Prairies To Penguins Alberta to Argentina

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by DRRambler, Aug 24, 2013.

  1. Ulyses

    Ulyses Long timer

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    Sorry to take this way, way, way back, but I was born and raised near Pendleton and spent a lot of time as a kid going past Battle Mountain on the way to our family's cabin which was only a few miles away from the pass! So crazy that you decided to ride through that small corner of N. Eastern Oregon!

    Glad to see you've been on the road for a while! I'm trying to catch up on your RR... :1drink
  2. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Hey Bryce!
    I thought about you the other day as I crossed Lake Atitlan from Pana to Santiago. I found your ride report right at the time you were there and got run over by a fishing boat. That was a great story!
  3. Old Codger

    Old Codger Adventurer

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    Great Pictures and Ride Report. Thanks for taking us along :thumb
  4. Turk34

    Turk34 Been here awhile

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    it is very inspiring trip...planning to do similar trip from Atlanta to Ushuaia next year...taking notes from your trip...thanks for sharing and safe ride.....
  5. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    I'm glad you guys are enjoying it. Thanks for taking the time to read it
  6. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Day 57 Oct 19 Antigua to Panajachel & Lago Atitlan 110km

    CLICK for MAP

    My final Spanish class ended at noon today so I planned on making the short trip to Lake Atitlan. The lake is formed from an ancient volcano caldera and is surrounded by three huge dormant volcanoes. It’s one of those places that everybody wants to see in Guatemala so I thought I should make a point to not miss it.
    The ride out of Antigua didn'’t start until about 12:45 after I said my goodbyes to the hosts of the school and my teacher. Traffic surrounding the city was very heavy and I didn'’t get out of the thick of it until 1:30. Eventually I found myself on the main highway headed towards the lake and back in the direction of Mexico.

    There are a few different ways to approach the area and multiple towns surrounding the lake. Each town has its own identity and the approach roads each have their nuances. It has been said that the roads south of the lake are dangerous for tourists. I heard and read multiple reports about bandits stopping cars and motorcycles on these roads to rob the passengers of everything in their possession. The stories date back a decade or more and also recently but it is my belief that there is always a seed of truth to every tale. I received differing points of view from locals about the accuracy of the reports but I decided to take a safe approach and ride on the main highway which leads to the town of Panajachel.

    First view of the Lake

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    Along the road to the lake

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    The ride was 95% on curvy divided 4 lane highway paved with concrete. My observation of Guatemalan highways in general is that they are in very good condition. Compared to Mexico and Belize (toll roads excluded) Guatemala has excellent highways. The approach to the lake is a steep descent down a very tight winding road. There are multiple small towns along the way and at the bottom is Panajachel.

    The town is quite large and is the least “laid back” of the communities on the lake. I found El Hotel Miralrio which is close to the main river that empties into the lake. For two nights I paid 180 Quetzales ($12 per night).

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    View from the roof of the hotel

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    After unloading Skelly I walked to the grocery store and bought a few supplies. I picked up Beer for 4.5 Quetzales each (about $0.75), a few bananas, yogurt and taco chips. Along the way back to the hotel I bought a big piece of fried chicken and fries from a street cart for dinner and I was all set.

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    Later in the evening I went to check on the bike and met a young guy who was also a motorcycle junkie. He owns 7 bikes and has traveled to the USA on motorcycle a few times. His English was excellent and we talked for a long time about bikes and travel. He told me about the motorcycle enduro races that come through here twice a year and all the great riding in the area. He also helped me with information regarding boats to cross the lake which is a must do while here. In addition he re-affirmed that the main road is really the only way tourists should travel.

    Tomorrow, a tour of the lake.


  7. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Day 58 October 20 Santiago and San Pedro Atitlan

    I set my alarm for 7am but of course didn'’t need it. I intended to take a boat across the lake to Santiago and spend a few hours there before returning. The walk in the morning sun to the boats took about 25 minutes. When it comes to taxis (and boats) there is no shortage.

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    And there is no shortage of people asking you where you want to go and making sure you get on the vehicle/boat they represent. I’m not much of a negotiator so I don’t really care if I’m paying the gringo price as long as it’s not an outrageous amount. I found a boat and paid 30Q for the crossing to Santiago which took about 30 minutes.

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    The ride across the lake was beautiful

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    Some Luxury lakefront homes

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    Immediately upon disembarking the boat I was accosted by women selling brightly colored woven goods and jewelry.

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    A young man asked if I wanted a tour of the town. I resisted but he said “it’s a big town, blab bla bla, I’ll show you interesting things you won’t see on foot, bla bla bla. I relented and am glad I did but I paid too much. And of course a few of the stops required Quetzales in exchange for photos but there were other good free photo ops too.

    A woman installing traditional head gear

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    Next stop was a religious shrine in somebodies residence. My driver led me down this alley to see it. I did not photograph it as it was very dark in the room and they wanted 10Q for photos.

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    Third stop was the mirador (viewpoint)

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    After the mirador we stopped at the memorial for 14 people killed in 1990 when soldiers opened fire on an unarmed crowd here

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    Next stop...the laundromat

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    90% of the Mayan women wash clothes this traditional way

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    The more modern facility

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    Final stop a 500 year old Church where a funeral was taking place so I did not enter

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    Tourist in a Tuk Tuk

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    I'm not actually angry

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    After the one hour tour of Santiago I asked the driver to take me to a good restaurant and I had a nice breakfast.

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    Then I boarded a boat to San Pedro.

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    The first thing you notice about this place is all the waterfront buildings are half submerged. It appears they have been this way for quite some time yet somehow they look like they’re just waiting for the day they can return to use.

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    I wandered from the landing dock through a narrow alley way lined with small shops and access to hostals. More than pedestrians use the path. I had to make way for horses, motorbikes and Tuk Tuks.

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    San Pedro has more of a laid back feel and appeals to backpackers more than tourists.

    I found my next boat after about an hour in San Pedro and enjoyed a rough and a bit wet ride back to Panajachel. I spent a couple of hours wandering the waterfront. There are countless food vendors and sellers of all things Guatemalan. You’ll see the same goods offered at most booths so I suspect that many of the little trinkets are merely mass produced somewhere and imported.
    All in all it was a great day and I capped it off by trying my first pupusa for dinner.

    From Wikipedia:A pupusa (Spanish pronunciation: (pupusaw) is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla (made using masa de maíz, a maize flour dough used in Latin American cuisine) that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese (queso) (usually a soft cheese called Quesillo found throughout Central America) cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency (called chicharrón, not to be confused with fried pork rind, which is also known as chicharrón in some other countries) refried beans (frijoles refritos), or queso con loroco (loroco is a vine flower bud from Central America).

  8. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    I love Pupusas!! Did you have a glass of Horchata also? I am re living my visits to Guatemala through your report. There were 2 pupuseria's here in Calgary our favourite just went out of buisness,:cry it was my wife and I's favourite resturant.
    Saludos
  9. schwahead

    schwahead Adventurer

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    Your bringing back lots of memories of my ride through Mexico and Central America as we'll only on the drz. Are you planning on riding back?
    If you do end up riding to xela look for villa Esmeralda, the owner is a duals port rider and lives behind the hotel. Very friendly and willing to help other riders out.
    Remember to turn your headlight off or cover it up in Honduras. It's illegal to ride with it on during the day and you will get a ticket.
    If you come across people with a chain or rope going across the road near border crossings you don't have to pay them, just keep revving the engine or go around.
    I recommend visiting San Juan del sur in Nicaragua for a laid back small surfer town.
    In panama in the town of boquete there's a mountain you can climb where you can see the pacific and Atlantic Ocean on a clear day. The name of the mt. Eludes me.
    I stayed at a couple of the special motels myself. I liked the fact that my bike was safe in the garage next to me. I would pull the bike up so the front wheel was on the handle to open the garage door.
    Border crossings are easiest and least congested earliest in the morning. Copies, copies, copies.

    Stay safe, keep the bike right side up, and have fun!
  10. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    I have not tried Horchata, what the heck is it?
    In El Tunco there apparently is a Pupusa place that makes them with flour instead of corn and they are according to the people I met there "the best ever"

    I rode through Honduras today (future post with details). Lights on all day and rode through 6 military/police check points and was stopped only once for about 30 seconds.

    Thanks for the tips!
  11. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Day 59 October 21 Panajachel to Cuilapa

    CLICK for MAP

    Today’s ride nice transit day taking the same highway back to the Antigua area and then between the volcanoes.

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    The road between the two major highways from Chiquimulilla to Cuilapa was very twisty with a lot of broken pavement and potholes but still very fun.

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    Some kids were repairing potholes asking for money so I paid the first group. But there was at least four other groups of kids and I just rode by them much to their dismay. It was hard to find a hotel in Cuilapa. I tried to find one of the places Sjoerd suggested but just could not locate it. The first one I did find was full but the Posada del Centro on the main street had rooms and very secure parking for $15.00. It was hot in the room but internet was good in the common area so I was able to upload a few photos and get some posting done.
  12. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Looks like you are going to miss Playa El Tunco in El Salvador unless you head south from Honduras, I guess the flour pupusas will have to wait for another trip! If you are into surfing El Tunco is the place.
    Keep up the reports those of us working are getting our fix.
  13. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Funny thing Cal, I did not miss El Tunco but I did miss the Pupusas! they were closed when I was there. Note the ride report is delayed a few days. As I write this I am in Leon Nicaragua! :D
  14. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Day 60 October 22 Cuilapa to El Tunco


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    The rocks, trees, and power poles along the road are painted the colors of political parties. If you thought we have a problem with election signs in Canada this takes it to another level.

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    I got going early today so I could get to the El Salvador border early and beat the crowds. The border was a short 60km ride so I didn’t mount my GPS thinking it was just a straight shot to the east. I started worrying however when 60, then 70km passed and no frontier in sight. So I installed the GPS and discovered I was way off track. I had gone 30 km he wrong way so I turned around and got back to proper route. Arriving at the border I changed Quetzales to US dollars. I decided to agree to let helpers assist me through since I was still uneasy about the process. It was confusing as they moved fast and did not explain what was happening. The experience left me without any new knowledge about how to cross the border without help. As a result of my ignorance I think I paid too many “fees”. To top it all off I later realized the money changers got $80 more from me than they should have. It was an expensive experience and left me feeling horrible for allowing it to happen especially because I don’t get flustered easily. It’s all part of the adventure.

    The Guatemalan border building

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    The bridge before El Salvador

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    There are some great border crossing write ups available so I won’t detail any here but here are a few things to remember. At El Salvador immigration they do not stamp your passport but they do make a record of you entering in the computer. At least they are supposed to. Make sure they do or when you try to leave there will be problems as I later found out. (remember this report is delayed and I have already departed El Salvador in real time)

    A common sight along the highway, corn drying

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    After getting fleeced the trip from border to El Tunco was wonderful, a nice end to a stressful day.

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    The ocean again, yeah!!

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    Cool tunnels

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    I found The Tortuga Surf Lodge hostal near the beach for $35 but didn’t care about the price, I just wanted to stop for the day.

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    In the hostal I met some Canadians and Americans who came here for the surfing. After a beautiful sunset I went for supper with them and learned how to play the card game euchre.

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  15. grahamspc

    grahamspc Smitty

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    You are a Canadian and you have never played euchre!!!!!!...I thought it was a Canadian pastime like curling and hockey..when I was at university in Waterloo Ontario-it was a daily pastime.....really enjoying your ride.
  16. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Apparently if you are from the center of the universe euchre is the game:rofl
    Never played bridge either
  17. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Day 61 October 23 El Tunco to San Miguel

    CLICK FOR MAP

    Today was just a short 160km day to get me close to the border. I actually posted today’s photos with yesterdays post, oops.
    I decided to find a nice hotel so I could get a really good sleep. I ended up in the Hotel Florencia, a pretty nice place for which I paid $49 for the night. I’m so behind on my sleep that I forgot to take any photos of the place or the brand new KTM Adventure parked out front.

    I spent a while reading about border crossings and fell asleep pretty early. Tomorrow is a big day.
  18. folknride

    folknride Old Adventurer

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    I just got caught up with your RR. Your write up and photos are the best! Fantastic work! :clap:clap:clap:clap
    We're just back from our Mediterranean trip - no moto sadly, just a big old cruise ship. Came back with a burning desire for a motorcycle tour of Spain. Are you in? (Now that you are fluent)
    I (and many others) had a nice, and perhaps last of 2013, ride yesterday, as there is snow on the ground this AM. :puke1
    Safe travels, as we all live vicariously through you.
  19. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Thanks Ron,
    I have been meeting quite a few Germans who all say that Europe is a great place to ride and very safe. Someday a ride there will be a reality.

    I'm glad you had a great trip and I feel so sorry for you northerners right now:evil
  20. DRRambler

    DRRambler AKA Albertastrom

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    Day 62 October 24 San Miguel, El Salvador through Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua


    First, a quick apology for the lack of photos. The last few days have really tested me. One of the reasons I wanted to do this trip was to be challenged and indeed the borders did a number on me. I'm not complaining, just making excuses. Don't worry my head will get back into the game.


    What a day today was. I left San Miguel at 7am and by 8 I was being mauled by helpers at least 2km before the border. I was determined to cross by myself today and I told them all to go away. Eventually I needed help because I had a problem with the El Salvador immigration department. At least that was the story. The agent claimed that they had no record of me entering El Salvador and he even called the other border to get them to check. Of course I had to pay a fee of $11.00 (I got a receipt). By this time I enlisted the help of an English speaking helper who was translating for me. For all I know they are all in cahoots together including the Honduras immigration. The story goes on with Honduras immigration saying the problem from El Salvador is also a problem in Honduras. I’m starting to feel like the mark of all marks and just want to get the hell out of there. The helper and his two mates actually did help with regards to paperwork and copies and process. Despite the feeling of having “sucker” written all over my face I was pleased that they expedited the legit stuff and gave real advice about Honduras. Of course they claimed they had to grease a number of officials to prevent me from paying an exorbitant fine so including their “tip” I paid $100. This border took 3 hours. Man, would I like to come back to Central America again and do the borders once more with the knowledge I’m gaining.

    I spent the next 137km on high alert waiting for all kinds of checkpoints or shakedowns. This based on reading I had done. Of six military/police checkpoints that I encountered I was stopped once and only for about 30 seconds.

    Honduras...or maybe Nicaragua, the day was a blur.

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    The Nicaragua border was cake! The only problem I had was I missed the Nicaragua immigration/customs building entirely and had to turn around to get my stuff done. I paid $12 for mandatory insurance, a few bucks for fumigation that they did not do, and $12 for a tourist card. I spent less than an hour at this border. I hope Costa Rica and Panama go that smoothly.

    100km later I was in Leon at about 4pm looking for a hotel. I found a Hostal with private room for $20 and set out looking for food. I discovered Leon has plenty of hostals near the central plaza and a number of very old looking churches. It was getting dark by the time I found a hamburger stand in the plaza. Again few photos, sorry I wasn'’t focused on pictures today.