Xplore2Gether - California to Ushuaia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JimsBeemer, Mar 6, 2019.

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  1. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    We arrived in Huatulco the next day (Tuesday) and are there now as I type. We spent two days at the ocean - one day we drove to a local beach and rented snorkel gear and explored the reef on our own - the next day I arranged for a boat to take us out all day for fishing and snorkeling. The boat owner was Adolfo, and his son Alex went along as well - Alex dove with us and showed us things we might have missed otherwise. We caught fish, and Adolfo took us to a beach restaurant and they cooked our fish for us for lunch. And we snorkeled at two different locations - a very long, tiring day, lots of sun, and mucho diversion (Lots of fun). But one of us forgot to put sunscreen on the back of HER legs and is a bit uncomfortable today! But it isn't to bad. We are hanging out in Hualtco today to catch up on a few things and plot our course from here to Guatemala, and to read upon border crossing details. From what I've read, the easiest crossing is from Belize, which ironically was our original plan. But we'll make it, I'm sure! 20190328_130626.jpg
    First day at the beach: Playa La Entrega Considering the day and the location, it was not crowded at all.

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    More Playa La Entegra. There are (I think) seven developed beaches in the Huatulco area, each in a sheltered cove like this. And there are a few that are part of a park that are not developed and you have to hike or boat to. These later beaches were almost empty when we went out the second day on the boat.
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    Got to have a selfie in the mix ... :-)
    #61
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  2. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Here are some pictures from our second day when we went out on the boat. I would like to promote the boat owner's business:

    https://www.huatulcobonito.com/

    I contacted him through the web site and his web site developer got back to me quickly and made the arrangements. There are a number of boats you can hire, and I'm sure many are owned by excellent people - but Adolfo is a safe bet! He offers a no-frills trip: He brings an ice chest that you can stock with your own beverages if you want, and he'll take you to the lunch restaurant but you have to buy your own lunch. The cost ($2,500 peso) was $50 to $100 USD less than others, and we spent way less than that on lunch!. He does pick you up and drop you off at your hotel and provides fishing poles and gear. We needed to rent snorkel equipment so he drove us around to another playa where he had someone waiting for us with gear to rent. And he took us to where the fish were! When we got in for lunch, several other boat owners were talking with him, and we were the only ones that day that came in with fish. His 21 year old son Alex was with him and the two of them really wanted us to have a great day and worked to make it so. He was completely flexible - if you want to fish all day, you can start early in the AM and do that. If, like us, you want to sleep in and mainly snorkel and fish as a bonus, then he'll do that (we left at 10:00AM). And we still caught fish! And saw half dozen sea turtles while out fishing - tried to photograph but difficult. A great day made better by great people.
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    I caught one!

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    And now Carol has something on!
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    She caught two at once! There were two lures on each line.

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    Adolfo and his son Alex in the back of the boat. My lovely wife in front. Love the smile - she had a great day (we both did).
    #62
  3. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Some snorkeling pics. Taken using a GoPro Hero 7 "Black" camera - same one I mount on my motorcycle. It is the second time I've used it underwater - it is a major psychological battle for me to take a piece of electronics and immerse it in salt water! But it is fine. I have a crack in the LCD display - I bought a tube of silicone RTV, and both times I've used it in the ocean, I've cleaned the area with the crack and smeared a film of RTV on it and let it cure overnight. Has worked so far! GOPR0584.JPG
    Alex - the boat owners son, diving below me. He clearly enjoys the ocean, and enjoyed showing us the reef. And he dives and swims like a fish! When I was young ....

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    This is one of the beaches that are part of the park system. The developed beaches were more crowded this day than the first day we were here - but there were very few people at the less accessible beaches.

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    Alex triggered this puffer-fish into "puffer mode" and brought it for carol to see. He was cute, and it was fun to watch him "deflate" as he swam back to the bottom.

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    Sting ray - he was settling into the bottom, stirring up the sand.
    #63
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  4. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Here is a very short video I took while snorkeling. Alex triggered a different species of puffer and brought it to Carol - that is what she is holding. But I'm swimming upside down (was necessary for photo-artistic reasons related to a fish I was trying to film) so it is sort of cool because it looks like Carol is swimming in the sky or something. Also - the GoPro microphone works underwater - listen for the "static" - it is not static. It is coming from the coral, and as I read it is either from barnacles or some sort of shrimp. It is constant, and gets louder as you dive down to the coral.



    I've almost quit shooting video, because the post-production effort is so large and the storage requirements as well. But the GoPro with a remote (on my tank bag) is great for capturing road-side shots on-the-go.
    #64
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  5. ADVer

    ADVer Been here awhile

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    Agree that basecamp is a pain to use and plan routes with.
    Haven’t tried this site myself but have heard it’s good for google directions to GPX.
    https://mapstogpx.com/

    Another option: You could download (using internet when available) the google map of the area you’re in and use google maps/ directions without data. Delete and download the next map as you travel.
    #65
  6. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Some catch up necessary (I'm posting this from Guatemala!). We decided that we would cross the border into Guatemala at La Mesilla, so with that in mind we left Huatulco and headed east. I had read about the wind that you encounter when traversing the narrowest part of the Mexico isthmus along hwy 190 - and we weren't disappointed (I guess). In fact, the winds could have been much worse, from what I understand, but it was still no fun. We made it that night to the little roadside town of San Pedro Tapanatepec, where we stayed at the Hotel Ribena, which has a nice interior courtyard for parking and was cheap. Dinner was fun - it was Sunday and many of the restaurants were closed. This is one of those little Mexican towns where the main street through town (the highway) is paved, but all the side streets are dirt or something close to it. SO we are walking around these dirt streets using Google Maps trying to find a place to eat that is open - we walk towards what Google says is a "Restaurant" and I don't see a Restaurant, but I do see a plastic table and chairs setup under a tree in someones front yard. And there is some sort of outdoor cooking setup, and so we walk up and I ask "Estas abierto? (are you open?) and this woman says "Si" and begs us to sit at the plastic table under the tree. Our choices were tacos, tostados or burritos - carne, no other options. We chose burritos. The daughter comes up and asks us if we want "bebidas" (drinks), and adds "Coco Cola?". That wasn't clear and I really wanted a beer - so I said "Tienes otre bebidas o solemente Coco Cola?" (Do you have anything other than Coke). She smiled and said apologetically "Solemente Coco Cola" and I smiled back and said "Estonces, quiero Coco Cola!" ("Then, I want Coco Cola!). She laughted and brought us our cokes. Then her mom brought us a couple of ripe mangoes and a knife while she finished our burritos. We had noticed that the region around this town had a lot of Mango orchards, and she pointed out the packing shed next door where they were packing mangoes - I think it was part of the family business. They were muy bueno, as were the burritos she made. It was a fantastic meal that cost a few bucks and we really enjoyed interacting with the Mom and her daughter.
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    Our route. The windy part was from the Pemex to about two-thirds of the way to San Pedro Tapanatepec.

    20190331_183254.jpg Our restaurant!

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    The mom cooking our dinner. The truck in the background is backed up to the packing shed where they were packing Mangos.

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    Carol peeling the mangos, the burritos we were served are on her plate. It was all good.
    #66
  7. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    The next day we rode on to San Cristobol de Las Casas - it was a nice ride because it took us up out of the heat and humidity (which I failed to mention in previous post - it was windy, hot and humid on the previous days ride!). Going up into the hills out of San Pedro Tapanatepec, I stopped and took some photos that show the extend of the mango orchards in that valley. We had made reservations to stay at the Hotel Jovel, picked based on Carol's reading in Lonely Planet. We called to make the reservation (always fun given my poor Spanish skills) and I tried to explain that we needed secure parking - they said it was no problem. When we got there, the "parking" was two blocks away! But it was secure :-)
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    The route
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    Mango trees in the valley, taken from the road as we headed out, looking back towards San Pedro Tapanatepec.
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    A rare roadside viewpoint. Yep- if you looked over the edge, it was a trash dump. But the view was fantastic.
    DSC00501.JPG On the road to San Cristobol. Lots of wonderful views like this on that ride.
    #67
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  8. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    San Cristobal de Las Casas (San Cristobal for short) really surprised us - it is definitely a "destination city" - not just a stop off point on the way to the border. And the fact we did not know that but ended up there anyway is a testament to our lack of trip planning and good fortune! Once we got there and realized what a special place it was, we extended our stay an extra day. It is a lovely old Colonial town, similar to Oaxaca in many ways. Chocolate is a big thing in this region, so you can find some really good chocolate stores, and one night at dinner Carol had a hot chocolate spiked with a local liquor called "Posh" that was just fantastic. Lots of museums - we enjoyed the amber museum. The Mexican state of Chiapas (where San Cristobao is located) is the third largest supplier of amber in the world (we learned)! One of the crazy things that happened there was we crossed paths again with Seth, our fellow nomad from Australia. We found that he was also headed to the La Mesilla, and he proposed that we ride together for a few days and do the crossing together, which sounded great to us, so we planned it so.
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    View from the hotel patio. Note the mountains in the background of this and the other pictures. San Cristobal is in a valley surrounded by mountains.

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    This is the hot chocolate with posh that Carol ordered - it was served in a bowl shaped like a cacao pod, and on a saucer shaped like a cacao leaf. And it tasted heavenly!
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    One of many several church buildings in San Cristobal. It is an old city with a wealth of colonial era architecture. Note the mountains in the background!
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    Me checking the menu - there were so many nice places to eat. And again - note the mountains in the background!
    #68
  9. 95Monster

    95Monster Been here awhile

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    Ahh, Mexico. How I'd love some good Mexican food right now. Once you cross that border, tacos will be hard to come by. Travel safe. Have fun!
    #69
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  10. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    So as mentioned, we agreed to team up with Australian-nomad Seth on his trusty KLR for the Guatemala border crossing as La Mesilla. Carol and I were planning to stay in a pretty basic hotel in Cuauhtemoc, the border city on the Mexico side. But Seth said he'd found an interesting place to camp on iOverlander that was an hour from the border. He opened the app, showed me the pictures and I immediately said "Oh yeah - we're doing that!" Was not a hard sell - as the photo's below should make clear.

    The place we went to is called Lagos de Calon, and it is an oasis, just a fascinating place. For 25 pesos each, we camped and swam in beautiful, crystal clear water, walked to some Mayan ruins where we were the only people, and then strolled into the nearby village for dinner. Only downside was that it was hot and humid - which was ok when we were swimming and sitting outside, but it really didn't cool down until very late and it was hard sleeping in the tent, even with all the vents open - it was dead still, no breeze. So we slept ok, but not well. Got me thinking about the possible use of a battery powered fan! Even a small breeze would have been welcomed.

    The next day when we actually drove through Chuauhtemoc, the contrast between where we had stayed and where we were originally planning to stay just became all the more stark! Even if you are not going to the border, Lagos de Calon is a very worthy destination. We all rated it up there as one of the top places we've been to in Mexico. It is a place I'd like to see again, and spend a few more days.
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    Seth and I examining some Papaya

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    There were pools like this all over - and the water was a perfect temperature for swimming. And crystal clear.
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    Carol doing what she does - making friends with total strangers despite the language barrier :-)

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    Like this - everywhere you looked. Lots and lots of beautiful, clear water.
    #70
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  11. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Here are some pics of the Mayan ruins. Note the crowds :-) 20190404_154643.jpg
    Had to throw in a picture of me! Carol does take some of the photos (some of the best ones, truth be told).
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    Seth and Carol coming up the steps of the temple pyramid. Yes it is that steep! And the steps are only about 6 inches wide. And I was wearing flip-flops, bad call.
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    Note the water in the background. Seth pointed out after we were walking back to our campsite that at this point we were probably a few hundred yards from the Guatemalan border.
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    This is an arena where they played a Mayan ball game that was prevalent throughout mesoamerica.
    #71
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  12. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    The next morning we packed up, made some coffee and headed to the border, with the goal of finding a restaurant with WiFi so I could do some last minute updates on my bank cards to update my travel notifications so I wouldn't get blocked when using them in Guatemala. With Seth in the lead, he found a restaurant that was literally across the street from the Mexican Banjercito and Migracion office, and they had WiFi. Worked well enough to get done what I needed, and the breakfast was good. Then we headed to the Banjercito to cancel out our TVIP's, and to Migracicion to get our tourist visa exit stamp. While we were at the Banjercito, two other riders from Vancouver Canada showed up on Suzuki DLR's. Seth knew them - he had run into them earlier at a hostel. Turns out they are booked on the Stahlratte for the same June 4 departure from Panama as Carol and I! We now know six of the people, counting us, that will be on that voyage, (the other two being Chris and Sharon whom I've mentioned earlier). And as our experience seems to go - we ran into the Canadians twice again on our second day in Guatemala. The world is not so big :-)

    The Mexico side of the border crossing was an efficient piece of cake compared to Guatemala. That said - we were prepared, but it was slow. But one thing worthy of note is that we were not bombarded with fixers or by money changers, as some have reported at this crossing. In fact we had zero fixers approach us, and almost had to hunt down the money changers (not quite - But they were not pushy.). The exchange rate we got when converting our MXN peso to Quetzal was pretty lousy. I wanted to find changers on the Mexican side, because I'd read that once you on the Guatemalan side they know you have to get the Quetzal and you are at their mercy. But we saw no changers on the Mexican side. So we just had to suck it up and pay the going rate. I tried two different changers and got the same rate quoted - price fixing :-)

    It took us four hours on the Guatemala side. The sequence of events was same as you can read on any of the border crossing sites - it was just slow. First you get your bike "disinfected" and pay a fee and get a receipt for that. Then you go to migracion, but that is in two steps. After they do some paper work, you are told you have to get copies of some of the docs (like the passport stamp) but the copy place is quite a hike up the street, a street lined thick with shops selling all kinds of stuff, but no signs saying "Copia" or such. Then you come back and finish at Migracion, and then move to the next building for the vehicle import permit. That was where we lost a lot of time - and in fact Seth got out two hours quicker than we did (we let him go first because we agreed we'd go separate ways from the border). For one we had two bikes to process. I tried to get the guy behind the window process both in parallel, but no, one at a time. Ok. He finished mine, and then (and this is the real kicker), after he was started on Carol's paperwork, he glanced at the clock, bundled up all her papers (passport, title, driver's license, copies of all that, plus more - about 12 pages) and handed it to me through the window in a big pile, and left! With no explanation. I thought he was coming back, but after about 30 minutes it was clear he was gone. I guess his shift ran out and that was that. So I had to wait in line for the Canadian DR' guys (who were originally behind us) to finish to start Carol's process all over again with another agent. Then we went to get SIM card's for our phone; we had watched Seth and the Canadian's (sorry guys if you are reading this - I have forgotten your names!) walk off and come back with those in a snap. But when we went, for some reason it was a big hassle to get the cards activated and took about 30 minutes.

    So - by the time all that was done, it was 3:30PM by the time we hit the road. And the road is a crowded mess of poor tarmac with topes every 1/4 mile or so for quite a ways from the border - slow going! We were both really worn out and wanted to stop, but I could not find any place that looked really habitable. We stopped on the side of the road so I could do some research, and I found a hotel an hour out and it looked ok. We finally pulled into the Fuente Real Hotel in Huehuetenango (locals call it Huehue). It was a great hotel and had an Italian restaurant where I had some honestly good Lasagna and some decent wine. A nice way to end our first day in Guatemala. And we are in Central America! A new phase of our trip. 20190405_121404.jpg
    Carol with one of the two Candian fellows (I will get their names in Panama if not sooner!), at the Mexican Banjercito.

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    While Carol was waiting for me to take care of business at the Banjercito, she made friends with this Guatemalan gentleman, who it turns out owns a Cocao farm and chocolate business in Guatemala. He was taking a load of product into Mexico, and he gave Carol some samples of chocolate covered coffee beans. It was REALLY good.

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    Seth and I dealing with the money changers on the Guatemalan side, just after getting the bikes "disenfected". You need Quetzel right away to pay for the fee, so they are there waiting.

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    At left is Seth, lucky dog, pulling out from Guatemalan migracion, on his way into Guatemala. You see Carol's and my bikes in the foreground - we didn't leave for another two hours. On the Mexican side, I did not need any copies of documents but Seth needed several and had to go get them made - we had no idea why, but I joked it was because WE were riding BMW's. If that logic plays out, it was very much the reverse on the Guatemala side! Big KLR advantage there.
    #72
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  13. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Here is a link to a short YouTube video I made as we pulled out of the border, and a few pictures of the Fuente Real Hotel in Huehue.



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    The evening was quite nice for sitting out on the patio and playing my Guitalele and catching up on some news on the computer.

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    It was getting dark so it is hard to see - but Carol and her bike are in the background in front of the hotel.
    #73
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  14. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    The next day (April 6, 2019) we rode to Chichitenango (Chichi), where Carol had read there was to be a big market the next day, one of the largest in Guatemala. She wanted to find a small blanket to use for warm weather camping. What we did not know was that we arrived on the day of the Procession of Jesus of Nazareth, a religious festival I assume related to the season of Lint, in which they tote this huge float with a figure of Christ carrying his cross, all around town. They started at 4:30PM and finished at 11:00PM. They decorate the streets with detailed murals made of colored paper, flowers and stones, and then the procession just walks over it. It was quite a site - and we just stumbled on it. In Chichi, we stayed (are staying) at the Hotel Chalet where I sit as I write this. Next post will be from or about Lake Atitlan, our next stop! Oh - the first 2/3 of the ride from Huehue to Chichi was wonderful - fantastic mountain roads on good tarmac with almost no traffic. Quite the change from the chaos of the border road. It turned south at the end - bad tarmac on very twisty roads, but overall it is highly recommended.

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    Chicken bus! On the road to Chichi. I had heard about these - but they are truly a sight to behold. Old school buses, totally decked out in chrome, wild paint and tons of lights. They are everywhere. Carol read that they will stop anywhere for anyone, and there is no maximum capacity! More than once we saw a bus with a guy standing on the roof re-organizing cargo while the bus was going down the road.

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    We stopped on the side of the road for our signature lunch (peanut butter and jelly) and as is often the case, were joined by some dogs. The one in the foreground is horribly malnourished, which you see to often. Ribs poking out, and it was nursing. We threw it some bread (not really dog food but all we had) before we left but I doubt it is long for this world. Was very patient and friendly. Sad.

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    We got stopped at some construcion, and this lady came out with goods to sell, carrying them on her head. Not long after I took this, "the two guys" from Canada on DLR's pulled up next to us. We chatted while waiting, and then they sped off ahead of us. But later that day, we passed them as they came out of a restaurant, and I honked and waved. But that wasn't the last of it.

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    A while later - what is that in my rear-view mirror? Two DR's with Canadian plates! See you in Panama guys!
    #74
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  15. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Some pictures of the procession of Jesus of Nazareth in Chichi, and of the market.
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    They decorate the streets in the path of the procession in elaborate murals. Carol said just now that she thinks it is colored sawdust, not flowers.

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    This is the float - it was dark and so it is hard to see, but note the long string of men carrying it - there were that many again on the other side! Watching them turn a corner was fascinating. They do this back and forth shuffle, left-foot, right-foot, left-foot, ... in unison, and as they do this, men at the front and back push and pull to "twist" the float in the desired direction. The shuffling motion allows the bearers to adjust their footing gradually as they turn the corner. There as a second smaller float carried by women.

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    Market day! That is Carol walking athead ofme in the sea of people. Such colorful clothing.
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    People come from all over for the market day in Chichi. They came by car, by bus (big and small) and ... by packed Toyota pickup!
    #75
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  16. Ohio_Danimal

    Ohio_Danimal If I die trying, at least I tried

    Joined:
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    I’ve been so caught up in my own shit that I’ve ignored other’s trips and reports.
    Caught up now and loving your RR. Seeing lots of familiar stuff and am enjoying your style.
    Maybe I’ll see you down there in SA. I should be on the Stahlratte later in June.
    #76
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  17. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Are you on the June 25 departure? That would put us three weeks ahead of you - but we go slow! So could well happen we cross paths.
    Jim
    #77
  18. Ohio_Danimal

    Ohio_Danimal If I die trying, at least I tried

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    With my current timing, and based upon an anticipated slow pace, it’ll either be then or the first one in July.
    #78
  19. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From Chichi, we headed to Lake Atitlan. I love the connections I've made through various forums and even chance meetups. Some time ago I posted on an advrider thread regarding tool boxes for motorcycles, in which I mentioned our (at the time) upcoming trip. Gregg Stone (the OP of the thread) reached out to me and said I should contact him once I made it to Guatemala. So I did! He invited us to stay with he and his wife in their home in Panajachel ("Pana") which is one of the main towns (easily accessible by road) on Lake Atitlan. Gregg and Jess were awesome hosts, and they have traveled extensively in Central and South America and gave us a lot of good tips. And Moxie, their German Shepherd goes with them on their moto-adventures in a special carrier Greg designed for Jess's G650GS! They have recently started a business selling dog (and some non-dog) related accessories that are made by local Guatemalan artisans, and you can meet them and see their products in May 2019 at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff Arizona; they will have a booth.

    https:\\www.ruffontheroad.com

    Thanks to Greg and Jess's hospitality, I had a good place to change oil on both bikes, which was getting overdue. I also bled the rear brakes on Carol's bike, and did some other minor maintenance. Greg led me on a back-road ride one day that had some great views of the lake, and I thoroughly enjoyed the dirt portions. It was nice to have a chance to do some dirt when Carol didn't have to endure it with me; she was happy to stay behind for that one :-)

    Carol and I spent a full day exploring the villages of San Pedro and San Juan, which we got to by taking a boat-taxi across the lake. We also got our first ride in a "Tuk tuk", the little three-wheeled taxi's that are so prevalent. Still no ride in a Chicken Bus - may pass that one up! I have seen some crazy things with those buses, including today when someone boarded one in highway traffic (four lane highway), with traffic moving. This guy just walked out through moving (multi-lane highway) traffic, the buss opened it's door, and he hoped in. Bus never stopped, it was going about 10mph.
    With Greg and Jess in Pana.jpg Carol and I with Jess and Greg - wonderful host!

    Jess n Moxie.jpg
    Jess with Moxie, their travel companion.

    20190410_100527.jpg From the water taxi - I think it is San Pedro!

    DSC00604.JPG Greg and I on our ride
    #79
    wilfred, GF-kam and 95Monster like this.
  20. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Oddometer:
    258
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Some more pics from Lake Atitlan area. 20190410_103548.jpg
    Carol at Cafe we stoped at in San Pedro based on Greg and Jess' recommendation. They had bagels - I ordered one just to see what a bagel in Guatemala would take like! It was ok - not great, but ok.

    DSC00642.JPG
    This was the view from the coffee shop! I could have sat there for hours. It was lovely.

    20190410_114939.jpg
    This little fellow was trying hard to sell us hats in one of the shops in San Pedro. Unfortunately we did not need any hats - but he was very precocious!

    DSC00658.JPG
    Church with schoolyard in the background, San Pedro. The school kids were playing soccer - at another school nearby they were playing basketball. Go so far and find so much the same.
    #80
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