It's been great and I'm enjoying settling down for a bit. I'll be here about a month total, then hopefully I'll cruise down into El Salvador for a couple of weeks and up to Belize for a couple of weeks on my way back north. Some of that depends on when work starts :eek1

    Hey Jim, thanks for getting through it :wink: I bet there's a thread in the GPS section that does something similar maybe... My camera actually has GPS built in, but it sucks so much battery (even when off) that I don't use it :huh It's a great idea though and you should pilot that program for others to imitate! Wait, does the Montana take pictures?!? I guess I could just waypoint my photos with the garmin, but it's so much work... You'll see :lol3 Don't rely on the GPS to tell you where to go, you'll miss all the good roads! :freaky

    Oh Pete... Fine, I haven't been riding much, but here's a picture of a friend on our ride to the hot-springs (developed, but really nice) :thumb Great road, practically falling off the cliff (literally in some places) and beautiful views of the surrounding volcanoes. More to come when I catch up. :*sip*

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    We also climbed that volcano in the background (at night during the full moon). Pretty intense!! :nod New personal record for vertical gain over horizontal distance (and I hike for a living). More to come...

    It is a lot of work! Thanks for the insight on the DR. I guess it's back to vacillating :huh I'm stuck on the thought that smaller would be better, but I guess than maybe I wouldn't be able to pick up passengers :eek1 which is one of the highlights of travelling I think.

    ...but maybe the DR can handle it :ear

    Well, back to studying... I think that my Spanish now is worse than before I took classes, but only because now I know how bad it really is :rofl
  3. Stan Dalone

    Stan Dalone Gotta get me somma dat

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    What a great adventure your on bud! :clap
  4. Cal

    Cal Been here awhile

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    Was the volcano Santa Maria? On my weekend off from Habitat para la humanidad I hiked Santa Maria with a full moon,took a guide from the company Viajes Adrenelina. Good memories!!
  5. fourthree

    fourthree Adventurer

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    Been a few days, hope you are just having too much fun to write! :D I know, computer problems, still hope you are doing well. Don't stop taking pictures, can always post later.:beer
  6. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Hi fourthree. Thanks for checking up! Sorry for the long delay. I have been having way too much fun and have gotten completely stuck here :D But now it's almost time to move on. 5 weeks is the longest I've stayed anywhere on my travels (All of them!!) and it's been really good. The computer is on and off, I just haven't been riding much. Will start the catch-up report in a bit...

    It was, Cal! I went with Quetzaltrekkers. That's a new record for me for elevation gain over horizontal distance! (~1300m up over ~7Km) ...and I hike professionally :evil Great non-profit and they throw really fun benefit parties!

    Thanks Stan, it's been really great. Didn't quite make it as far as planned, but that just gives me an excuse to come back next year :1drink

    Okay Pete, the real reason I got stuck in Xela: Luzy...
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  7. woodly1069

    woodly1069 Long timer

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    is that there what you call one of them long hair spanish dictionaries? :rofl
    NICE!
  8. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Playing catch-up...

    At Hostel Del Lago.
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    Lake level is rising.
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    I spent a few days in San Marcos just chilling and hanging out with cool folks. After realizing that I wouldn't be taking Spanish lessons here, there wasn't much to do except relax and enjoy the sunshine. I did take a day trip to San Pedro to do some shoe shopping with a couple of girls I met. I didn't actually shop for shoes (choosing to go get coffee while they explored the stores), but the visit to another town was nice. A couple of days in the sun and I was ready to head further west, to Xela (Quetzaltenango) to find a school and learn some Spanish. Stephen recommended a good school right off the center so I decided I would try there first and see how it goes.

    Trip to San Pedro.
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    The Honda Unicorn!!
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    Chicken Saint?
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    San Perdo Center.
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    Erin and Nicki.
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    The ride from San Marcos to Xela was pretty short, but beautiful. I had to climb out of the valley and the road was steep, narrow and very curvy, offering beautiful views. In some places the curves were so sharp that the chicken buses have to do a three point turn to make it around! I had no such problems :) I arrived in Xela after a couple of hours riding and checked into Miguel de Cervantes Spanish School (where I ended up staying for the next 5 weeks). Obviously I liked it, although I can't vouch for how much Spanish I actually learned. The people who work here are very cool and professional. I would recommend this school for any beginner or intermediate student. Accommodations at the school (I chose not to stay with a host family for several reasons, one being able to choose my own food) in a private room that ran 800Q ($100) a month or 250Q ($32) a week.

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    Mmmmm... coffee.
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    You can see the switch-backs...
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    Back on the main road.
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    And into the clouds.
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    Welcome to Xela!
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    After settling in, I went out to explore Xela a bit. It's a great little city that's easy to settle into. Everything I wanted or needed was within 6 blocks of the school including an extensive selection of great restaurants (local and foreign food), bars and clubs, a park and lots of coffee shops and cafes. After spending a bit of time in town I kept seeing familiar faces and running into the same people. Before long it was not unusual to meet up with people I knew wherever I went. I really enjoyed that feeling of “community” more or less after constantly being in new places and meeting new people.

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  9. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    That would be the less than flattering way to call that there :lol3 But yes, it's a label that could apply. Although my Spanish still sucks :D
  10. Apple Jam

    Apple Jam Forest Flyer

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    When I did the OBDR two years ago,
    I was one of seven that did not use a Camelback.
    I carried two gallons, but I could not drink it AS I rode.
    Somewhere between Christmas Valley and Riley.....That really sucked for me.
    I carry my old green Mule, now.
  11. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Yeah Apple Jam, I brought a camelback with me, but just the bladder, no backpack :doh I thought I would just keep it in the tank bag and drink from it that way, but it didn't quite work out too well. Kind of annoying to get that hose in and out of the tank bag. So I didn't do it too often... Next trip it's all about the hydration pack!
  12. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    I spent a couple of days in Xela taking classes and exploring the city. When the weekend rolled around it was time to take a ride over to the border and get my paperwork straightened out. Since I crossed the border via river at a place with no aduana, the bike wasn't actually legal in the country (although I didn't have any trouble). It was also a good excuse to do some riding and loop through the western part of the country, which I haven't seen before.

    Xela.
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    I rode west and slightly north out of town towards Ostuncalco. The city gave way to valleys with farmland occupying the steep, sandy hillsides. It's hard to believe that anything grows on that terrain, where the soil looks dry, dusty and inhospitable. After passing through Ostuncalco I cut south (and west) through Colomba and headed for a border crossing at Tecum Uman where I though there was an aduana (I was wrong). The road through the mountains reminded me of why I was here. Curvy, narrow and sometimes steep, it was a pleasure to ride, especially being surrounded by coffee plants most of the way through the highlands. I dropped significant elevation on the way south, and by the time I came out on the main east-west highway (CA2) I was hot and sweaty as I've gotten used to wearing long-johns while in Xela.

    Heading out of town.
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    Sandy farmland.
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    Curvy roads.
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    Don't turn too wide, it just drops right off...
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    I reached the border at Tecum Uman only to discover that there was in fact no aduana there despite what I read on the internet (or perhaps there was but I couldn't find it and the nice trucker who gave me directions sent me up the road to the next crossing). Since I was making a loop out of this ride anyway, it wasn't out of my way to head north to Talisman, where an aduana was guaranteed. The climate in this part of the country is very different from the mountains around Xela. Hot and humid, this was much more like what I was expecting during my visit to Central America. Before long I was at the border and inundated with the sights, sounds and smells of a typical border crossing (read: not very pleasant).

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    Since all I had to do was check the bike in, it didn't take long to wade through the paperwork once I managed to explain what was happening. The border agent didn't seem bothered by the fact that I've been in the country for several days without proper paperwork for the bike. He did seem pleased to hear that I've had no problems due to that fact. A swell guy all in all who only made me run around the minimum four or five times to get all the photocopies and signatures I needed to be legal. About an hour and a half later, with my new Guatemala sticker on the windshield along side the much larger Mexico one (I didn't check the bike out of Mexico and kept the sticker for the way home), I took off once again to head back to Xela via a different road.

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    Checkpoint.
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    This beauty will someday become the elixir of life...
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    The route back took me more or less straight east via the GUA1 through San Marcos (not the La Laguna one) back to Ostuncalco. It was a twisty, curvy, narrow mountain road with some very nice views of the valleys below. About a third of the way back I encountered my first police checkpoint in Guatemala, where they were stopping everyone (not that there were many people on the road). Lucky me! I pulled out my very fresh paperwork and handed it over. After a brief, friendly chat and a cursory inspection of my documents, I got a smile and a handshake and was on my way. As I was pulling away, I saw the police running to pick up the orange cones and speed away in the opposite direction. Something serious must have happened to the west. The rest of the ride back was uneventful. I'm sure glad I got that paperwork taken care of before I hit the checkpoint.

    San Marcos (?)
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    Snake hands! (cultural significance? no se)
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  13. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

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    What a fantastic place.
  14. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    It sure is Dave! I'm mining your RR for places to hit on my way back north. I'll be seeing some of Belize, then cutting across the Yucatan (south of it) and up the east side of Mexico for a bit, before cutting back over to the west. Any amazing spots I should absolutely not miss? Thanks!

    Everyone's suggestions welcome!
  15. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    I spent five and a half weeks in Xela hanging out, taking Spanish classes and just enjoying simply living somewhere for a while. My life is constant travel, either on a consistent basis like when I'm exploring other countries (and the USA), or at regular intervals like when I move to a place for work, stay a few months and then move on once again. I like to mix the two and occasionally I even live somewhere for up to a full year, but those times are hard (and rare) and I quickly get the urge to move on. That urge (and the need to return for work soon) has found me once again, and it's time to continue the adventure. Soon enough I will be heading north and east, through Belize and Mexico on The Journey Home.

    Xela.
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    While in Xela I didn't ride so much mostly due to the fact that getting the bike in and out of the school was a real hassle. I had to set up ramps for the steps and the weight of the bike made easy access onto and off the street prohibitive (another reason to get a DR350). I did take a few rides and I did have several adventures outside of riding. Some of the things I experienced follow:

    On a school field trip I visited the village of Salcajá, where the oldest church (1524) in Guatemala is to be found. This is also the center of hand-weaving cloth and there's an “underground” little liquor store (read: unmarked house) that sells fruit wine and rum infused fruit. Fun, but not very exciting.

    Church of San Jacinto (1st church built in Central America).
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    Are those platypuses?
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    Dyeing yarn for weaving.
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    My Spanish teacher on a loom (At the liquor house).
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    Went on a day trip to Laguna Chicabal, a sacred Mayan lake in the crater of a volcano, not far from Xela. I got to re-experience the joys of the “Guatemalan chicken bus” so that I could better empathize with my friends. It was a nice hike with a lot of elevation gain and a steep descent into the crater via 615 steps. Beautiful views of the surrounding area and of the erupting volcano just below Santa María.

    San Martín Sacatepéquez.
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    View of Santa Maria and the erupting volcano below.
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    It's all clouds below.
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    The lake.
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    Stairs heading down (lots).
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    As far as the eye can see..
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    The chicken bus in all its splendor.
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    During the full moon I climbed to the top of the Santa María Volcano. This was a long, arduous hike but the views were well worth it. It was ridiculously cold at the top, but luckily we brought sleeping bags and had hot liquids to drink once we were up there. This was the biggest change in elevation over horizontal distance I have ever hiked (1300m over 7Km). I went with a non-profit tour group called Quetzaltrekkers. They're a cool bunch of volunteers. They throw a benefit party to raise money for school children every couple of weeks. Sometimes the parties involve costumes like pajamas :huh

    Sunrise at the top.
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    That's the shadow of the mountain, and the moon.
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    Looking towards Xela.
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    Eruption from below.
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    Hiking back down.
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    It's pretty steep.
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    Back in time to get ready for the pajama party.
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    Just outside of Zunil, south of Xela, there's a developed hot-spring called Fuentes Georginas. I rode there once (and went once with a group). The hot-spring has several pools, one of which is very hot. Apparently there are some “hidden” pools in the area, but I never found them. Xela tends to be pretty chilly and soaking in a hot pool is just what I needed on occasion.

    Riding to Zunil.
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    The road on the edge.
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    Some is falling off said edge...
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    The hot pool.
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    A couple of times I just went out riding to see the countryside and mostly just to get out because I missed it. There are some beautiful areas around Xela and I'm glad I got to see them before it was time to go.

    Xela and around.
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  16. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Nice pics!!!

    Xela is a wonderful place to hang out for a while. Especially for a big city. Brings back fond memories. Nice! Keep up the good work amigo. Really enjoying your ride report. Guatemala has a lot to offer. One of my favorite countries.

    Saludos,
    Tio Juanito
  17. Sunday Rider

    Sunday Rider Adventurer Wanabe

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    Another wonderful update 0Theories. The pictures of the mountains, with the low light level and in the mist are incredible and haunting. Wow what a hike that must have been.
  18. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    You sure have been packing in some eye popping scenery. Given how great the pix look, I have to wonder how breathtaking the places must be in person.
  19. woodly1069

    woodly1069 Long timer

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    WOW! Just freakin' wow! :clap :clap :clap
  20. drifter dave

    drifter dave Been here awhile

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    Great pics man! Wow what a wicked hike there. Wish I had that kind of time in the area.

    Damn that's tough! I would say the ATM caves near San Ignacio would be a do-not-miss. The snorkeling off Caye Caulker is amazing, as is the island. Glad you're headed to Belize, it's fantastic. I would plan on riding Baja on the way home if at all possible! Plenty of spots to see in my RR for Baja. Have fun and ride safe!

    Dorian