You're here for a good time, not for a long time.

You're here for a good time, not a long time.

June 27, 2011

Fotos IV

Since I'm here at a Honduran Wendy's with internet, here are some recent photos dating back to the final days at  Zephyr Lodge.

Here are some of the kids I played tag with in the river for forty-five minutes.  I nearly puked I was so exhausted.

My friends from Zephyr Lodge.  Three Aussies and an Israeli.
I don't know how this picture came to be but it is undeniably awesome.  The kitty was pretty good too.

Here I am trying to comfort a bag of bones.  He wasn't too excited.  He gets it every day.

The mud road leading into San Pedro.  Glad to be done with that.

My one good deed so far.  I was proud.
Somewhere in the Guatemalan mountains on our way out of San Pedro.  I really miss Guat.

Honduran cemetery.  Not much to explain here.

Here is a group of about 100 Hondurans watching and judging as three white girls danced at Carnival in Trujillo.  The street cleared when they stopped dancing.

Meet Chimmy.  He is a little monster.

The baby toucans hanging out at Tranquility Bay.

Chimmy cooing in my ear.  He likes to hang out on your shoulders with his tail wrapped around your neck.  Very cool.
That's it!

Trujillo Love

On my first taste of solo riding I was blessed with the acquaintance of many wonderful people.  Although there was a large international welcoming crew, Canada stood out above the rest.  Larry and Linda are the owners of Tranquility Bay and they went out of their way to accommodate a weary northwesterner.  The employee dorm at T-Bay was a great room by my standards and it led to me meeting a whole group of fun people here in Trujillo. 

Their son Danny was first to take me out to a local bar called Banana Beach where I met a whole slew of people.  Rand, the owner, is a tough looking guy with a smart business plan.  He has been constructing Banana Beach for ten years now and only opened two years ago.  I picked his brain and he’s thought hard about his moves.  Rand owned a bar in Texas most his life and it shows in his thought process down here in Trujillo.  He has the bar, some rooms for rent, and a beautiful beach.  The pool is currently under construction.  A couple three-story condo buildings are not far off.  All night Rand sat at his bar with a cigar between his teeth and a grin on his face, his eyes peering in thought.

Jenna, Rand’s daughter, works the bar since graduating from University of Texas.  She’s got a lot of travel experience and obviously knows how to have a good time; growing up under Rand, I can imagine that was inevitable.  There is also Jeargen, the German manager/head chef.  Jeargen always looks like he’s too hot down here, but he’s obviously having the time of his life.  He’s great for a deep conversation while hanging out at the bar.  Together, Rand, Jenna, and Jeargen run a very fun ship.

That night I also met Mark and Martin, a Canadian couple from the interior.  The two are all smiles all the time and they definitely light up the room with laughter.  Hanging out with Martin was Sofia, a Brit who lives here in an awesome apartment just up the hill from downtown Trujillo.  We started the party at her place in the afternoon on Saturday.

There was also Jesse and Charlie.  Jesse is another Canadian about my age whom I met randomly when I drove past him and saw his skin color.  I pulled over and we talked for about fifteen minutes before parting ways.  Turns out, we all knew the same people and we’ve been hanging out a lot since then.  Charlie is his buddy.  Charlie is from Chicago born to an Italian dad and Honduran mom.  He fits in pretty well around here. 

Henry was an old-timer that I kept running into throughout the weekend.  He’s a former trucker so instantly we had something to talk about.  He was born in Honduras, raised half his life in a Mennonite village in Belize, and then the other half in Canada.  As it turns out, he’s ridden a Harley down here to Trujillo twice not to mention his countless drives down in a variety of other vehicles.  If I turn out half as cool as Henry, I’ll be ok.

Karli and Santi were an incredible couple.  Karli is from Canada and Santi from Argentina.  They met in Sweden and lived happily ever after.  We first met at Tranquility Bay over dinner but got to know each other much better Saturday night once the music got going.  Santi will be a great host of information when I get to Argentina. 

Brian and Margi are a Canadian couple from Surrey, B.C. just an hour from Bellingham, WA.  I got to know Brian after he bought the whole bar a round of Jager at Banana Beach; he’s a tug boat driver, not many people can say that.  The two just bought property down here in Trujillo and have been hanging out at Banana Beach seeing what Honduras has to offer.  From what I saw, they will be enjoying themselves down here a lot.  Saturday night they were living it up with everyone else just like they were locals. 

Carlos and Dennis are brothers who work here at Tranquility Bay.  Carlos is the resort manager and he has an answer for every question.  He helped me a lot in getting the windsurfers ready to use.  He’s also just a really cool Honduran who enjoys what he does.  Dennis is the groundskeeper here and the local windsurfing prodigy.  He’s working on his jibes as well.  At 21 years old, he’s got a head start on me; I wish we had a better chance to go out and put each other to the test.  Even so, I had a good time shooting the shit with him waiting for wind.

Danny has a pretty good life down here working with his parents at Tranquility Bay.  He gets to kite in the afternoons and manages day-to-day business when he’s not on the water.  He’s also an avid pilot and flies the family plane around the Caribbean picking up guests and supplies wherever he goes.  He and his American girlfriend Sam are lost in paradise and I can’t blame them.  They’re not missing anything down here.  First thing I asked Danny when I met him if he was in Vancouver when Canada won hockey gold; he was and so was I.  We’ve already partied together.  We’ll have to meet up again in the northwest down the road. 

Larry is a former AirCan pilot hence the family plane and Danny’s piloting skills.  He’s another example of a smart guy from up north coming down to Central America and building whatever life he wants.  His wife Linda is a former nurse.  She keeps the business running around here and spends a lot of time working with animals and running the kitchen.  Together Larry and Linda make a great set of hosts and they are always easy to reach and wanting to talk.  It wouldn’t be Tranquility Bay without them. 

Over the past four days these people have been my extended family as I coped with a lack of wind and the first sense of solidarity in almost three months.  They kept the adventure moving and the days have flown by.  Tomorrow I will head back into La Ceiba in the afternoon so I can be ready to head south with Al when he arrives on Tuesday morning.  Before heading out, though, Brian and Margi have offered to take me snorkeling with a big group of mostly these people.  I normally don’t take handouts, but the fun factor involving all these guys has me gratefully accepting this one.  Just like every spot I come to love, Trujillo will be hard to leave.  But I’ve got 20,000 more kilometers to cover in six months… can’t stop now.

June 26, 2011

Going Rogue


The title was too perfect.  Plus I was neighbors with Russia this winter so therefore I’m as qualified for anything as Sarah Palin is.  This morning I woke up determined to find wind and took off into Honduras on my own towards Trujillo.  I feel bad; I bailed on the Kiwis after saying I’d go to Roatan with them.  At the same time though, the whole point of this entire adventure is to do absolutely whatever I want for one brief moment in my life.  So I’m going windsurfing!

This was my first day of solo riding since my little day trip to La Bufadora way back in Ensenada, Baja.  Al and I woke up early, detailed our itineraries to each other, and did some quick routine bike maintenance (wax chains, check tire pressure).  He was still committed to Roatan and hoping to catch the 9:00am ferry to the island.  We high fived and parted ways. 

I was on the road by 8:00am heading for a place called Campamento Wind Sports 4km outside of Trujillo.  That was as much information as I had.  Trujillo is 100 miles down the coast from La Ceiba and it felt like more than that.  The road leading to Trujillo is all paved but littered with deep potholes.  Hitting a six inch deep gap in the tarmac at 70mph is asking for trouble even on a dual sport.  I remembered the wobble I barely overcame back in La Ventana after hitting something similar.  My front tire had enough momentum to fly right over the hole.  My rear bashed the second edge and popped up and back onto the pavement just centimeters out of sync from where it should be.  When two motorcycle tires are not in a direct line , the whole bike begins to violently quiver as it tries to regain the gyroscopic harmony that keeps it upright.  I got lucky once back in La Ventana; I didn’t need to push it.

I took most of the ride in fourth gear but blasted like a rocket on the straightaways in fifth.  About fifteen miles from town I came to a blown out bridge.  I had to follow a haphazard dirt trail through a construction zone to get to the temporary ferry.  The ferry was quite a sight: two canoe shaped skinny boats with a big platform strapped on top and an outboard on the back.  We loaded two cars on and my bike in the front.  The ride was only two or three minutes and in that time I was expected to turn my bike around.  This got my nerves going.  Trying to turn a 500 pound motorcycle around on a bunch of 2x10’s is difficult in the first place.  Add in a rushing current.  Then if I drop the machine, it very well might go right to the bottom of the river with the rest of the bridge.  Somehow I managed, like usual, and when the raft pushed up on the other side I was ready to go.

Five minutes later was a major detour that led me through ten miles of dirt.  I could care less at that point.  I pulled into Trujillo around 11:00am and asked directions once before figuring out how to get to Campamento.  At 11:30am I arrived.

As it turns out, Campamento Wind Sports is not the full-fledged windsurfing center that its website purports it to be.  Instead, there’s a cabana full of gear whose owner is in Vermont and no one seems to know who’s in charge.  To be fair, Chad the owner told me via email that he wouldn’t be there when I arrived.  He said I could talk to the people at Tranquility Bay resort next door and that they would be able to get me on the water using his gear in the cabana.  I showed up at Tranquility Bay, talked to the Canadian owners Larry and Linda, and told them I wanted to windsurf as Chad had promised.

Larry, Linda, and their son Danny were very helpful, but also completely in the dark.  After an hour of trying to decide what to do, I went over to the cabana full of gear with the local windsurfing guru Dennis.  Dennis knows the gear, knows Chad, and knows the wind around here.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the key to the cabana.  The cabana is on Chad’s aunt’s property and the groundskeeper wouldn’t let us in until he got the ok from her.  We called her.  She wouldn’t let us in until she got the ok from Chad.  She couldn’t get ahold of Chad.  This was a classic windsurfing experience. 

We walked back over to Tranquility Bay on the white sandy beach with the palms blowing in the steady wind.  By my guess it was averaging around 20mph, perfect wind for a larger rig.  Larry took pity on me and offered up his limited windsurfing gear for me to use.  They set me up with a 100L Mistral board and a 4.5 Ezzy sail.  I strapped on a harness and waded into the warm water with the rig.  I thrashed around for half an hour trying to get up but the 4.5 just wasn’t big enough to pull me out of the water and start planing.  There were no other sails that I could use.  What a tease.

So, tonight I am staying at Tranquility Bay in the employee housing for the very modest price of $15/night.  They have never gone lower than $35/night for this bed, but I think the fact that they’re from Vancouver shed light on the magnitude of my journey to get here.  I’ve got one bunk in an empty dorm and a private bathroom.  Not bad after spending the last two weeks sharing the hostel facilities. 

Tranquility Bay is not of this world.  Even though the temperature hovers over 85F degrees all day, the onshore sea breeze keeps the grounds fresh and comfortable.  There are animals everywhere.  A horse grazing in the lawn, two parrots sitting on top of their cage, two toucans begging for food in the awnings, and several dogs keeping watch.  Best of all is Chimmy the monkey.  My first experience with Chimmy he crawled up to the side of the roof, slung himself down to my level hanging from his tail, and felt my face up and down with his baby sized hands.  He grabbed a lock of my hair and gave it a sniff.  At that he hopped on my shoulder with his tail around my neck letting me pet him.  It’s not often that an animal comes up and examines me with five fingers and perplexed eyes.  It was an eerie role reversal.  I stood perfectly still while he went through his motions checking me out. 

Linda adopted Chimmy two years ago as a baby when the couple bought Tranquility Bay.  He has since grown up on the grounds and obviously has no clue his own species.  The little monkey runs around playing with the dogs, zips from tree to tree eating mangos, and then hops on my head to see what’s new.  He’s quite a wild pet and the tail as a fifth appendage really makes for an interesting time handling him.  He’s also a rascal.  Every time I look around he’s trying to dismantle some lawn ornament.  The house monkey really adds to the effect here.


Today is my third day at Tranquility Bay and I couldn’t be enjoying myself more.  Yesterday we got permission to use Chad’s gear to hit the wind.  We rigged two sails and grabbed two boards and then I waited for the wind.  Usually the wind comes up around noon, but yesterday the rain started falling around 10:30am.  The early wind died and it didn’t start coming back until much later.  By 1:00pm I couldn’t wait any longer and went out with the big, low wind rig. 

I don’t know if it was the wind or my depreciated skills, but I could not get the board to plane no matter what I did.  Everything else was there, but the board wouldn’t lift.  I was waterstarting, getting in the harness, even slipping into the foot straps.  I sagged into the harness to spread my weight across the board and hiked out digging the tail fin hard into the water pointing the rig upwind.  The board plowed through the water quickly, once in a while lifting half-way out but then immediately sinking back slower than I had been going originally. 

Later in the day I gave the smaller rig a try to see if I could get that going.  Same scenario, not enough wind.  There were about three seconds where I was 95% out of the water.  The wind gusted real hard right as I sank into the harness and the whole rig surged forward and popped up.  For three seconds I was flying with only the tail fin keeping me grounded.  I was in perfect windsurfing form with a straight back, bent knees, loose arms, hiked way out with the sail angled perfectly.  I could hear the waves lapping at the nose of the board as it glossed over them.  I’m a cheapskate, but those three seconds were worth the $50 rental and all the work I put in.

I didn’t have much luck beyond that.  Dennis went out with me for a half hour and he wasn’t satisfied with the wind either.  We both could go out and come back, but neither of us could get moving.  As the afternoon wore on I finally decided to store the gear and hope for better wind in the next few days.  That afternoon I went into town to get online.  T-Bay hasn’t had internet since I arrived because the competition cut their service provider’s fiber optic lines.  I guess that’s how it works here.

With the dismal wind performance I had considered packing up and meeting up with everyone else on Roatan.  That is until I got Al’s message that said it cost him $185 round trip for the ferry.  I got rid of that notion quick.  When I got back to Tranquility Bay Danny, the 24 year-old from Vancouver whose parents own T-Bay, invited me to a local bar with some friends for the evening.  We went out and had a great time. 


I didn’t even try to surf yesterday.  Around noon a truck pulled up take me and Danny and a few others into town for Trujillo’s biggest carnival of the year.  From 1:00pm until 3:30am we soaked in all the sights and noises under the power of liquid courage.  It was a hot day with intermittent showers.  There was a parade, a lot of fireworks, and then a seven-block party until dawn.  The craziest thing I’ve seen all trip was a Honduran who rigged up a wooden A-frame that he carried on his back.  It had roman candles strapped to it pointing in every direction.  He lit the wick and started running around the town center with the bombs shooting out in every direction; into the buildings, cars, and crowd.  All the while the kids chased him around dodging flack and laughing the whole time. 

It was a pretty crazy night considering how tranquil this place normally is.  Trujillo is the beach where Columbus first landed on the mainland Americas.  The inside joke around here is that when he left, he told everyone not to do anything until he came back.  They haven’t since.  Everyone expects growth here soon, though.  There are a lot of gringos building up resorts preparing for a tourism boom.  As well, they are building a port that will take in cruise ships in the coming years.  I’ll be here in Trujillo tonight again and then probably make my way back towards La Ceiba to catch Alex and the girls when they come back from the island. 

Until then, I’ll be enjoying post card paradise a little longer.  I’ve given up on wind; the water is placid today.  Oh well, Hood River will be there when I get back.  A big hug goes out to my buddy Ryan after his rough weekend.  Much love Ryan!

June 22, 2011


Since we left on this trip Alex has always been talking about the bay islands in Honduras where his British friend Oliver is working as a SCUBA instructor.  It is the cheapest place in the world to earn a dive certification and everyone in the hostel circuit has raved about the experience so far.  Today we arrived in La Cieba, the port town with ferry access to the islands.

The last couple days haven’t been very special.  Al and I left our hotel Tuesday morning and immediately headed the wrong way towards the Honduras border.  We were going the right direction, but our route was mostly dirt; over fifty miles of it.  By the time we realized our mistake, we had already gone too far to turn around.  For fifty miles of dirt it actually went alright.  It was hard riding but fairly stable ground and quick straightaways.  We were making good time cruising through the little mountain villages.

Finally we came to the highway and took off toward the border, finally back on the tarmac.  Fifteen miles later nothing was adding up and we decided to stop and ask a store clerk how much further the border was.  Turns out, not that far… the El Salvador border that is.  This was as lost as we had been all trip.  The clerk showed us where we were (about 50 miles south of where we thought), and steered us in the right direction.  We roared off in a hurry staying on the pavement this time and pulled up to the Guatemala-Honduras border around 3:30pm. 

The border crossing was standard.  Stamp out of the country at immigration, export the bike, stamp in at immigration, import the bike, pay a lot of money.  The whole process took over an hour and the afternoon downpour started in the meantime.  We zipped in our waterproof layers and crossed into Honduras towards our destination city 10km down the road.

We decided to stay at Copan Ruinas Tuesday night.  Our Kiwi friends Kim and Anna would be there and we still intended to catch up with them on the islands.  The city is one of Honduras’ bigger tourist attractions because of a very unique set of ruins just outside town; therefore it is a tourist hub with plenty of cheap accommodations.  The cheapest was Hostel Gemelos and we parked ourselves there for the night (as was our plan with the Kiwis).

Honduras seems a lot like Guatemala.  They talk a little different (a lot different on the coast), but other than that, it feels the same.  I wish I could say more, but Latin America is starting to feel very mundane now.  I don’t marvel at the chaos anymore as I walk down the street; I just ignore it all and dodge traffic like everyone else.  All the background stuff (noises, people, advertisements, etc.), it’s just where I live now.

At first we couldn’t find Kim or Anna so Al and I took off for food and ATM downtown.  To great dismay, the ATM wouldn’t accept my card in Copan.  I’ve opened up a tab with Alex and I need to call my bank when I get a chance.  We sat down for food around 6:00pm wondering where the girls were.  Two burritos later Kim and Anna waltzed in by chance and we were all reunited.  According to them, they told a street salesman that they were looking for tall white friends and he instantly led them to us.  Not bad.

We all caught up, had some drinks, planned the next few days, and went to bed early.  The girls left for the island Roatan early this morning.  Al and I hit the road around 10:30am in pursuit and finally arrived here in La Cieba around 5:30pm.  Which brings me to my dilemma: over the water or under?

I can hop a ferry to Roatan, pay extra to bring my bike along, and get convinced to take a dive course on a very expensive tourist island, or I can head sixty miles down the beach and pay about the same to windsurf all day.  Decisions, decisions.  I don’t have a problem with diving, but I’ve got a lot of expensive hobbies already (motorcycles and windsurfing for example).  The last thing I need is to invest a couple hundred dollars into another exciting adrenaline-based sport.  And to pay to bring the bike to an island?  Too many chores. 

The other option is to go rogue and head out to Campamento, the windsurfing resort.  I would be alone for the first time this trip, but surrounded by fellow wind worshipers.  $50/day for all day rental and whatever board or sail changes I want.  I emailed the owner and he said I might be able to work out some sort of camping space.  But then there are friends and wild times on Roatan.  I’ll have to think about this one. 

In the meantime, I’m here in La Cieba for the night and not wandering far from the toilet.  My guts have been a wreck since San Pedro.  I could blame the water or the street food but I think Jim said it best in Mazatlan: ‘People get the shits in Mexico and they blame it on the water.  The truth is that they come down here, eat way too many refried beans, blackout on tequila, and stay up all night partying.  That’s why you get the shits.’

June 20, 2011

Honduras Ho!

San Pedro grows on you.  We finally got out this morning after a lot of weekend shenanigans.  Saturday night was the rave across the lake.

Al and I were hanging out in the dorm with our two new friends from Miami Christine and Skyler.  The buzz around town has been that some guys were throwing a party on private property across the lake and anyone is invited.  Normally, that is the last place I would want to be in Guatemala, but San Pedro is a different story.  10:30pm we walked down to the dock to catch the boat that was ferrying everybody to and from the party that night.  Everybody waited in the dark on the dock chatting and laughing until finally the little boat chugged around the point and coasted up to us.  The craft was an extended dingy that could reasonably fit twenty people.  It was an all fiberglass shell with an outboard and a low cover over the seats.

The captain pulled up to all the thirsty partiers and instantly it was full and people were still getting on.  Our group hung back as we watched the boat sink deeper and deeper into the water.  Someone jumped on the covered roof and the whole thing listed hard port.  The captain and crew managed to keep it from taking on water and then they got pissed.  After a lot of arguing and some help from Alex, the boat was at acceptable capacity and they all took off completely overloaded towards the rave.

I was happy to see that they had made it when the boat returned.  Our ride was not nearly as crowded and lasted about fifteen minutes.  The dingy pulled up on shore (literally they hopped out and dragged it up on the rocks) we all got out.  We were at the right place, but the owners hadn’t found a big enough generator yet.  It was 12:00am.  The mood was very anxious. 

Within ten minutes of arrival a generator fired up and the party started.  I’ve never been to a rave and I don’t think what transpired counts as one by American terms.  Nevertheless, I had a wild time with all my San Pedro friends.  4:45am rolled around and I finally started feeling tired… real tired.  I walked down to the boat, helped gather 20 others who wanted to go back, and we were off before 5:00am on the first return ferry.  I trudged back home and passed out well into the next day. 

Yesterday was particularly rainy so Al and I just hung around Yo Mama’s with all of our friends playing pool and telling stories.  We also took my rear tire off and fixed the way it had seated on the rim.  Back in Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico we had our last flat 1,400 miles ago and I put this tire with a brand new tube when it happened.  We filled it with air, put it on the bike, and took off.  Alex rode behind me and told me that the tire was seated wrong.

Not a problem, we’ve had this happen before.  The tire didn’t pop all the way into the beaded rim when we expanded the tube.  It creates a slight wobble in my rear wheel.  Usually it will pop into place after about 100 miles of riding.  They always have before.

So afraid to tamper with my tires, I waited all the way to San Pedro, Guatemala to finally deal with the issue.  Nearly half the tire’s tread life.  Yesterday we sat out in the pouring rain and Alex figured out how to pop it into place after a lot of wrenching around.  My bike took a spill.  All that weight on our trail stand sent its base deep into the ground like a piston once the rain started to build up.  We picked it back up and put some rocks down in the mud.  Al’s bike fell half an hour later.  His entire kickstand dove into the mud. 

Gilad, our Israeli friend helped me get the bike back up and secured.  He and Alex spent hours together at Yo Mama’s jamming in the pool room.  There were a lot of fun people milling around.  We met Nofar, another Israeli who spends her days working at several different hostels.  Venny and Lucy, the Irish couple traveling around the world caught up with us after Zephyr Lodge.  Tammy and Chanel did as well.  Chao, the Chinese hip-hop dance instructor.  Christine, the UF grad who grew up in Davenport, Iowa.  Skyler, the Miami accountant going to be nutritionist.  Luke, the Australian… enough said.  Gilad was definitely the highlight though.  Sarah swung in by the end of our stay too.

Today, Monday we got out of town on the first sunny morning since we arrived.  The lake was beautiful on the way out.  I’m glad I finally got to see it.  I had grown very accustomed to San Pedro but never even witnessed the main attraction.  The way the volcanoes and their ridges mix together feeding down to the lake is an incredible view.  We took the north side this time and had a much easier time riding a steep switchback road back into the mist.  And just like that, we were back in the Guatemalan mountains driving through the clouds. 

I witnessed a rockslide from start to finish coming down onto the highway today.  I was riding behind Alex as we were about 500 yards away from a turn in a valley.  About 100 feet above the apex of the curve a massive piece of earth unseated before my eyes and all dropped at once in a thick cloud.  I came around the corner to see a boulder bigger than a car smoldering in the middle of the four lane freeway.  You could smell the ancient dirt finally exposed in the air.  Five seconds earlier and it would have come down right on me.  We gave each other the ‘ok’ signal and kept going.

Al and I backtracked most of today making our way through Guatemala Shitty and then an hour closer to Honduras.  Tomorrow we are crossing the border into Copan to meet with Kim and Anna the Kiwis and continue to the coast.  Everyone is talking about diving, but I have been emailing the local windsurf shop.  I’ll have to check out the operation, but it sounds like there might be some good wind in Honduras.  

June 18, 2011

Hippie Town

We have arrived in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan and are settling in well.  The bikes are parked in the garden here at hostel Yo Mama’s Casa.  The place is no Zephyrlodge, but I think we’ll enjoy our stay.  It took us 4.5 hours to go sixty miles today but it was a wild ride.

Al and I started off heading south from Tenpec on a quiet dirt road heading towards Atitlan.  We have a pretty good map of Guatemala so the route was making sense.  At the next town we turned West for the mountains.  The road climbed high into the clouds so dense we couldn’t see 300 yards ahead.  This continued off and on for about an hour as we blindly pushed further. 

At one point we came down to a river bed and the bridge had been blown out.  The river was low and the Guatemalans had built a dirt path off to the side that crossed the river at a shallow point.  We powered right through maxing out at around one foot depth water.  I came out with my engine steaming all around me burning off the river.  DR650 succeeds again.

It drizzled the whole drive so both Al and I wore our waterproof layers.  They were nice to have but not as comfortable as I remembered.  After over two months of vents open half zipped, the jacket felt clammy.  But that was probably because we were riding through the clouds.  The temperature dipped to about 60F degrees and I was overjoyed.  About 2.5 hours into our ride, we crested a hill and Lake Atitlan faded into view behind the changing fog.  We were high above it with steep green volcano walls leading down into the mist. 

We decided to go south around the lake based on our map.  Riding through drizzle and street rivers we spent an hour weaving around the lake towards San Pedro.  Finally we arrived in San Antonio, the final town before San Pedro.  The next ten miles were the nastiest off-road we have seen yet (I say that a lot, but it’s always true).  Normally a very poor dirt road, now it was a mud trail carved out by water drainage everywhere.  We have dual sport tires, but they can’t do everything.  There were many times I felt the entire bike shift underneath me as a tire slipped into a rut.  The goal is to get the hell out that rut as fast as possible because it takes away all the power of your leaning in turns.  Gun it hard lifting the front end and pop off the edge and back into the mud with momentum.  At one point I did get stuck.  I got thrown too hard to the right and had to come to a stop before rolling off the road.  Once stopped the 500 pound bike started sliding down the hill in whatever manner it felt.  I managed to keep it upright fighting with the bars.  After stopping then I couldn’t get moving.  I rocked the bike plenty and finally got the tire to bite and pull me out.

Finally at 4:30pm San Pedro came into view.  The city sits in a little bay between two volcanoes and creeps up the hills of the ridge between them.  We made our way to the tourist center and started looking for a hostel that would park our bikes.  We ran into several friends from Zepherlodge and eventually decided to go to Yo Mama’s Casa.  I barely squeezed my boxes between their doors.

Last night we went out in the hippie town to watch the Canucks crumble in Game 7.  The main bar here is called Bhudda Bar and we were talking to the owner while watching the game.  She’s from Vermont and now resides in San Pedro.  We ran into two Kiwi girls we met in Flores, Anna and Kim.  By the end of the night we all had plans for breakfast at 9:30am and then a horse ride after.  It was the first time Al or I had made plans in months. 

Thursday morning we woke up, had a solid breakfast, and went to the trail horse owner who had offered us a deal.  We arrived as a group of six to find that the horses were badly malnourished.  Their hips were showing and they had no shoulder or neck muscles to speak of.  Our group was too far in to back out when we realized this so we mounted up.  The guide started off the first horse and the others followed.

We went for a two hour ride leading through the town then out a trail leading to the lake.  I wish it had been a good ride, but ultimately it was just too cruel to deal with.  At one point our leader horse had to turn around.  The rider signaled to go backwards and the horse’s weight shifted onto its hind legs.  At that moment it crumpled falling backward.  The rider held on until he was on the ground and then got off.  The horse then tried to get up, fell into a wall, waited a minute, and then finally got up.  The guide came up, straightened out the saddle, and had the rider mount again.  And that set the tone for my mood the entire trip.

Alex’s horse fell over too.  Mine kept kicking the ones behind me.  All the while they are trying to eat whatever vegetation they can reach on the trail.  It was scary going up and down hills because I really didn’t know if mine would hold me.  Animal cruelty is hard to hear about but even harder to experience.  On the way back the afternoon rain started and we came home drenched.  Not a pleasant experience.

The Kiwis are getting massages and Alex is playing the guitar.  Later we will all meet up for dinner and then whatever fun comes our way.  San Pedro has a very different feel.  There is a lot of white skin here and a lot of them are long term residents.  The lake looks beautiful but the clouds have been ruining the view since we got here.  We may leave as soon as tomorrow or stay around for a lot longer.  To be determined.
Thursday night we had a fun time with the Kiwi girls.  We all had breakfast together one last time before taking off for Antigua.  The plan is that we will all meet up again in Honduras next week.  Leading up to tomorrow’s departure, though, Alex and I have been enjoying the relaxing atmosphere here in San Pedro.   

Yesterday I committed my first humanitarian act of my trip.  I walked up to the market, bought thirty carrots for $2 and strolled down to the horse ranch.  I grabbed Taylor from Chicago on the way.  Together we fed each horse two carrots.  The saddest part then presented itself because the horses could hardly eat the carrots.  They chewed around the core like corn on the cob.  They couldn’t muster the energy to snap it.  I left feeling good but aware of my little impact.  If anything, I know Bitsey appreciated it.  Taylor is here for another month and she said she’ll feed them, though.

Friday it seemed the whole hostel was at the same bar and we all had a great time.  There was live music and good dancing.  Apparently there is a party across the lake tonight but I don’t know how bad I want to go.  It sounds like a late night and I owe it to myself to ride well-rested.  We’ll see; I’m definitely going to take it easy.  

June 15, 2011

The Characters

Zepherlodge, thanks for the memories.  I finally woke up with enough sense this morning to convince Al it was time to leave.  We had watched several generations of guests come and go and I was starting to feel like a leathery-skinned veteran.  Either start working, or get moving. 

After a slew of heartfelt goodbyes to people we’ll never see again, we hit the road around 10:30am heading for Lake Atitlan.  We weren’t hung over per se, but I’ve never felt worse on a motorcycle.  I was dehydrated, sore, and I had just spent the last seven days in a tent in Guatemala.  Oh, and I was broke… had to buy back my passport.

My sleep was out of whack from the good times at Zephyr.  Sunday night’s thunder storm didn’t help either.  I heard the first crack of lightening in the middle of the night and immediately stumbled out of my tent to collect my hanging clothes.  Then I battened down the hatches on my rainfly as the downpour started.  By the time I crawled back inside I was soaked and therefore so too was my sleeping bag and pad.  It was a gloomy night. 

From the time I arrived, I knew that I would be leaving Zephyrlodge in this fashion so I just accepted my state and hopped on the bike.  Al and I took off towards Coban and then headed south towards Guatemala City.  I had one scare on my way out in the dirt while I was trying to wave to a Guatemalan.  My front tire hit a rock and was thrown hard to one side.  For a millisecond, I swear the bike was at a 45 degree angle, that is until I gassed it as hard as I could.  Luckily the rear Pirelli took hold of the dirt and the bike righted itself immediately.  I wasn’t going fast, but the thought of that 500 pound machine slinging me into the rocky road was enough to stop me from waving to any more Guatemalans.

For a big riding day, it went very well.  We communicated well and stayed together the entire time.  We made it through a massive metropolis (Guatemala City) with only one U-turn.  And we didn’t die in the Guatemalan construction zone.

Ten miles of chaos and recklessness that even high school jocks couldn’t match.  A Guatemalan construction zone just means that there is a big open highway with a lot of people in orange vests milling about and no lane distinction.  The impatient drivers see it as an opportunity to gain some ground.  Therefore, it is a first come, first serve basis on lane position.  Just start passing and screw the oncoming traffic.  Although exposed, I was glad to be on a nimble bike and able to squeeze the tighter gaps.

Al and I rode until about 7:00pm just as it was getting dark.  We almost made it to Atitlan (a feat which everyone warned could not be done), but the sun set with an hour’s ride to go and we decided to call it.  We are currently detoxing in Tenpec at a plush hotel for $12/each.  I can only imagine the shenanigans going down at Zepherlodge right now.

I met a lot of different people at that hostel.  There was Loancy, the 21 year-old Costa Rican who left home with $180 and a rock polishing kit and has been selling jewelry ever since.  Maya, the cutest former Israeli soldier ever.  Thomas and Ester, a Dutch couple who bought a decommissioned school bus in Texas and are now driving it to Panama as a moving hostel.  Dieter, the 25 year-old Guatemalan bartender with a British accent who is planning to move to London next year to live with his dad (we inquired further and it turns out his dad is a 26 year-old friend that legally adopted him).  Damon, the Canadian who runs the show at Zepherlodge.  He keeps a cool, sometimes smug attitude, and running that place, you would have to.  Alana and Lisa, the wide-eyed Berkley students.  Aurelie, the French girl working seven days a week at Zephyr with a smile on her face from dawn until dusk.  Megan, the Brit who was enthralled with my knowledge of American hip-hop.  The Australian gang, which I plan to meet up with again.  Joost, the Dutch mountain guide who would jump off anything with Alex.  Tammy, the ditzy blonde South African with a law degree who seems to love everything. 

It was hard to say goodbye to every one of them.  And then came some astonishing words from Chi (born in London to Cambodian parents).  Saturday night he and I were discussing how well we got along and the shame that we’d never meet again and he replied ‘and that’s the beauty of it’.  And it struck me, he’s right; the immediacy of the situation is what makes this time so amazing.  It’s the catch.  I’ll never forget those words.

June 14, 2011

Fotos III

I'm on my way to Lake Atitlan right now.  According to CNN, it is the third most scenic lake in the world.  I'm easily impressed so I think I'll enjoy it.  In the meantime, here are some pictures.

The entrance to Cenote Dos Ojos.  This is where we snorkeled around underground in the Yucatan.

Alex and me with our German friends Chris, Pipo, and Dominique in Dos Ojos.  Waterproof camera is coming in handy.

I had to watch my head for stalactites the entire time.

I had Al take a picture of me hanging out about ten feet underwater near this hole.  There was an air pocket on the other side, but I wasn't interested.

This was taken on the ride from SW Mexico to Ciudad del Carmen.  I only got one picture because the Mexican army made me put my camera away.

Subsistence farming in SW Mexico.  All these fields were tended on steep hills.

This was the first sea turtle I encountered.  I think it is National Geographic material.

Screwing around with my underwater timer in Akumal.

Our fellow Seattleites Zac and Amber and our French wedding planner friend Aline.  Notice Alex's Mexican hair styling.
A road shot of the Belize jungle.
Barton Creek Outpost just after I let go of the rope swing.

Logan, the jungle kid, climbing vines.

Our beautiful free camping spots.

Our little climbing venture down the Rio On pools.

Here's a view from the other direction.

Alex's first back flip at Big Rock in Belize.

Taken on our 90 mile dirt trip out to the Coracol ruins.

Me hanging out in a tomb.

One of the quads at Coracol.  We were the only ones there.
This tree looks like a brontosaurus.

The largest ruin at Coracol.  You can't see the top.  There are two more levels.

Entrance to the Mayan underworld.  Check out the face on the right.
My favorite part of Tikal: the spiral staircase.

A view of the Guatemalan mountains with Charlie's and Patrick's bikes while we waited for the roadblock to be cleared.

On our way to Semuc Champe.  Very comfortable!

Here I am getting a sore ass sliding down some rocks.

More to come.

June 12, 2011

Life on Mars

The people here at Zepherlodge really have it figured out.  Charge dirt for rent, pour drinks down everyone’s throats until 3:00am every night, and serve them food all day while they recover.  It’s a brilliant self-fulfilling ‘organic liquidity’.  The place has only been around a year and a half and it’s packed every night without any help from guide books or major marketing.  The guys in charge have carved out a lifestyle of leisure up here with a very captive audience.

 This is the onset of my fifth night.   The way it works is the fourth night here is free and the fifth is all day happy hour.  I’m excited but also worn out.  I never drank in Alaska and when I came back I couldn’t imagine how I pushed through my days in college.  Four nights at Zepherlodge has me feeling like I’m 21 again.  We’ve been having some very long nights and slow mornings.  Our first night here Charlie racked up the second highest tab they have ever seen.

The reason for the madness is genius.  You start a tab when you walk in and hand over your passport as collateral.  Then they charge $5/night for a bed.  The food is cheap too and the drinks standard prices.  Around 6:00pm the happy hour starts, they turn the funky music up, and the bar atmosphere sets in.  Fill it all with a bunch of people wandering through Central America full of tales of adventure and clear your schedule.  It’s been six days and we still don’t have a plan to leave figured out.

We have been doing other things though.  Yesterday and the second day we tubed the local river in the afternoon.  Two hour of icing yourself and dodging fallen trees.  Today was the real treat, though: Semuc Champe.

Semuc Champe is a geologic attraction that brings a lot of tourism through this little mountain village.  It is most known for a series of lapping pools at the bottom of a deep valley.  If you google it, that’s what comes up.  We took off for the area at 8:30am with the Zepherlodge Guatemalan tour guides and 25 other guests.  How do Guatemalans tackle mass transit?  Grab the Kia version of a Unimog, mount some waist-high bars in the bed, and pile in.  Twenty-five people sweating on each other holding on for dear life for nine agonizing kilometers.

Everyone got dropped off outside the site for our first attraction.  Our guide walked us down a little river trail to a massive rope swing (two ropes with a wooden dowel between them as a seat.  I knew we had a good tour group together when every single person took a turn hurling themselves into the river.  Alex gave the crowd a sneak preview with a couple flips. 

Next we walked up the hill behind us for a Guatemalan cave tour.  I say Guatemalan because we walked up to the entrance and our guides started handing out candles, the only light we would have.  We lit up and followed them in.  It’s difficult keeping a candle lit while rock climbing and swimming.  Some parts were over slick rock, some were in water deeper than my height.  There was no path or guidance, just crawl through the darkness in a bathing suit and avoid the rocks and the ceiling. 

I was a little hung over, but adrenaline had me absolutely loving every moment.  The guides led us all back probably about a quarter mile climbing ladders, ropes, and rock.  The entire time they were screaming in Spanish and bouncing around the caves like they’re there every day.  It was incredible climbing a slick hanging ladder with a river pouring down on me from the top.  I managed never to let my candle go out. 

At the end was a large cavern where we all took turns climbing up a side to jump into a pool in the limited candle light.  I saw one kid tear his swim suit he came so close to hitting the rocks on his jump.  There must not be much liability law in Guatemala.  After a while of this the guides told us to head back and took up the rear.  With the group spread out, we felt the darkness the entire way back in the eerie tunnels. 

Out in the light we walked over to the next leg: a bridge jump.  Alex really opened up here with some huge backflips.  He was talking about a double but eventually decided the conditions weren’t right.  I had a great time pencil diving. 

Finally we walked over to Semuc Champe to check out the pools.  A quick blistering hike took us to the top of a mountain where we got the view that google will bring up.  Then we walked down and toured the pools with the guides.  At home a site like this would be blocked off with a tourist boardwalk on the side to preserve the environment.  In Guatemala, they find all the best jumps, slides, and pools for us to trample.  We took a meandering path through the pools half swimming and half walking.  The rocks were often so smooth we took turns sliding down them into the pools like a waterslide. 

At the end was a huge waterfall dropping into a regular looking river at the bottom.  The guard mentioned that it could be jumped.  Within minutes Alex and a Dutch guy named Juice were leaping off the forty foot cliff right next to the waterfall.  I didn’t see it, but it must have been pretty good.

Now I’m back at Zepherlodge lying in a hammock watching lightning strike in the distance with a party booming all around me.  Gotta go!