Mexico – Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido

Random mural painted on a building in Oaxaca…

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I enjoyed the culture filled town of Oaxaca for 2 days. I did the usual, walk around, see the sights, take pictures of the churches but I also had a chance to do some volunteering at an organization in town that is a sort of community center for underprivileged children. I hoped to spend the day with the kids, but they had a greater need for some administrative help – not as glamorous but just as appreciated and I still had a chance to play with the kids for a little bit.

One afternoon I walked around town and saw big orange KTM 990 parked inside a hotel. I stopped in and met Vince who is riding around the world over the course of a few years. We had a great time “talking moto.”

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That night in the hostel I learned that the lockers had been broken into and money, a camera, and a laptop were stolen. Fortunately, I lock up all my valuables in my Micatech luggage but it was a reminder that you can’t let my guard down, even when you think you’re safe. Later we found out from the Police that this was the 8th theft this year from that hostel – looks like an inside job. For those of you traveling to the area, think twice before staying at the Mezkalito Hostel.

Before I left town I had to have some of the local delicacies, home made hot chocolate and Chaupolines – smoked grasshoppers in chili powder and lime. This one’s for you, Lisa!

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The close-up:

Oaxaca Chaupolines

I left Oaxaca early in the morning for a long days ride through the mountains down towards the ocean town of Puerto Escondido. The road quality was the worst it’s been so far. Lots of pot holes, gravel and sinkholes. Cruising around one corner I found part of the road missing! After getting lost and backtracking, I eventually made it to Puerto Escondido where the temps and humidity were much higher than in the mountains.

Walking around town one afternoon another big KTM 990 was rolling around. I waved my arms to signal the rider to stop and I shouted across the median that I was on a bike too. I met Justin who is riding from Colorado to TDF. He almost didn’t stop because he thought I was a local Mexican trying to sell him something. Am I that tan?!? I grabbed a taxi and he followed back to the hostel. It had been a rough day for him. Leaving Acapulco, he ever so lightly nudged a taxi’s bumper. The taxi ran him off the road and a cop soon met up with him and he paid a $150 USD fine/bribe! Understandably he was pissed off but he realized that it was lesson learned and a great story for his journey. Justin left the next day for Oaxaca and we plan to meet up again for some more riding together.

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Amber came into town for a long Thanksgiving vacation and we had a great time relaxing on the beach, body surfing, boogie boarding, eating, and enjoying the sunsets from our ocean front bungalow.

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Looking over the Playa Principal and Marina.

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Sitting in the hand sculpture and napping in the hammock.

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I always thought it was odd when people drank Corona in the middle of winter in New England. This is how a Corona is meant to be enjoyed – on the beach at sunset in Mexico.

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Gymnastics on the beach.

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We hired a boat to go out into the ocean to see tortugas. After 30 minutes of cruising our “captain” killed the engine, grabbed a rope, and jumped into the sea. OK… Seconds later he grabbed hold of a giant sea turtle and we pulled him back to the boat. He then yanked the gentle creature onto the boat and told us to come pet it. Never in the USA… The turtle must be thinking, “Shit! This is the third time today!”

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Diving off the boat into the middle of the shark infested ocean.

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Next thing I know I’m being chased by some Mexican guy!

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The captain tells me to grab hold of the tortuga (I think… He spoke very little English and I had no idea what he was saying in Spanish). Nervously, I grabbed onto its shell and prepared for a ride around… Moments later it dove straight down with amazing power and I couldn’t hold on. Again, never in the USA…

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  Drinking and then eating coconuts on the beach.

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Lounging in the ensuite “hot tub” which didn’t have hot water or working jets. It filled up about 2 inches deep in 30 minutes. I ended up doing laundry in it instead. I felt like a little kid playing with toys in the bathtub.

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Amber devouring the most delicious yogurt known to mankind. I might have to start an import business to bring this to the States.

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A truly artistic photo of two overweight Europeans in budgie smugglers enjoying the sunset. Their 3rd friend (who was much larger) didn’t want to leave his hammock chair. This one’s for you David…

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I left Puerto Escondido with a cold and stopped into a quaint little town of Tehuantepec. There was a wonderful market that overflowed into the streets, some delicious street food, and a Christmas musical/play being performed in the square by the elementary students. The town was full of a type of tuk-tuk taxi that I’ve never seen before. I can only imagine that some local guy started pumping these out.

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The next day I crossed into the state of Chiapas and headed up the mountains for San Cristobal de Las Casas.

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My health was improving and the winding roads up the mountain gave beautiful views and delightfully cooler weather. These signs are everywhere in the mountains. They translate into English as “Dangerous Curve” or into Moto as “Fun Roads.”

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I’ll be enjoying the culture and weather here in San Cristobal for a few days as I get some logistics squared away.

Categories: Mexico | 6 Comments

San Cristobal de Las Casas

Riding up to San Cristobal was amazing. Gaining elevation with beautiful winding roads made for a great trip. My first night in town I walked around and found 3 more big bikes! I met up with Jeff, Arno, and Kevin (and Vince who I met in Oaxaca) who are also headed to Ushuaia. They left the next morning for Guatemala.

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The next day I met ANOTHER rider on a KLR. This makes 6 riders I met already who are headed for the bottom of the world. It’s good to know I’m not that crazy after all. Torben is stuck in San Cristobal waiting for parts to rebuild his top end on his KLR. He is from The Netherlands, flew to Los Angeles, bought a bike, and is headed south. Leaving Copper Canyon in northern Mexico he road through a marijuana plantation and passed many guys with machine guns. One group of guys followed him to his hotel and he suspects they opened his oil cap and put in a brass nut in hopes that he would abandon his bike. He was able to make it out of town to a mechanic, take out the nut, and reassemble his bike. Days later he noticed he was out of oil. His bike’s top end had been trashed by the time he made it to Chiapas. He’s been stuck for 2 weeks waiting for parts and most likely will be waiting for 2 more before he gets back on the road. He has such a positive attitude and reminds himself that this break is good for his Spanish lessons.

A little walking around San Cristobal up to the church.

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Passing through a parade

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And the foreigner who ruined the shot…

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I met a girl from Argentina. Her English is just slightly better than my Spanish. We had a great conversation. I spoke in Spanish and she spoke in English. It worked out well because I couldn’t understand her Spanish and she couldn’t understand my English. It was really fun.

I met up with some other travelers from the hostel and we all boarded a collectivo (group taxi) for a Zapatista village. The collectivo was a new experience for me. Even now, just thinking about being crammed in that little van, being tossed around as we drove up the mountain and over all the topes (speed bumps) is making me feel sick… Again, I’m so happy to be traveling by motorbike!

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The Zapatistas are comprised mostly of indigenous Mayans who are at “war” with the Mexican government.

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We passed through the gates where 2 women with masks asked us for our passports. Next, we entered into “holding cell” where 5 locals gathered and one young boy did all the talking and writing. He asked each of us our name, nationality, political affiliation, and profession. After about 30 minutes we went to another building to meet 2 more masked locals who asked us all the same questions. They then began to tell us the history of their struggle. Between them they spoke in their indigenous language but to us they spoke in broken Spanish. Fortunately, we had a traveler from Spain in our group who was able to translate everything for us. Here I am joining the movement.

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The masks seem to be more for theatrics than function. The Mexican government knows where they are and knows who they are; so why do they need masks? After our education, we went to yet another building where we were asked all the same questions and finally given a piece of paper with a stamp (they love stamps in Latin America) that was permission for us to walk around the village. Unfortunately it was pouring rain (a first for me in Mexico) and very foggy. I walked around for a bit taking pictures of all the beautiful murals on the building as I became drenched.

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They had a small gift store where they sold their local handicrafts – which were simply beautiful.

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Me with my official EZLN mask.

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It was getting late in the day. We waited around for an hour for a collectivo but it never came. Becoming very wet and cold we decided to split up and hitchhike back to town.

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Back in town, I helped Torben forge a title for his bike. I’m not going to lie, it’s quite good. I have to give thanks to Mike at the New Hampshire Institute of Art for all the Photoshop instruction even if it’s not quite what I had imagined doing with these skills. If I run out of money perhaps I can sell my services.

The town has heaps of colorful handicrafts that are all handmade by the local indigenous people. At the risk of ruining the surprise for someone’s Christmas gift, here’s a photo of me wearing an authentic Mexican Lucha Libre (wrestling) mask.

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Oh, and another KLR rider came into town Yesterday. Sam is from Australia and is riding from Whistler to Chile. I had no idea I’d meet so many other moto riders.

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Tomorrow, I’m headed to some out of the way ruins near the Guatemala border with Justin who I met a few weeks back. Stay tuned.

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

Mexico – Tonina, Agua Azul, Palenque

My last night in San Cristobal happened to land on Vera’s birthday. I’ve run into Vera in 4 cities now but unfortunately I won’t see her again as she’s staying put to study Spanish. Torben and I picked up a piñata for Vera and stuffed it full with candy. The next morning Sam decapitated the piñata and used it as his new riding helmet.

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Before heading out of town, I had to help myself to more of the delicious 2.5 peso ($0.20 USD) tacos. Yum!

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Sam, Justin, and I decided to ride together for a few days. We had grand plans with lots of mileage but as it turned out we made very little distance, changed our route, and had tons of fun. Until now I had been riding alone and it was so much fun to ride with other motorcyclists. It was so magical to see their bikes winding around the twisty mountain roads!

The first stop was the ruins of Tonina. These unpopular ruins were awesome as we were the only tourists at the sight. We found some cheap camping near by as well. Here’s a shot of the beautiful valley and an abstract shot of the jungle vine.

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Singing the Indiana Jones theme song we ventured into pitch black passageways using our camera flashes occasionally to light the way. On the right are the local drunks archeologists who are unearthing an artifact. They weren’t happy to have their picture taken.

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It’s believed that Tonina brought down the powerful civilization of Palenque. The Palenque king was decapitated at the top of the pyramid. Here’s Sam summoning the gods from atop the giant structure.

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WARNING: The following content is graphic and some readers may be disturbed… I certainly was! I had to pee in the middle of the night but I didn’t want to leave my tent because it was raining and unfortunately I didn’t have a pee bottle with me. My NEMO tent has a small zipper along the side that gives access to the air beams. Quite cleverly, I moved close, unzipped the zipper and began peeing out the side of the tent. “Genius!” I thought. Moments later I had a stinging feeling. “I’m probably rubbing against the zipper” I said to myself. The stinging increased and I finished peeing. I rolled over and pulled up my boxers but the stinging was getting worse. I quickly struggled to find my headlamp and turned it on to see more than a dozen red fire ants on my private parts. AHHHHH! I desperately cleaned them all away with my sock. In the end I had about 15 bites and a stinging pain that lasted all night. I couldn’t sleep just thinking about having to go into town in the middle of the night to find a doctor if this thing swelled up… It turned out to be OK and 4 days later the bites are almost gone. I’ll save you from a photo of the wound but here’s a shot of all the fire ants swarmed around the tent’s zipper the next morning. Justin and Sam had a good laugh when I told them what happened. Thanks guys…

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Leaving Tonina we ran into Vince again. By coincidence we stopped in front of a military training camp. This officer came by to tell us we had to move our bikes. We complied, but first we needed a photo. This guy owns a Honda Goldwing too!

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Once on the road we had a great time riding as a pack and weaving in and out of traffic. The guys showed me a new trick to wheelie over the topes (speed bumps) that allows the bike to remain at high speeds comfortably. We cruised the afternoon away until we reached Agua Azul. A beautiful tourist trap waterfall in the jungle.

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A dip in the river was a great cool down.

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Downstream we found a camping spot.

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It gets dark around 6pm and after dinner and a few games of gin-rummy it was still too early to head to bed so we played around with our headlamps and made some light painting photos. 

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The next morning we set sail for the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque. Not more than 10 miles down the road, Sam got a flat tire. A few hundred meters later we pulled over to a tiny town to fix the flat. Sam doesn’t have a center stand so we went looking for something to support his bike. We found some cinderblocks behind a house and used them even though they began to crumble under the weight of the bike. They build houses out of this junk?

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Popping the bead.

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Sam and Justin (a.k.a. cuteboots – ya, it’s an inside joke) inflating the tire as a few local kids watch on. Rather than be in school, they just seem to run around the road all day long…

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The patch was successful and 90 minutes later we were back on the road for Palenque. Before heading to the campground we stopped in town at the grocery store to pick up some supplies. I noticed this kid placing cardboard over car windshields to block the sun. When the owner returned he would argue for a tip – and quite often he was successful. Who needs school when your making money… Although, I might try this when I return home for a few extra bucks on the weekends.

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Back at the campsite, I put my Micatech cup holders to good use.

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Sam is 6 feet 5 inches tall. He bought a tent at Wal-Mart that’s not quite big enough for him… Sam also had his muffler die a few hundred miles back. He went to a muffler shop and got this sweet custom made unit. His bike now sounds like it has a V8 engine. BRAAAAAPPPPP!!!!

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Sam placed his order for breakfast and the lady behind the counter says “What’s your name.” “Sam” he says. “Did you say ‘Sam’?” she replied. “Yes, Sam.” She then writes down his name on the ticket as S-E-M-E-N. We all share a laugh at the table when she calls his name a few minutes later. “Semen – omelet.”

The Palenque ruins were beautiful but overrun with tourists. We discussed how we would attack the ruins by coming in over the mountains if we were invading hundreds of years ago.

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Sam getting his Indiana Jones on.

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Carvings.

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Ball court.

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Amazing jungle tree.

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At night the howler monkeys are in full tune. I swear it sounded like there was a Tyrannosaurus-Rex in the woods. And of course, what trip would be complete without an impromptu acoustic motorcycle song by a friendly traveler at the campground.

The next morning we all set off in different directions. I had a great time riding with Sam and Justin and I hope our paths cross again. I left town heading north for the colonial beachside town of Campeche. The roads are flat so far here in the peninsula and I already long for the mountain twisties. The military presence has increased in the states of Chiapas and Campeche too and I’ve been stopped at many checkpoints but they’ve all gone smooth so far (knock on wood).

I’ll do a loop of the peninsula before I meet up with Charles near the Belize border just before Christmas.

Stay tuned.

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

Mexico – Yucatan Peninsula Loop

After splitting from from Sam and Justin I set off for a loop of the Yucatan peninsula. Heading north, I worked up to the colonial sea side town of Campeche. I began the hotel search and the first place I stopped had no parking. I came back to the bike and met Mike who is doing a winter in Mexico on his KLR. He decided to ditch the Canadian cold this year – not a bad idea! So, this makes number number 8 (I think) on the “bikers I’ve met in Mexico” list. Mike showed me to his hotel where I rode the bike up the front stairs and into the lobby for secure parking.

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Campeche is a nice city that was once surrounded by walls after being attacked by pirates in the 1600’s, YARRR! There’s a great sea side walking/biking path and a colorful city center.

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The next morning I continued north to Merida. I was stopped at about 4 military checkpoints on this short stretch of road and they were always carrying large automatic weapons. Here’s my Mexico military checkpoint procedure:

  • Officer flags/waves me over.
  • I point over like I don’t know where to go, he nods yes, and I give a thumbs up as I pull over. I say “buenos dias” and turn off the bike.
  • He says something about opening the panniers and wants to see my passport or vehicle import papers.
  • Very slowly, I get off the bike, take off the gloves, remove the sunglasses, take off the helmet, and say buenos dias again with a big friendly smile as I reach to shake his hand.
  • Homeboy asks again to open the panniers and I pretend that I don’t understand what’s going on and that I don’t know much Spanish (which isn’t too far from the truth).
  • Eventually I comply and I give him a copy of my passport (never the originals! If he decides to give me a hard time, he has little leverage if I’ve got the originals)
  • We do a quick open and peak into the panniers. I make small talk while he does this so he can’t concentrate on my gear (no need for him to get curious and start playing with and asking for toys).
  • I tell him where I’m from and where I’m going and he can’t believe that I rode all the way from the USA and that I’m going to Argentina.
  • He asks all the questions: How big is the engine, how fast does it go, how much does it cost, what make is it, how long have you been traveling, do you like the women in Mexico?
  • If all else fails I give him a small picture of me and the bike (I printed out some of these in San Cristobal for dirt cheap). He’s excited when I tell him he can keep it. By now he’s forgotten all about searching my bike and checking my papers.
  • Another handshake and I’m on my way. Hasta Luego Amigo! No bribes, no fines, no tips, no hassles.

In Merida, I went for a walk to the Zocolo (Center square – every city has one). I sat down on a bench and watched all the old folks dance the night away (this goes down every Sunday night). A woman walks over, smiles and sits down next to me. She says hola and asks if I speak Spanish. After the small talk (the night is beautiful, nice weather, pretty city), she asks what hotel I’m staying at. No big deal, Mexican’s are friendly and I’m often approached on the street for a chat. She asks what I do for work and I ask her the same (she’s a masseuse). She asks if I’m married and I ask her the same (she’s not). Then she asks if I want to get a drink. No thanks, I say. Eventually she asks if I want a massage and it hits me that she’s not interested in chit-chat… she’s a prostitute! Although I’m tempted to ask how much (for curiosity’s sake), I respectfully decline. After a few minutes of “accidentally” poking my arm she asks again. No thanks, I say and she says goodnight and walks away. I go back to watching the old folks dance. A nice relaxing evening.

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Valladolid is next on the list. An uninteresting city that has a cenote (cave) not far from the city center. I go for a look and the girl at the gate asks for the $15 peso entry fee. I tell her all I have is a credit card (even though I have cash). She says she can’t accept it. I smile and and ask if it’s ok to go for free, just this one time. She agrees and I save $1.25 USD – Hey, I got a long way to go on this trip and money doesn’t grow on trees!

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The cenote is amazing and beautiful and has been extensively manicured by concrete workers to make it a thorough tourist trap. Nevertheless, it’s quite a magnificent feature.

On the road again and I’m headed to Cancun. YIKES! There’s English everywhere and the beach strip is shoulder to shoulder with 5-star resorts. It’s WAY too pricey for me. I stop to make a sandwich at the only stretch of open beach. What a beautiful view. 3 different guys selling soda/juice/ice cream/fruit/chips/etc ask me about the bike and my trip. They’re always amazed and friendly. I have to say, the people of Mexico are genuinely friendly and a pleasure to talk to. I ask one fella to take my picture to capture my “Cancun vacation” and I’m back on the bike and going to Playa del Carmen.

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Playa is a much less expensive city and the beaches are lined with only small 3-star hotels. My first order of business is to jump in the ocean – awww refreshing! But there are way too many Europeans. I walk a few blocks from the beach, the fancy tourism stops and a real Mexican city emerges. Yes, this is the type of place I like. Deliciously cheap restaurants, friendly folks, and pleasant mariachi music fill the streets.

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After 3 days in Playa I continued south along the coast for Tulum. I met Jean-Charles from CouchSurfing and am staying at his place along with a German couple. JC has great advice: BE HAPPY!

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Tulum has wonderful beaches that have far fewer people than Playa del Carmen. While most people are taking photos of the ruins, I’m taking photos of paintings in the alley ways or town…

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Some off roading along the coast was spectacular too as the road went into the bio-reserve. What’s this, a 25 pesos entrance fee??? But I only have credit card *wink wink*. Oh, It’s ok to go for free just this one time? Thanks! Braaaapppppp!!!

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I met another biker (I can’t hardly believe that Mark is the ninth biker I’ve met in Mexico)! He flew from England to Anchorage, Alaska and rode up to Prudhoe Bay (the top of Alaska) and is working his way down to Tierra del Fuego and then to Africa. Amazing.

Good news, with some 11th hour clutch mechanics, Charles has left Colorado and is on the road!!!

I’m leaving Tulum in the morning and headed south along the coast. Stay tuned!

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

Mexico/Belize/Guatemala – Laguna Bacalar, Altun Ha, El Remate

Loaded up and ready to leave Tulum, I start the bike, vrooooom! Pull the clutch lever and SNAP! Broken clutch cable. Oh the joy… Fortunately, I had a spare cable and was able to make the swap easily and hit the road about an hour later than planned. Once on the road I thought about how lucky I was to have a spare cable and for it to snap while I parked in a safe location. This could have easily happened on the road in the middle of nowhere with no spare…

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I rode south to Laguna Bacalar, a beautiful freshwater lake near the Belize border, and camped at what might be considered a campground. Although it was more like a grassy patch next to a local’s shack. Nevertheless, the setting was beautiful.

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The lake is crystal clear with a white sandy bottom and a few limestone “lilly pads”– absolutely stunning. A swim felt mighty good!

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A view from the tent door:

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I met back up with Justin that night and the next day we headed for the Belize border. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the border after hearing so many Central American border crossing horror stories, but the cross was quite simple and were in and out in about an hour.

First, we went to the migration shack office to cancel our tourist visas and then about 50 meters later to cancel our temporary vehicle import permits. Then as we crossed the bridge we stopped traffic to take a photo. (Oh god, I hope my kickstand doesn’t fall through the grates…)

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After the bridge we were flagged down by a few guys in a shack to have our bikes “fumigated” or sprayed with water for about 2.5 seconds for $3USD. OK????

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Now in Belize the culture is very different, very Caribbean, and not Latin. No more Spanish, we’re back to English. It’s not a standard English though, we’re talkin’ very Caribbean mon! It’s getting late in the day and Justin and I went fast down the Old Northern Highway (single lane dirt road) dodging pot holes until we reach the Mayan Wells Restaurant (and campground). We roll in just as night sets in and set up shop for the night. The owner, Simon, is very friendly and we cooked some dinner under the palapa right next to a train of army ants. These little buggers are straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. We painfully learned the next morning not to step in their path. Turns out their path moved right through our tents and within seconds of standing there Justin’s legs were covered with nasty biting army ants!

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Early the next morning we awoke to the wild sounds of jungle birds. We the visited the ruins of Altun Ha about a mile down the road. Images of these ruins are on the Belize currency and beer labels. The site was beautifully manicured but tragically restored with concrete work over all the steps.

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Justin left afterwards and headed for Guatemala (he spent less than 22 hours in Belize).

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The next afternoon the owner of the restaurant tells me they have crocodiles and jaguars in the area. Cooking dinner in the dark under the palapa later that night had my senses on high alert when I heard a deep purring coming from the jungle… I lived through the night and the next morning took a few pictures of the beautiful flowers around the grounds.

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Oh, and I’m not sure who Bob is or what he stands for but every telephone poll in the town tells me to vote for him.

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I spent another night waiting to hear from Charles. No luck the next morning (Christmas Eve) either. I wanted to see more of Belize but I’m also shocked at the sticker prices in this country. I made the executive decision to move onto Guatemala to meet back up with Justin. I left Mayan Wells on the small one lane road. Tour buses were speeding towards me on way to the ruins without slowing down or moving aside. Each time I had to jump onto the dirt shoulder 4 inches below the level of the road. Riding for a few hours I passed through most of northern and western Belize admiring the architecture and culture that was quite different from what I’d grown accustom to over the past 6 weeks in Mexico.

I feel a bit sad though that I stayed less than 48 hours in Belize. I didn’t try any food or even the beer. Although, I did try to buy a can of beer at a grocery store near the border but they were sold out… Oh well… Next time I’m in Belize I’ll have to explore more and certainly make it to the famous islands and ATM cave.

I crossed the border into Guatemala with ease. So far the tales of heinous Central American border crossings haven’t lived up to the hype. Bienvenidos a Guatemala!

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Instantly life changed across the border. The people are no longer of Caribbean and African decent, they are Mayan and Spanish. English was forgotten immediately and I was back in Latin culture. The road turned to dirt for a few miles and then to spectacular pavement. Green forested rolling hills lay in the background and several herds of cattle and a few random pigs crossed the street every now and again. A short ride later and I’m in El Remate, a beautiful town that sits on the lake’s edge. Justin and I spent the afternoon out on the dock, swimming in the crystal clear water, diving off the dock, drinking liters of beer, and taking photos and GoPro videos.

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Here’s a short video from the afternoon. (If you can’t see the video below in the email, click this link: http://www.vimeo.com/8382683)

Mon Ami Hotel advertised a delicious Christmas dinner. A bit pricey at $9 USD but we figured it would be well worth it to celebrate considering we’d both been cooking our own meals for a few days now. Unfortunately, the cold mashed potatoes, few vegetables, and turkey bones weren’t quite the meal we had envisioned. Oh well, so is part of the journey… At least the homemade hot chocolate was tasty!

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Charles’ Update:

Charles trucked his bike out of Colorado and then continued riding south. In Texas his bike basically ate itself (ya, that’s technical talk) but luckily he noticed the problem moments before his engine would have completely died. Fortunately, he met up with another motorcyclist and got together with a mechanic who got him back on the road with only a day lost. He cruised through Mexico pulling 12 hour days just rolling out the kilometers until he cut across the Yucatan peninsula when his bike broke down again. I don’t have the full story but he was able to find a mechanic in Chetumal who will be able to fix the bike. However, parts need to be shipped in from Cancun and with the Christmas holiday it’ll take a few days before he’s back on the road. A few days rest will do his body good and he’ll be here shortly. Charles, I can’t wait to ride with you finally!!!

Merry Christmas from Guatemala! Enjoy the snow at home!

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Categories: Belize, Guatemala, Mexico | 9 Comments

Guatemala – Tikal to Lanquin

I Skyped home with my family on Christmas and afterwards went out on the dock to relax. A local Guatemalan family was also enjoying the Holiday with a swim. After a few smiles and chit chat, they offered me a cup of Coke and a fresh tamale. It was delicious. In comparison to lives back home, these people have very little. Little education, little possessions, little money. They have so little but they give so much. I can only hope I was able to give something back to them that afternoon.

The day after Christmas, Justin and I left the hotel at 5:30 in the morning to get up to the Tikal ruins for sunrise. We were the first ones at the gate just before 6:00 am. The road was excellent and I witnessed a baby chicken scream across the road narrowly missing Justin’s tire by inches. He probably lost a few feathers. For a second I thought I would be able to taste baby chicken wings. mmmmmm tasty. The entrance fee was steep, 150 Quetzals for foreigners ($20 USD) as opposed to the 25 Quetzals ($3.50 USD) for Guatemalans.

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With hopes of a beautiful sunrise and spectacular light for photography we made our way into the ruins. Unfortunately, mother nature didn’t cooperate. A cloudy sky with poor light was the offer for the morning. Oh well. We spent 6 hours walking the expansive ruins and climbing the temples. Eventually the afternoon brought blue skies.

Justin next to the massive national tree of Guatemala, the Ceiba tree.

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Keep an eye out for those defecating monkeys… I really wanted to see someone get the brown shower (so long as it wasn’t me of course). No luck.

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Hey little spider monkey.

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8 ft. tall mask on the temple face.

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Funky little cousin of the raccoon. This guy digs around for grubs all day.

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Amazing view from the top of Temple IV looking at the tops of the other temples poking out over the top of the jungle.

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This guy dresses up as in traditional ancient clothing and walks around with a tip jar. Tourists give him a few cents to take his picture. I preferred to take a picture of the tourist taking a picture.

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Climbing the stairs up one of the steepest temples, Temple V. These are built to code, right?

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The view from the top of Temple V.

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The architecture of Tikal was very different from any of the other ruins I’ve seen. The structures were very steep and inspiring.

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Maybe I was getting a little dehydrated and overwhelmed with all the tourists but I had this strange urge to flip my shirt and run around shouting GOAL!!!! Jungle Fever!

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What trip would be complete without one of these signs. Here’s to you Jim.

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Back at the lake I decided to be productive (sort of)… My inflatable sleeping pad has come down with a small leak and I have to blow it up at least once in the middle of the night when camping. I brought it to the lake to put it under water and search for bubbles. No luck unfortunately; must be a very small leak. All that exercise made me tired so I floated around for a bit.

El Remate (Big Agnes 2)

6 nights in El Remate… Every day swimming in the beautiful crystal clear lake, sun bathing on the dock while listening to Latin music, napping in the hammock, eating fresh fruit, watching a beautiful sunset, enjoying good company, playing card games, sleeping in an open air palapa with a cool breeze and no mosquitoes. I’ve never thought much of what heaven would be like but if it’s anything like this, I think it’ll be quite all right.

I was “stuck” here waiting for Charles as he got his bike fixed up. Blowing through the MX-BZ and BZ-GT borders in one day, Charles has finally arrived! He’s had quite an adventure and we’ll see if we can get some details and pictures up on the blog soon.

One more night at the Mon Ami hotel and we left early the next morning headed towards the town of Lanquin. An hour in the road was blocked by a large river. Huh, this wasn’t on the map… We took a ghetto ferry across and continued on. and the jungle gave way to beautiful mountains.

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Another hour gone by and the Jungle gave way to beautiful mountains.

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A few more hours gone by and the pavement ended and the dirt roads began. All day there was a continuous light mist and this made the dirt roads turn to mud. With too much tire pressure and myself with bald tires, we road on. Here’s Charles at the start of the dirt road, when it was in “good” condition.

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The wide road (shown above) quickly turned into a “goat path” and became very rocky and muddy. Hour after hour we continued through the most challenging terrain either of us had encountered to date. At one point I went through a few big mud puddles and lost control and gently crashed on the side of the road. Really though, my bike was tired and needed to take a rest.

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Eventually we made it to the town of Lanquin where we went into the river for a relaxing swim and held on for dear life in the monstrous current.

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Let the adventure begin…

Categories: Guatemala | 6 Comments

Guatemala – Antigua

Charles and I have noticed that all the portion sizes for meals here in Central America just aren’t up to our fatty American customs. But in Lanquin we stayed a hostel that was a fatty patty’s dream… Buffet dinner for Q45 ($5.50 USD). We stuffed ourselves silly with so much delicious food. mmmmmmmmmm.

The next morning we ditched our panniers and prepared to go down another challenging dirt track for 11 kilometers towards Semuc Champey. But now my bike won’t start… No biggie, Charles give’s me a push down the will and I bump start it. VROOOM! (The battery must have been drained from all the rough riding yesterday because it worked fine after a few miles on the tarmac). Although a whole day could be spent exploring and swimming at Semuc Champey we still had lots of riding to do. We took a quick stroll through, snapped some pictures of the beautiful limestone formations, pools, and underground river before Charles had some gut wrenching bowel issues… He found the toilet just in time! (Sorry Charles, this had to be documented for accuracy’s sake).

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Leaving Semuch Champey towards Coban we strolled through wretched dirt track (that was a blast to ride!) and spectacular new pavement that winded through some of the most beautiful mountains in Guatemala. Spectacular! As we came around one corner there were lots of rocks in the road. This is a clear sign to be careful. Sure enough around the next bend the whole lane of the road was washed out in a landslide!

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225 miles later, at around 4pm, we reached our destination, the beautiful colonial tourist town of Antigua. It’s New Years Eve and the city is packed. Charles stayed with the bikes while I walked around to every hotel I could see trying to find one that had an open room for the night. 20 hotels later I find El Jardin Lolita. David owns this family style house and he gives us a room with secure parking for the bikes. He even has another open room for Justin who arrived around 6pm.

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We’re exhausted after the past 2 day’s ride but it’s New Year’s Eve so we head out on the town with our old friend Torben (who spent 5 weeks in San Cristobal, Mexico waiting for his bike to be repaired. Unfortunately, he’s still burning a quart of oil every 2 days…)

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We all get heaps of delicious street food and grab a few liters of beer. All night people were lighting off fireworks. There’s no visual component to these so I guess they are more like dynamite. Every man is trying to “one-up” the previous bang with an even bigger BANG!

Come midnight the streets are packed. We inch our way through the crowd at the rate of about a meter per minute. There seems to be a little confusion during the countdown but eventually the light up signs switches from 2009 to 2010 and the crowd goes crazy!

¡Feliz año! Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s already 2010… In the morning we slowly rise. Justin ditches his bald tire for some fresh rubber. Charles cleans all the mud off his bike and finds a welder to fix his broken rack. I trample the city in search of new tires (without luck). However, while walking around town I run into 2 more guys on KLR’s (#’s 13 and 14? I don’t know, I’ve lost track) riding from the USA to Panama and back. Mark and Jon end up staying at our same hotel. Jon lost one of his panniers in California and fabbed up a sweet new one from a used milk crate. Man rule #73: Find Solutions.

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In the afternoon we decide on a tour up the Volcano Pacaya. there are 37 volcano’s in Guatemala buy only 3 of them are active. Pacaya is active. Before we could even step out of the van, dozens of kids come running up to us. Buy schtick! Buy schtick! They cost only Q5 ($0.75) but we’ll do without.

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We’re not quite sure what  to expect but it turns out to be quite a good trek up the scree slope. The initial views of the valley are outstanding.

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With strong winds and rain working in we ascend into the clouds and eventually arrive at the lava. INCREDIBLE! The heat is so strong. Liquid hot magma is flowing under our feet and spewing out from the ground right in front of us. It’s also quite eerie and I wonder if the ground is going to give way or if my shoes are going to melt. I couldn’t get any closer than he photo below because the heat was so strong.

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This is what the ground looks like under my feet.

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Up on a precarious rock pile there was a woman taking pictures. All of a sudden the rock pile began to crumble and she went tumbling down the rock towards the lava. She fell inches from the Lava! Fortunately, Justin was only a few feet away. Without hesitation he grabbed her sweatshirt and yanked her away – effectively saving her life.

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It was a scary reminder that this wasn’t a USA style tour. Never in the States could you walk right up next to the lava. No guardrails, no signs, no paths – just go wherever you want. It’s amazing freedom but people can get hurt, or worse, die. It reminds me of an article I listened to on This American Life about college binge drinking. Say for example, if a student dies one year then everyone at the school realizes that it’s real and could happen to them. But unfortunately, that death has no effect on the next year’s incoming freshmen and they don’t take any caution in their actions. Everyone at the volcano that afternoon was sure to be more cautious. But all is forgotten the next morning when a whole new bunch of tourists make their way up the volcano…

Anyways, we headed down the mountain in the dark. We’re all freezing cold in the wind and rain and can’t understand why our tour guide is taking us on a different, longer, and more difficult path down the slope. Finally we make it to the combi van and head back to the city. But what trip would be complete without one of the girls getting sick and throwing up out the window 3 times! We get back to Antigua and pass out, exhausted.

Early the next morning we set off for the El Salvador border. Working our way out of town we roll the wrong way down a one way street. The police aren’t happy but I tell them we’re going to Argentina and they just tell us not to do it again. Yes, sir. I’ve learned my lesson…

Goodbye Guatemala!

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Coming up after the break, the El Salvador border crossing and the “adventure” there after. Stay tuned!

Categories: Guatemala | 1 Comment

In The Mean Time…

I’ve been broken down in El Salvador for about 5 days now (not sure exactly how many days, I lost track). More info to come soon but until then I thought I’d share two things with you all.

First, I can review my blog stats and one is a list of terms that people have typed into search engines that lead them to my blog. Sometimes they are apt and sometimes they are a bit strange… Here’s today’s list. I’m particularly proud of the first line item.

Blog Stats

Second is an article from Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity. I read Chris’ blog regularly and this short article really hits the spot when thinking about my trip. It’s titled Beware of Life. It’s a short article and I recommend reading it through. He talks about living life and taking risks. Here’s a quick blurb.

 

But if something ever does happen to me, all of you can tell the real story to anyone who asks: Chris didn’t want to take any risks on missing out. That’s why he climbed the mountain.

Instead of trying to live a risk-free existence, let me tell you a few things that are truly worth worrying about:

The road not taken.
The destination not explored.
The adventure not pursued.
The life unlived.

If we’re going to lose sleep over something, it seems to me that those are the things that should keep us awake.

Life is dangerous. It’s risky. It’s worth it.

I hope to be back on the road quickly and moving south to explore new lands and meet new people. Stay tuned!

Oh and don’t worry about Charles, he’s been lounging on the beach while I’ve been in the city.

Categories: El Salvador, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

El Salvador – In and out. Or so we thought…

We checked out of Guatemala with ease. After 30 minutes we crossed the bridge into El Salvador. At first, we thought we were getting the run around. We arrived at lunch time so no one was doing much. We handed our documents to some guy with a big shot gun and watched him walk away… As the time went on the guys became more helpful and we had all of our papers squared away in about 90 minutes time. We have a 60 day free visa for our travels in El Salvador.

It was strange to see US dollars being passed around everywhere. The national currency of El Salvador is now the US dollar. And it’s tough getting used to the prices. I keep comparing everything back to Mexican pesos. The math is more difficult too with fractions. All the math in Mexico and Guatemala was with integers. The people have also changed. It’s fascinating. Just over the border, some random line on the map, the people look completely different.

Of course we had to take some border crossing photos before we departed.

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As we prepared to leave, a very strong gust of wind came by and blew my bike over. CRASH!!! Not good, I thought, but not terrible either. I picked up the bike and noticed the kill switch had broken apart. NOT good now… On the bright side, my Micatech luggage barely even got a scratch.

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I opened the switch with desperate hopes of jumping the wires to get it to start. No luck (and I may have made things worse). After 2 hours of trouble shooting with Charles and Justin. We decided it would be best to get to a hotel where we could get on the internet and do more work. At the border we talked to a guy with a crappy old pick up. I agreed to $15 for a tow to the town of Ahuachapán about 25K from the border. After loading the bike into the back of the truck I jumped in with it and we set off.

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Being in the back of the truck gave me an opportunity to take some riding pictures of Charles and Justin.

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That night we unloaded the bike and began troubleshooting it in the hotel lobby. Justin and Charles were great as we studied the wiring diagrams and consulted ADVrider for help. We had a few different ideas but we kept blowing fuses. I went into the streets to try and find a store open on Sunday night. No luck. I asked dozens of tuk-tuk drivers and finally jumped in with one and we saw a few local dirt bikers on KTMs. I asked them where I could get some fuses and they just gave me a few. Super nice guys! Eventually we figured out the correct wiring to bypass the kill switch but we still had no spark… UUUGGGGHHHH…..

Also that night I talked with Alisa (MotoAdventureGal), who has been riding south since Rhode Island (but early this year rode the Trans America Trail and the Continental Divide Trail) and is currently in El Salvador. Alisa is raising money and awareness for breast and ovarian cancer cures – if you’d like you can make a donation. She set me up with an awesome local El Salvador rider, Carlos.

In the morning Charles and Justin tried pushing me down the wrong way of a one way street so I could try and bump start the bike. It didn’t work; there was no spark. However, Carlos was able to arrange a pick up for me from Ahuachapán to the capital, San Salvador. The driver wanted $100 but I got him down to $65 for the 2 hour drive. He was a character and we talked about everything – politics, geology, women, cars, currency, and traveling or so I could best understand. He was proud of his 1973 Nissan pick up (even though it had to be jump started by crossing wires under the dash).

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Later that morning I unloaded the bike at Motor Imports Kawasaki Dealer in San Salvador. The guys were friendly and 2 spoke fluent English but they told me the mechanic was out but would start looking at my bike first thing the next morning. While I was at Kawasaki I got word that Alisa was at the KTM dealer across town getting her bike fixed up. Victor at Kawasaki and I jumped on his 125 and we sped through town over to see Alisa. We got some lunch and chatted all afternoon about the bikes, the trip so far, and the plans for the rest of the trip. By late afternoon we met up with a local El Salvador rider, Mario. Mario offered for the two of us to stay at his beach house about 30 minutes from the city. Certainly! I jumped on the back of Mario’s new model KLR and Alisa followed on her Suzuki DR650. Last year he did a 16 day trip from El Salvador to Colorado and back. That’s fast! Here’s the sticker on his front fairing that pretty much sums it up.

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There’s a family that lives on and takes care of the property. They were super friendly and fun to chat with. We got some dinner at another house down the street and then called it a night. Bright and early the next morning Alisa and I mounted her bike and made our way back to San Salvador. It was a tight squeeze with two people…

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Being on the back of the motorcycle was a completely new experience. By the time we arrived in town, we were both extremely glad to be off the bike. Back in town and at the dealer the mechanic is looking at the bike. After a few hours he thinks the CDI is fried (very bad – $340). They don’t have a spare in stock. OK, so they call around and they can’t find one. They call Guatemala and I’m told it’ll be $500 (this is WAY too much). A few more hours go by and I understand that the problem might not be the CDI but instead they think it could be the stator (bad, but not as bad). All afternoon we’re waiting for some guy called “The Mad Scientist” to come by and take a look at it. He never comes. As the shops about to close Mario and Alisa come by. The shop is going to bring the stator to an electrical specialist in the morning.

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That night Alisa and I are back to riding 2-up down to the beach. There’s rumors of turtles on the beach and Alisa really wants to see one. We talk to the little girl at the house and ask her if she’s seen any recently. Yes, she says. We ate some the other day… Alisa no longer wants to go searching for turtles. The next morning it’s the same back to the shop. Eeeeeek, I need to get my bike fixed up…

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The guy is supposed to pick up the stator at 8. He shows up at 9:30. Around 10 I learn that he took a look at it and right away he said it was fine. My hopes drop. I’m getting even more depressed now but Mario and Alisa are here and Carlos will be down soon. At least I’m in good company. Carlos shows up soon after and jumps right in with swift and calculated actions. He studies the electrical diagrams and has the bike put back together. It’s still not working but I’m starting to think we just might figure this thing out.

Carlos has to leave for the afternoon but Mario has found guy in town who has an older style KLR (like mine). The guys comes around 2pm.

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First we swap out the kill switch. It didn’t do the trick. Next, we swap out of CDI (and kill switch). VVVVRRRRRRRRROOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!! What a beautiful sound! I haven’t had a smile this big in quite a few days. I’m ready to throw my legs over the bike right now and ride away. OK, now to see if this guy will sell me his CDI and kill switch and/or if I have to order a spare from the USA and have them shipped here. Unfortunately, the day is over and we’ll have to wait for tomorrow. Alisa has headed off toward Honduras so I find a small hotel just a half block from the shop. I spend most of the night researching boats crossing the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia. All this lack of riding and lots of stress has me exhausted. 

Day 5 in El Salvador. 8 am back at the shop. Every morning and at every greeting the Salvadorians always shake hands. I really like it and I feel a great sense of respect. Michael talks with man who owns the KLR and he has agreed to give the parts. In exchange, the Kawasaki dealer will order new parts for his bike and I will pay for them. He’s given me a great deal and I won’t have to pay (or wait) for shipping. What generous offers! $400 dollars later… (there goes the budget). The mechanic, Frank, spends the morning putting the bike back together along with a few odds and ends that needed attention (like my nasty air filter).

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The broken CDI and Kill Switch.

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OK! The bike is reassembled and packed up with all my junk. Raul, who’s been around the shop daily (and has traveled the world extensively by motorcycle) has offered to take me across town to buy some new tires for my bike. But first, it’s time for a group shot with all the guys from Motor Imports Kawasaki.

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I follow Raul on his city-commuter whip (a 125 Yamaha scooter that’s super cool) through the city.

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I want another set of Michelin Anakees but they’re too expensive. I settle for a rear Michelin Sirac and a front Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara. $141 for both tires mounted. Finally, some fresh rubber with deeper tread. Ya, these are bad pictures…

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With fresh rubber I’m about to hit the road and ride down to the beach to meet Charles when disaster strikes (ok, it wasn’t that dramatic). Raul noticed that my headlight didn’t turn on. Not good, because it’s getting dark. Bummer, I follow Raul back to his house and we’ll take a look at it. On the ride over, my headlight flickers on and off and my tachometer is all over the place. I turn the bike off and then try to turn it back on. Nothing, no lights and the engine doesn’t turn. Before I can even get angry I drop the bike and fall into the middle of the road where I almost get hit by a car. PUTA!

Raul calls the shop guys and they come by with a pick-up truck and we load it into the back. This is my 3rd tow of the trip now. However, I’m very fortunate to have been with Raul and to have the help from the guys at the shop. I could have easily headed toward the beach, alone, in the dark, with no lights, and then have the bike die…

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Before we leave, Raul takes me to his “Motorcycle Room” and shows me all his toys. He has some beautiful motorcycles and he’s ridden them from Alaska to Sturgis to Tierra del Fuego to Africa and then some.

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We get the bike back to the shop and call it a night. We’ll start work on it in the morning. I joke to the guys that I might trade my bike in for a tuk-tuk and continue south. They think it’s a good idea.

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I walk back to the hotel a 1/2 block away and say hi to the ladies who run the place. They started laughing at me. Last night I told them it would only be a one night stay. Then tonight I say the same. S-U-R-E they say. It’s fun talking with them in my terrible Spanish.

Day 6? Who knows. Back at the shop at 8 am. Frank pulls the bike apart and we find a blown fuse. This is my fault. We ran out of 20A fuses the first night so we started playing around with other sizes. I left in the 10A fuse. It worked fine for testing but under the load it wasn’t strong enough. So we went to the hardware store down the street to get some new 20A fuses.

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Popped in the new fuse and she started right up. Frank spent another hour un-taping, reviewing, and re-taping most of the electrical wires on the bike to check for and prevent damage. He found one intermittent wire connection and fixed it up. I did a lap around the block and everything worked fine. My smile returns! Charles arrived at the shop late morning and by noon Raul arrived to show us the way out of town. It was great having a local guide. Without him we surely would have spent hours trying to find our way out of the city. Going through the city I see this sign everywhere. Every Wendy’s, barber shop, shoe store, grocery store, and hotel in the city has an armed guard standing by. Safety first!

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We drove quickly for 3 hours until we hit the border with Honduras. Eventually I leave El Salvador, the country that I planned to spend only one night in but ended up staying nearly a week. Sure, at times it was challenging but I also met great people and made good friends.

I must give thanks to everyone who helped me out: the ADVrider community, the KLR650.net community, all the guys at Motor Imports Kawasaki, Local riders Mario, Carlos, and Raul, and my riding partners Justin, Charles, and Alisa

Thanks so much for everything. Charles and I are in Honduras tonight. More adventures to come. Stay tuned!

Categories: El Salvador | 3 Comments

Chasing Ben

This blog entry is from Charles and recaps the from time he left Colorado until he and I met in Guatemala. Enjoy!

Departure T-Minus Two Days

It’s the morning of December 16th.  I have just taken my last law school final, and now I have a complete 7 minutes to relish the accomplishment before an entirely different kind of stress settles onto my shoulders.  Currently my motorcycle sits in the garage in at least 40 pieces, lacking a clutch, gas tank, seat, air filter, spark plug, brakes, coolant, etc.  In the next 2 days I have to finish my law thesis/seminar paper, move everything I own into storage, say goodbye to everyone I know, run a million errands for odds and ends, and piece together a running motorcycle that will carry me 15,000 miles to the end of the world.  Such a professional level of procrastination can only be ended by such a time crunched panic.

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(Three days to go, and the evening of departure)

Miraculously, and with the assistance of one very helpful and understanding girlfriend, I manage to complete everything with one exception.  When my ego’s zen like understanding of motorcycles is combined with the reality of my meager mechanical ability (centered on the skills of swearing and violence toward inanimate objects) the result is rarely beneficial.  I managed to turn a simple clutch change into a full day’s effort that included learning how to do it incorrectly three separate times thereby delaying my departure an extra day.

Departure: Day 1-2

My moto is secured in the trailer, and my Dad and I finally depart.  Although an inauspicious beginning to such a momentous trip my plan is to trailer the bike to Lamar, CO where I will ride from there to San Antonio the first day, almost 1000 miles.  In Lamar I finally set off and am so happy to be riding this giant beast lumbering toward Argentina!

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(Thanks Dad, and Elizabeth look who came on the trip with her own seat belt)

I am so happy for all of 40 miles until a little voice in the back of my mind says pull over and check to make sure everything on then bike is ok.  Thanks voice, you just saved my trip and my engine.  The entire back half of the motorcycle is covered in oil and the crankcase is almost totally empty.  Thankfully I am in some semblance of civilization, so I walk the two miles in motocross boots to the nearest auto store for more oil all the while thinking my motor is blown and my trip is over before it began.  As I am wrenching on the bike on the side of the road an old guy pulls up and starts chatting.  He ends up calling his Harley mechanic friend who easily diagnoses the problem as simply a blown sprocket shaft seal.  He helps repair it as best he can, and I’m on my way again.  However, the seal soon starts to leak about a quart of oil every :30, so despite constantly filling the engine I am forced to stop in OK.

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(I grudgingly accepted Harley guys working on my glorious KTM)

After defrauding/desperately pleading with AAA I manage to finagle a free tow to Amarillo, TX where the only KTM dealership for 500 miles has the part I need in stock, and they are willing to put it on the next morning.  I end the day in a tow truck much the same as I started, not the grandiose beginning I anticipated to my adventure, but at least I’m moving in the right direction.

The repair takes until 3pm, and after that I am on the road and rolling all the way to Brady, TX.  I ride until I cannot feel my hands anymore despite my heated grips and insulated gloves, and I pull into a gas station where I meet my first real biker gang that promises to make me a member if I return.

Day 3-5

I ride and ride and ride some more.  I ride all the way to San Fernando, Mexico.  The following two days take on a mundane regularity.  Wake up at 6am, be on the bike by 7am, ride fast until starving, stop for lunch, ride even faster until the sun sets, sleep and repeat.  I cant believe what Mexicans consider navigable roads for commercial trucking.  From Tampico to Veracruz the road was a small two lane mountain twisty road through incredible jungle scenery which was fantastic, but it was ruined entirely by semi trucks EVERYWHERE doing only 30mph.  Additionally, the Mexican roads don’t have exits or overpasses, so they wind through every single town. To control the speed of drivers they don’t have many police, so they use topes, or speed bumps.  There are several at the beginning and end of every town.  The Mexicans cross them at no more than 2-3mph, so rather than slowing down traffic it just leads to a huge traffic jam through every town.  My motorcycle takes them at about 30mph easily, so I just use these jams as passing zones usually.

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(Crossing the Tropic of Cancer, and the amazing suspension Bridge in Tampico that climbed 300ft above the city and descended into the morning fog of the tropical forest)

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(Beers on the beach in Tampico)

Once in Veracruz I took the faster toll roads and got sick of paying the exorbitant tolls, so after a friend (Ben) advised me they don’t have any chase vehicles I tried to run around one of the toll gates.  I made it about 10 miles before 3 angry toll workers/transit cops caught me, one driving and two on the flatbed of the truck with a loudspeaker.  I thought they were going to try to board me Mad Max style, but I got away with just paying the toll amount since I feigned like I didn’t speak Spanish.  Lesson learned, good story gained.

Day 6

Today I intended to arrive in Chetumal and was making great time through Escarcaga across the Yucutan when disaster struck about 120 miles from my destination.  I could feel that I was turning the throttle more than was necessary for the speed I was going and losing power.  I pulled off to the side of the road and noticed a slight ooze of oil coming from the cylinder head and assumed the worst.

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I was stuck on the side of the road in Mexico, in the middle of no where, alone, not fluent in the language, and had no one on earth who knew where I was.    Luckily, oh so coincidentally luckily, these two English speaking guys stopped, and asked if I needed help.  It turned out they even had corresponded with Ben!  They said they would help and to be patient.   I was very patient, and for 5 friggen hours I was patient by the side of the road!  Right then when I was about to put my bike in the bushes and camp next to it a tow truck pulled up.  However, my elation was quickly killed again.  They initially said they would take me to Chetumal, for about $150, but after talking to their boss in the next town they said they had to go back to Escarganca where they were from because this driver did not have a license sufficient to pass the police checkpoints, and the price skyrocketed.  Who sends a tow truck two hours away with an unlicensed driver? They sounded really sketchy, so I refused their services which left me, again, alone in a town with no mechanic, no hotel, and no internet.  The only option I could think of was to offer up a fat ransom.  I walked into the only restaurant and said if anyone with a truck would take me and my bike to Chetumal that night I would pay them the same as the tow truck driver.

One guy in his 20s literally leapt at the offer, leaving his meal half eaten to find his buddy with a truck.  I loaded my moto in the cattle grate/truck bed and climbed in between two guys in their tiny pickup.  After getting a gallon of gas siphoned out of a milk container just to make it to the next gas station we were moving, albeit very slowly. YES, I was on my way to meet Ben tonight!!!   I now understand why they go so slowly over the topes speed bumps.  They had about 10psi in their tires, and the suspension was completely shot on one side.  We didn’t´ go more than 45mph the entire trip and were stopped at every checkpoint, but we finally made it.

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After all this trouble I arrived to find that Ben had gone on to Belize and Guatemala, but he and I agreed to meet in El Remete, Guatemala.

With the glacial speed Mexican mechanics work at, the Christmas holiday, and being closed Sunday it took the mechanic 5 days to fix my bike, but it was incredibly cheap, and required only a simple $.10 o-ring.  With an incredibly boring week stuck in Chetumal in my mirrors I am Belize bound and on my way to meet Ben for the start of our adventure together:D

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(Christmas on the beach just seems wrong)

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(Mechanic in Chetumal, and my first sunset in Guatemala with Ben)

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