Saturday, May 05, 2007

Guatemala- Lava, Lakes & Ruins
We ended up pretty much racing through Honduras and El Salvador in a couple of day so nothing to report other than the usual tediousness of several border crossings, including the immigration to El Salvador where it was decided that my bikes engine number didn`t match that in the V5 document so they delayed giving me the temporary import by 3 1/2 hours. While waiting for my paperwork, a Russian called Vladimere or something screached to a halt outside on a new GS1200Adv. It turned out he had left Moscow in October, popped down to South Africa via Spain, shipped the bike over to Buenos Aires and this was him now in El Salvador only 6 months later. He also carried a rather large machette on the bike with which he would weild and shout several angry "fuck off"s to the numerous kids hanging about at border crossings and anybody else that got in his way. Each to his own I say.

Anyway, the first real stop in Guatemala was Antigua, a pretty colonial town in the south of the country, known for its cool architecture and abundance of Spanish schools but we had to cross through Guatemala city, one of the most congested places I`ve ever had the misfortune to ride through. In Antigua though, we holed up for a few days in one school which doubled as a hostel and had secure parking. I really enjoyed Antigua, its got a very relaxed feel about it and its also where I had my 37th (groan) birthday. We hiked up Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano one afternoon which turned out to be quite exciting. As there were numerous tour groups up there, when the lava flow decided to alter its course and start flowing towards us, there was kind of nowwhere to run as the best path was pretty much blocked with people taking photos further down. If you`re ever been up an active volcan, you`ll know how hot the ground under your feet gets and some stupid sods had turned up with flip flops on. Fortunately, the crowd eventually managed to get out the bloody way and nobody ended up with red hot lava on their shoes. It was pretty incredible to see the hot stuff flowing by that close I can tell you.

I also had to get a new spring fitted to my rear Ohlins shock as the bike sags by about 9cms fully loaded when it should only sag by around 4cm. After countles emails and phone calls, I finally got through to the right person in the BMW shop in Guatemala city. Resigned to a day of horrible riding through solid traffic again, I set off to find the shop in the heart of the city, well ok, Zona 4. Eventually I fought my way through the frankly bloody awful, solid traffic and found the right place. They were very helpful giving me several options and I opted for the 180 rated spring. The technician pointed out my rather bent lower bolt which connects the shock to the swing arm, apparently this would be caused by the shock bottoming out rather severely and having no where else to go- oops! A couple of hours later, I was heading back to Antigua with a new shock fitted and feeling about 5cms taller.

After Antigua, we headed off to Lake Atitlan and somehow got separated in leaving Antigua. I assumed Michelle had headed on towards the lake so I set off to catch up while she thought I was still somewhere in Antigua. When I arrived in Panajachel by the lake, I checked my emails only to discover Michelle was still in Antigua! I got checked in to the hotel and got some chores done by which time, Michelle eventually turned up. The following day, we decided to go on a tour of the lake, the boat stopping on three of the villages around the lake but to be honest, by the 2nd one, things were looking quite similar so with the thought of hanging around a 3rd village for another hour, we and the rest of the boats passengers jumped into the back of a pickup truck heading back to Panajachel.

Our last port of call in Guatmala was Tikal, the mayan ruins to the north of the country which meant a rather long days ride. The guy in the Beemer shop had given me a route and although he mentioned part of it was unpaved, I found that section pretty tough going, well it had been a while! Trying to overtake trucks in a cloud of dust on the narrow dirt road proved to be more than enough excitement, several times I nearly came acropper as I litteraly ran out of road to overtake. With much relief, we finally pulled in to Flores, the small island town in Lake something or other. I knew we`d need to be up early to get to the ruins before it got A. busy and B. ridiculously hot so it was a total joy when the alarm went at 5am. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the ruins, many of them are about 60m high and stick out from the trees like pre-columbian skyscrapers. Apparently, if you were a rather big cheese in the Mayan world, you got one of these bad boys plopped on top of you- respect!

We´d talked about doing our own thing for a while and Michelle wants to go and see Belize while I fancy getting on and in to Mexico, plus as she`s already backpacked around Mexico so it seems like a good place to commence our own mini adventures for a bit. So with a fond farewell, we headed off in our respective directions, Michelle towards the Belize border and me to a pretty obscure river crossing into Mexico. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

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