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

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

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.  


  1. Alex! Great to meet you last night at Yo Mama's! Good luck with the rest of your journey!

  2. Here is my first post on your blog.

    Malnourished horses are one of the saddest sights to see. It upsets me that those people continue to use them on tours when its obvious how bad of shape they are in. Good for you and Taylor to go back and give them carrots. If you are still around, horses love apples too.

    Keep updating, they are interesting to read and I like seeing where you and Al are at. Safe travels :)