Archive for the ‘Guatemala’ Category

Final thoughts on Guatemala

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Guatemala

KLR 650 Bike Trip Guatemala 10 (2)

It’s been a while since my last post so I’m going to try to catch up a bit. Here I am writing about Guatemala still while I’m in Honduras….

What is there to say about Guatemala?! A gorgeous place! People have been really nice and always helpful. Food has been amazing and I gained probably 2lbs per week I spent there.

The natural beauties of this small country are with no limits. It’s a country that sits on mountains and is flooded by jungles. Getting around can be a bit tricky as there are no 2 maps alike with the same roads. If you want to get off the beaten path, it’s worth it, but you have to ask locals for directions many many times in a day.

Safety…. an interesting concept of this so called “dangerous” country. I have at no point in time felt unsafe. You just have to be careful. Ride during the day, stay in during the night. Ask locals about the towns around and they will tell you which ones are ok and which ones will get you killed. Yes, killed is the right term. As nice as people are in Guatemala, you have to remember that life there has no real value. If you have money and the locals know it, you have to travel with a guard or a gun. If you don’t like someone, you can put a hit on that person for less than 100$. Although this sounds rough, don’t worry, none of the locals are dumb enough to kill a tourist as they know that the police will actually “care” about that case and things can get really complicated.

Anyway, if you do go to Central America, Guatemala is a MUST SEE! It’s a country like no other.

La Barona Turtles

Posted: December 31, 2010 in Guatemala

I took the Ferry back out from Hawaii (20Q this time) and headed over to La Barona which is a border town with El Salvador. The ride was supposed to be only about 2-3 hours with a couple of breaks. I was told that the bridge was down to get into town but there were lanchas that could get you across for a small fee. I got to the broken bridge and yes, the lanchas could get the smaller bikes across but not my giant tank.

After talking to a few locals, they told me that if I crossed over into El Salvador, there’s a small back road with only a check stop that I can take back into Guatemala and therefore avoid the bridge. It was my only choice so I had to cross.

Crossing into El Salvador is pretty easy but you have to be patient. I think it took about 3 hours. By the time I was on the other side, it was dark so I had to find a place to sleep. Stayed at another drive-in hotel for 14$ a night including 2 cold beers that came with the room. If I were interested, I got also offered “special services” for 20$.

The next morning, I found the small back road. At the check stop, the army guys just looked at my bike and asked me where I was from. I told them Canada, and without even taking my helmet off or getting my papers checked, I was back in Guatemala and 15 minutes later in La Barona.

Ferry ride back out of Hawaii

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In La Barona, a couple of the local guys, Evar and his buddy, took me out fishing in a small lancha.

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Our lancha was about the same size as this one

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Some awesome views of the lagoon

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As we were heading back with the lancha, I saw a couple of the other volunteers in a bigger lancha with a motor. They invited me on board so I went for a second boat ride. It turns out that the local drug lord who’s also running for mayor was taking out some “important” people on a short boat ride to impress them.

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The local town bus in La Barona

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Their park

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Our food the next day

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He was one happy guy we were cutting the chicken

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Some guys hanging by the street

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A few steps down, the local drug lord’s propaganda in the hopes of getting more votes from the locals

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Sunset before releasing turtles

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Rachel and some kids getting the lil guys out of the hatchery.

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Release time

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On the 24th, Nando, our host and person in charge of the hatchery, took us out on a small trip in his lancha.

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Showed us a lil hidden pathway

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Local school

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Kids sit on this

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Cute lil guy

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Older dead turtle we found on the beach

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Where there’s death, there’s also new life

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After the accident, I stayed in a nice small hotel where for 40Q (5$) I had my own private room, cable TV and shower. This is the hotel’s owner and grand son. They liked my camera and wanted a picture.

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My bike got it’s first wash on this trip in over 2 months. I still had Baja sand on there.

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On my 500km or so road heading south, I found this view as the sun was going down and I was getting caught in the dark in the middle of the mountains.

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In order to get to Park Hawaii, I had to get to Monterrico on this Ferry. The guys tried to charge me the Gringo tax since a normal moto is 15Q for the crossing and they wanted 50Q for mine.

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Since 2 more motos came along with 4 more people, after much negotiating I gave them 30Q. My bike was a bit bigger… 😉

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Views from the ferry going through the lagoon

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Bike just rolled in 11k

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Now for the turtles. I got to Park Hawaii, just 8km from Monterrico, and this is where I stayed at. Hard to tell, but in the back there they have a building with bunk beds inside and a common area. The stay is 10$ a night and you have a hostel like environment.

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There are 2 hatcheries. The one on the right and the one on the left.

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Inside the hatchery. The sticks show a nest that was dug in there. Each nest has about 40-60 eggs.

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Here is the system. You can click the picture and then zoom in to read it all. It basically explains the donation system that should be followed by the locals. Sadly, egg donations only account for a really small % of the numbers you saw above. Most of those eggs were bought with $ donations that the park gets from visitors and volunteers. Each nest costs between 12-20$ depending on egg prices during that month. One volunteer, John, bought about 16k eggs with his own $. Thats about 3 000$ worth of eggs.

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The park has a small view tower and I took these HDRs from there.

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One of their dogs

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One of the nests hatching. They fill up pretty quick. The next few pics are a bit blurry because of the lack of light…

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Just chillin

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Out of all the lil guys we release into the ocean, about 1 out of 1000 will survive, grow old and come back to lay eggs. If we calculate the % of eggs that are being sold as food, it’s not hard to see why the turtle population is gradually diminishing. These turtles were here way before us… about 100 million years before us. They survived harsh temperatures and climates, but it doesn’t look like they will survive humans…

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Merry Christmas

Posted: December 26, 2010 in Guatemala, Uncategorized

Last night I had the pleasure of having Christmas in the small town of La Barona, Guatemala. I was under the impression that Christmas was all about invading the malls where a fake santa sits surrounded by nicely packed boxes and shiny things while kids are thought from a young age by sitting on his big fat lap that wanting and getting “stuff” is what this holiday is all about. Or maybe that it’s a holiday created by the same religious nuttjobs who called Mary a virgin and decided to create some of the best selling books in the world while killing millions of people in the name of Jebus and invading whole countries/continents.

You got it, I can’t stand Christmas… but for the first time in many years, I wasn’t pissed off during this “precious” time of the year. I was actually enjoying my night. In this small town I was in, kids didn’t get expensive gifts, or any at all really. They had free food they all shared, a few pinatas filled with candy and some get togethers. The teenagers went dancing at night and the parents arranged for the food and activities. No one talked about going to the mall or shopping. It was a nice and simple night.

I hope that all you mall invading freaks had a joyful Christmas as well and that you brought back up the cheerful retail shareholders portfolios by a few points.

Some pass time videos in the christmas spirit…

A cute one

An informative one

Another one with kids

The shitty day…

Posted: December 17, 2010 in Guatemala

After a couple of days of smokin ganja and walking all over the few streets of Flores I was ready to keep going. The overly crowded and super touristy hostel of Los Amigos was not really my cup of tea so I decided I’ll just get on the bike and ride through some small towns with less gringo frequented places.

I wake up in the morning and first thing while flossing I realize that one of my fillings is falling out. Ok, no big deal, I’ll find a dentist along the way. In Guatemala it costs about 50$ for a white filling and about 100$ if you need a crown, so it’s not that bad to go to the dentist here. I’ll probably just go somewhere more south.

A few minutes later, I realize that my stomach is not doing so great. I guess that eating street food to fulfill the munchies for a couple of days is finally paying off. No big deal, take a couple of immodiums and it should be good in a couple of hours.

I pack my stuff and start riding back south. I have already done most of the road on the way up and knew that it’s was pretty good pavement so I’d make it in no time. My 12V plugs stop working. iPhone has a problem with the headphone jack and distorts the music so now I’m left riding in silence. The GPS in not charging and the battery is done, but I know where I’m going. All my electronics seem to hate me all of a sudden. Even the SPOT satellite thing is flashing red that it’s low on battery. Oh well, keep riding….

The road is great, the sun is out, I ride for about 100km south of Flores and I can just cruise at highway speeds. Sometimes I even have 2 lanes which is rare here. All of a sudden I feel a tiny shake on the front as if the road were uneven. Before I even have time to think, the front goes under and I’m sliding. No big deal I think, I’ve done this before on sport bikes and this time it feels like I’m just sliding straight. Smart as I am, I hold on to the bike and try to slow it down because my 180lbs will slow down 700lbs of metal. The bike keeps going for a bit and hits grass that brings it to a full stop while throwing me in the ditch over some rocks about 6 feet down. I feel my helmet smack over a rock but thanks to todays amazing helmet technology, all the energy gets dispersed evenly while my head gets nicely cushioned as if I were sleeping on a duvet pillow.

I get up and do my full body check. Every piece of gear did it’s job. From the gloves to the padded jacket and my boots. Even my pants which I had doubts about took the slide really well. I only have a tiny rash on my knee and one bruise on my elbow. Not bad at all. I look at the bike and it seems in pretty rough shape. I walk out of the ditch and happy that I’m ok, I decide that it’s a good time to let a good old fart out. I’m a guy so it’s ok to fart and to even write fart in here. Anyway, farting with stomach issues is not the best choice… I realize after the fact…

So I’m standing next to my bike and now people are starting to stop. Pretty much everyone that is driving up stops to see that I’m ok. They help me lift the bike and start talking to me in Spanish. I tell them that I’m ok, but they seem more scared than I am. I start the bike and she starts right up. Lots of damage though on the side and back. Tough to strap everything on. It looks like everything will hold but not for long at all. They all wait till I leave to make sure I’m gonna be ok. No way I can change my pants now… gotta get on the bike as it is.

I ride into town and start asking welders as they are everywhere if they can help me. They all look at the bike and see too many broken aluminum components. None of them have the technology to weld aluminum. Finally after searching and asking, one guys starts making a bunch of phone calls. We look at the broken stuff and decide that it might be easier to rebuild it from scratch. He makes a few more phone calls. Finally he has his son escort me around the corner, behind a few stores to a garage behind a house.

I look around and find a couple of guys working there on a car. One speaks English as he’s from Belize. I explain my situation, they look at each other and decide to help me. It was going to be their day off as it was a Saturday but they leave everything they were doing and we start taking the bike apart. The parts look a lot worse once off the bike. We decide to build the support part from scratch.

Work started I think around 11am. They worked all day till it got dark around 6pm. Cutting, bending, welding, measuring…. without a single minute of stopping. They saved my bike!

Here’s pics:

This is the road. If you look on the right side of the lane, you can see a dark thick trail with some yellow in it. Not sure what it was but it was slicker than ice and went for a few hundred feet. Kinda looked like egg white but I think it was dirt mixed with diesel. Pretty common here, specially on uphills as trucks leak stuff behind. I see all kinds of trails now.

On the left, if you look closer, you can see the slide mark my bike left.

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These are some of the guys that stopped and helped me lift the bike

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This is the ditch I landed in. If you look closer, about 6 feet down there is a place where the water is supposed to drain under the road with all the rocks in it. That’s where I stopped.

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The bike with everything “strapped” on

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The not so “happy trails” mounts. Bent and 2 welds totally broken.

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More damage

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Everything’s off the bike

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Puzzle anyone?

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Guys working on the rebuild. They had some amazing skills and were total perfectionists. Hard to find around here… or even in Canada.

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New and stronger than before. My box now sits higher so that people can see my break light and this new holder sits on the subframe, therefore dispersing weight and energy better.

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Pannier holders welded back and bent back in place. Everything is back up and better than new.

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My saviors! Thanks to them, I was able to get back on the bike the next day and keep going on my journey. Guys, once again I can’t thank you enough!

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Turtles

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Guatemala

For the next week or so, I’ll be releasing baby turtles in Hawaii Park. The guys here release about 40 000- 60 000 baby turtles a year, so I’ll be here trying to help. The internet is really slow, and other people are waiting to use it, so I can’t post many pics. Once I get to Salvador, I’ll write more about the turtles and also about a pretty shitty day I had a few days ago… Everything is good though and life is relax and beautiful here.

Tikal – how to camp in the park 101

Posted: December 11, 2010 in Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

History

After many people telling me to check out Tikal, I decided to go for it. It’s a pretty nice place but sadly, is becoming more and more touristy every year. A hotel room can cost you around 60$ US but I was able to camp for 4$. The guy tried to charge me 4$ a night for my bike too so that I could park it next to my tent but we settled for 2$. The campground that’s owned by the park is pretty nice with ok security and so quiet and dark at night that you can’t even find your tent.

On the 2nd night, after talking to some people in the campground, I decided to go along with them and try to sleep inside the park by the ruins. We left our stuff in the campground, grabbed a bit of food, water and something to drink, and headed inside the park around 5pm. I had noticed earlier in the day that the Temple 6 side didn’t have that much attention from tourists so we tried that side.

Here is how to go sleep in Temple 6… a great kept secret in Tikal.

– Grab a blanket, warm cloth, sleeping bag if you have one, some food, some drinks and good hiking shoes. If you have a really compact tent, you can bring that too.

– With a ticket (150 Q) enter the park around 4:30-5pm

– Head over to Temple 6. It’s the first temple on the left.

– You will see a bunch of “No Climbing signs”. Ignore the signs as they are only for security reasons. Basically climb at your own risk!

– Climb the temple. Be really careful, the stones are slippery… really slippery!

– Once you get almost to the top, you’ll see that the temple has a room on the top. Go in that room and set-up camp. Do it while it’s light cause you can’t have light later or you’ll attract attention.

– Watch the sun set.

– Entertain yourself for the next 10 hours or try to sleep. Don’t even think about climbing down the temple in the dark! Once the sun has set, you’re trapped up there for the night.

– Wake up around 4:30 and watch the sun rise. Listen to the jungle.

– Climb down the temple and walk around the park till around 10pm or Noon. If you try to exit the park too early and your ticket is not valid anymore, you will be questioned and they might make you purchase a new ticket.

– If you get caught trying to do something “illegal” or not by the rules in Guatemala, remember that money is your best friend.

If you do the above, you’ll save the expensive sun rise and sun set guided tour. You also get a chance to camp in a temple high up above the trees… which is priceless.

Now for some pics of Tikal:

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Tikal Guatemala

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Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala