Sunday, June 7, 2009

6/7/09 Three Days of Adventure. Breakdowns, Rocky Trails and Beautiful Scenery. Day 1. Antigua-Lanquin, 140 miles 12 hours!

I wake up at 8, say goodbye to Blanca and Enrique, the owners of the hostel I've been living in and wonderful people. Also, I finally get my little hugs and kisses from Nancy and I promise to keep in touch. The bike starts right up more or less and off I go. I take a wrong turn about 20 miles outside of Antigua and end up in the outskirts of Guatemala City. This is to become an annoying and repetetive theme due to the lack of road signs, no GPS, and maps that are not always completely accurate. I stop at a gas station, fill up, and ask directions and make my way back to the town of San Pedro where I had passed through 20 miles before. I'm in the center of town asking directions to the next village when the bike dies and won't start. I unscrew the oil cap and hot oil shoots out which I am convinced is mixed with gasoline. At this point I have pretty much resigned to end this trip and get back to the U.S. as soon as possible. This is just becoming too much. I stand by the fully-loaded bike for about 15 minutes and just think about my options. I notice a small motorcycle repair shop while standing there and roll the bike over. The shop is owned by Domingo who has 7 little kids running around everywhere. Domingo and his oldest son Milton who is about 12 years old proceed to tear into the carburators after assuring me that there is no gas in the oil. This is good news as the piston rings have held and not re-fucked up the entire engine. I begin to actually feel like I may ride away at some point. After 2 hours of running around to clean my air filter, eat, hang out with the kids and buy snacks and sodas, the 2 faulty carburators which have been dumping too much gas into the engine and causing the problem are back together. I thank Domingo for getting me back on the road, pay him the equivalent of 20 bucks which we have agreed on and I'm on my way hoping to make it to the town of Lanquin before it gets dark. I have decided to take a shorter road through the mountains and am enjoying the smooth-running bike, wonderful weather and scenery when the asphalt ends and the rocks, hills and gravel begin. Fuck, the map didn't warn me about this! Now I know why all the shuttles take the longer route. Funny thing though, it's so nice out and I'm so glad to be moving that I really enjoy the 25 miles of goat-trail in 1st and 2nd gear and feel like I'm on a little mini-adventure. My bike isn't set up for this kind of riding and my rear tire is nearly bald, but I slowly make it out of there with a huge sense of satisfaction. I eventually make it to Coban, the major city of the region and about 50 miles from Lanquin. It's getting dark and it would be wise to just stay in Coban, but it's a shithole and I want to get to Lanquin, the town which is the jumping off point for Semuc Champey which is a series of limestone pools. caves, and waterfalls which most people consider to be the most beautiful spot in the country. I push on and soon it's night, but the smooth asphalt of the mountain pass is lit by the moon and the air is cool and feels wonderful. I enjoy the ride for an hour when the asphalt ends at the top of a steep and rocky hill with a sign pointing down it which says "Lanquin 11kms." Long story short, it's a repeat of the road from earlier in the day, but steeper and in pitch black night as the moonlight is mostly blocked out by the trees. 40 minutes later I'm in Lanquin, it's 10 at night, I've been on the road for 12 hours and I've covered a grand total of 160 miles. I find a room for 5 bucks and collapse with a sense of accomplishment while looking forwards to swimming in the pools of Semuc Champey in the morning.

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