No-Moto-Boundaries-Latin America n' back n' da' TAT, un-planned, un-hinged, and solo

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by SeanPNW, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. Sumi

    Sumi Long timer

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    Now that's what I call a great trip! :) Congrats on living the dream! Whish I had the balls to do something like this:)
  2. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Thanks man, been a blast so far. No balls necessary though, for real! I've found the key is to make yourself more terrified of NOT doing something, that way the act of going out and actually doing it is the only logical decision, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. For example, the thought of NOT going out and giving this ride a try was a WAYYYY scarier idea, giving it a shot then was the only option :wink:. I'll be looking for your ride report :freaky.
  3. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Been working in Antigua now for about a week for OX Expeditions. Currently waiting for a camera that I ordered to show up at my buddy Kosh's place in Seattle so he can ship me the package down here with some other goodies I ordered. I thought I had been waiting for quite a bit for Canon to ship it out to him so I called, turns out the order fell through for some reason and they just never told me, now for the second time. Called my bank and nothings weird with my card. Seemed odd but I got a hold of them in person via phone yesterday and ordered it again, now for the 3rd time, if it goes through I'll know tomorrow night when I get the confirmation. Meanwhile the other items are sitting at Kosh's place ready to ship down here.

    In the meantime I'm hanging out in Antigua and working. I feel like I should say it's weird having something to...do...on a dialy basis similar to a job again, but honestly it's really not. Maybe it's because I'm enjoying this one right now. They got a lot going on here at OX it seems like. With running a fairly serious outdoor adventure company and having just opened their new hostel a month or so ago there's always something to do, or projects/ideas that they are working towards making realities. Active crowed, cool group to work with. I'm mostly trying to build them an access database to streamline of all their bookings, reservations, etc. Other than that I'm slanging drinks in the hostel at night when necessary and helping people get booked in/checked out to their trips and rooms. Since I'm working for them my accommodation and breakfast is free. I eat out for lunch every day but cook most of my own dinners to save money. On average I'm spending 25-30 Q a day (~ $3-5), if I'm out grabbing drinks still no more than $10 per day tops. This is good for the monies.:deal

    One of the volcanoes has been abnormally active this week so there's been some cool lightning storms above it when it spews out it's ash. Yesterday the same one was flowing lava around both sides of the surrounding pueblo and they evacuated. I heard it's the most active volcano in central america. OX is one of the companies that is professional enough to do treks up there and the guides said you could look down at the flow as it approached a small pueblo and watch as the lights in the houses went out. Little quakes are common, after that is when the volcanoes get active.

    Back to "work" though....do I still know how to do this?? :type :cob
  4. theofam

    theofam Been here awhile

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    Sean, it's Sean (from the Haines-Skagway ferry a couple summers ago).

    I've finally caught up on your trip. For a scientist, your ability to capture your experiences and observations in words would make your English teachers and professors proud! Very nicely done.

    I'm finding I prefer your ride report over others because of your lack of timeline. It is certainly availing you to some kick-ass experiences and people!

    Gimme some background on the amount of Spanish you had prior to taking the trip. I'm trying, unsuccessfully thusfar, to plant the seed that once my stay-at-home dad gig runs out in four years that I'll take six months to ride south before joining the working masses again. If she takes the hook, I'll need to get on the espagnol post haste. I think my current knowledge of "No fumar espagnol" wouldn't cut it!
  5. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Hey Sean, good to here from you. The lack of timeline has definitely been a positive. Looking at my bank account tells me I'm going to be getting creative to make that timeline last as long as possible. Maybe I'll join a motorcycle gang, or get into the cartel business :chace

    Background story on my spanish, welp, honestly there isn't much of a sotry. I did some Duolingo (which is a GREAT resource) before I left on my spare time, but I didn't do much. The sciencey sponge of mine doesn't suck up language very well unless it's thrown into a full ocean of the stuff, barely speak clear anghelish as it is. So I basically started learning when I crossed into Mexico. I don't have the money to spend on classes so I take 'street classes' instead. I eat with locals and hang out with other people who only speak Spanish. I'll stop and talk with an old lady in a park for a while, ask about politics, culture, etc and tell them I'm learning so they'll correct me when I say stuff wrong. In the end though the most important ingredient for me has just been 'intent', a genuine desire to be able to speak with the people. I'm sure you already have this, so whenever or wherever you start the learning process I'm sure you'll be just fine.

    So the countdown to the trip begins :clap. Maybe you can get your wife to listen to spanish audio tapes while she's sleeping, then you can slip in your own recordings onto the tapes and convince her that you going for a ride down south is the right thing...."Sean going on a motorcycle trip is a goooood idea. He'll have sooooo much fun. It'll be perfect after the kids are out of the house. You'll have soooo much fun with the girls while he's gone..." etc etc :wink:
  6. theofam

    theofam Been here awhile

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    You've got me cracking up! I like the subliminal messaging with night-time audio tapes - good thinking!

    I flubbed up not long after I saw you. I started Italian lessons for a trip we took last summer. . . and I continue to take them. There aren't too many Italian-speaking countries other than, well, Italy. I'd love to ride Italy for a month or two, but I'd probably have to take out a second mortgage to make it happen! Central and South America are more in my budget - I definitely dig your $10/day while staying in Antigua. You struck a solid deal with the hostel owner!

    Might be time to try Duolingo instead! Thanks for the tip on the website, as I hadn't come across it.

    I forgot to tell Kosh, "hi," in my previous message, as I imagine he's following along, too. What a nice dude to assemble the box of goodies he's sending your way!
  7. AteamNM

    AteamNM Wonna Be ADVrider

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    Damnit, I just ran out of hearts trying Duolingo. Sean, what have you done to me:ear.
  8. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    love it!
  9. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Ah you'll be set then, Italian is a classical language right? The structure etc is very similar to spanish, so you actually just placed yourself on a nice launching pad for learning spanish. Look at that, the cards are aligning nicely for a trip:wink:

    Kosh is clutch, always has been. Can't imagine the shit we'd be up to if he was down here riding, looking forward to our next ride together for sure :webers.
  10. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Those damn hearts, they really know how to get you just angry enough to keep learning don't they! Great program though, I think you'll dig it. I've tried lots of other programs (Rosetta stone etc) with no luck, Duolingo was the most engaging for how my squirrel brain functions.

    For anyone else interested they have lots of other languages as well (French, Italian, Portuguese, German, etc), and it's all free. Concept was to provide a language program that could be used by any normal teacher in classrooms around the world to help them teach languages. Cool idea and great that they are providing it free.
  11. kosh

    kosh Adventurer

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    hi to you too Sean.. I mean the other Sean.. I mean... never mind. I would give anything up to ride down :freaky ... but in this case, I got one too many visa/immigration problems to let me take that much time off work and still be able to come back stateside, if I wanted to. :muutt

    For now, I will have to live with reading these reports and keeping Sean alive so that we can ride another day.
  12. theofam

    theofam Been here awhile

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    Kosh, there's always next time. Hope you're doing well and not too soggy in the PNW!
  13. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    It’s been a couple weeks now in Antigua working with O.X. Excursions while I wait for a package to come in.

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    The days go by at a decent pace as I bide my time tagging along on work for O.X., while I also try to keep my liver in good shape for the hoards that come in to the hostel. Some of these people got serious drinking abilities and they all come to play. People show up, go on our volcano or mt. bike adventures, return the next day excited they are still alive, and want to party there pants off at the hostel. They then leave dead the following day for their next destination. The cycle repeats. Beer seems like water now. Whiskey is $7 for a liter. You get the picture. :1drink

    Here’s some pictures of the joint. Had my fair share of ass-whoopin’s on this table. I am not a ping-pong athlete by any definition...

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    Our policy is to keep the vibe going at all times, so music is pumped through the place most of the day. We work hard to be the instigators of 'fun'. Happy Hour starts at 5 and we only offer one thing, and that thing is FREE BEER.

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    The people on staff are all outdoorsy-extreme-sports type people, with Victor (the owner) being at the peak of it’s scale, interesting guy to work for. The motto of “The mountains are my church” is written on the staff shirts, the general idea of ‘you only live once, soak every heart pumping adrenaline full minute of it in’ seems to be an idea I can get behind. A painting of Bruce Lee on one of the dorm walls fills any newly arrived guests in on the way we like to do things here.

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    We did a hike, zip-line, mountain bike combo-tour two days ago with 24 people.

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    Chuck Norris quotes and punishment by round-house kicks are popular.


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    When not working I’m trying to explore the area a bit more. Got a leaker while not paying attention to the cobbled roads the other day.

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    As I wait patiently to be on the road again I attempt to quell my ever increasing build-up of energy. I’m hardly riding right now and it DEFINITELY has an effect on my restlessness and growing need for action :amazon. Does not riding really affect me this much? What am I 12? I seem to have become accustom to the excitement of the road, not being on it makes me have to fight hard to not see stationary daily life as monochromatic. That deep, stomach-based buzz, that welling of excitement which one gets every time they start their bike and head down the road towards places and things unknown is a hard drug to match. In the mean-time, I try to touch, smell, and be in the general presence of my dirty queen whenever possible. During the day she’s happily parked outside the office where I can see and ogle at her.

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    I snapped my choke cable the other day and discovered the systemic flaw in the way that I have been routing the cable. It was creating a pinch point which made the cable wear through faster than normal. Now that it has broken for the second time in 20k miles I’m done fucking around with the handlebar mount for it. I cut the cable about 1ft outside of the carb, unraveled the metal shroud and exposed the pull cable. I took the screw clamp from my spare clutch cable and clamped it to the end so I can grab the cable and pull the choke out to start the bike. Should have done this a long time ago. Should be near impossible to break now.

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    Found some Motul full synthetic oil so I did an oil change as well yesterday. I’ve been spending so little money here per day that when I purchased 3 liters of some of the nicest oil that money can buy around here, I almost shat my pants at the cost - Q393 ($45-50). Good stuff though, and I gotta get the girl something nice every once in a while.

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    blaaaahhhhcckkk

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    I change my filters every other change and it was time to pull the old one on this swap.

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    Went to pull the oil return valve out of the center of the filter and encountered an odd site.

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    It wasn’t there!

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    I’m pretty good at NOT throwing that away when I change filters, as I know it’s a common mistake for people to make. Looks like I forgot to not do this the last time though. Where was I the last time I changed filters? Baja?? Hmm, whelp, that valve is what allows my oil to pass through the filter so I guess I’ve been running for however many thousand miles without filtering my oil. Woops, sorry girl! No abnormal amounts of metal flake where on the drain plug magnet though so all seems fine. The part number is the same for many kawasaki vehicles, even some of their ATV’s, so I called around and was able to find a store with one in stock in Guatemala City. Monday I’ll swing by there and pick it up. 180Q ($20) instead of $13 in the US, so not much difference in cost. Now I have an excuse to go for a ride :pynd.

  14. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    Hanging out with the guys at the hostel isn’t a bad way to go through the day. To classify it as work seems to be a loose definition.

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    David brought in an old Super Nintendo so we hooked it up to the flatscreen for some good ol’ Donkey Kong.

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    When we are just kicking back this is fun, but other times I’m sitting on my computer building a database and staring at a computer screen. Just like back home, do enough of this and sometimes you need to just clear your schedule and take the day off. Yesterday I decided to ride into Guatemala city and look for the oil filter bypass valve that I had lost. I had been looking around town here in Antigua but couldn’t find what I needed. On the way out of town I decided to stop by Motomundo, an adventure moto place in town that had been closed every other time I’d gone by. Today though Taz (the owner) was in and there doors were wide open.

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    Taz does work on all kinds of adventure bikes, but he seems to specialize in KLRs. He had boxes of old parts laying around and just so happened to have the piece I needed. 50Q (120Q cheaper than I was quoted in the city for a new one) and I was back in action. Thanks Taz.

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    Johnny, a rider from Alabama, was in getting some work done on his Triumph. Johnny is a rad guy. We got to talking and grabbed lunch together. I meet a lot of intriguing people while traveling, but every now and then I meet someone special. A character that rises and shines brightly above the rest. They don’t come around often, but when they do they sure leave an impression. Johnny is one of those people. Here’s Johnny on the right, with Taz on the left.

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    Over the last 5 years he had started to really rethink his life and what he was doing. He had a good life, a successful life, but he wasn’t really happy. He started changing little things here and there with how he went about his daily life and began seeing the benefits. 2 years ago he met a very adventurous person and that person turned him on to motorcycles. They also turned him on to using them as a way of travelling, this was something he had never really considered. In Alabama where he’s from, he says going out and seeing the world via motorcycle is something that people just don’t really think to ever do. Nor did he know anyone that had ever done something on that scale. But with the changes that he had been slowly making in his way of life were having positive effects on his quality of life, and he decided it was time to really put the things he had learned into practice. It was time to make a drastic change. He bought a motorcycle and set out for Alaska knowing that’s what he wanted to now be doing. No plan, no timeframe, just a new passion for a new way of life. He would stop where he wanted to stop, and just go wherever the wind took him. He ended up in Inuvik, and all over the north, criss crossing and zig-zagging the entire time. In the first 11 months of owning his new motorcycle he put 27,000 miles on it. He had found a new love and was happier than ever.

    He was retired, so he began closing up shop in Alabama, got accepted as a member of Jupiter’sTravellers, and set out south on his great adventure solo. Johnny has a way of talking that I just can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s the Alabama accent, maybe it’s his ‘everything’s groovy’ attitude about life, maybe it’s his warmth of character - but whatever it is, it’s captivating. I spoke with him for a while over lunch about where he’s been, and his plans. But what was the most fascinating wasn’t his stories, or the places that he has been, but the way in which he was doing it all. No plan, day by day he goes wherever he wants and just see’s what he finds and where that leads him to next. Although more uncommon, I have met other people doing this, but there was something so very different about the way he spoke about it. As if he simply knew no other way. This has lead him to spend 11 months just getting from Alabama to Antigua Guatemala. He’s not here to impress anyone, or be on some big mission, he’s just here to experience the place he’s in, live life for the present moment, and learn from the cultures and people he’s around - nothing more. I picked up a habit from my last job of asking people what we call the “Three Questions”. We asked these questions during birthdays to summarize someones experiences over the last year. I find them to be applicable not just during birthdays, and anyone that has experienced a lot in life tends to have fascinating responses. Johnny was no exception.

    The three questions are:
    1. What’s one thing that you have learned?
    2. What’s one thing that you have grown to appreciate?
    3. What’s one thing that you are looking forward to?

    I wish I had been recording them, as it wasn’t just what he said, but it was how he said it. The honesty, thoughtfulness, and casual sincerity of his responses was captivating. Maybe it was just that alabama accent?

    In response to question 1, what have you learned, Johnny leaned back in his chair from the table and thought carefully for a few moments about this new question. After a bit he said in his eloquent southern accent, that in the last 5 years, since he really started reassessing his life and putting his new thoughts and ideas into practice, that what he has learned most about is himself. He’s learned to listen more to what he wants and needs to be happy in life. Before these changes he had everything, a successful career, family, kids, etc, but there was always something else missing. He had everything that society told him he needed, but not what he himself wanted. He’s learned that he’s far less in control of his life than he ever thought before, and he’s learned to embrace and enjoy that aspect of the unknown. Life’s a ride, and you have learn to show-up and do your best to enjoy everywhere that it takes you. Finally, he said, “I’ve learned that you can cross entire continents on nothing but a smile.”

    In response to question 2, what have you grown to appreciate, Johnny gave it just as much thought as the first question. He said that he’s grown to appreciate the present for exactly what it is, for both the good and the bad. He’s grown to appreciate just going with the flow and being excited about where that takes him in life. He shrugged his shoulders and looked around us with his his hands palms up in the air “I mean, just look around us. Look where we are right now. This is pretty darn great. You just have to enjoy wherever you are.”

    In response to question 3, what are you looking forward to in the future, Johnny thought for just a brief moment and said with surprise in his voice “You know, I really haven’t thought all that much about what comes next?! I’ve just learned to show up with my pants on and enjoy!”

    We talked for a while longer finishing our food in the open air restaurant and chatting about anything and everything. If there was ever a conversation that I wish I had on tape it would have been this one. There were so many more things that he said that really made me think about what he was saying, and the things that he had come to learn over his life. I think a lot about things, some have said almost to a fault, and have been fortunate enough to meet and engage in great conversation with fascinating people in my life so far, yet in this single conversation with Johnny, I found him saying things that were reality rattling and fresh, yet still so deceptively simple at their core. He truly is a fascinating character, and with absolutely zero pomp, 100% chill, and humble self awareness, he was an absolute treat to have met. Johnny , thanks for the good chat, and all the best on whatever comes next for you.

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    Here’s a shitty picture from my GoPro after lunch.

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    I had been planning to go to the city for the part that I had needed, but since I found it at Motomundo I had the rest of the afternoon now free. I decided to get out and go riding, so I headed out of town with the rest of the afternoon to spend as I wish. I headed southwest towards the volcanoes and where I figured I would find some offroad. A guy in town pointed out a dirt route that I could turn into a loop so I went looking for it. Wanting a nice decompression ride, and to get out of the city, a relaxing trip through the empty woods would fit that bill perfectly.

    Here’s a video I put together from the afternoon, sorry for the smudged lens.

    <iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/85443242" width="1080" height="607" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>



  15. KiLO

    KiLO Adventure Cafe

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    Awesome.
  16. SeanPNW

    SeanPNW Water Bear

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    I think I got into Antigua almost a month ago? Time flies, but at the same time it also doesn't. It's surprising that I've almost been here a month, but I can also definitely feel it. My package showed up in Guatemala city on Monday (thanks Kosh and Danielle!) and last time I checked, it was just waiting to clear customs. This means I'll be back on the road soon. I'm excited to get back on the bike, not knowing where I'll be staying or what each new day will bring is exciting, and oddly enough, it has grown to also be comforting. As if going back to the uncertainty of the road is like going back home, it is what feels most comfortable now, and sitting in one place with a routine and schedule has become what makes me the most uneasy. Maybe it's the feeling of freedom, or mobility, or the unknown? Whatever it is, I like it.

    Having spent some time here in one spot though, I've re-thunk what I want to do next. My favorite days on this trip have been when I've been off the beaten trail, when I've been out in the rural areas, and when I've gotten to spend time with locals learning first hand about their lives. I've been lucky with the experiences I've found thus far, but what it's left me with most is a burning desire for more. A group of bicyclists came into the hostel last week, really nice guys, and had been camping in people's farms almost every single day. I think these guys have the right idea. I have all my camp gear, but haven't used it much since Mexico. I'm not really sure what my excuse is. Maybe hosteling has just been so easy, maybe I haven't come across the right places to camp, or maybe I've just been too nervous to commit to finding a place to camp each night...whatever the reason is, it's really just an excuse in my book, and I want to change that. After looking at my bank accounts I have ~$4,000 left to spend exploring. Based on my overall budget, this leaves me with 4 months of riding before I need to start thinking about how I'm going to feed my face. I want to spend at least 4-6 months in South America, so put these two situations together, and I'm left with GREAT incentive to dirt bag it more, and really make the money I have left go as far as possible. I prefer to dirt bag travel, as in my experience it leads you to learn more about the culture and communities of people that you travel through. When you travel frugally you are forced to remove the extra comforts, that while nice (like a hotel or hostel) also cost extra money, and also put up an artificial cultural buffer between you and your surroundings. For example, the only Guatemalans in the hostels I've been to, are those that work the kitchens and clean the rooms. The ratio of tourists to locals in Antigua is also pretty skewed. The effects of this change over the years can be seen in the fact that I can go to an Irish pub, eat with only foreigners, and never engage with Guatemalans all day long here if I wish.

    When I first thought about how much money I have left I was saddened, "4 months?! Shit, I want more than that...I need more than that to really experience and get a 'feel' for these places." Now though, I see this as much more of an opportunity than as a limiting factor. It's an opportunity to experience more of what I really want. I'm excited about this next leg of the trip, so we'll see how it goes.

    Before I leave Antigua the one thing I have left to do is climb Acatenango. Acatenango is a volcano here that sits next to another active volcano called Fuego (fire), the views are supposed to be amazing if you have a clear day/night. Acatenango is 13,044ft and is one of the more beautiful and unique piles of rock and dirt around here.

    <iframe marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://maps.google.com.gt/maps?client=firefox-a&channel=fflb&q=google+maps+antigua+guatemala&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Antigua+Guatemala,+Sacatepequez&gl=gt&t=f&ecpose=14.58923435,-90.66012767,3785.59,-116.247,74.912,0&ll=14.556495,-90.728707&spn=0.059814,0.092611&z=14&iwloc=A&output=embed" frameborder="0" height="720" scrolling="no" width="1080"></iframe>
    <small>View Larger Map</small>

    It's rare to have something above 13k ft that you can climb without alpine gear, but because the weather in central america is just so god damn splendid, you can march right up to the top more or less. Yes it's cold, yes it's windy, and yes it can be a bit of a huffer, but more or less it's a walk in the park compared to other piles of rock that high in other parts of the world. The company that I've been working for specializes in extreme trips and one of their trips is an overnight hike up Acatenango. Here's there vid promoting the trip:

    <iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/qxJP-OShVR8" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" width="853"></iframe>

    I want to do it solo though and on my own, as this seems like it would be much more of an experience, and would also save me money :wink:. See, the money saving necessity is already having a positive influence on what I do! I don't think I've ever been on a real volcano, and to have the opportunity to camp on one is something I just can't pass up. The other trips camp in the saddle below the summit, but Victor (my current boss and owner of the company) says that if you are spry enough you can camp right in the crater at the summit. This is what I'm gonna shoot for, ooohhhh buddy am I excited.

    <iframe marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://maps.google.com.gt/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=antigua+guatemala&aq=&sll=15.277095,-90.249895&sspn=0.210306,0.439453&t=f&gl=gt&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Antigua+Guatemala,+Sacatepequez&ecpose=14.51275682,-90.85719259,4273.68,-135.132,74.982,0&ll=14.499464,-90.87086&spn=0.014957,0.023153&z=16&output=embed" frameborder="0" height="720" scrolling="no" width="1080"></iframe>
    <small>View Larger Map</small>

    Hoping to get up there in the next few days, and if so, maybe leave Antigua this weekend. I met a guy the day before yesterday traveling from Manitoba on his 1980 Yamaha xj650. Rad bike with tons of character. His name's James and we have similar ideas about what we want to do next, which involves camping as much as possible through to Panama. I'm planning on moving relatively quickly through the rest of central america, it's not desirable, but I'm more focused on SA right now and due to the budget I want to be able to spend my money there. I'm hoping to be loitering around a dock in Panama looking for a cheap sailboat to jump on headed for Colombia by early March. Jame's has similar plans so we'll see how it goes.

  17. jfman

    jfman Long timer

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    Montreal, Canada
    Loving this report! (only on page 4 right now)


    But could not help to notice that....

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    Looks like...

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  18. mopulga

    mopulga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2009
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    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    Say - you should post somewhere to "paypal" you and buy you a drink or a night's stay.

    You are traveling right - and enjoying the heck out of your report. I love that you are going off the beaten path. :clap

    I cant contribute much, but amongst the ADV family, I would think it can provide a little more than you have,

    So... once you get to Ecuador - let me know. I have an extensive network of family there - and they are loco locals - just how you want them to be.
  19. upweekis

    upweekis Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,897
    Location:
    Indiana-We Tax Everything!
    See if you can peddle some of those beautiful pictures!
  20. SMC

    SMC Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    60
    Location:
    Newport Beach CA
    Amazing report. Subscribed for more!