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Archive for the ‘Guatemala’ Category

Day 35 – Welcome to El Salvador (Playa El Zunzal, El Salvador)

07 Nov

We left Antigua before noon and headed south-east to the border crossing with El Salvador at La Hachadura.  The road was good, with exception of a small wash-out past Cuidad Vieja.  We got briefly lost while trying to get around the town of Escuintla, but after asking some locals for directions, were back on track without much delay.  At one point, we had to make a 4 km detour on unpaved roads, because a small bridge over a river was damaged during the recent floods.

We reached the border crossing at 1:00 pm and were immediately approached by two guys on a small motorbike, who offered their help with the paperwork.  They guided us through a long line of trucks to the customs / migration offices, got all necessary signatures on multiple forms, made copies of the documents and overall were very helpful in getting us through the border in less than two hours.  We paid 100 quetzales (13 USD) for their services.

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Vadim at Guatemala – El Salvador Border

Edwin, a member of the local BWM riders club in San Salvador, was waiting for us at the border on his grey 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure and escorted us along the Pacific coast.  The road was very scenic and relaxing.  We reached a small hotel near El Zunzal Beach, a top surfing spot in the country, by sunset and decided to spend the night there.  Javier, manager of the hotel and avid off-road motorcyclist and surfer, greeted us at the entrance.  We retired early, after a quick dip into the warm ocean, followed by jacuzzi, few beers and a wonderful seafood soup at the hotel.

Routes taken: CA2

Miles ridden: 174 miles (280 km)

 

Day 34 – Good-Bye Antigua (Antigua, Guatemala)

06 Nov

Today was our last day in Antigua and Guatemala, the country that we will remember for its beauty.  Our plan is to leave for El Salvador tomorrow and then breeze through Central America in two to three weeks.

In the morning, Gintaras spent a couple of hours walking around the town with a guide and visiting ruins that are plenty in the town due to the earthquakes that struck Antigua many times in the past, the latest in 1976.  During the tour, one of the volcanoes surrounding Antigua started fuming, a living example of continuing volcanic and seismic activity in the area.

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Ruins of Iglesia del Carmen

After the tour, we met for lunch at Pollo Campero, a fast food chain (imagine KFC), where we enjoyed some healthy food, including fried chicken with Pepsi and tres leches cake.  Later we also stopped at the famous Dona Maria Gordillo Dulces Tipicos and loaded up with all kinds of sweets.

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Dona Maria Gordillo Dulces Tipicos Sweet Shop

In the afternoon, we came back to the hotel to work on the website and get ready for the tomorrow’s trip.  Vadim has repeatedly tried to set the whole place on fire, while performing war dances around the fireplace and cursing the wet wood that was piled on the tile floor.

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Fireplace at Panza Verde Hotel

In the evening, we had a nice dinner with a French-Guatemalan couple, whom Vadim met during his visit of the coffee plantation a couple of days ago.

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 
 

Day 33 – Sepulturas and Lake Atitlan (Copan, Honduras and Antigua, Guatemala)

05 Nov

Gintaras took a quick tour of Las Sepulturas, an adjacent archeological site to the Acropolis, in the morning.  These were the former living quarters and tombs of the rich, including scribes and shamans.  Some of the buildings had beautifully preserved ornamentation.  The site is large and much still remains to be discovered by archeologists.

The five-hour ride back to Antigua was uneventful.  Gintaras stuffed his stomach with chicken and beef kebab just before the departure and half-slept most of the way on the rear seat.  The border officials did not even look at his passport, as they waved the minivan through.  We were stopped a couple of times by the Guatemalan military police, but after short conversations, were allowed to continue.  The road and traffic was decent until we reached Guatemala City to drop off one passenger.  This detour added another hour to the journey.

Vadim took the Mitsubishi L300 microbus to Lake Atitlan.  The uncomfortable ride took 2.5 hours down the twisty road in the mountains.  Upon descent, Vadim reached the lake where he was dropped off for 4 hours to have an opportunity to explore the area.  He walked around the lake and the surrounding market where he purchased a beautiful smoke pipe made out of clay.  It cost $10 and the deal could not be passed on as the piece was beautifully crafted.  The Lake is surrounded by three volcanoes – San Pedro (3,020 meters), Toliman (3,158 meters) and Atitlan (3,537 meters).  The water was fairly warm and had large fish and crabs in it.  Vadim saw a local fisherman passing by with his catch load that included a 3 foot fish and sack of about dozen of crabs.  Upon return to the hotel, Vadim got in traffic closer to the Antigua areas which made the ride almost 3 hours.  But it was worth the experience.

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Lake Atitlan

In the evening, we both went to Caffé Bourbon, close to the main plaza, and enjoyed chicken and rice soup, which is so good here in Guatemala.

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 

Day 32 – All You Need to Know about Maya and Coffee (Copan, Honduras and Antigua, Guatemala)

04 Nov

Vadim decided to rest after yesterday’s adventure and stay in the city, but Gintaras got up at 3:30 am (without an alarm clock!) to go to Copan, Honduras for a two day tour of the Mayan ruins.  Even the hotel guard was sleeping at those early hours, only laud snoring from the bar area gave him out.

A new Toyota minivan arrived on time, at 4:00 am, and then went to pick up few more people from other hotels: an Austrian couple and a back-packer from the US, who were heading to Honduras as well.  The five hour ride was not smooth; the driver was constantly accelerating or stepping on the brakes, as he tried to pass dozens of slow-moving trucks. Sleeping in the car was impossible.  We made one quick stop for breakfast and then continued to the border (which we reached at 9:30 am), where we paid some modest exit and entry fees and got our passports stamped.

Copan Ruinas is a small colonial town, just across the border.  The archeological site is only 10 min. walk from the main plaza.  Saul, a part time music teacher and a guide, gave a two-hour tour of the site, which is famous for its beautifully carved stone sculptures and stelai.  Gintaras spent another couple of hours browsing the site and the nearby museum, and then went back to the hotel on the main plaza, next to a Catholic Church.

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Mayan Archeological Site in Copan Ruinas, Honduras

In the evening, after a long nap, Gintaras went to a restaurant around the corner to sample some local beer (Salva Vida) and beef / chicken kebabs.  It was a very satisfying end of a long day….

Vadim went to a local bazaar where he browsed through items.  Later, he took a tour to the coffee plantation.  Guatemala has some of the best coffee in the world and the majority of it is exported.  As an example, Starbucks purchases approximately 50% of its coffee from Guatemala.  During the 2-hour tour, Vadim learned about the history of coffee, the different types of coffee, how it is grown, harvested and processed.  He received a detailed tour of the local plantation and equipment used to process the coffee beans.  It was a very educational tour followed by a cup of tasty local premium coffee from the plantation.  Vadim is now better prepared to choose the right coffee in the stores even though it will still be a tough task as the coffee packet labels typically say very little about coffee bean quality characteristics.

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Coffee Plantation

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 

Day 31 – Antigua and Pacaya Volcano (Antigua, Guatemala)

03 Nov

We wanted to take a guided tour of Antigua in the morning, however, no English speaking guides were available.  We ended up browsing cobblestone streets around the main plaza, visiting “artesania”, furniture, jewelry shops, churches, and snapping pictures at random.  We briefly stopped at an ice cream place and tried some vanilla ice cream and Pepsi shake called “Nevada” and then sat down for lunch at one of the many restaurants that cater to the tourist crowd.  The food was good, especially calabaza (pumpkin) soup, but at the US prices.

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The Arch of Santa Catalina in Antigua

In the afternoon, Vadim embarked on a journey to climb Pacaya volcano.  Vadim was picked up by an old minivan that took him to the foot of the mountain where he and about a dozen other tourists rented small horses (each with a guide) to make the 1.5 hour ascent easier.  It started raining a little bit but the ascent went ok, even though it was a very steep mountain.  The horses handled the task very well.  After reaching the top, the group had to walk about half a kilometer on a narrow steep path closer to the volcano.  The volcano was active and one could see some lava in some holes.  The view was amazing and the experience was one of a kind.  Guatemala has 37 volcanoes and 3 of them are active.

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Vadim at Pacaya Volcano

It got dark quickly and the group started the descent.  Many of the horses that brought the tourists up the mountain were not there (poor organization/communication) and as such those tourists had to walk down the mountain in a complete darkness.  Only a couple of people had flashlights.  Vadim was lucky to have his horse and a powerful Petzel flashlight to guide the animal down the slippery narrow path.  A few tourists had some health issues and were moving very slowly and blocking the narrow path.  After a strenuous exercise of clinging to the horse saddle with his legs and hands, Vadim made it to the base.  He pulled out a bag of chips and had a few chips when two little boys came to him and asked him to give them some chips.  Vadim gave them the freshly opened bag as he could not have done otherwise.  The village at the base was very poor and some boys that received tips from tourists went straight to a small shop to buy food.  It was sad.  It took almost 2 hours to get back to the hotel as the driver was going 20 km/hr because of rain and an old vehicle we were driving in.  It was an exhausting but rewarding trip.

We finished the day at a dinner table in the hotel restaurant, listening to live piano and contrabass performance, while chewing beef carpaccio, juicy lamb chops, pork sausage, and flushing it all down with Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon…

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None