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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    From Panajachel (Lake Atitlan) we headed to Antigua. Gregg and Jess recommended we take the more scenic route, which we did. But then the main road we were supposed to be on was blocked for construction, and there was a detour. Rt 1, which was what our Google route had us on, was blocked, and we had to take a detour to the right. That is always a bit of an uncertain thing when you are traveling in an unfamiliar country/area, especially when you know that the average road quality is such that the nice pavement in front of you can instantly turn into a pot-hole infested dirt track! But this detour turned out to be spectacular, both in terms of the road quality and the views - and almost no traffic. I found the Google street view image (below) where we had to detour right off of Rt 1 - and interestingly enough, at the time the street view image was taken, the road blockage and detour were reverse - In that image, Rt 1 is open, but the detour road we took is closed. That explains the road quality we encountered - this side/local road has obviously been re-surfaced recently, and i guess Rt 1 was next in line.
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    Our route via Google timeline. Inset shows the detour we were forced to take. Turns out, that is the way you want to go!

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    Street-view image of the junction where we found situation reversed from what is shown here: For us, Rt-1 was blocked and the detour directed us to the road on the right. This may not be interesting to some/most readers - but this is blog is for our memories as well!

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    We stopped along the way several times just to take in the view.

    DSC00729.JPG Carol walking back to the road after a short hike for a better view of Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes.
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  2. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Here are a few more pics from "the detour"
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    That is Lake Atitlan in the background.
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  3. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    The drive into Antigua (including "the detour) as great. Then you reach Antigua, and the cobblestone roads of it's city center. We had been warned by Greg and Jess - but wow. Really unpleasant to ride on, especially on a fully loaded adv bike. Then to top it off - it is Semana Santa (Holy Week) and there are a bajillion people, and religious processions are underway. And our hotel is in the city center, and due to the festivities, streets that are normally open for traffic are blocked off! About a block or two before our hotel, we hit a chain across the road where Google said we should go. So we circled around a few blocks and approached from another angle - blocked. And this is stop and go riding on roads that are hard to describe - they are not the regular sized and relatively smooth cobblestone streets of a European city - this road is comprised of softball and larger sized river rock sticking up out of the ground at various heights, and often on a road bed that is sloped in a "V" towards the center of the road. Starting and stopping on that is a adrenaline rush - you are constantly "almost" dropping your bike as the stones push your front tire this way and that. Once we were settled, we enjooyed a few days of the chaos of Semana Santa in what we read is the largest celebration of the Holy Week in the world. Seemed like most of the world was there, so I believe it :-)

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    Example of the coblestones.
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    One of the many processions in Antigua during Semana Santa, very similar all over Guatemala during the week. Even the small villages have processions.

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    Central square during a lull in the activities.

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    Display in the cathedral.
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  4. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    A few more pictures of the festivities in Antigua, and a short video I uploaded.


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    I did a quick count and estimate 80 to 100 people carrying this. From what I saw, they do a complete change of bearers every block or two.

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    These red-banners and paintings are the stations of the cross.
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    And to show what a mix of the sacred and profane this was I bring you ... Mickey Mouse balloons. They were selling these on every corner. There was definitely a mix of carnival and scared atmospheres.
    #84
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  5. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    When we were staying with Greg and Jess in Panajachel, they told us about an off-road riding class they had taken from a BMW-certified trainer here in Guatemala, Jose Pinto (follow link on his name to his business website). Jose is also a BMW certified motorcycle-tour operator, conducting tours in Central and South America as well as Europe, and he teaches his off-road courses at a Finca (farm/estate) near Antigua. We were originally planning to take such a course in the USA (RawHyde Adventures) before we left, but my back surgery took that out of the schedule. To my delight, Carol was all for it, Greg was able to connect us with Jose, and Jose was available. So we adjusted our schedule to be at the Finca Xejuyu (where he does his training) for that week. The Finca is about 45 minutes out of Antigua, up in the mountains. We really enjoyed the class - and we also really enjoyed the tranquility and hospitality of Jorge Del Carmen, the owner/operator of Finca Xejuyu and his family (here are links to the English and Spanish websites for the Finca). Since it was Semana Santa, much of Jorge's extended family was there from the city and abroad. I sort of felt like we had "crashed" a family occasion, but they were all very welcoming to us. Jorge's cousin, Roberto, is a businessman and one of his first businesses was "Pana Divers", a diving training and expedition company that originally operated out of Panajachel which is still in existence. He went on from there to start and run a number of different businesses - a classic "serial entrepreneur". l know the the type well from my career - it's not me but I appreciate it in others. Roberto's Dad (Jorge's uncle) Paul was the age my Dad would be if he were still alive, and was a fascinating man who has lived quite a life. He grew up in Alabama (interestingly, as did my Dad), and after military service he married into the family and moved to Guatemala. He had many stories to tell of what it was like in Guatemala "back in the day". The family helps support a mission on their property that has a school for the local villagers. Nice people all around and it was great to get to know them all.

    One downside - the day after the training, we went back out on our motorcycles to do some practice, and Carol crashed pretty hard while doing the beam-crossing exercise (riding her bike up onto and down a 4x4 beam about 12' long. She was doing so well! But on one pass she got her front and rear wheels straddled on either side of the beam and went down. She bent her handle bars again (this time I straightened them out), and her knee and shoulder are still sore from the fall. But she was doing stuff I never thought I'd see her do (including ridding down a beam!), and it definitely improved her off-road skills and confidence overall. And I loved it! I also did stuff I thought I couldn't do. Jose would show me something, and I'd think "Ok, I'll try, but I"m going down!" But I didn't go down once and I also came away with new skills and confidence. It was a great week overall.

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    The Finca Xejuyu
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    Listening to stories from Paul (from Alabama) at left, and his son Roberto at right.
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    Carol's peanut-butter/chocolate chip/coffee muffins continue to extend their international reach. She made batches for everyone several mornings. Just as she did in Guadalajara at our language school - and just as then, they were appreciated.

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    I went with the family one afternoon into Antigua to try out this Brewery (Cerveceria 14) - have enjoyed a number of good pale ale's and IPA's in Guatemala. j That is Paul behind me with a sampler.
    #85
  6. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Some pictures from the off-road class.
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    Classic lesson zero - balance the bike.
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  7. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    A few other random pictures form the Finca.

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    We were there during the peak coffee bloom - they told us it only last about three days, and we just happened to hit it right. The smell was wonderful.

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    Had some fun with the zoom lens. Jorge raises Talapia in several ponds at the Finca, 100% used for feeding the guests. His main business at the Finca is hosting are large gatherings - retreats, that type of thing. He also has a number of large gardens and he tries to source as much of his food right from the farm as he can.

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    Almost forgot to post a photo of our teacher Jose! Here he is giving Carol some instruction at the start of the day.
    #87
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  8. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From Finca Xejuyu, we had planned to continue towards the Caribbean coast, traveling at the end of the Semana Santa. That route led into the countryside, away from the city, and we thought it should be easy to get a hotel because everyone would be in the city for Semana Santa. Tell that to a local and listen to them laugh! We got it all wrong - as several people informed us, during Semana Santa, the city evacuates to the countryside! "If you go into Guatemala city this week, it will be empty after Wednesday" we were told. And sure enough - we could not find any hotels open on our intended route. We were planning to go to this eco-lodge in the jungle on the Rio Dulce - it was booked, and at the town that was the half-way stopping point, hotels there were all booked as well. Jorge explained that those hotels have swimming pools, and people from the city book them just to go and use the pool for a few days during the holiday.

    Jorge said we were welcome to stay at the Finca through Easter Sunday, after which the hotel situation would be no problem. But Roberto said he could probably find a place for us in a bungalow near Puerto Barrios that his diving company uses, with access to the amenities of the Amatique Bay resort. And Jorge and Roberto's brother Juan Carols called around and found a hotel with a vacancy at the half way point (it is a two day ride to the coast from Finca Xejuyu, at least for us). We decided to accept their help and made the bookings, not because we wouldn't have enjoyed a few more days at the Finca (it was a peaceful retreat for sure), but we did want to move our itinerary forward. And we would not have made it without their help - it was greatly appreciated.

    Driving through Guatemala city on the Firday of Semana Santa was a breeze - as they said, everyone was gone! And at the half-way point hotel - there was a swimming pool, and the place was PACKED. Amazed we got a room. The next day, Saturday, as we continued on to Puerto Barrios and Amatique Bay, we saw lots of traffic headed back into the city, I presume to get home for Easter Sunday, but again, traffic in our direction was "ok" (it's never good in CA! Always way more trucks and buses than you expect).

    We spent two nights at Amatique Bay, and on Sunday we took the boat taxi from Puerto Barrios to the town of Livingston - a decidedly "Caribbean" town with a lot of history. Landlocked and accessible only by boat. Culturally, this Caribbean coast part of Central America is intriguing because of the large number of people of African decent. The history is complex, and goes back to the use of slaves by the Spanish, Portugeses and French. And there is a shipwreck in this story - a slave ship that wrecked and it's inhabitants then inter-marrying with local Caribbeans. The name of the people group is the Garifuna, and the town of Livingston is predominantly peopled by this race.

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    Our route over two days from Finca Xejuyu to Amatique Bay near Puerto Barrios.
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    THis shows our route into Amatique Bay - you can see it's relation to Puerto Barrios, and also the town of Livingston to the NW of Puerto Barrios, at the mouth of the Rio Dulce where it pours into the Caribbean.
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    Sunset from the beach at Amituque Bay Resort
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    I was sitting on the porch of our bungalow at Amatique Bay, talking to my son via Skype, when this critter ran out onto the patio right in front of me! He was moving fast, but froze still when I shined a light on him.
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  9. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Carol is a poster child for ATGATT (all the gear all the time). It doesn't stop her from riding to town in a dress or the beach in a swim suit. One way or the other, she gets there with the clothes she wants to wear after she is off the bike, but wearing all the gear while riding. Quite the change artist! Here are a few photos from our time at Amatique Bay to prove the point.
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    On the patio of the Bungalow (where the scorpion came out the night before: Dress over the over-pants, riding jacket over the dress. No problem, let's go!

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    At the parking lot for the pool at the resort. Trust me - a minute earlier she was in full gear. Me - I'd find a way to change once we got to the pool (hence that is my swimsuit she is pulling out of her backpack). Carol wants to be ready to go the minute she's off the bike.
    #89
  10. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Some photos from Livingston.

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    Carol making friends, as usual!
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    Most people riding in CA are decidedly NOT in the ATGATT mode. Some of the things you see are scary - like a mother holding a month old infant while riding pillion. Or a mother (why always mothers?) riding with an infant strapped to her back with a blanket/sling. Thankfully we have yet to come across an accident of any kind. Drivers do seem more aware of motorcycles here - others had commented on that to me before we left, and I do think it is true.
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  11. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    And there is a shipwreck in this story - a slave ship that wrecked and it's inhabitants then inter-marrying with local Caribbeans. The name of the people group is the Garifuna, and the town of Livingston is predominantly peopled by this race.


    Thanks for sharing the details of your trip. GARIFUNA people live all along the Central American Gulf Coast and many can be met on the Colombian islands of San Andrés y Providencia. I once read that about 100,000 of their descendants live in NYC. Their music is also very interesting. Listen to Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective
    #91
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  12. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Outstanding! I'm in for more please.
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  13. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Over Semana Santa, we had been in contact with Chris and Sharon Struna - the couple on a pair of Susuzki DR650's that we first met in Baja at San Ignacio Springs. We had been trying to arrange to stop by and see the mission school, medical clinic and orphanage they have worked with in Honduras. On our way to Amatique Bay, we talked to them on the phone, and they told us that if we could be in La Ceiba Honduras on May 6, we could meet up with them and they would personally take us to see the school, clinic and orphanage. That was more than we had hoped for (to have them there with us), and we said we'd sure make that happen. To do so, we had to "stall" for about a week. We had decided we would go to the jungle eco-lodge in any case (booking was no problem after Easter Sunday), but now we could extend that a few days, and then add a few extra days to our Caribbean island plan (we were thinking Roatan, but Utila won out - coming up).

    So we booked our selves into Dreamcatcher Eco-Lodge on the Rio Dulce, Guatemala, and drove the hour from Amitigue Bay to Ram Marina on the Rio Dulce, where we parked our bikes and were boat-taxied to the lodge. We spent four nights there, listening to the howler monkeys (never saw them - but they sounded like they were 50 yards away! Dense jungle), kayaking on the river, and enjoying - no lie -some of the best food I've had anywhere!

    This last point needs some explanation and emphasis! The wife of the couple that own the lodge is from France, and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris! She has fresh made pastas, and some incredible steak; I have been scared away from steak after a few bad experiences south of the border - but this was truly awesome. I asked how she does it? She has strict control on her sources. She has found an importer for Argentinian beef, and she has developed relationships with specific gardeners nearby who will grow the vegetables she wants and do it her way (organically). You can imagine that this is not an easy task - and she has a short menu that still manages to cover a lot of bases, and sometimes not everything is available. But what is available is simply top notch and not what you expect to find in Guatemala, yet alone in the jungle in Guatemala! The whole jungle experience was just amazing, and the food just took it over the top.

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    View of the rooms at the Dreamcatcher lodge. The entire lodge is up off the jungle floor about five to feet. That is not a person in the window - there were manikins in the rooms.

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    The dining area at Dreamcatcher eco-lodge. Good things happen here!

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    We went to this old spanish-era castle/fort on the Rio Dulce one day. It had a huge "pirate" history, having been used to jail pirates, and at other times taken over by pirates. Yo ho ho.

    Attached Files:

    #93
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  14. GF-kam

    GF-kam Been here awhile

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    I am in !

    I recognize some of the places in Baja. Went down for week a month ago. Awesome pics and ride report.

    Kam
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  15. GF-kam

    GF-kam Been here awhile

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    Wow! What a coincidence . I just came across Jess, Greg, and Moxie's Youtube channel few days ago. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClvTDcR4Q6UP1p9a9GXaAvg
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  16. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From the Dreamcatcher lodge, we headed across the border to Honduras and La Ceiba. What a day! I just re-read the rules (see sticky post at top of epic trip forums) and I'm skirting rule #7, but I think I'm well within the spirit of that rule. Here is the deal - we have a web site for our trip, which primarily serves to point people here! But rule #7 sort of discourages linking to that web site in this thread. But on that web site we have a blog - which is not a trip report - this is the trip report. The blog is made up of about once-monthly essay-like posts of some aspect of our experiences.

    However - our border crossing day from Guatemala to Honduras was so epic, I wrote a lengthy blog post about it. And rather than copy and paste pages of essay here (which is not the style of this forum), I will say in short that our day included:

    1. Hitting a 2km line of stopped semi's due to a protest roadblock 15km shy of the border
    2. Bypassing the 2km of stopped semis to get to the actual blockade,
    3. Talking our way past the blockade (!)
    4. Only to spend 2 hours at the border dealing with immigration and customs, even when no one else was there
    5. Then loosing my keys (I have key-less ignition) I know some of you share my pain.
    6. Leading to a decsion to split so I could go back to look for my keys while Carol went on to find a hotel in San Pedro Sula.
    7. Then finding my keys (!!!)
    8. Ending with Carol finding a hotel, my finding her and all is well in the end.

    And if you want to read a much more detailed accounting of those events, you can find it at;

    https://xplore2gether.net/2019/05/13/an-eventful-day/

    And if I hope the moderators will approve :-)
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  17. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    From San Pedro Sula we headed to La Ceiba. It was hot ride from San Pedro to La Ceiba, and in her research, Carol found that there is a botanical garden roughly half way between. It made a great stopping point for lunch and just getting off the bikes for a bit. It is called the Jardín Botánico Lancetilla near the town of Tela. It is a botanical garden with miles of paths, a research center and a "germplasm bank", working to preserve the biodiversity of the Honduran jungle. It was originally started in 1925 to study and cultivate plantains. It was a great way to break up the ride.
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    The route from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba. The little "blip" about half way is the side-trip to the Jardin Lancetilla

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    Little me, big tree. There were a lot of very impressive trees there. There were some interpretive signs, but would have appreciated more.

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    A bamboo tunnel

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    Our bikes parked at the Jardin in their "invisibility cloaks" There were some very nice but overly curious boys hanging around when we parked, that couldn't keep their hands off our bikes, so we put the covers on. These work well at keeping curious paws off the bikes. Obviously not going to stop a determined thief, but just having things covered up makes a huge difference. With no covers, people will touch, even sit, on the bikes. With the covers - they may glance but do not even touch.
    #97
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  18. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Or original plan was to ferry the bikes from La Ceiba over to the island of Roatan - I had figured out how to do that; the Galaxy Wave ferry will take motorcycles - which is not obvious from their web site. I confirmed this with them directly. But in her research, Carol became convinced, and then convinced me, that Utila was more of "our kind of place" - less touristy. But Utila is a small island and you cannot take your motorcycle there (and having been there you wouldn't want to - it is of no use). So we found a hotel in La Ceiba, the Hotel Las Hamacas, that had free, secure parking and lets you keep your bike (or car) parked in their lot for up to a week while you are on any of the islands. And they provide free transportation to and from the ferry terminal. Really friendly people there, nice pool area with an ok restaurant/bar and they kept the AC running with generators even when the power went out (side story of our time on the coastal mainland - power outages almost daily).

    We stayed two nights in order to have a catch-up day for rest and planning purposes, and then on Monday April 29, we took the ferry over to Utila. A word here - about sea sickness! If you've followed from the beginning, you may recall I fed the fish in Baja while whale watching. And we were forewarned, if anything under-warned, about this ferry. 45 minutes of being tossed about and I was hanging on by a thread, looking at the horizon and not talking. Carol took some video footage while I tried not to puke; see for yourself!



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    The Hotel Las Hamacas - definitely recommended.

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    Poolside at the hotel - they have a reasonably good cocktail menu. Carol ordered this - not sure what the concoction was called, but it was basically a chocholate/coffee milk-shake with some alchahol tossed in. Meaning it was really good!

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    Needed some cash - the lady at the hotel desk told me the closest ATM was in the mall. Something comforting about stepping into a mall in any city anywhere in the world - they are all the same. I say that but I really do not like malls! But all the same, they are something familiar when you've been living in the unfamiliar day after day. But I thought Radio Shack had gone bankrupt? Not in Central America - see them regularly.

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    Carol on the ferry. It just isn't fair. I was not smiling!
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  19. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    On Utila, we stayed in a tree house! I learned of it's existence when we were at the Dreamcatcher jungle lodge,on the Rio Dulce, from an expats from Canada that was living in Costa Rica. He was with some buddies that were in route on a road trip from the US to Costa Rica to transport two dogs that belonged to one of them. I told him we were going to Utila, and he told me that he had stayed in a tree house on Utila and really liked it. So when I saw an Air BnB listing for "the only tree house on Utila", I knew this had to be the place. It is truly a "Swiss Family Robinson" type of deal - except with air conditioning :-) It is a bit pricey, but it is a tree house in the jungle on an island in the Caribbean! I was trying to convince Carol, who is always looking at costs, and she was waffling due to the expense. In a bit of desperation I suddenly had the words to one of the best Pixar movie lines ever pop into my mind, and I said to her "BUT IT"S A TALKING DOG!!" If you haven't seen "Up!", you should, and you'd get that. It won her over, and we stayed in the tree house for four nights. It was a awesome - no regrets.

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    The tree is some sort of fig tree, we were told. Looked sort of like a Ceiba tree to me. But in any case, it had this awesome root structure at the base. Something Tolkien-esque about it.

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    It is a house ... in a tree. There is a lower room that is a like a studio apartment, with a bed, kitchen with a single induction element and dorm-style refrigerator, and a table. Then the upper room is a second bedroom, which is the one we used because it is smaller and easier to keep cool. You get an alotment of power per day that is more than enough to keep the bedroom cool at night for sleeping.

    DSC01258.JPG I bought a cheap tripod in Mexico but have not used it much. And I knew that in principle my Sony HX-80 camera could be remotely controlled by my phone. So I took some time to download the software and figure it out so I could use the phone-remote and tripod to get this picture of us on the lower of the two decks. The upper-most deck is really in the canopy of the tree. You can see most of the island from up there - this is on the second highest hill on the island.
    #99
  20. ThirtyOne

    ThirtyOne I got my wings back. Supporter

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    Nice to meet you guys. Hope you enjoyed your stay in Honduras.

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