Saturday, December 8, 2012

Burn the devil!

Today's interesting road creatures included parakeets on sticks for sale in the median of the pan American highway, and a toyota with a motorcycle tied down in the bed with a sheep right next to it, which one do you think he rides more? I just couldn't resist a good sheep joke there, that was a baaaaaad one! We also saw some strange community wash basins on the highway, where people would all do laundry by hand. Enough of the oddities and back to the road...

We have started waving to all the kids, and they seem to really be enjoying it and I have to say it is great to see all their smiling faces. When we left the "love shack" this morning, there was an impromtu photo shoot with the owner of the hotel. She wanted photos of us in all our motorcycle gear, in her fanciest room. It was a really nice room! I put a picture of the bedroom down below. She wanted us to hold a mug with the hotel logo and they took so many photos the whole time we were getting going that it felt like a magazine shoot!

We rode up into the clouds and didn't sweat all day. Farms were everywhere, and when I say everywhere, I mean that they covered every inch of the mountain that wasn't already occupied with pavement for the road. The corn went right up to the walls of the houses, filled the medians of the highway, and all of the fields were worked by hand, not a tractor in sight! There were lots of people making concrete blocks for houses in the places that weren't planted with this or that. Traffic took on a whole new level of crazy today with big lavishly painted school buses with wind foils and chrome grills belching black smoke, going so fast through the corners that they almost tip over. By almost I mean the wheels on the back of the bus actually come off the ground! People get in while the bus slows down for people to jump out, they grab the ladders at the rear of the bus and swinging the door open only to find a can of human sardines into which they wedge themselves. The door is closed behind them by the luggage guy who rides atop the bus managing everyone's bags! It is absolutely insane to drive in this country because of these buses! People in smaller buses also find it unnecessary to stay in the vehicle while it hurtles down the freeway. I actually saw a guy slide open the side door to a minivan size bus, packed with people, and climb out onto the roof to retie a bag and then climb back in, all done at 60 mph!

We were headed for Guatemala City, but on the advice of the great guys at Butler Maps (we sell their maps by the way and I have to say that they are the best motorcycle maps out there), we made a side trip to Lake Atitlan and the San Pedro volcano. I am so glad that we did! At first it was a really steep road which turned to dirt and one lane frequently, with potholes that were like riding through a mine field, but then it turned a corner and the heavens parted for a view that made you scream out loud in your helmet! The hairpin turns and 2 hour ride off the highway were so worth it just for a glimpse of this place. The women in this area all wear traditional ornate dresses and leave the house with a large decorative cloth atop their heads so that they are ready to carry huge loads up the mountainside. The hills near the volcano were also dotted with coffee plants growing wild all over!

After the volcano, we were running short on daylight so we hit the highway, only to find a gridlocked parking lot of buses, so we turned off and discovered Antigua by accident. Never have I been so thankful for traffic. The city was filled with horrible cobblestone roads, built with the most uneven rocks they could find, but it was also full of great old buildings, wonderful restaurants and accommodations and really genuinely nice people. We lucked out and arrived for the annual devil burning festival where they burn a giant devil in the streets! We enjoyed a stroll around the town square, as the devil had been taken care of, before retiring to the hot tub for the night. We randomly discovered an expat bar full of bikers and even met a woman who is doing an around the world trip on her BMW. She is sponsored by Jupiter's Travelers. Check out their site, it's a really cool thing they have going there. Her name was Eliza Massey, and she was a photojournalist who was full of great info. She clued us into Horizons Unlimited, a great resource for people doing motorcycle trips like ours! We made our way to another bar called the Ocelot for a night cap, and saw caricatures of local expats on the wall. We got to looking around the bar and several of the people started to look familiar.  The faces on the wall were actually of those in the bar and we got to hear some great stories! GS bikes were everywhere in this town, along with Ducati and Triumph. With the giant volcanoes in distance looming large, as fuego had just erupted in September, I headed to sleep after and amazing day!

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