Guatamala 2

17th – 19th Nov 

Guatamala city.

The fact we are now down to one computer which has a damaged screen makes any further trip planning difficult.
– we can’t take any photos.
– we have no mapping
– we can only plan a route and download to my Garmin which has no maps as they are too expensive.

So Saturday I cycled to some iphone retailers in the city.
On route I had to divert from the garmin plot as the roads where closed for some sort of demonstration, not too much of a problem as the city is built on squares and has numbered zones.

Whilst cycling I was hit by a passing taxi, nothing major but enough to fold his wing mirror in and to bruise my hip. My fault as I had to move around some pedestrians near a busy market and ended up in the path of a speedy taxi. I was surprised that I was not shaken up at by this but it was a good reminder to cycle thinking about all the other drivers around me.

At the Apple store all they where interested in was that the three devices were out of warranty and advised me that I should replace them with new, not very helpful and a very expensive option, there was offer of a service but he implied it would be cheaper to buy new.

A frustrating day for me, I enjoy the marvels of computers and iphones but when they all go wrong at the same time the frustrations are huge.

We did do some sight seeing in the city, the three dimension scale map of Guatemala is a good visit,  I was able to see where we had cycled in all it’s three dimensional glory.

Walking around the city feels very safe and the people are really friendly. Sunday’s are relaxed with a lot of stores shut and families relaxing outside in the clement weather.

Ginette – Guatamala has a really bad reputation (as do most Central American Countries.  However we have felt safe and everyone has been friendly and helpful. This is in contrast to the fact that the majority of buildings have barbed wire around them and there are armed military/police on nearly every street corner and outside most stores. Once the sun goes down even the corner shops are only accessible via bars on the windows.

Monday we moved hostels, this new hostel, Tequila Sunrise is much nicer and the kitchen is larger and we feel free to use use it, unlike the last hostel with a small kitchen that felt like we were intruding on. We both took a walk to an computer repair store called the  iCentre and the technician filled us with a sense that he knew what he was talking about (Talking via google translate) we left the two IPhones and ipad with him to analyse.

Ginette –  I risked getting my hair cut, fortunately it was a really pleasant experience helped by the fact that I could ask for what I wanted in Spanish and it only cost £10. Interestingly both times I’ve had my hair cut in South/Central America the hairdresser has cut my hair first and then washed it, this seems far better than washing it then cutting it. 

Tuesday we checked out and cycled to the icentre. He had repaired one of the iPhones with a new screen and battery for £80, he informed us that the ipad would not be ready until the following day, which meant another day in Guatamala city. As he had done a good job, we asked him to repair the laptop.

We checked back into the Tequila Sunrise, we plan to pick up the IPad tomorrow, leave the iPad and bus over to Panajachel.

Ginette – it is very strange being abroad for the festive season, I have asked Gary to refrain from singing/whistling festive songs until the 1st December, he is trying but occasionally I have to give him the look. That said I have heard Gary whistling/singing Christmas songs at home in the middle of June. There’s no hope really.

20th – 22nd Nov

Panajachel, Lago Atitlan.

We collected the iPad repaired with a new battery for £80.

The bus station to Panajachel for the cheap chicken bus would of been very hard to find if it wasn’t for another couple’s blog that described how they found the bus depot. It was really just the maintenance shed, we had to wait an hour while a mechanic fixed something under the bus then our bikes were loaded on the top of the old school bus and we were charged £6 each for the trip. The buses are old and knackered and you can feel every bump in the road, the driver gunned it as much as he was able up the winding hills so the engine could cope but this meant he was taking the bends to fast for my liking and we were all having to hang on and lean into each turning. I like the native experience and cost of these chicken buses but do not like the journey, they are far to dangerous.

It was just getting dark as we reached Panajachel and unfortunately there was a huge bank of dark cloud cover so we didn’t get to enjoy the views coming down the mountain road to the lake.
Ginette – as the bus reached Panajachel the drivers mate indicated it was our stop and encouraged us to move quickly. Our bikes were handed down to Gary whilst I tried to take all 10 bags off the bus. It was almost like we’d been thrown off. No sooner was the last bag on the floor than the bus sped off.  Once we’d checked we had all the bags Gary and I laughed it was all a bit surreal.
The chicken buses in Guatemala buses are very colourful it is almost like they are trying to outshine each other.

After finding a hotel we set off for a wander and some dinner and even had a few beers watching a live duet of guitar and violin with a bar full of Americans.

We spent the next day strolling around the town and the lake edge, it was a warm sunny day so it was easy to relax. Ginette was a bit nonplussed all day as she had heard she hadn’t made it through to the last set of interviews.
Ginette – By the end of the day I was fine, I hadn’t lost anything and there was a lot I could improve on. I wonder if fate intervened, if I had been successful we would have had to return to the UK in Jan/Feb where as now money permitting we can stay on the road a little longer.

The lake is huge and is surrounded by mountains  and volcanoes, it makes for a pretty backdrop. We had considered hiring a canoe to paddle to one of the other towns but as the afternoon came so did the cloud cover again and with that the lake lost its placid waters and was getting choppy. We plan to take one of the many ferry boats tomorrow to go around the lake and visit some of the other villages.

Friday we hopped on a water taxi over to Santa Cruz, this small town is a bit of a steep walk up the hill and even when we reached the square the village is still going up on a steep incline, there wasn’t much to see but it is a nice village with great views over the lake.

From here we followed a path around the lake towards Jaibalito, the path also went up a little and although it was well trodden it was narrow and it didn’t look like a lot of people took this route. There were a few different types of accommodation scattered around this section of the lake, some looking very posh and looking ideal for honeymoon couples. We past a hostel called Free Cerveza eco lodge, it looked to have a friendly and relaxed vibe but we had definitely raised the average age by stepping over the threshold.

Jaibalito was even smaller than Santa Cruz with tiny lanes just wide enough for the tuk tuks

We was planning on taking another ferry further around the lake but the one waiting at the dock was going back to Panajachel, however he gave us a price that was double what we paid to get over there and we were worried that the trend may be for each distance away from Panajachel that the price back will hike up so we opted to go straight back and chill in Panajachel again.
Ginette – as we sat enjoying the view of the Lake it was amusing to watch Japanese tourists stop to have their photo taken with Gary’s.  I think if the money situation gets  really bad I can sit him down with his Ukele and charge for photos or/and his playing.

23rd Nov 

Very hilly ride and a burning volcano

Today we cycled just under 50 miles and climbed a total of 5900ft up some of the steepest climbs we have done for a while.

We had a few 28% climbs which were hard work, Ginette found herself wobbling on these steep climbs so found it safer to get off and push, I was able to park up my bike once past the steepest bits and walk back down to help Net, so a pretty challenging day but we both coped well.
We had some great views across the valleys and the surrounding volcanos, although we were at 7000ft the vegetation was lush and colourful.
We past several towns celebrating weddings with banners and tinsel decorating the churches and halls all the locals in their best clothes.
At the top of one of the the long climbs we found a coach of French holiday makers and they were very impressed we had managed to cycle up these steep climbs.
Ginette – it was rather embarrassing receiving a round of applause as we arrived.
At one place the road had collapsed into a river so we had to divert for a short dirt road stretch and make our way through the stream, Ginette’s spacial awareness is a bit off today so I cycled both bikes through the stream and helped her across the stepping stones, sometimes she can be such a girly.
Ginette – I am a girl!!!
We are in Antigua, it’s famous for its colonial buildings with cobble streets and the views all around of volcanoes.
We didn’t check in till after dark so plan to spend a full day here tomorrow.
Now it’s dark you can’t see the volcano but you do get to see the occasional red glow at its tip.
24th Nov

Resting in Antigua.

Our hostel last night was quiet but they had a litter of 8 husky puppies, they were well behaved and quite in the night but cooking and eating in the kitchen and shared living room meant sharing the space with the puppies as well and three adult dogs.

We moved to another hostel with no huskies and a roof top terrace so we could take advantage of the volcano views.
The town is fairly small so we have spent some time wandering the cobbled streets and found a market where we managed to buy fresh fish and prawns to cook tonight.
Most of the churches were full as we past them and the main plaza was also packed with a nice relaxed feel to the place.
Personally I am ready to move on again, I am a bit restless after these few days so looking forward to cycling again, but tomorrow will bring another bus ride the 23 miles to the city (The roads get really manic as you approach the city) however we need to collect the laptop that we are having repaired.
25th Nov

Reunited with the laptop

This morning the skies were clear and we had a great view from our terrace roof of the active volcano blowing smoke and ash from its peak.

We decided to take the bus to Guatemala City to avoid cycling into the city, it didn’t take long to find the bus we needed as all the drivers and drivers mates were touting for business.

We went on the local chicken bus again with the bikes on the roof, this trip cost us £4.
The driver was much better and I never felt at risk this time. The bus was as full as any in the UK’s rush hour with people standing squashed in the aisles whilst we managed to fit four bottoms on our two person bench seat, as did all the others. The drivers mate took the fares once the bus was moving so people just get on and found a place to squash into, then after a few stops the drivers mate actually forced his way down the middle of the penguin parade collecting fares as he went.  If you had a phobia of tight spaces or personal space then this bus is not for you.The istore had done a great job of Ginette’s laptop and we now have a new screen and a fully functional finger pad, this was fairy costly at just under £500.

The cycle ride out of the city was pants, busy bumper to bumper traffic and no cycle lanes, Ginette was not a happy bunny. I managed to plot a route slightly off the main Pan American highway but we had a huge hill to climb, I am sure this cheered Ginette up as I know how much she has come to enjoy hill climbing, she even got off a few times to push the bike so she savour the hill for longer.

Ginette – I really don’t mind hills, but I hate busy roads with little room for error. This road had the tinest hard shoulder with exhuast spewing lorries and buses roaring past. I hated it and had a little melt down, I even considered getting on a bus to El Salvedor.

We took another back road and it went down down and down, I was enjoying this when a motorcycle pulled me over. He had been chatting to Net to warn her this road ran out of tarmac so she sent him racing down after me to give me the same warning. So we turned around and went back up, up and more up.

Ginette – this was a much better road, with far less traffic.

Back on the Pan American highway and the traffic had eased off plus the going was pretty much all down hill for 20 miles, we wasn’t expecting to cover so much ground but we managed to settle in a small town called Bartolome near a lake and national park, it was dark by the time we got there. I was aware of a hotel the other side of the lake but cycling through the shanty town we asked around and found a Love motel to stop in. It charged by the hour as well as for the whole night, we have gone for the whole night (I think the man was impressed) tomorrow we should pass into El Salvador.

Ginette – the closer we got to the border, we saw less women dressed in the traditional skirt and tops instead women were dressed in western clothes.

We really enjoyed our visit to Guatemala, the people were really friendly, the country offers mountains, beaches, lakes and volcanoes. It is very green and great for people like us travelling on a low budget. 

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