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...

1 comment:

udisku said...

Hi, I just found your post while googling. I'm very impressed! I'm also planning a bike trip from Antigua to Monterrico and I was wondering what you route was. Did you bring a guide? How did you find your way?

Thanks for sharing,