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.