Filling in the gaps in Mexico, now with more insanity!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by climberevan, Dec 23, 2007.

  1. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    I left Fray and headed toward Coban, which claims to have paved roads. A guy i talked to in the street while drinking atole told me that the road was only open for certain hours due to construction, so i got an early start.

    I never cease to be amazed at the cool tiny vehicles that populate places other than the US.

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    It was raining, but staying put wasn't an attractive option, since Fray isn't really commodious. Luckily the mud there, while sloppy, doesn't really stick beyond a little surface layer. It was flying around, but the traction is still pretty good, and i could do some occasional drifting.

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    This route really goes through some beautiful country. I'm sad that it wasn't clear, but had it been i'd probably have taken even longer to ride it since the scenery was so incredible. Some of these villages have only very recently been reachable by road.

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    And then the fun began. The Guatemalan method of road construction seems to be to just tear the road to shit, then start rebuilding it, all without closing it or putting up andy kind of cones, or anything. Several sections were 1-car wide, and definitely would have required high-clearance. This is a fairly major route.

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    Still stunning scenery:

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    I was headed toward Lanquin, which are renowned caves. My dirt road turned to pavement after about 50k, then i had to negotiate another 10k or so of dirt to reach the caves, which turned out to be unremarkable. Those who have visited caves in the US will not likely be impressed by the Central American caves, which are somewhat dull and muddy by comparison. The ride, though, took me by a really beautiful river--it eventually heads to Rio Dulce, a tourist-y town.

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    Coffee is everywhere. If you haven't ever seen it, it may seem to just blend in. Right now is harvest time in many places, so there are always guys on the side of the road with big bags of raw cherries. They sell them to the processors (for about Q1.35/lb) who then strip off the fruit and dry the beans, readying them for roasting or export. I once had a job roasting and tasting coffee and tea, so this aspect of the region is especially fascinating to me.

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    After Lanquin i rode the spectacular, curvy paved road to Coban. This easily ranks as one of the best paved roads i've ever ridden--great, smooth pavement and a succession of curves that would be marked 20mph in the US, with NO straights in between them, and very little traffic. I managed to get my K270s onto their outermost knobs, which if you've ridden these tyres is a little unnerving until you get used to it. Along it there were reforestation projects--Guatemala has been plagued by rampant deforestation for a long time, but now they're starting to plant pine trees. Guys clear the underbrush with machetes--whole teams of them swinging their machetes 2" from the ground all day. It seems that another tool would be more effective, but they really get to it with the machetes. For rural Central Americans the machete is like an extension of the arm.

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    More coffee, this time in a more organised farm. One of the misconceptions about coffee is what is meant by "Shade Grown". The reality is that good coffee won't grow in full sun--some shade is necessary for the plants to be healthy. The farmers prune the shade trees as necessary throughout the year to match the demands of the coffee bushes. This particular farm is somewhat less shady than most side-of-the-road coffee patches, but would probably still qualify as "Shade Grown".

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    As i neared Coban i noticed the smell of Cardamom--it was really strong, and it's a pretty easily identifiable smell. I thought, 'wow, that's strange!', but soon learned that Cardamom is an important crop in the area. It seems to compliment the coffee by growing at lower altitudes. The plants are strange looking.

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    Coban, the rainiest place i've been so far, is a beautiful city. There's quite a bit to do there and just outside of town. Next time: a tea cooperative, and more curvy roads!
    #81
  2. Roboter

    Roboter Vagabond

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    Damn bro! I SOOOO wish I was there right now instead of Germany. Its becomming a drag here. I think I will cut this trip short and get back as soon as I can. How long will you be in Belize or Guatemala? I want to be back in 2 weeks... let me know a rough schedule and hopefully we can meet up again. My bike is parked in Northern Guat right now. If you need anything while in Guat let me know... I have family living there.
    Josh
    #82
  3. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Apparently, Guatemala is rittled with caves and underground caverns that are not accessible and therefore unknown. The shapes of the terrain in this pic is supposedly a good sign that there would be caves/caverns under the surface.... so says some spelunkers that did a Nat Geo episode on some Guatemalan caves....


    :lurk
    #83
  4. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Carson Valley, NV
    In Coban i stayed at the excellent Dona Acuna hostel, and on one of my nightly forays to the square to acquire dinner (churrascos), i met this character and brought him back there.

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    Turkish had been in Mexico for a while, and was on his way toward Flores. It was nice to hang out with another ADVrider and compare notes. His camera gear was staggering, but later i checked out his TR from Cambodia and found out why--the man has skills. If i were naturally talented at photography i'd be jealous, but i can't even begin to compare!

    I learned of the existence of two things that interested me a lot near Coban: an orchid nursery and a tea co-operative. Orchids, as you may know, are pretty difficult to grow in most North American climates, but they LOVE the Coban climate. This orchid farm (Vivero Verapaz) had over 400 species, but many weren't blooming when i visited.

    Yep, all orchids:

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    My favourite was the bonsai trees with matching miniature orchids.

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    Just outside of the vivero was the local MX track. It seemed unofficial at best, and there were a couple of guys lamely circulating with no helmets and sitting down. I was tempted....

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    Back in town, i noticed this handy map posted near the square. Most places are a bit mysterious, but the people there are really making an effort at making Coban approachable.

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    I headed out to the tea co-operative. It's called Chirrepec, and is composed of 190 families who have banded together to harvest the tea on this former German plantation. It's a beautiful spot, and i really enjoyed the tour. I have to say it was the best $3.50 i've yet spent.

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    Ok, one last non-riding thing. The Peace Corps volunteer i met at Chirrepec told me i had to visit this waterfall north of town. Apparently when it's not been raining so much it makes a great swimming hole and one can get behind the falls.

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    And on the ride back into town, nice views.

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    Next time, a TON of this:

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    #84
  5. funseeker

    funseeker Why Not??

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    What awesome pictures.I sit here reading stories such as yours.They are something to look foreward to each day after cold,rain and dreary days of winter.thanks for the logs that help me get through the ugly winter days.
    #85
  6. Mika Meyer

    Mika Meyer V-Strom gives you wiiings

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    Yeah!! :clap That last update rocked. I really enjoy the non-riding/ cultural elaborations. Plus your photos are pretty damn great too. Just got back from the Majestic Theatre where they're showing Planet Earth to benefit the fight against a possible molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons. Now I'm feeling all earthy.
    Enjoy your riding adventure, and when you make it back to Gunni, gimme a shout so I can buy you a couple of cold ones. :freaky
    #86
  7. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    I agree... nothing but pictures of a motorcycle can be boring. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think we all want to see more of the culture/non moto stuff. The moto is the way to experience the.. uh, experience!

    Great photos once again, and waiting for the next installment! :thumb

    :lurk

    By the way which road was this?
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    #87
  8. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    is the one from Fray Bartolome de las Casas to Lanquin. It wasn't really numbered or anything, but it's easy to get onto it from either end. The poor state is the result of construction, but judging by the number of people involved and the scope of their project, i'd say it will be in poor shape for a long time. I've heard that they are gradually paving many of the roads in Guatemala, but i wouldn't expect the less-used ones to be in any danger for years and years.

    Overall Guatemala has had the burliest roads i've ever ridden. Not necessarily the bumpiest, but the most consistently steep and curvy. The terrain is relentlessly steep, and the roads just follow every contour. Also, the standard method of crossing a stream is to drop down to it, rather than following the contour around at the same elevation. It means lots of very tight switchbacks.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I had been thinking that perhaps people wanted to see more riding and less tea tours and whatnot, but i'll keep posting those photos.

    evan
    #88
  9. charliemik

    charliemik Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Flagstaff AZ
    Great TR. Muchas gracias. My wife and I just returned from our second trip to Belize (we always fly down and use local transportation) and we were in Guatamala 2 yrs ago. Your photos bring back great memories. I've motorcycle toured Baja a couple of times and really want to do mainland Mexico one day. Your TR just adds fuel to the fire.
    #89
  10. Gumption

    Gumption Adventurer

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    I agree, this really is a great thread. Keep it up! I am looking forward to the next installment.:thumb
    #90
  11. elgin

    elgin n00b

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    Hi son,

    Just wanted to say I love your trip log, and photos, and I am very proud of you! Wow!

    Be safe. . . love dad
    #91
  12. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Awww. Your boy has been entertaining and inspiring a few of us.

    You should tell him we need to see more of the author and main character.

    Like your dad said, Be safe out there.
    #92
  13. PirateT7

    PirateT7 Back on Two Wheels

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    Alpharetta, GA
    Lobby's daughter last month, and now this
    ADVrider is fracking awesome!
    #93
  14. beechum1

    beechum1 Dandole Gas al Burro

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    HAHHAHAH
    ahahahhaah HAHAHHA hahahahahahaha. good one...

    friggin nice ride. I hope to make some fresh tracks sometime down that way. thanks for taking the time to RR. ;)
    #94
  15. Sundance

    Sundance Adventurer

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    This report rocks. Thanks Evan for sharing, and keep giving us the whatnot along with the riding. That is what is making this so great, along with the true adventure you are in!
    #95
  16. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

    Joined:
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    I actually tried to do this one yesterday, but apparently it was lost in transit.

    Anyway, i left Coban and headed south for Antigua. The rain in Coban was tiring, and Antigua is a great place to sort of re-group--great coffee, lots of wireless, and plenty of people to speak English with.

    The terrain changed quickly out of Coban, and i was happy to see some pine trees and drier soil.

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    Guatemalan roads are unbelievably curvy, and this one was no exception. Ruthlessly steep, and nearly continuous 15mph curves led to a 20-30k dirt section, which was also interesting. There were a couple of cool villages in the middle of nowhere that, of course, are served by chicken buses.

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    In Antigua i found (thanks to some aggressive kids with brochures) a great little hotel--$4.50 for a private room and indoor parking for the KLR. My first stop was the market, so i could stock up on fruit and veggies (the place had a kitchen).

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    Until next time....
    #96
  17. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Whats the name and where? (please)

    U suck! :nod

    :lurk
    #97
  18. Slavcha

    Slavcha traveler

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    Great report.:thumb
    #98
  19. Jurgen

    Jurgen CysHeteroPatriarch Super Moderator

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    Very Very Nice. :thumb Really have enjoyed your report. Great work.

    Jurgen
    #99
  20. stickfigure

    stickfigure Fiendish Fluoridator

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    Please don't call it 'Frisco
    Hot damn! Gorgeous photos. Your trip report sounds a lot like mine, including the dirt roads and the amiga fly-by.

    I just did most of the west coast and will be wandering around central Mexico for a couple months. Afterwards I'm headed east and south along something pretty close to your route, so I'll be following your trip report closely!

    I don't know when you're headed back, but I'd love to cross paths and grab a beer :beer You too Roboter, if you ever make it back to this hemisphere :lol2

    Jeff