Bike Trip Day 3: Panajachel to Pastores

On the third and last day we took the first water taxi we could get, across to the South West shore, to San Pedro La Laguna. This is known as the "party" town on the lake and has a lot more life to it. It lies at the base of one of the volcanos, from which it takes it's name. There are lovely restaurants, open air bars, coffee shops, smoothie bars, markets with beautiful locally handmade goods, great places to stay with breathtaking lake views and a multitude of Spanish schools for those who want to learn the language from the locals.

After a good coffee, a bite to eat and a brief chat with some cruiser friends also visiting from the Rio, we returned to Panajachel, also known as the "tourist town", to continue the bike tour. After collecting the bike from the pink hotel, we got back on the road at around 12h30, to return to Antigua via Patzún, Patzicía (Chimaltenango) and Pastores. We descended the beautiful highlands, waded through a few more streams and rivers, zipped along a highway where we had to pull over because the rain was so heavy it felt like we were being pelted with nails, and then finally into the peaceful town of Pastores.

Pastores is known for handmade leather boots and I promise you, you will not be disappointed. The main street is lined with many small shops, filled with all the colours and styles you could imagine. Every boot is hand made and you can watch the cobbler at work. They range from about Q300 - Q400 (USD 38-50) for a pair and worth every penny. The craftsmanship is superb and I am almost certain they will last you a lifetime. I still want to go back and get a pair for myself. When we return to Central America, after our circumnavigation is complete, I will go back and buy a few pairs, for sure.

Ten minutes drive from Pastores we were back in Antigua and we were pretty bummed when we rode back into town and realised our bike adventure was over. It is one of the best trips we have ever done and well worth the freezing altitudes, icy rain and the painfully bruised behinds. If you are ever in the area go down to Moto Tours and rent yourself a bike or take a guided tour with one of their experienced local guides. The rental for 3 days was $200 and the fuel for approx 500km was a total of $20. So worth it!

waiting for our water taxi across Lake Atitlán to San Marcos

one of the majestic volcanos that surrounds the lake

cheap local hand crafted leather goods

supposedly antique carvings

view to the lake as we walked down from the village

tuk tuks waiting to take the tourists from the water taxi

water taxi rank

waiting for the lancha to Panajachel

arriving at Panajachel


walking from the water taxi terminal to the 

pink hotel, to collect our motorbike

back down the mountains

talking with one of the leather artisans in Pastores

cobbler's tools

it is cheaper to buy the finished boots than than a piece of leather!

legendary Singer machine. These things never die...

incorporating the local hand woven traditional fabrics

hand made saddle

that is genuine python skin...

Texans probably love this place ;)

cowgirls and indians

riding back into Antigua

bikes and scooters are a very popular, and inexpensive, mode of transport for both locals and visitors across Guatemala

Thanking José, the owner of Moto Tours, for a trusty bike and great trip

Bike Trip Day 2: Pacific Coast to Lake Atitlán

The next day it was back inland, with more offroad through sugar plantations, to Lago de Atitlán. The lake is situated in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre and the Lonely Planet Guide calls it "the closest thing to Eden on earth". The change in temperature, from the warm and humid coastline to the crisp cool volcanic mountains surrounding the lake, was quite drastic. We literally ascended into the clouds as we wound our way up and around the steep mountain passes. We were thankful for our windbreakers which up till this point we had been using as bug armour, protection against the multitude of insects ending their brief lives as gooey splats all over our chests, arms, helmets and (my least favourite) faces.

Our first glimpse of the lake was breathtaking. The Lonely Planet description is not far off. It really is something to behold and again, as with so many of the natural wonders we witness on our travels, it cannot be accurately captured in a photograph.

That afternoon we arrived in the lakeside town of Panajachel, in Sololá. Here we stored the motorbike with locals, at a pink hotel, and took a 45min water taxi ride across the lake to one of the little villages on it's North Western shore. San Marcos is known to be the quietest of the tiny settlements on the lake's edge. It is home to mostly holistic healing and yoga retreats with a diverse expat community living alongside the local traditional Mayas.

We enjoy the quiet but this place was almost lifeless when we were there. To be fair, it was off season but the people (specifically the expats) weren't exactly friendly and to be honest, we felt a bit out of place. We stayed at one of the lakeside yoga retreats, in a small dingy room, no running water and a broken toilet... all for a ridiculous price tag. It seems vegan hippie yogis have quite a bit of money to spend on their travels, especially if this was the off season discounted rate.

For dinner we had some of the establishment's healthy but tasteless veggie vegan soup, and were encouraged to retire early by a rather sad one-man karaoke show. Due to the non-existent running water situation we were unable to shower so we rolled our weary, smelly, sweaty bike and bug beaten bodies directly into bed. Unfortunately, this town is not a destination we would recommend...

 

our first full view of Lake Atitlan

ready to get back on the road with our humble black bag wrapped backpack strapped to the bike's booty

selfie accidentaly taken with a weird fuzzy "bold and the beautiful soapie" style setting. never to be repeated.

practicing my signature dance moves, to get the blood flowing back to my butt cheeks

view from inside some of the mountain caves on the way up

clouds hiding the volcano peaks 

water taxi across the lake

view of the yoga studio you had to pay extra for to use, at the yoga "retreat"

at least they found some water for the flowers

the best part about the place: a stray dog that insisted on befriending anyone she could find

the only thing that worked in the communal bathroom

adios San Marcos!

Bike Trip Day 1: Antigua to El Paredon

Apart from circumnavigating in our own sail boat we are also keen land travellers and we have a kind of overland bucket list to use all the kinds of transport available. The one we have always had high on the list is doing a bike trip and the right opportunity presented itself in Antigua.

While exploring the town on foot, we came across MotoTours, a motorbike rental shop. After a chat with the owner, and discussing our budget options over a good cup of coffee and a pastry, we decided to take the opportunity and do an unguided (less expensive and more adventurous/exciting for us) trip to the Pacific coast, Lake Atitlán and then back to Antigua.

We packed very light (one small backpack for the two of us), some water, a few snacks, our minimal camera gear, our sailing windbreakers and a questionable hand drawn map from José, the owner of MotoTours. The first day was half off road/forest/rivers/rural village areas and the other half highway. Neither of us had ridden in a very long time, and for such an extended period, so we had to get used to having bruised bums and inner thighs all over again.

Apart from our battered backsides it was a brilliant day. We started off in the town square, in the middle of historical Antigua, and drove South via Siquinqlá to El Paredon on the Pacific Coast. We spent the night at Driftwood Surf Camp. As soon as we arrived we immediately changed from our hot sticky dusty riding clothes into our swim gear and made a beeline for the swimming pool and bar! Over a well-deserved ice cold beer we reunited with our friend Matthieu, whom we had met a few weeks earlier on the Rio while he was sailing with Nike of White Spot Pirates.

Rufus went for a surf and then played some beach volleyball with our fellow surf campers as the sun set over the sea.The rest of the evening was spent on the deck, the roof of the surf house, enjoying dinner and drinks with new friends, chatting and laughing together as a tropical thunderstorm threatened to wash us all away. Good memories.

our first bike trip together, since before we got married 8 years ago!

about 2 hours into the trip, before the "numb bum" set in...

no more seats available? no problem, just jump on the back!

sharing the trail with hundreds of butterflies

happy dance

we cleared 7 (small) rivers in total on day 1

back in "civilization", after most of the off-road section - so.much.dust.and.bug.guts.on.my.face...

pacific coast beach

waves on offer at the surf camp

sunset volley ball challenge with our fellow surf campers

morning moves with the local stray pup and his bright orange crab companion (can you see him?)

pool with the bar hiding behind the bush on the left

Rufus recording the route and trip's details before we set off on the second day of the trip

hand drawn (seriously off scale) map from the bike rental owner

surf camp cat

my favourite spot: boat swing/hammock

neighbouring plot of land for sale - you too can share in this surfing paradise!

Tourbiking through Guatemala

It's been a while, I know! But we have something special for you... This, dear friends, is our first real "edited" video!!

This was Rufus' baby and, for his first time editing like this, on a new (very basic) program, I think it's pretty rad (I've watched it about 20 times and laughed my ass of at our super glamorous selves). 

We rented a bike and took a 3 day trip through part of Guatemala; from Antigua to the Pacific coast, inland to Lake Atitlan and back to Antigua. We rode through rivers, along black sandy beaches, on winding highways in the rain, through forests and plantations, froze our backsides off at the top of volcanos and eventually back down to the historic cobblestone streets of Antigua.

I will do a post on Antigua in the next few days, with photos and details of the rest of our trip and the time we spent in Antigua itself.

Enjoy the clip and let us know what you think!

Touring Tikal

From Flores we took a bus to Tikal National Park:

"It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

Since I was a young child, I have always been fascinated with ancient civilisations. When my friends were playing with barbies or reading "Sweet Valley High", I was pouring over books about the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greece. My favourite movies and TV series were about Roman and Greek myths, legends and ancient civilisations like "The Mysterious Cities of Gold". Visiting Tikal was a dream come true. 

Unfortunately, we learned the hard way, that your guide can either make or break your experience and ours was a huge disappointment. Caesar, from Little Caesar's Tours took us on a private tour of the city. He walked us through at such a rapid pace that we hardly had time to stop and take photos (unless it involved the wildlife), not to mention the minimal info on the structures, civilization and history of the site. We got more information on the wildlife than the temples!

After Caesar raced us through the city at Olympic Gold Medal speed, we did a little exploring of our own. During that time we got more thorough and fascinating information from eavesdropping on other passing tour guides, than we got during the entire "detailed personalized" tour Caesar supposedly provided for us. 

Rubbish guide aside, it was a fascinating experience and another one off my bucket list ;)

Standing at the top of the Temple of Masks, overlooking the Temple of the Grand Jaguar

so.many.stairs.

circular stone altar with intricate carvings of secenes from Maya life

Temple of the Grand Jaguar, tomb of "Lord Chocolate" (Ah Cacau), one of Tikal's greatest rulers

the Lost World Pyramid

A massive stucco mask found on the substructure of one of the temples

Archeologists working on one of the structures

panoramic view of Tikal, from the tallest Temple IV

inside the palace

view of Temple IV from the palace

view from the palace, overlooking the Central Plaza

"No Scratching"

juuuust chillin'

abundance of wildlife in the forest, including toucans and these acrobats!