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Bicycling Across Guatemala – Day 1

Posted by on February 11, 2013

Our morning began….slowly.  After a delicious hostel breakfast and packing up, we began to load our bikes.  Lennart filled up his panniers on his back tire (the side bags) and tied down his backpack with a skinny rope over the top – I must say, I was quite impressed with how good his bike looked fully loaded.  Santo was ready for the road!

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After I finished packing my stuff in the dorm, I came downstairs to find Diablo patiently awaiting our journey.  I placed my oversized plastic milk crate (which was previously a lady at the local markets seat) onto my bike rack and haphazardly through my backpack into it.  I barely pushed my pack down into the crate before I placed my day pack with all of my electronics on top of it, and added my dry bag with my shoes on top as well.

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The lovely Guatemalan Coconut Lady who I bought my blue crate from

With some old rubber ‘ropes’, a dilapidated bungee cord, and some precise measurements (read: I just put tied things down with cords that were already ripping) we took our bikes out of the hostel – I had no idea how heavy / difficult it would be to move the bikes with gear on them.

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After a few tearful (exaggerated for your entertainment) good-byes, our amazing group of six parted ways to various places within Guatemala and Lennart and I were on our way!

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…But not so fast, the cobble stone streets are not very conducive to overly packed road bikes, we had to walk our bikes until we were out of the town – on this journey, my bike tipped over once due to its top heavyness and thus, I had to re-scientifically-attach it to my bike rack and then we were finally off!

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The first town we traversed was Ciudad Vieja – I confirmed with a local the name of the town as we biked by, as there was no “Welcome to (this tiny town)” sign anywhere to be found.  Once you’re off the main tourist track, two Gringos are always a site to see for the locals – especially two gringos with fully loaded bicycles….needless to say they were super excited to see us!

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Onward we pedaled and enjoying some long stretches of downhills, we were flying and I mean flying!  I timed us over the course of a kilometer – the fastest I clocked in was 61 seconds – or in other words, almost exactly 60km/hr or 38 MPH for an extended period of time.  Downhills sure are our friends, those uphills though – definitely an enemy – however, luckily we’re heading for the lower lying coast of El Salvador and we’ll be making plenty of friends.

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Everything went without a hitch, we enjoyed the gorgeous sites along the way until about 18km before our final destination of Escuintla.  We hit a bump in the road….literally.

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A speed bump – a speed bump derailed our perfect day.  We came around a blind corner to a section of about 10 speed bumps leading up to a bridge, and although we attempted to slow with our 1980s breaking mechanisms, the bump jarred loose a screw on Lennart’s bike and his rack was only half attached.  We dismounted from our bikes and as I went to help him…my entire bike fell over as well throwing my gear onto the hot Guatemalan pavement.

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After some masterful duct tape engineering combined with the use of some string – Santo, Lennart’s bicycle, which ironically broke down before Diablo was ready for the road again.  However, Santo was still injured and Lennart had to wear his backpack for the rest of our journey.

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Back on the road we began – 18km to the town of Escuintla, which we know absolutely nothing about.

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Unfortunately for you, there were no other significant shenanigans / issues we ran into for the day, but I was treated to a nice surprise of a Chicken Bus with my home state of Illinois License Plate.

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We ventured through the town – without seeing a single place to sleep, so we parked our bikes, Lennart played guard, and I wandered the town until 30 minute later, I finally found the first place to stay – it was pricey, $13 / night, but it had a pool and a hot tub, so we were sold.  Lennart went for a bite to eat and I went for a swim, what a relief after our first day of biking!  An hour later, we went for dinner (Lennart’s second) and my first and a coconut. 

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We accomplished both these tasks, then found or way into a Billiard Hall…with no one playing billiards, but rather a group of 12-15 men gambling on Domino’s and another dice game, which we’re still not sure what it consisted of.  There were ‘No Smoking’ signs posted, but this didn’t stop the owner from loaning her lighter to some of the shirtless locals as they continued to gamble the night away.  Lenny and I played a few rounds of pool, one of the locals joined us for a game of Cutthroat (the billiard game, not the ‘oh my god, you’re in Guatemala Kyle, are you safe?! that sounds dangerous!’ version)  It was quite the experience and quite an end to the first day of our journey, “El Danger Zone.”  All things considered, we really only had one minor hitch and we finished our day with a few recap videos excited for tomorrow’s travels to begin!  It’s looking to be a 61km day, we shall see though!

Good night everyone!

One comment on “Bicycling Across Guatemala – Day 1

  1. Hilarious escapades, I am wondering though, have you tasted the Gallo beer? I’d love to see a post about beers of Latin America

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