Saturday, November 27, 2010

Segment 26: Antigua, Guatemala to Monterrico, Guatemala (November 9 - 15, 2010)

We left Antigua and found this amazing dirt road descent just after Santa Maria de Jesús

morning campfire and coffee 

this descent was about 12 km long... and full of excitement...
Sonia getting used to dirt-road touring

this sign says:  "Only 2 more km to get to San Vicente... and only a little while until the coming of Christ".  Here we are approaching Volcán Pacaya, the sixth and last volcano we are to climb in Guatemala on this trip.

Pacaya, at 2500 m, is quite lower than the other prominent Guatemalan volcanoes.  However, due to a major eruption in May 2010 that temporarily closed the airport of nearby Guatemala city, and due to sporadic eruptions for the last 40 years, geologically it is one of the more interesting spots in Guatemala...

crossing lava beds from the May eruption

we found smoking holes, superheated underground caverns, and the like...

... this is the entrance to a natural sauna in the lava beds (Volcán de Agua in the distance)... temperature just about right, we managed a proper sweat early in the morning here...
the lava walls of the sauna
Jason and Sonia find heated lava to warm up their backs on a chilly morning

Volcanes de Agua and Fuego

Jeff saw two silhouettes high up near the summit, and made a dash for it, not knowing that it is completely off-limits to tourists.  This is part of the smoking and still-active summit crater.

Jeff at the summit of Pacaya

the two silhouettes happened to be park guards, whose job it is to prevent tourists from climbing.  They befriended Jeff, were fascinated by the cycling adventure, and took him on an impromptu tour of the summit and crater area... as they had been on the mountain the day the volcano exploded, they told stories of flaming bombs of rock falling out of the sky from as high as 2 km (out of fear, they themselves hid in caves for hours), some of which burnt down houses in nearby villages, and the deaths of several individuals who were in unfortunate locations at the time of the eruption.

starting down with the guards

Craig passing through some very interesting forest

a clear shot of the summit and the enormous river of lava that spilled in the May eruption

Jeff looking curiously like someone named Fonzarelli, back in the village of El Cedro, where we had spent the previous night (in the town hall)

back on two wheels, following dirt roads (and some paved) away from Pacaya and towards the coast

taking a breather to clean off in Laguna de Calderas

Lago Amatitlán off in the distance

...great forest riding high on the slopes of Pacaya...

we camped in a pineapple plantation... a gorgeous sunrise over low hills

... gorgeous AM light...

...heading away from Pacaya now...
...We are loving this riding...

Craig approaching a fresh coconut water stand.  We rested here and drank a few cocos each on a hot morning.
local inhabitants also resting

the (shy) girls running the coco stand

almost out of the hills here, Craig passes under a huge mahogany

corn drying on the streets of Guanagazapa

approaching the Guatemalan coast, we stopped for lunch in early afternoon here.  The armed guard is Frank (who used to live in Kentucky and elsewhere); he is protecting a sugar cane plantation.  He shared some beans and tortillas with us, and we shared some avocadoes and cookies with him.  He told us that only meters away from this spot 5 days earlier there had been a brutal murder of 5 individuals... apparently we were about to pass through a rather lawless area and he wanted us to be aware and safely-warned.

... we passed the lawless spot (a village called Wiscoyol) without incident...

arriving at the coast in Ixtapa with enough time for a late afternoon swim.  This is our first glimpse of the Pacific since we left Oaxaca in May, nearly 6 months previous.

the black sand beach at Monterrico

sunset our first night in Monterrico

Jeff, Mike and Craig in Monterrico

From here Mike decided to head to San Francisco for three weeks.  He will meet us again in El Salvador in December...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Segment 25: Panajachel, Guatemala to Antigua, Guatemala (October 27- November 9, 2010)

back in Panajachel, we are relieved and ecstatic to get back to our bikes after what seems like forever (nearly a month)

climbing up to the rim of Lago Atitlán we had hazy views of the lake

heading back towards Antigua, these were the landscapes we cruised through...
Volcanoes Acatenango and Fuego appear as we get closer to Antigua

our campsite in a field near Patzicía... the huddled figures on the left are local farmers who have come to harvest beets at dawn. 

from Patzicía we headed towards San Andrés Itzapa on dirt roads, excellent riding.

asking directions

... approaching San Andrés...

Craig shows off mud he earned on a fall, guitar intact however

Arrived at Mayapedal, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the sustainability of bicycles in the region, both for transport and for sustainable technology projects.  These include bike-blenders, bike washing machines, bike corn mills, etc..  We first learned about Mayapedal from our old friend Cass Gilbert, who volunteered here for a month or so in the months of July and August, 2010.

the mural outside Mayapedal

busy at work in the Mayapedal workshop

Mike sets to work helping Jeff and Craig with bike problems

Jeff replaces his front derailleur, which snapped in two near Panajachel a few days previous.

Jason begins to help build a bicycle for Sonia, no easy feat in this labyrinth of old and used bike parts from around the globe:
the first step is clearly to sort through the madness and select more-or-less quality parts

Here Jason and Bruce (a volunteer from New Zealand) are beginning to assemble the rudimentary parts of the bike: frame, fork, wheels, cranks, etc.

Sonia is clearly elated with the prospect of a soon-to-be functioning touring bike.  Jason models her panniers after his: cat food boxes.  The bike itself, according to Jason, was assembled with various parts and accessories from 36 different bikes!!!!!

epic.  we roll out of San Andrés as 5!

 roadside stop for elotes (fresh grilled corn on the cob) on our descent into Antigua.  Craig is particularly happy about his:

the elotes vendor

Within a couple of days we returned to Mayapedal to investigate the possibility of building bike blenders:

... above, volunteer Eric (NY, NY) models one style, while below, Sonia models another...

Jason in the early stages of bike-blender building

... and here is Mike with a nearly-finished product...
using primarily an old hub, and a round wheel cut from a tractor-trailer tire, the blender is powered by the spinning action of the back wheel.

Mike puts his blender into action in Antigua.  Our first of many blender-produced foods: blackberry vinaigrette salad dressing

at a birthday party with friends in Guatemala City

the beginning of the piñata beating.  This piñata is a likeness of Spiderman.

Guatemala City doesn`t win any awards for architecture or urban planning, this is for sure

... prepared to leave Antigua, we are featuring three guitars (from left to right, Jeff's, Jason's, and Craig's, purchased recently for $50 each in Quetzaltenango), and a prominent Swiss-German girl on a bicycle...