LoneStar's Adventure to South America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by LoneStar, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. Dirt Road Cowboy

    Dirt Road Cowboy I aim to misbehave.

    Joined:
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    844
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    Tyler, Texas
    That's horrible! :yikes

    If it doesn't make you sing in a high pitched voice, and dance like Michael Jackson when you spill it in your lap, it's too cold! :rilla :vardy
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  2. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Charlie I'd take the blockades any day after my ride in to Panajachel. The worst roads I've been on as far as potholes, water erosion and complete missing sections of blacktop. Seriously messed up roads and monster traffic. To top it off, I got into such thick fog and clouds I couldn't see and it turned into an absolute monsoon that lasted for the last hour or more into Panajachel. Red mud waterfalls pouring off the spectacular mountains and onto the road, foot deep water on streets in the towns. My waterproof gear ain't. Just got into a hotel and the lady there felt sorry for the drowned and soaking Gigantica, making me the best cup of Guatemalan coffee on the planet. Aaaaaaaaaah. I'm beat. One hell of a long day :muutt

    Oh yeah, and while I'm sniveling, the Garmin gave me hell and then showed no roads in Guatemala! I used the phone and GPS apps but had to yank it when the rain started. Trying to find my way through the little towns in serious fog and rain was a pain. I want my mommy! :lol3
  3. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Detroit / Toronto
    I feel for you brother! It's been sunny and gorgeous here in Palenque but I think I earned it from yesterday's ride. Should be down in Guatemala in about a week if you're still around. I will give you all of central and South America maps for your Garmin.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  4. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    For some reason I guess I'm not destined to sleep much in Mexico. The little hotel was great but a dang mosquito got in the room and I couldn't get it for anything. It landed in my ear canal randomly throughout the night and some very late night arrivals came in, banging on the steel gate at some point in the night. I got even by opening my door in my underwear and staring at them.

    I was on the road by 8:30 after triple checking my passport, Mexican paperwork and all the other foofooraw. Comitan was a nice town and I would have stayed another day but I wanted to break the mental barrier of getting into another country.

    The border lay an hour and a half away on MX 190, with Ciudad Cuauhtémoc the last Mexican town on the road. The weather was beautiful and the air a bit chilly. Far on the horizon I could see monster cloud formations that I hoped would magically vanish during the day.


    Ciudad Cuauhtémoc. Move along, nothing to see here...
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    Ciudad Cuauhtémoc is where you check out of Mexico and the process was fairly simple and straightforward. Except that the computer system was down in the Immigration side. For about 30 minutes I stood outside, after checking the bike out and getting my deposit credited back in the Aduana. A lonely dog spotted me and came over with the biggest smile on her face, then laid down by my feet and waited with me until the system came back on. Without the delay of 30 minutes, checking out would have been about 15 minutes total.


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    From the Aduana office it's a few kilometers to the border, signaled by a sudden conglomeration of roadside shops and general insanity on the Mexican side.




    I pulled up to the border at La Mesilla and saw a set of red cones with no one there, so I bypassed and parked nearby. A money changer came up and we did business, swapping my pesos for quetzals. I'd forgotten to get rid of a pocket full of coins in Mexico but he didn't want them so I'll still jingle when I walk in Guatemala. A few minutes later he returned and to my surprise gave me additional money. Apparently I had given him a bit more than I thought and he'd seen the mistake. What an honest man.

    The moneychanger pointed out that the red cones were where the fumigation was, so I rolled the bike backwards into the cone area and the bike was sprayed while I chatted with a guy. The price wasn't posted, but I'd read somewhere it was 11 quetzals and I handed the attendant two of my new pre-owned 10 q bills but when he pushed me the papers to sign he gave me back 19 q. So for me it was 1 q for the fee. Weird.



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    Next was the Inmigracion, where I stood for a while at the empty counter, eventually a grumpy man appeared from a side room wiping food off his face and taking my passport without looking at me. In a bit he returned a form for me to fill out and then pointed me to the Aduana next door.

    I rode the bike 20 feet over and parked, a crowd of people staring at the bike. Right off the bat, the Guatemalan people looked very different than the faces of Mexico, the women in traditional garb wearing muted colors such as maroon, dull green and mustard colors. Quite a different palette than bright Mexico.

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    At the Aduana window I presented my paperwork, handing several pieces including my still folded title in it's official envelope. Apparently this offended the clerk who tossed it back to me and then changed his attitude. It was not intentional on my part but just part of juggling papers, jacket, helmet, tank bag and wallet. I carefully opened it and passed it through the bars to Mr. Offended. After a while, he was finalizing my papers and about to hand it all back, pointing to the bank office with it's black suited, 12 gauge pump carrying guard at the door, when the computer system went down. He shrugged and went back into another area to watch a soccer game on tv.

    While I waited for about 20 minutes, an SUV pulled up with a gringo and his guide/friend from Mexico. He had driven from Washington though Mexico alone, meeting his friend and then heading for Antigua. We had a long conversation while waiting for the system to come back up, and about an hour later the process started again. Finally my paperwork came through the window, I was allowed into the tiny, air-conditioned bank by the guard and paid my 160 quetzals, back into the heat, receipt back to the window, Mr. Not-So-Offended-Anymore going out to slap a sticker on the bike and wish me well, then a final inspection by the gate guard and I waved goodbye to the guys and rolled into a different world.

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    There is no mistaking that you and Toto aren't in Mexico anymore. The people are different, the colors are different, the trucks and monster buses are different. La Mesilla was a bit of chaos. Shops lined the streets, thick with people and traffic. Toyota pickups with the rear bed loaded with standing room only crowds of people, so many that the rear end is so low that the front wheels seem they'd lift off the ground were everywhere. Add a couple hundred three wheel tuk-tuks driving crazy and welcome to Guatemala.





    The road into the country from La Mesilla is narrow, twisty and full of traffic, not to mention potholes, but it leads into an absolutely stunning set of mountains, very steep and narrow canyons coated with dense vegetation all the way up into misty clouds. As with Mexico, it's really difficult to find any place to stop for a picture. The views are seen in brief moments between brush and traffic. Stopping anywhere on the road to take a photo is dangerous with the constant trucks, buses and cars on the narrow shoulder-less roads. It's frustrating as hell to see such scenery and not be able to capture it. But trust me, it's great.

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    I was captured by the different dress of the indigenous people, the landscape, the roaring muddy rivers of red or brown and the deep, steep mountains with waterfalls. All this seen in brief glimpses as the road required major concentration, curves, vehicles and serious potholes. A couple of local men and told me the road was very rough and it would take a while to reach either Huehuetenango or Panajachel. They were correct.

    By the time I did reach the turnoff for Huehue, my initial destination, the day seemed still early and a bit foolish to not head on for Panajachel. I was getting tired from the intense ride, dodging oncoming cars and buses who weave back and forth across the road to avoid potholes and water. The drivers in Guatemala lack the courtesy of Mexico, driving aggressively, refusing to budge or make room when passing, trying to block you from lane splitting and more. It's a different game than Mexico.

    I grabbed a piece of grilled chicken from a vendor at the turn for Huehue and then headed on for Panajachel, about an hour and a half away according to my myriad apps. My Garmin refused to cooperate, showing no towns or information in Guatemala. Defaulting to phone apps were the solution and a good one. Garmin, you suck. Even Charlie would agree.

    The roads continued to stress and amaze, but they got so bad in areas it would have been better to just be on dirt. Seriously. The bad part is that both lanes are swerving into the oncoming lane to avoid potholes and multiple times I came close to a hit. At one bridge crossing they were doing repairs which consisted of cutting out bad concrete with a saw and simply leaving an open 24" x 24" hole. It was insane dodging them, as they were all over the bridge and would easily swallow a front wheel.



    A day of this!









    After a while the fatigue set in. Elevations went up to 10,000 feet and temps down to 50º. I'd been lucky and able to skirt showers most of the day, but the cloud cover got thicker and thicker, eventually to the point where visibility was almost zero, yet the pothole and truck dodging continued. About an hour away from Panajachel and Lago Atitlan, the dense fog suddenly became torrential rain. I didn't have time to really button up or put on my rain pants as there were no safe places to stop, and in 5 minutes everything was soaked.

    I finally found a gas station to pull in where I could check my phone and see where I was. The rain was coming so hard I just couldn't head back in despite already being soaked. After about 30 minutes it slacked a bit and I continued. Waterfalls of red and mud spewed off the hillsides and onto the road in places, the ditches overflowing across the roads and as I entered towns. I rode through foot deep water rushing down steep streets.









    In the town of Solola the fog was so thick at moments I couldn't even see signs. I didn't know how I'd find the hotels in Panajachel if it got worse. Seriously. Continuing on the road down the mountain for the lake, the clouds lifted some as did the rain. I got a brief glimpse of the lake which was buried in fog.


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    Soaked as a wet rat when I rolled in and about Panajachel, I finally found an inviting place to stay. Dripping wet, I entered the office and paid my quetzals, unsure what the rate translated to in USD, but all I wanted was to get warm and dry. The girl running the place made me an awesome mug of coffee and brought it to the room which got me warmed up and feeling cozy pronto.

    Looking forward to getting a view of Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes in the morning!
  5. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2007
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    Location:
    Steamboat Springs, COLORADO
    You probably needed a good bath anyway ..................................................................... :lol3

    Great stuff amigo! :thumb

    Wish I was riding shotgun with you.

    RD
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  6. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Wish you were too lol. I love sharing the fun :D
  7. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi 42

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    Awesome update
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  8. Andsetinn

    Andsetinn Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 30, 2017
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    69
    Amazing photos as usual. I suddenly have the urge to find a dealer for a TukTuk. :)
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  9. ROAD DAMAGE

    ROAD DAMAGE Long timer

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    Steamboat Springs, COLORADO
    Just bought you a few cups of joe, Joe. :D

    Last night I was thinking about the magazines that I subscribe to ......... and how I don't enjoy them nearly as much .......... as I've been enjoying your ride report posts. :thumb
    Just though it was time to take care of that discrepancy. Might have been the codeine cough syrup affecting my judgement ................................. :scratch :lol3

    Stay safe out there amigo.


    RD
  10. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Hey bro! Man I appreciate it and bought a couple of cups of Guatemalan supremo to counteract the rain!

    As an appreciation gift I'm sending 10 cases of cough syrup and they should be there tomorrow :lol3
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  11. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    In my new fantasy life, I want to live in Panajachel but more importantly, I'll have a Tuk Tuk! I've seen everything from tricked out ones with racing style seats and aftermarket exhausts, etc to just the basics with some gaudy decorations and I like them all:photog
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  12. BELSTAFF

    BELSTAFF ADV NOMAD

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    Location:
    Arizona--Semper Vestibulum
    I don't about that, I'm thinking a short school bus decorated tuk-tuk style :lol3
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  13. Brotherwolf

    Brotherwolf Senegal Beemer

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
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    3
    Location:
    Austin TX
    Enjoying the RR and sending a cup of coffee your way as a small token of thanks for the excellent written & visual storytelling, Lonestar.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  14. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    The day dawned early to the noise of tuks tuks zipping down the narrow street outside. The previous days ride had drained me more than I realized.

    It was a bit later when I ventured out of the room into a brief few moments of sunshine. The wet streets were active with vendors and traffic as I wandered towards the lake looking for coffee.

    Five minutes of sunshine!
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    At the waterfront, the volcanoes were shrouded in white but the lake was beautiful, reminiscent of the scenes from Alaska from last year, dramatic and mysterious. Along the waterfront area were many restaurants, all empty and I ran a gauntlet of young men dressed nicely hawking the restaurants, as well as a few indigenous women selling wraps and blankets, mainly carried on their heads.

    Panajachel is not brightly colored as with Mexico, but it's people are very friendly. Instead of glares and heads quickly covered or turned at photos, generally people smiled and enjoyed the attention. As I walked people would make eye contact and smile warmly. It felt inviting.



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    Overhead appearing in and out of clouds I saw two parasails circling high above the city like the birds circling with them. They stayed afloat for long periods of time often completely gone in the clouds. What a sensation they must have felt.

    There are a few tourists but not obnoxiously so. There are a few funky cafes and such but it's not overwhelming and overdone.



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    Rain showers came frequently, causing me to duck and dodge into doorways or under overhangs, covering the camera from blowing mist as much as possible, then the slowly dissipating rain tugging me back into the street to dodge racing tuks tuks and their passengers.

    The tuks have been fun to watch, some festooned with lights and gizmos, some plain and some customized with racing style seats, custom wheels and aftermarket exhausts.


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    After dodging water for a while I ducked into a coffee shop patio where several older American men sat discussing politics and George Carlin. Ex-pats congregated together and sharing details of Social Security direct deposits and exchange rates. It wasn't too long before I was wishing I'd chosen a different spot, as I've found the lack of understanding language has created an ambient aural background that leaves me free of the details of politics and yap of life.

    I watched as a young girl came out of the rain and sat at the next table as my cafe Americano arrived. A brief discussion proved her origin from Germany and she discussed her time as a volunteer for a month in a place outside nearby Solala.






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    I headed back into the sporadic rain to wander again and sneak a few photos, my cheap umbrella leaking drops of cold water down my neck, discovering a couple of Guatemala decals for the bike in a little shop unexpectedly. Travel decals are a bit harder to come by than expected so it was a nice perk. I'm finding the prices here higher than expected, and seem to be commensurate with the U.S. for things like food and such. Mexico was definitely cheaper for similar things, however the hotel is roughly the same. At the moment it's about 7.5 quetzals per USD.

    In a particularly rainy blast I ducked under a vacant vendor shed and shortly afterwards were joined by another couple of street searchers. Guess what? Dos chicas de Israel. Yep, we laughed at the same random encounter as we'd met in San Cristobal de Las Casas. They'd ridden the bus in yesterday in the same rains and fog. We laughed and parted ways, promising to bump into each other again in Antigua.






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    As the day waned, I wandered back to the lake where the vendors were slowly giving in and accepting the day's defeat from rain, women packing up entire stalls of goods, packing them into huge wrapped bundles and carrying them on their heads as they walked away.




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    Across the lake I could see nothing as a white wall of rain came blowing across. Boats pulled away from the docks and raced away, whether just from the day's ending or the approaching white wall I don't know. I sought shelter under a vacant booth near the restaurants and others came and found spots nearby. The rains came hard and I spent much time watching water pour from plastic sheets overhead, feeling emotions long past from my childhood in southeast Texas, watching rains from a porch and the boredom I've not felt in such a long time.

    Said boredom was broken quickly by two young boys suddenly bursting in from the rain with a lone beer and lime in the neck, as surprised to see me as I was them. In their white shirts and black pants it was obvious they were restaurant hawkers who'd snagged a beer from the place and hidden it for later. They quickly disappeared again, leaving the cold beer sitting and sweating in the humidity of the rain.

    I watched the rain for a long time, silent others in different stalls watching the same. In the booth adjacent I turned and caught the stare of an indigenous woman whose eyes enlarged at being caught, trying as fast as possible to look away. Across the way, the two boys from the restaurant appeared, the youngest smelling of pot and stoned so heavily he had to hang on to his friend. He clumsily wandered over and found his beer for a swig, then walked back to his friend and laid his head in his lap, barely able to stay awake.

    The rainy day was enjoyed very much, spending the remaining light walking through water puddles in my sandals and watching people racing home on scooters, the indigenous women always riding sidesaddle on the rear, holding bags and children as necessary, their esposos swerving through tuks, traffic and tourists to beat the rain.







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  15. rodr

    rodr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2008
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    699
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    Fairfield, CA, USA
    Loving the prose and photos. Needs more pics of the young hotties though.

    :photog
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  16. Zubb

    Zubb he went that-a-way...

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    San Diego
    I really enjoy your ability to capture and share the community and culture of each place you go.
    Thanks for sharing.
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  17. Hootowl

    Hootowl Long timer

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    Joseph;
    when you get to Antigua and looking for a place to stay I can highly recommend Casa Elena. Its a B&B owned by a expat couple who are motorcyclists and give a 50% discount on their rooms to people who arrive on motorcycles. The included breakfast is made to order and is excellent.
    https://www.facebook.com/casaelenaguatemala/

    (My experiences there are from 2015 so their policies may have changed since)

    The B&W of the lake is beautiful (of course) and brings back fond memories

    Richard
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  18. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    Richard! Perfect timing as I'm heading that way today and was just looking up places to stay there :clap
  19. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus

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    The rain was much less today, confirmed by a few rays of sunshine which only seem to appear about 11 in the morning. Of course, I'm here in the final couple of months of rainy season but it doesn't dampen my experience.


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    More street explorations and encounters. The ladies selling blankets and wraps here are even more tenacious than in Mexico. Young and old, they ask your name and call you a friend despite repeated "no gracias" only to switch to the tactics of saying they'll give you a day to think on it and will see me tomorrow. I swear one old lady could sell a saxophone to a man with no lips.


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    There was sunshine on the lake and the views were great, between interruptions of "Hello amigo. You wish to go in boat? No? I am an artist. Here. You buy these beautiful pen covers I made. No? Here is a bird quetzal for keys. No? Yes you buy. You are my friend. No? Here is a beautiful different color you buy? No? Put gun away my friend. I see you mañana and you buy then!"



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    Wanderings and photos found, including the market out of the tourist area, the best small one I've encountered yet. As the day faded to darkness I ran across a photo copy place and had a small print made for an old man I'd photographed. The rains came as I tried to find his stall in the darkness, trying to keep the print from getting wet from drizzle beneath my crappy umbrella. I walked the entire street to find him but he was gone and most of the street shops were closed up now.

    I gave up and wandered back up the main drag looking for some dinner. Off to my left in a spot out of the rain, I spotted the old man with his huge bundle about to walk into the rain. I jumped a puddle on the way over and stopped him. His present made him smile and laugh, grabbing my hand and shaking it intensely. He said "Mañana." I gave him a pat on the back and headed back into the rain.



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    A few lonely tourists and local vendors heading home were about the only ones out as I found a pizza place, chosen for it's seating and view of the dark street. Across were a few eating joints, empty save a person or two in each. My small pizza came hot and as I waited for it to cool, I watched as a three-legged dog came up the street. I wondered how he fared amongst the dog culture here I'd observed in my walks. He hopped along, looking at each restaurant and then going inside. After the fourth, he paused in the sprinkling rain across the street and looked me directly in the eye. In a few short hops he was up the steps and introduced himself, then laid down by the table. It wasn't long before a few bites of pizza came his way.

    Damn it! Avoided all the tricks of the vendors and then got sucked in by a three legged dog!



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  20. MufflerBearings

    MufflerBearings Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2012
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    Location:
    Ciudad Catedral
    I'm seriously enjoying reliving my time in Guatemala via your report. The three-legged dog would have eroded my resolve as well! :lol3

    If you're heading to Antigua, consider dropping by the little cafe at CA Moto Tours. It's run by some good dudes who might be able to provide info on points of interest.