Virginia to Ushuaia on Dirt Bikes

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by chip8150, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. chip8150

    chip8150 Adventurer

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    Thanks for the recommendations! Hope to meet you in Honduras!
    #21
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  2. ThirtyOne

    ThirtyOne unfiltered

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    Likewise. Safe travels.
    #22
  3. KShow

    KShow Been here awhile

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    Chip and I alternate doing the (so far) daily blog updates, this would have been yesterdays, if I hadn't put it off till today.

    Oaxaca O'clocka

    KS-Thursday

    Ok, so I had to start off with a cheesy title. That's just how things happen some days. Yesterday had us starting out our ride in Puebla, a rather sizeable city about an hour or so from Mexico City, which is huge city. I remember coming over the hill into Mexico City and thinking how it reminded me of Seoul Korea, enormous. And traffic was very similar. We lost a couple hours there in traffic because my GPS dumped us off onto a surface street. Most cities in Mexico do not have highways that run through them like we are used to in the US.
    I guess I should explain the navigation setup I'm using on the bike. There are a total of 4 operational navigation units in my possession. It may sound excessive, but there is a reason for the redundancy, besides the fact that my license plate is PERDIO, which means "lost" in Spanish. Just did that one for fun, and it got some laughs at the Mexican border, after the confusion got straightened out. It seems they don't have personalized plates here in Mexico, and they initially thought I had lost the plate off my bike, and was still trying to get into their country without one. My personal cell phone, stays protected in the pocket of my riding jacket. The other 3, which I shall call "Winkey, Blinkey, and Nod" (Some of us not so young ones may remember the nursery rhyme that comes from). Winkey and Blinkey are an almost identical pair of 12 year old Garmin Nuvi car nav units which snap into a holster mounted behind my fairing. Only using one at a time, the other tucked away in luggage, They get their names due to their extreme sensitivity to input voltage, just the slightest lapse in power sends them into restart mode, taking about 45 seconds to get back into full guidance duty. Which usually happens about 30 seconds before a major intersection on a convoluted foreign highway system. Some days either one will go all day without a single hiccup, other days, the vibrations and jolts from choppy roads will have them in an almost constant state of reload. I am not a fan of USB power connections for anything that moves, its just a poor design for real world use. The maps they are running off of are a free "Garmin open street map" downloaded onto an SD card that fits into the back of the units. I have circled the globe using those maps and GPS units and have had excellent results and accuracy, whenever they were running.
    And then there is Nod, a recently discontinued Kyocera DuraForce XD. An oversized, overbuilt, waterproof beast of a smartphone. It lives on another mount behind my fairing next to whichever Garmin I'm using for the day. It handles navigation as well as being connected to my helmet via Bluetooth for music, or downloaded lessons of Coffee Break Spanish. After being almost flawless for 3500 miles, its starting to show its true colors. Its navigation is OsmAnd+ a stand alone system that does not need any cell signal to find where you are, thanks to previously downloaded maps. However, it does not always agree with its neighbor, or anyone else. There are sometimes radio discussions between Chip and I as to what the 4 nav units operating between the two bikes are pointing us towards, usually we go with the best 3 out of 4, or 2, or sometimes we are lucky enough to see a road sign. Back to Nod, it has resorted to powering itself down for no apparent reason lately. On a couple occasions it has taken multiple tries to get the phone to turn back on, and twice it has reloaded and analyzed its entire operating system, taking over 30 minutes to do so. Hopefully you're not too bored by now, but I felt it was worth explaining some of the systems that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Anyway, back to the ride.
    The road from Puebla to Oaxaca was toll road the whole way, pretty good cruising. Its nice sometimes to be able to relax a bit while riding, not that we don't enjoy hours of countless mountain twists and turns, but it does work on your brain a bit to keep your level of concentration and awareness at an acceptably safe level for hours on end. We passed a large volcano, extinct, that had snow on its peak, in southern Mexico. I was not expecting to see snow here, be we later checked the elevation of the volcano and it was over 14,000ft. We spent most of the day hovering around 7000ft elevation while riding through some beautiful high canyon country, before dropping slightly into Oaxaca. We're staying at one of the nicer hotels of the trip, yet priced way below any of our accommodations in the US. After checking in, we spent the evening walking around the downtown central district, sampling food and drink from some of the many restaurants in the area. Chip is constantly in search of the famous mole sauce from this region. I found a barber and got another shave, I had neglected shaving duties enough to where my disposable razor just would not get the job done, and the chinstrap on my helmet was making life a bit uncomfortable. Chip will update everyone on today's activities, but I do want to mention that we dropped off our laundry to be done, almost 3 weeks on the road, two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, pants, and "others" ,and this is only the second time they have been washed in something other than a sink, or hotel pool. The charge was just over $1, which is usually less than the amount of loose change my wife gleans from my pockets when doing laundry at home. Time to wrap it up with some pictures.
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    Yes, there is snow in south central Mexico

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    Blinkey and Nod at the helm

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    Hillside of saguaro cacti

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    My writing station for the day, with our room back to the right.
    #23
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  4. chip8150

    chip8150 Adventurer

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    Friday - Mole Mecca

    Tonight we are again off the gringo trail staying in Santo Domingo Zanatepec. It was an interesting ride through the mountains and back down to near sea level - and crazy hot again. It was in the 90's when we got into town. Along the route after stopping for gas in Santa Maria Jalapa del Marques and exiting the town we came upon a long line of cars, trucks and busses that obviously had been sitting there for some time. People were mingling about outside their vehicles, busloads of people sitting/laying on the ground, etc. We must have passed by 100 vehicles weaving our way through the mess. We arrived to the cause of the jam up and saw a large group of people that had strung up a rope across the road and using a human baracade not letting anyone through. There as a string of vehicles coming from the other direction just as long. It was obvious they had all been there some time. We assumed it was some kind of protest. Once we got to the front we took shut off the bikes and took off our helmets and waited for the leader to approach. After a short conversation in Spanish he indicated we could pass. They lifted the rope and let us through! What a relief. This was the only road going in the direction we were headed. The only other option would be to backtrack around 200k back to Oaxaca and take the northern route around the mountain. I wish I captured it on video but my SD card in my helmet cam was malfunctioning and would not record all afternoon.

    Shortly after that episode we connected to the autopista and started making good time. As we were approaching the largest windmill farm I have ever seen we soon found out why the choose that spot for the farm. The wind was the strongest we have expereinced so far - probably a good warm up for the notorious winds we will most likely encounter in Patagonia. We stopped at the first hotel we saw in Santo Domingo Zanatepec and it turned out to be pretty good in terms of price a location. There were small restaurant shack all around and a small market right next door. After dinner of quesidillas from a small stand next to the hotel we crossed the street to have some cold beers at the market that had some tables out on the front patio. It was being to cool down a bit so the evening was quite pleasant. After a bit a local guy who had rode up on his moto approached us and struck up a conversation. His English was about as good as our Spanish so it was an interesting exchange that ended with Ken getting challenged to an arm wrestling match (Ken won both right and left). We decided at that point it was time to call it a night and excused ourselves say we needed sleep for an early start in the morning.

    Yesterday was a layover day in Oaxaca - the center of the mole universe. For me this was to be a highlight of Mexico as I have had an obsession with mole for quite a few years. I've attempted to make it twice and it came out ok, but since I have only sampled it in restaurants it in the US, I didn't exactly know what really good mole is supposed to taste like. The recipe calls for over twenty ingredients and involves toasting the chiles, nuts and spices just right before combining everything into a sauce. Now I know the goal as I got to sample 5 of the 7 varieties while in Oaxaca.

    After a great breakfast at a cafe/cooking school we spent the rest of the morning walking around the Benito Juarez mercado - interesting and lots of fun watching the hustle and bustle of the vendors trying to sell their wares. I bought three paste balls of mole - verde, rojo and negro. It can be reconstitued into the sauce by adding water/chicken stock. This has been my only purchase so far that can justify taking space in my bags. I will carry it all the way to Ushuaia and back home on the plane - score!

    We had lunch at restaurant famous for their mole and I got the mole negro con pollo. It was delicious! Ken is not a huge mole fan and had the queso fundido con chorizo. We then we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around Oaxaca - a very interesting and historic but tourist loaded town. Most of the restaurant and bars had more tourists than locals. As a side note, our hotel was outstanding - the nicest of the trip so far named Hotel Maela and a great location in the center of downtown. Dinner was at a restaurant know for their mole and I talked Ken into the five mole sampler that was only offered for minimum two diners. I think he actually liked a couple of the varieties. We even got our rice spiked with chapulines (chile fried grasshoppers) - little baby ones that were more palatable than the large plump ones at the market. We were seating next to three college students from the US who had been in Oaxaca since September studying and staying with host families. What a great experience for them! One of the girls was from Battle Creek not far from where I grew up in Michigan. We had a nice conversation (in English) and it was a nice change to be able to converse in English. Our Spanish is still not good so communication with people we meet had been a struggle since we left Sayulita.

    Tomorrow we will stay in San Cristobal a historic city in the state of Chiapas. Our days our numbered in Mexico and we most likely will be crossing into Guatemala on Monday.

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    The goodness.

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    Cool and strange street mural.

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    Five mole sauce sampler.

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    Chapulines at the market.

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    One of many meat vendors at the market.

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    Entry to our classy hotel.

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    VIP secured parking in courtyard.
    #24
  5. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

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    Awesome, Ken! Thanks for pointing it out. Looks like a great writeup. I'll get started soon and be following. Que Dios los acompañe!
    #25
  6. dwj - Donnie

    dwj - Donnie Long timer

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    If you have not already tried it, put some of the mole sauce over the rice, especially that in the top picture.
    #26
  7. chip8150

    chip8150 Adventurer

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    Sunday - Comitan

    Not much exciting today as we only rode about 85k to Comitan from San Cristobal. The goal today was to just position ourselves closer to border in order to cross the next morning. The ride was easy and nice staying around 6-7000ft winding through the pines and small villages. Upon arriving to Comitan, we were pleasantly surprised on how clean and manicured the town was. I think this is where Edward Sissorhands retired as a large number of the trees and bushes were manicured in his fashion. We found a $18 hotel a few blocks from the town centre and walked up to find a spot on one of the many outdoor patio restaurants. The temps were nice in the low 60's. We enjoyed a few beers and snacks while watching some American football on the TV just inside the restaurant. Towards the end of the afternoon a parade came through the square and entertained us with local music and dancing.

    We headed back to the hotel before sunset and picked up some provisions at a supermarket along the route. We have not been carrying any food for camping - mainly because we haven't camped at all in Mexico, but expect to in Guatemala so want to have some food ready in our bags. Tomorrow we will cross the border which is about 1.5 hours away. We plan to get an early start to get through in the morning in order to have time to reach our destination - Quetzaltenango. Border crossings can be unpredictable so crossing in the mornings is a good idea so you have time to get somewhere before dark.

    On another note, by bike has been running quite well for almost a week now. The only issue has been pinging at full throttle at lower altitudes. Full throttle is needed when passing as we are on 350's and power is not exactly plentiful anyway.. We switched jets again tonight so hopefully that will eliminate the pinging so I don't have to baby the throttle. I do have a worn part in the carb which is causing it to pull too much fuel into the bowl so we have constantly had to mess around with the needle settings, jets, etc. to get it to deliver fuel properly.

    Looking forward to a new country tomorrow and experiencing the volcanos, good coffee and Guatemalan cuisine - which I have no idea what to expect. Mexico has been great and we will miss the food, people and beautiful terrain. Below are a few pics from our day in Comitan.


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    Family street parade.


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    View from the square.


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    Pretty little courtyard off the square.


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    Mural off the square.
    #27
  8. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

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    I love those parades. What a true zest for life!

    Great mural. Hacia el futuro!
    #28
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  9. KShow

    KShow Been here awhile

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    KS-Monday

    I guess you could call today another milestone, we crossed into a country neither of us has been in. We woke up this morning in Mexico, tonight we go to sleep in Guatemala. Everything went pretty smoothly today, nice ride from Comitan to the border, temps were just a bit on the cool side, which feels nice. Arriving at the border, we went first into the customs office, and had our passports stamped out of Mexico, then into the next office to show our motorcycle paperwork to prove we still have the bikes with us, and receive our $200 deposits back. That whole process took a whopping 20 minutes. There was loud music and fireworks going off outside while all this was going on. After that was complete, we rode across the street and parked in front of a restaurant, walked inside and ordered breakfast. Right about that time, a parade broke out and they closed the street. I though it was nice of Mexico to throw a celebration for us leaving their country. After breakfast was finished and the parade was over, we rode about another mile or two up to the Guatemala border. First stop was a fumigation station, where they spray your bike with a mystery chemical, and have you pay them for it, just so they can give you a receipt that nobody else will ask for. Money changers also came up and willingly exchanged our pesos for quetzals, at a very favorable rate, for them. Next step was into the immigration office to fill out our passport paperwork, and get more papers. After we paid them to enter the country, we went out to the next office, and went through the paperwork to legally bring our bikes into the country (kind of an important part for us). Then you take a piece of paper into the bank office next door, pay the amount, get a stamp, then walk back out to the other office, and give them that piece of paper, then they give us more paper, and walk out and put a sticker on each bike. Its an interesting process, and didn't take too long in this situation, but for me it is helped by trying to play a happy tune in your head while you wait, may look strange to some people, but it seems to work better then sitting there looking impatient and angry.
    Guatemala is a beautiful country, despite the trash and filth. The mountains are incredibly steep, and the roads wind and twist up through deep river valleys. Houses are built on impossibly vertical hillsides, with no driveway visible. I did catch a glimpse of a truck crossing a wooden suspension bridge, that I would have been hesitant to ride a motorcycle across. And most every pickup truck is loaded to the hilt with passengers. So far, the record that we have seen is 10 people in the bed of a Toyota pickup. We wound our way through the mountains, topping out at around 8500ft, luckily we had stopped before then and put the liners in our jackets for warmth. I will admit to expecting a bit more hot and rainy weather by this point, but there are times when I'm glad to be wrong. I'm sure we will have our experience with tropical heat and rain, but I guess we haven't made it to that point yet.
    Tonight we are in Quezaltenango, at a hotel that allowed us to shove our bikes into the corner of the entryway, one of the many benefits of traveling on small bikes. We walked around the central square and some food and drink, then made our way back to our hotel room. If anyone has traveled to Central America, you may have seen the shower with the electric heated shower head. They are a bit scary if you know anything about electricity. The power connections are in the shower with you, and wrapped in electrical tape just above your head. The ground wire is stripped back and attached to the water pipe by another wrap of electrical tape, in the shower. We have decided if someone wants to take a shower, the other person will be standing next to the in room breaker panel ready to throw the breaker if screams are heard from the shower. That's pretty much got if for today, were still route planning for our run towards Panama, hoping to get to Costa Rica and take a couple days off to play tourist.
    Picture time.
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    Our parade during breakfast


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    Awesome mountains, and why I won't hold the camera sideways.

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    Tucked in for the night
    #29
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  10. ThirtyOne

    ThirtyOne unfiltered

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    Yeah you made it to Xela! Nice! Check out the mirador. You can ride up there. Tons of things to do in that city and in the surrounding area.

    Oh! I forgot! Check out The Bake Shop (google it). Bring cash. Get there before noon as they sell out quickly. A plethora of home made donuts, home made breads, granola, everything. Mind blown.
    #30
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  11. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

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    Awesome!

    When you pay for this stuff at the border, do you use your credit card, have to pay in cash, or how?

    Just ten in the pickup bed? Keep riding, it's half empty! I think we had eight in the compact extended cab.
    I've seen five on a motorcycle.

    Those heated shower heads are perfectly safe, as long as the ground connection is good. If it's not, it just tingles a little bit. :D
    #31
  12. KShow

    KShow Been here awhile

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    All border transactions are done in cash, actually in Mexico, a credit card is next to useless. All gas and all but one hotel were paid in cash.

    Were about an hour or so from the El Salvador border, we're kicking things into high gear for a bit. I know that lots of people say you should slow down and see all the sights, that's all fine and good, for them. But this is our ride. I like to push fast, and far. Chip likes to take a bit more time sometimes, which is good, that helps me see some things I might otherwise miss. But we have decided to rip through a few countries in the next few days, get to Costa Rica, park the bikes for a bit and play tourist. I guess safety may play a part in that decision, who knows, not that we've felt danger anywhere, but Costa Rica is a country we've both been to, and feel very comfortable there, so that's where we'll spend some time. Plus, it's close to Panama City so we can set our timeline for crossing the Darien Gap and reduce potential delays.

    My wife flies into Quito on the 22nd, And I want to make dang sure I'm there when she lands. We're taking a 5 day trip to the Galapagos Islands, then she's renting a bike and we're going to ride around Ecuador for 4 or 5 days. Really looking forward to that.

    Tonight we are the only guests in a sketchy "love hotel?" in Guatemala. Our bikes are sitting outside our room, most gear still on them, and keys in the ignition. The compound is gated and locked, and there are two large German Shepard dogs on roving patrol. I've met the dogs, and I will not walk outside while they are out there. The bikes are safe.

    Ride report, cliff notes,, rode to Lake Attilan, bought mesh seat covers for $7, and they fitted them to the seats for us, breathable seating is a beautiful thing in central America. Also picked up a bolt to replace the zip ties holding my chain guard on, this time I applied loc-tite when I put it back together. Had lunch, ate a salad, met a Norwegian, had our first crash (Chip dropped it on a steep rocky climb, No damage to rider or bike) dodged rain, found lodging just before dark, doubled our room rate by drinking beer. That's the cliff notes, Chip will do the actual ride report for today.
    #32
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  13. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

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    Thanks Ken, so cash is King, probably need cards to get cash refills eh. I want to hear more about this Rocky climb as clearly you musta strayed from the beaten path. Not sure if i told you we have family in Ecuador, PM me if you want to talk about it there. Enjoy the trip and of course stay alert.
    #33
  14. ThirtyOne

    ThirtyOne unfiltered

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    Yep, cash. And if you're going to use the highway going through Mexico make sure that you have a lot of cash on you. Tolls vary greatly in price and are very close together. I remember some being 75 cents and 2 miles later I'd hit another one for $4. It was absurd.
    #34
  15. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

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    That is absurd! Sounds as bad as some places in this country. 76 / 195 south side of Richmond comes to mind. Find a way around.
    Haven't gone yet but picture myself taking the long way through towns and such riding a bike in Mexico. Avoiding tolls whenever possible there, too.
    The peajes on carreteras in Ecuador are typically $1 for livianos. Not sure if it's less for motos. That's for leaving and entering populated areas such as around Guayaquil. I've noticed they set them up in places where they're particularly hard to circumvent. jeje Imagínate. :D
    #35
  16. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    I would be interested in seeing the mesh seat covers if you could post a pic! Thanks!
    Best Regards....just jeff
    #36
  17. ThirtyOne

    ThirtyOne unfiltered

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    Oh, you can absolutely go through towns. Traveling by highway from north to south down the center of the country has its cost. It depends upon how much time you have to spend. Keep in mind Latin America is extremely dangerous later in the day and into the evening. This isn't the USA where you can safely travel by night. I would strongly suggest against rolling into town at dusk and beyond. Having said that, it's a small price to pay when getting from A to B to C. It's just annoying, that's all.
    #37
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  18. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

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    Mejor prevenir que lamentar! Agreed, the general consensus is its best to pull in to an unknown town where you want to stay by 3 or so. I can subscribe to that. As to the general dangers, there are areas where you're fine and areas into which one would be foolish to tread, just as in our country. A Discerning Traveler should be able to analyze the surroundings and act accordingly. One should be aware of cultural differences, and not just those to celebrate but those where caution is warranted as well. For example, anything left unattended is generally considered fair game. That means staying with and looking after your stuff or arranging for somebody to watch it for you, as it will be hard to find sympathy for leading others into temptation. And an underlying tone is that anybody out at night is looking for trouble. I've lived exceptions, like celebrating the new year at midnight in the city of Guayaquil when the streets are on fire as far as the eye can see, so that is not a hard-and-fast rule, but a general undercurrent. Other nights I've seen what I imagine to be some pretty shady characters from the window. So certainly it's a better bet to be out and about during the day, and in general it's best to keep a low profile and act like one "has business" there. Humility, genuine respect for the people and their culture, and an appreciation for being able to be there go a long way toward safety and having a good time. That's just a little of what I've learned in my decades of enjoying Hispanic people in my life and traveling in Latin American countries. Of course mileage varies and things evolve.

    As for taking the highway versus taking the city streets at night I was surprised to learn that the highway is considered more dangerous. I was told that people hang out on the highways and create blockages to stop vehicles and then rob money and stuff from the people. Apparently that's less of a problem on the busier city streets. As for me, I'll just stay holed up at night with rare exceptions.

    Happy Thanksgiving out there guys!
    #38
  19. chip8150

    chip8150 Adventurer

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    Lake Atitlan & El Salvador

    Tuesday

    We left Quezaltenango at a decent hour and planned to get across Guatemala to position ourselves to cross into El Salvador the following morning. The ride started out on perfect tarmac - the road winding up to 9500ft with big views of the countryside. Guatemala really is a beautiful country once you can look past all the trash that usually surrounds. Lots of fun long sweeping turns with perfect road conditions made for a good morning of riding. Our plan for the day was to ride to Lake Atitlan to see the lake, surrounding Volcanos and have lunch. On the outskirts of the town we saw a Suzuki dealership and stopped to see if they had the breathable seat covers we had been seeing since entering Guatemala. We also still needed a bolt for Ken's chain guard he broke off and an emulsion tube for my carb. We ending up scoring on the seat covers and bolt, but still no carb parts to be found. My bike is pinging badly at lower altitudes and we knew we would be dropping down to near sea level that afternoon. The lake was right around 5000ish feet and he lake and surrounding volcanos were quite the impressive view. We got to the town of Panajachel and found a lunch spot with table side parking and dined on salads and shrimp ceviche - not the freshest shrimp, but the vegetables were quite good. My body had been craving vegetables after days of dining on tacos and pupusas. Not sure the slaw mix on top of the pupusas qualifies as the recommended daily allowance of vegetables.

    After lunch we decided to head a different route out of the town from the way we came in. The way in was a steep grade down cobblestone streets with heavy traffic. Climbing out uphill in traffic would not have been fun. Garmin routed us on a road skirting the lake and then climbing out to the east. The road was strangely empty as we got further and further from the town and soon turned into cobblestone again - then to dirtied sand. rom dirt and sand to loose rock and deep rock infested ruts from runoff - and then started climbing up the hillside. Ok, wasn't exactly expecting this type of road, but we went with it - we do have dirt bikes after all. As the road switched back and forth up the hillside it became steeper and more challenging - all with blind corners not allowing line picking until the very last second. I ended up losing momentum on a particularily steep section while getting caught in a deep rock filled rut and dumped the bike. Luckily it was a slow speed crash and both me and the bike came out unscathed - only my confidence was shattered, at that point not knowing how much more dirt we had left. Luckily we hit the tarmac again a few minutes later and I was able to relax a bit. Looking at my GPS, we had climbed around 1200ft on that challenging dirt road.

    We then dropped from 6500ft to approximately 500 feet that afternoon. The sun was setting fast so we started looking for an auto hotel as there were very few towns in the area. We found one alone the roadside and pulled in the gates to be greeted by two large German Shepherds - at least we know bike security would be good. Soon a large gentleman came out to greet us and quoted us a rate for the night. He indicated that the gates were closed at 8pm and the dogs roamed the compound all night so we knew security would be good. Turns out he was a Frenchman who had been living in Guatamela for quite some time. He seemed like the kind of character that left France for a reason and probably couldn't go back. It was probably one of the most sketchy rooms we have stayed in on the trip as we shared it with lizards, cockroaches, ants and mosquitos. It was only the second time of the trip I had to deet up to go to bed. The bright side was that it did have a toilet seat on the head - which is not always the case.

    The next morning we were planning to finish off the 85k to the Guatemala/El Salvador border.


    Wednesday

    This morning Ken got up first and went outside to have a look at the weather and bikes and was instantly greeted by charging and barking dogs. I heard the dogs barking and a second later Ken was racing inside barely slamming the door before the dogs got him. We then waited for the Frenchman to get up before going back outside to load the bikes - damn scary dogs! We got one of our earliest starts, hitting the road at 7:30am. When we arrived to the border crossing the scene was quite hectic. I guess we got lucky on the previous two borders as we were basically the first in line to every window we approached. About a half mile from the border a bunch of guys on small motorbikes started chasing us down and motioning us to pull over. We knew instantly these were "helpers" that would assist with processing the necessary paperwork and guide through the maze of steps required for entry for a fee. We had not used any helpers during the previous crossings as it just wasn't necessary and it was all pretty straightforward and easy to navigate. This time we decided to go ahead and solicit their assistance as we had heard the El Salvador portion can be a bit confusing. The whole process took about 3 hours. There were many trucks lined up coming into and out of El Salvador and most booths were 20 people deep in line. The helper would use his connections and get our paperwork in front of a government agent to stamp and process w/o having to wait their turn in line behind the truckers. I think without the helper we would have been looking a 6 hours instead of 3 so I guess the money we paid for their assistance was worth it. Nothing was clearly signed and some of the offices were tucked around corners, etc. El Salvador uses US currency so we changed our Guatemalan Quetzal for a familiar currency - now not having to do math in our heads every time we have a transaction. Unfortunately we will only be in El Salvador for two days so the convince will be short lived.

    After getting through the border the road dumped us into the congested town of La Hachadura. There was lots of road construction with only one lane open to get through town. The flaggers were directing traffic to the one available lane, so the line while waiting for the back and forth sharing of the one lane road was crazy long. The temps were in the 90's so we were heating up quickly in our gear. While we were wondering about the lane splitting rules for motorcycles in El Salvador, a motorbike sprinted past us in the right shoulder so we followed suit, weaving our way in between the cars, pedestrians and vendor booths along the roadway. We would have been there for hours had we not started splitting. Once free of traffic, we made our way along the coast for a bit and stopped for lunch at a roadside stand. Three US dollars and tasty!

    The road then wound around and took us a bit inland before coming back down to the beach. It was here, in a town called Lomas de San Blas, we found a cool little beach hotel called Sol Bohemio to stay for the night. This is most definitely our nicest location spot so far. This resort is right on the beach with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. We actually fully went swimming in the ocean waves this time - in Sayulita, we basically had just waded in up to our knees. The surf was pretty powerful and you could feel the currents trying to suck you out to sea, so we stayed in fairly close to shore where you could still touch bottom. The hotel had a restaurant and the food was pretty good - the fresh shrimp ceviche was the highlight. I ended up falling asleep early as I had not slept well the previous night while Ken scoured the beach by flashlight with the night manager looking for turtles. Unfortunately none were spotted. We plan to spend Thanksgiving day enjoying the morning at our hotel on the beach, with a late start in the cards due to the short distance we need to cover. The goal is to position ourselves for a double border crossing on Friday - El Salvador to Honduras and then Honduras to Nicaragua. Ken has a contact in Managua that we hope to visit.

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    Sunset on Wednesday evening from the hotel.


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    Our little hotel on Playa San Blas.


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    Not a bad view to enjoy an afternoon cerveza from.


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    Picking our way though border town traffic.
    #39
    ONandOFF and just jeff like this.
  20. KShow

    KShow Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    600
    Location:
    Shenandoah Valley, VA
    Trying to get a picture of the seat covers to upload, data connection is not the best, but they're very similar to the "sit and fly" covers that Procycle offers, But these have no name and only cost $7 US.
    #40
    just jeff likes this.