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This is such a typical scene. We’re lost, trying to find a hotel. This shot is in Antigua, Guatemala. KR is on her computer trying to find the name of the hotel we think we booked, but isn’t at the address the Garmin GPS says it should be. Now repeat over and over again, except this happens mainly at night after ridding ten hours.

 

The pace of the trip has definitely slowed down a bit, at least the motorcycle riding part. We spent two days in Antigua and we’ll spend another two full days here in San Cristobal de las Casas (Mexico).   While the pace of the driving part of the trip has slowed, not much else has.  I’m writing this post on Saturday, January 4th and its the first day of this trip that I’ve had nothing to do.

Much of my activity is getting us from here to there and keeping Now Voyager running.  Frankly, the latter has consumed way too much time and energy.  KR’s activities revolve around finding/checking into hotels, crossing border administration, keeping up with her ever-expanding innkeeping activities and Keeping Her Man Happy.

So here’s the headline version of what’s happened:  We stayed in Antigua, which is a really charming and beautiful city in Guatemala.  While KR went shopping, I drove over the mountains to Ciudad Guatemala to have Now Voyager’s clutch replaced.  Next day we rode 300 miles northwest into the Guatemala mountains, hit a lot of rain, and crossed back into Mexico.   We made it to San Cristobal de las Casas late last night.  This is at least as charming as Antigua, but a bit bigger with more things to do.  In both cities, KR has hit the shopping tour heavily.

Along the way I got lost in Ciudad Guatemala for the second time, this one in my attempt to find the BMW motorcycle dealer.  After two different people led me there, I spent the whole day getting Now Voyager’s clutch replaced at a wonderful BMW dealer:  Bavaria Motors.  Now Voyager seems to be repaired as we’ve had no problems in the last 300 miles.

We hit rain, fog, clouds and muddy roads riding northwest toward the northern border crossing back into Mexico.  This crossing was easy and painless.   We rode 300 miles and crossed a border in one day — which is a distance record this trip.  We then hit San Cristobal de las Casas at 6PM on a Friday night with no hotel reservations and pretty frozen (it got down to 47 while raining which is pretty damn cold).   With Sam, Karen and Fred all looking for a hotel in real time, we found the weirdest hotel yet.  It was so bad, we changed hotels today and added an additional day to warm up before pushing north again to Oaxaca.

Sitting on Now Voyager feels like home, finally.  I’ve got KR’s seat cushion duct-taped so it doesn’t move around, providing a living room Barko Lounger affect with our bags serving as arm supports.   With KR and bags, there’s just enough room for me to squeeze in.  Once squeezed in, it feels comfortable and familiar.  Frankly, its the place I like being the most.  Getting on is pretty easy for both of us, but getting off is still a chore.  When you have so much clothes on and packed so tightly, it takes some effort.   The glances we get from passersby are priceless.

We didn’t experience (see yes, experience no) much of Guatemala, but it was totally different from what I expected.  Aside from the beaches, which we didn’t get to, its a very mountainous country.  Beautiful with clear bright blue skies and green, green mountains.  It  feels much older than Mexico, but that’s probably because we stayed in its most acclaimed Colonial town, Antigua.  Antigua has had a hard time of it, being leveled in the early 1700’s by an earthquake and hit by a volcano eruption 30 years later, among other natural disasters. This of course makes for some wonderfully old, partially restored Colonial buildings, which are spectacular.

Guatemala is much more colorful than Mexico.  Their traditional dress reminds us of Peru’s and most of the women in the countryside dress in similar clothing, again much like Peru’s.  The buses are works of art in themselves, like those we saw in Nepal and India.  95% of private 4-wheel vehicles on the road old Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks that would not be allowed on US streets because of their condition.  All these old trucks, buses, Tuk-Tuks, motorcycles and cars make for some pretty bad air quality at ground level.  On a motorcycle, its hard not to notice and the last thing I wanted to do was hang behind one of these for any amount of time.

Like everywhere on this trip (and our past trips), Guatemalan’s went out of their way to be kind to us.   We’ve been shown the way — i.e. led via vehicle– at least three times when we were lost.   Kids wave when we ride by, old women giggle when KR take’s their picture, and people at the BMW dealership couldn’t have been more helpful.

We’ll be back to Guatemala to take in the rest.

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Where we last left you, at the Casa Maravelle high in the Guatemalan mountains. Here KR is attending to her innkeeping duties in the morning. Nice way to have breakfast

 

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A central square in Antigua

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Motorcycles are the primary method of transportation by private citizens in Guatemala — and most of the developing world.

 

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We arrived in Antigua on New Year’s day. That night was pretty festive.

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One of the many markets that KR roamed.

 

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While KR was shopping, I was preparing to ride NV to Guatemala City to get Now Voyager worked on. First problem, how do I find the dealer in a very large city. Here hotel assistant writes the address down on paper so I can show it to people when I get lost. Not exactly showing lots of confidence.

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What a handsome, if unreliable bike. Minutes later we’d be on the way to the BMW doctor who…

 

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Yanked out and replaced his clutch. This was a very well run and stocked dealer. Watching the mechanic work on him was a real pleasure of precision.

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The Bavaria crew: Hero lead mechanic Freddy is in the center. Jose, marketing director on the left, led me out of the city so that I wouldn’t get lost a third time in Guatemala City.

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Time to go my little Biker Bunny.

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Pretty spectacular scenery

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Bus pulling away from a busy intersection. Guy on the top loads/unloads cargo up top, jumps off and stops traffic when required, and probably collects money as well.

 

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Typical riding situation, behind two fume-spewing buses and trucks, requires constant passing whenever/wherever you get the chance.

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“Organic” merchandise display on the Pan American Highway running north toward Heuhuetenango.

 

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30 minutes later and we hit rain and fog. Since we’re high in the mountains, its really cold.

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We pull over to put on the rain suits and this mother/children watch us. They’re separating the corn kernels from the cob before grinding. All by hand.

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Border crossing? No problem. Chief Border Administrative Officer is displaying confidence.

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Now Voyager, who at the beginning of the day was sparkling from his dealer-wash, is now appropriately adventure-bike-dirty. Tarp is over the helmets and stuff.

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This is what San Cristobal de las Casas looks like on a busy Friday night when you’re trying to find a hotel.

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Sunny morning on one of San Cristobal’s streets. Happy camper is hiding on the right

 

 

12 replies
  1. Sindhu & Greg says:

    Quite an adventure and real-time assistance from Sam. Best of luck on your return to PV and LA. Cheers

  2. TMcGove says:

    What an adventure! What do they charge a white devil thousands of miles from home on a fancy bike for a clutch in Guacamole City?

  3. Gregg Power says:

    Beautiful scenery to be sure – what is your final destination? Which of the many exotic places is the one you really want to experience – or is it the whole enchilada (whoops, I promised not to use so many puns in 2014)?

  4. Name (required) says:

    Fred, at Grey I knew you were a pioneer. But you two are an amazing, courageous couple. Unbelievable journey & recap. I’m thoroughly enjoying the free ride. Thanks to Sam & Jill for the hook up!

  5. Arline Vezina says:

    Fred at Grey I knew you were a pioneer. But you two are an amazing, courageous couple. Unbelievable journey & recap. I’m thoroughly enjoying the free ride. Thanks to Sam & Jill for the hookup!

  6. FHW says:

    I would have paid anything, of course:) It ended up costing $1400 for an entire clutch replaced,double time, and right now. No problemo here on the price.

  7. FHW says:

    Well, Antigua is as far south as we’ll have gotten this trip. Ask KR what her destinations are and they would be: Antigua, San Cristobal De Las Casas, and Oaxaca. All shopping places. All places we will have spent 2 days at. For me, it’s the “getting there” that counts, although I do have a longing for the infinity pool at the resort we stayed in at Acapulco:)

  8. Bill B says:

    Sounds like an interesting and fun adventure! You really should spend a little more time in San Cristobal, it’s a beautiful place. If you happen to be in the area again, head North on the 199 to Palenque, you will not be dissapointed.

  9. Peter H.Hershfield says:

    What a fabulous read. You sure know how to write a tale full of humor and sightseeing info… and of course… annoyance for the challenges and hardships you seem to encounter. How you ever maintain your sense of humor amazes us. You MUST have some idea about marketing your adventure in the wilds of Central America. Keep the voyage…BON.

  10. jim hyde says:

    Hi Fred… Hi K..

    I guess I just have to echo the sentiment of many of your friends above… good reading and I do so vicariously over my morning coffee here at the BMW off road school… hehe.

    I continue to be inspired by your travels… and hope I can do so myself in such a free spirited way someday…

    all the best, and ride safe… both of you!

    cheers, Jim

  11. Gary Wescott says:

    HI /fred & KR,

    The Turtle V is parked in Istanbul, Turkey. We are back in CA for a very short visit before returning to follow the Silk Road to Beijing. Looks to us like maybe it’s time to buy another Sportsmobile?? Or, check out XPCamper. Very cool design. No more searching for hotels in the dark.

    Gary

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