Up to Guatemala

Crossing the border from Mexico to Guatemala happened without a hitch. People and even taxis were crossing back and forth constantly and like most country to country borders this one was fairly hectic. Of course, being the four long haired, long bearded gringos with bikes that have huge bags on them, we stood out. The locals immediately picked us out and decided they should “help us” with the crossing. Luckily we didn’t have too much trouble picking out which people were helpful and which were not. Having eight eyes to watch all of the gear was a major plus as we took turns going into the office to get a new stamp in our passports.

After changing our remaining pesos for quetzals (Guatemalan currency), we began our first official day of biking in Central America. The change of landscape from Mexico to Guatemala was immediately apparent. We were greeted with intensely steep hills that seemed never ending. After only moving about 25 kilometers to San Rafael, we decided to call it a day. We were slightly confused when multiple people told us it would take 3+ hours to reach the next town San Marcos since it was only 25 kilometers away, but we decided to listen to their advice. Looking back on the situation, we should have realized we were being told the truth, since our strenuous day of biking landed us in San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta (foot of the hill). Since there are very few areas near the road without people, we chose to ask the local bomberos (firefighters) if we could stay for the night. We were given a large room to safely store our things and enjoyed visiting with the characters at the station.

Kanaan and Max do some steep Guatemalan climbing

In the morning we confirmed what everyone had told us the previous day- the hill leading to San Marcos is very long and very steep. It ended up easily being the longest and steepest continuous hill of the trip with no flats or down-hills. It took us 3 hours of non-stop climbing to go 15 kilometers. Finally, we reached an altitude of 7500 feet and were rewarded with a big descent into San Marcos. However, the real prize from the two grueling days of climbing was the refreshingly cool climate. Finally after two months on the hot, humid coast of Mexico we were able to don pants and long-sleeve shirts – and these four Alaskan boys couldn’t have been happier. Our first mission was to find the bomberos station where we would store our things and get some rest.

Andrew talking to some local kids after a full day of climbing.

Welcome to San Marcos

Leaving the station the following morning, we stopped for a quick picture and within minutes had several cameras pointed at us.  Three separate news crews filmed, photographed, and interviewed us for about 30 minutes. After giving them our story, we were on our way again. We had almost left the city, when two motorcyclists waved us down – can you guess who? Two more reporters! Another 15 minutes and we had our 4th and 5th interview of the day done. Free of the city, we started climbing out of the San Marcos valley up and up. And then another motorcycle pulled up and waved us down – interview number 6! It was an unreal way to start a day and we couldn’t stop laughing at how wild the experience was. We haven’t seen any of the interviews published, but if you hear about some bearded bikers in Guatemala, that’s us!

Kanaan working the cameras

That day, post-interviews, we rode to Guatemala’s second largest city: Quetzaltenango, or its commonly known indigenous name: Xela. With the triumph of the previous day’s climb, what would probably be our 2nd hardest day of biking didn’t seem that bad. The summit of the day put us above the clouds, near 8,000 feet, making it our highest day of riding yet.  We spent our time there checking out the town and attempting to update the website with the free-wifi of Mcdonalds.

Hanging with Ronald

Leaving Xela, by chance, we stopped our bikes right next to a huge market that ran perpendicular to the road we were riding on.  We struggled to walk through the massive crowd of people wearing traditional clothing. Taller than the majority of people there, we had an almost bird’s eye view of all that was happening. There were all kinds of fruits, vegetables, unknown animal parts, CDs, shoes, fish, traditional clothing, and so much more.  Our ears, which have now been roughly tuned to pick-up Spanish conversations, could make little sense of the bartering chatter we were engulfed in.  We quickly realized that little Spanish was actually being spoken; the people were all speaking their indigenous language of q’eqchi’.

Kanaan Bartering for Fruit

Bright colors of the Market

Stopping in the right spot on the right day was a coincidence. We felt lucky to have been able to enjoy the market before a day of riding.  Of course, there were more hills ahead. However, the hills weren’t insanely steep and we were able to ride them at a comfortable pace. We also enjoyed one of the most incredible downhill sections of the trip; a long, smooth, double-lane highway that dropped us through the ceiling of the sky and seemed to go on forever. It was a good day of riding to arrive at Solola, about 8 kilometers from Lake Atitlan. Of course, we timed our arrival perfectly for school to get out. This might be the most any of us have ever been laughed at. Luckily we’ve learned to accept the laughs, stares, and other behavior that had previously confused us. So we continued biking into town and had another good night at the bomberos station.

Andrew after a Climb en-route to Lake Atitlan

Andrew riding the ridges to the south

Our first view of the Lago de Atitlan

Leaving the next day we could see the lake in the backdrop. We were thousands of feet above it but there wasn’t much horizontal distance between us and the water. This meant riding down what could be considered more of a wall than a hill. When we hit the town we sat off to the side of the road to group up and let our rims cool off (from the nonstop squeezing of our brakes). Obviously, being away from the water for almost two weeks, the lake was our first mission. A refreshing reward for our first few days in Guatemala.

Looking out at Panajachel

Looking back up to Solala

Max and Andrew testing the cool waters

Lago de Atitlan is a mile-high lake surrounded by 3 massive volcanoes and many small towns, all with different qualities to draw you in. Each town is easily accessible by cheap and quick water taxi rides. We paid 20 quetzales each ($2.50 usd) for our 30 minute ride from Panajachel to Santiago de Atitlan. Our good friend Colin Flynn had told us all about his brother-in-law’s childhood home right on the lake. Jake has now lived in California for several years but we were told we’d be welcomed at La Posada de Santiago by his father when we arrived. We were more than welcome!

Water taxi to Santiago de Atitlan

View of Santiago de Atitlan

Within 5 minutes we were enjoying the relaxed vibes and a round of cervezas on the house. As David, Jake’s father, was about to show us where we would be sleeping, a gentleman from a couple tables away stopped us to say he had ordered another round or beers for us and wanted a picture with everyone. We were still milking our first drink but were happy to make some new friends. As we walked with David up to his house, where we would be sleeping, we were given a tour of the property. The structures and large paths were all made with broken down rocks from the land. After we took full advantage of the pool, hot tub, and sauna, (all located about ten feet from the lake with a great view across to see one of the majestic volcanoes surrounding the area) we went back to the dining area for the steak dinner David informed us we would be having. Definitely one of the better steaks we’ve had and after finishing the entrée came a desert called ‘cardiac arrest’. A fudge covered macadamia nut brownie with homemade vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and cherries on top with a banana split in half leaning up two of the walls. Needless to say, our time at La Posada was incredible! A big ‘thank you’ goes out to David, Jake, and Colin.

Walking around the Posada Property

David and friends outside of the hotel

San Marcos was the next destination on our tour of lake-side towns. It took us two water taxis separated by a short walk through San Pedro to get there. On the second taxi we met a couple that said they saw us riding our bikes in the redwood forests of California. Even without bikes it seems that four bearded Alaskans are pretty recognizable. When we landed at San Marcos our objective was to find Kanaan’s friend, Alana, from Quest University. It’s a small enough town, so it didn’t take long to locate her. She was accompanied by her friend Dani, who we had met 6-7 months ago during the kayak trip when we visited Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island.  Small world!

Kanaan with friends Alana and Claire

Food is the one thing that’s always on our minds. When we heard that a local restaurant was serving all-you-can-eat sushi, we knew our night’s plan. We arrived at the perfect time to get a seat as hungry people began flooding in. A very relaxed jam session began on stage with everyone welcome. Often, mid song, someone would head to the stage with their instrument and join in.  This amorphous band of 8-10 people played throughout the night. The music quickly got us out of our seats and in front dancing. After getting funky on the dance floor we took a quick dip into the lake and called it a night.  The next morning was started with a delicious pancake breakfast topped with a papaya, pineapple, and banana medley. From there it was decided we should pick up where we left off the previous night and go swimming in the lake. The water was the perfect temperature and combined with being surrounded by amazing volcanoes it was hard to get ourselves out of the water. But after being on the road for this long, we knew there was more to see.

A local commuting with the sunrise

We had been told by several people that the “Yoga Forest” was something we needed to explore. The name comes from the daily practice of yoga that is preformed on this quiet hillside overlooking the lake each morning. Just a short 15-20 minute mellow hike and you’re there. As we were relaxing and looking at the lake with the volcano in the background we were happy to feel rain begin to fall on us. With smiles on our faces we sat in silence listening to the thunder roll and watching the lightning strikes. We had two choices: stay and enjoy the view, or return to lake level for a comedy improv show. After soaking up the rain as long as we could before it got too dark, we chose to go find the show. Due to the rain, the power was out when we reached flat land. This delayed the improv show, but only for a short time. Soon enough we were getting our giggle on and having a grand time.

Early the next morning Andrew, Chris, and Max caught the first boat back to Panajachel to retrieve their bikes and catch a series of “chicken buses” to Antigua to see Max’s aunt Ede and experience the first day of Semana Santa. Antigua has a world renowned Semana Santa celebration that commences with a magnificent procession which parades through the entire town until dusk. On the first day of the celebration the streets are covered in sawdust “carpets” that have been dyed in several different colors and intricately arranged into many unique patterns.

Preparing for a Semana Santa procession

When it’s time, hundreds of people dressed in purple robes line up and carry colossal floats in the streets through the sawdust creations. The whole thing is very elaborate and thousands of people come from all over to participate. We were very excited when we realized our timing lined up perfectly to witness the massive procession, but we missed it. In the haste of grabbing our things from inside the last chicken bus, unloading bikes from the roof and being thrown our bags faster than we could possibly catch them, we had an accident.  A film equipment bag was left on board, and by the time we realized it, the bus was well on its way to Guatemala City.

After an ‘oh crap’ moment, we found out every bus was on a set route. As we had hustled to catch our bus we only entered and exited from the back, so we were not familiar with its exterior appearance. We knew ‘Santa Cruz’ was painted above the windshield, next to a TV that was playing nonstop, horrible music by Fransisco something-or-other. After speaking with fruit vendors and a traffic cop we found out our bus was on a loop through Guatemala City and supposedly it would take about two hours to return. 6 hours later, after looking through hundreds of buses as they drove by to see if they were one of the few with a TV and one of the fewer with the words ‘Santa Cruz’, we located our bus just before it made its regular stop. Chris and Andrew entered through the front and back of the bus and began crawling over people, looking through every inch of overhead space for a small black bag. It felt like we were in the movie ‘Rat Race’ looking for the briefcase with a million dollars in it. But it was gone. Andrew sullenly jumped out the back and Chris began fighting his way back to the front exit. Just before stepping out of the now moving bus, he noticed some black cloth in the storage above the drivers’ head. OUR BAG! Instant happiness and relief ensued!

When we heard we could bike the last stretch of road to Antigua as fast as a bus would drive there, we didn’t hesitate to exercise our legs.Missing the procession was a huge bummer, but we did get to see a few carpets as we biked through the bumpy, cobblestone streets. Everything bad in the world was immediately forgotten when Max’s aunt, Ede, told us she got us a room for the night and we would each have our own bed! To increase the mood even more, we were informed that she had a friend named Len back home, in New York City, that has been following our journey and wanted us to have a dinner on him. Thank you both so much!

Without a doubt, Antigua is a town worthy of bicycle exploration.  Ede was in Guatemala to photograph for an upcoming exhibit, so her and Max took a drive through the surrounding area to see unique things and get some shots. Andrew and Chris spent the day exploring the town’s ornate architecture and local activities. Somehow, the stars lined up one more time and we found out that the owner of the hotel, Daniel, had given us a fillet of grouper for dinner. Excited to have the use of a full kitchen and control of a fish dish, we began preparations. The resulting lime infused grouper with grilled pineapple was a masterpiece (at least to hungry bikers that think everything is delicious).

Beautiful architecture on an iglesia in Antigua

A massive volcano in the backdrop of Antigua

Antigua Market

Antigua is a historic town that deserves more of our time in the future, but for now it was time to say our goodbyes. In no way were we bummed when we left. Before long we were between three large volcanoes: two dormant and one active that was releasing smoke constantly.

One of many picture stops on the ride out of Antigua

More volcano pics

Chris riding away from the three volcanoes

The 30 km leaving Antigua was almost entirely downhill and we quickly descended, losing nearly 1500 meters in elevation but noticeably gaining several degrees of heat. Heat is definitely a factor that changes our energy levels in a large way. We decided to call it a day in Taxisco and headed to the local bomberos to see if we could stay for a night. The Jefe (boss) was out on a call but we were welcomed to leave our bikes in the garage until his return when we would find out if we could stay.

Minutes later there was a crowd of approximately 15-20 curious kids wondering who the heck these gringos with enormous bikes were. After a bit of small talk the conversation was led to fútbol and we began a game in the street in front of the station. Of course the home team came out on top, but interacting with the local kids and getting our muscles working in a different way was a great time! After we returned from a quick trip to a food stand, we saw that the bomberos were back. Our stay would be no problem, which was good since night had set in and it would have been difficult to find another spot. We answered the typical questions: where are you from/going? How long have you been traveling? How much longer? Soon out came a camera and we were lined up with one of our bikes to do an interview. Surprisingly, there was a girl that spoke English and a second interview was done entirely in English. At this point we were pretty drained from the sun and our reunion with nonstop heat, so we retired for the night.

Getting our daily water

One more day of riding put us at Ciudad San Alvaraz where Kanaan reunited with the crew. He had spent the past four days back in San Marcos so that he could spend more time with his Canadian friends, Claire, Dani, and Alana. They shared many great meals together, spent a lot of time swimming in Lake Atitlan, explored the towns of San Marcos and San Pedro, checked out an Earthship (a house built out of recycled materials), sweated out a sauna, and did a lot of relaxing and laughing. Kanaan spent a long day that started at 5:30 a.m. taking a series of water taxis, buses, and biking through the middle of Guatemala City to finally catch up before the border crossing.  Somehow, the timing worked out perfectly and within minutes of getting off the bus at the border of El Salvador, the fortunate four were eating pupusas together.

Our last night in Guatemala was spent in the backyard of the local bomberos station, where we enjoyed the company of chickens, roosters, and puppies. Still adjusting to the low elevation heat, a hose shower was a very welcome feature of the bedroom for the night. The next morning we made our crossing into El Salvador and were happy to see that it was much more relaxed than when we entered Guatemala two weeks before. With no apparent thieves or tricksters roaming around to try to take advantage of us, and no visas or passport stamps to pay for, we were in our fifth country of the trip before we could say “check out my fancy green American dollars”. The currency exchange left our wallets feeling a bit thinner, but happy to be holding familiar bills.

Guatemala was hard to leave. For some of us it was the best country of the trip. From our entrance in the west to the eastern exit, each day was jam packed with memorable events. Getting up into the mountains was a real treat, with incredible vistas and comfortable climates as the daily reward for the hard work of climbing. The mountain people of Guatemala beam with character; always presenting their beautiful gold-teethed smiles shining through a mosaic of vibrant traditional clothing. Lake Atitlan is a definite destination for anyone visiting the country. We can confidently agree that it is a gem of Guatemala. But the coast has called us back. If we stayed up in the mountains forever then we would no longer be traveling. Alas, the journey continues.

Max and Chris at the relaxed entrance into El Salvador

 

To and From Rancho El Sagrado, The Final Stretch of Mexico

After our taste of fame in Zihuatanejo we were happy to be back to the tranquil life of biking. We saw some beautiful country the next few days as well as the most aggressive drivers of the trip – no close calls, but some eye-openers. But in turn the route southward took us past coconut refineries, tempting our senses so much that we acquired some coconut dulces and fresh coconut oil. After many long days of biking and great nights of Mexican cuisine and beautiful campsites, we made it back to the ocean.

cooling off in the river during a hot day on the road

We reached Puerto Escondido with the plan of leaving the coast and heading inland to our first WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) experience. WWOOF.org is a website/organization that allows people to search and apply to volunteer at organic farms. Volunteers trade labor for room, board, and the opportunity to learn about organic farming. We headed 45km east and climbed up to 1000 meters to the town of San Gabriel, Oaxaca where we found Rancho El Sagrado .

First view of the Rancho

Before coming to the rancho we were not too familiar with their operations except that they grow coffee and have an expanding eco-tourism business. Upon arrival, we went straight for the clear cold river that ran right along the property. The managers (Lalo and Alex), employees (German, Armando, and Dimitria) and other WWOOFers (Chris, Kat, and Dan) welcomed us to our new home with a beer and pizza party using their adobe pizza oven in the rustic kitchen. We had a great time meeting the crew and learning about the different projects that were going on there.

Kanaan and the crew at the Rancho

The next day we got the tour of the property, we were trained in our garden maintenance duties, and started our first project: the chicken coop. Local predator birds had been sneaking in and stealing the eggs, so we were instructed to close off all the holes. It was the first of many projects that we were assigned to, each one a good opportunity to remember the long lost feelings of manual labor that we have been missing for a few months. By the end of our stay there, we had cleared many trails and built a few benches, a desk, some deck banisters, a tire swing, balance beams, and a tree platform. We really enjoyed our time working with Dan, the other WWOOFer, in the construction projects. And it was a great way to earn our delicious meals of the day, prepared by Alex, one of the property managers.

A New Bench for the Niños

Chris testing out the new tire swing

Originally, Lalo’s grandfather owned the Rancho and 50 years ago began planting groves of coffee throughout the property. Being in its natural habitat the coffee flourishes with little human intervention. Except for the harvest in December, (and if you visit in December you are able to participate in the harvest) the coffee is independent of humans; growing, reproducing, and nourishing itself.  From bush to cup, the production of Rancho El Sagrado’s coffee is a completely artisanal process. The handpicked berries are washed, fire-roasted, husked, and ground into coffee all on-site using local resources – water, wood, and hands. This isn’t a marketing ploy to appeal to yuppie/foodie trends, but is the way they have always done it since Lalo’s grandfather worked the Rancho. And how does it taste? Let’s just say when we think of other coffee we are reminded of the plastic clamshell off the shelf at Freddie’s compared to a handful of Eaglecrest blueberries right off the bush (we apologize to the non-Juneauites for the reference, you’ll just have to come visit some summer.)

Max helping out with the Machete

In more recent times cabanas, kitchen facilities, and an extensive network of trails have been developed on the rancho to attract more visitors to this amazing property. The property runs from the river to a 1000 meter peak and includes a variety of terrain and microclimates. Lalo was pleased to guide us about the property and took us for a walk down the river and a hike up the mountain. We were able to see the river transform from a lazy, meandering mud-bottomed waterway to a torrent of power, steep with waterfalls carving out canyons and cliffs (with some excellent jumping potential). The last day we went to the top of the mountain and were able to survey the surrounding country. We were pleasantly surprised as we neared the top to see ourselves entering a pine forest – not what we were expecting when we began the hike in the shade of banana trees and coffee plants!

Above a beautiful waterfall with the WWOOF crew and Lalo

Waterfall water massage

Lalo looking out over the Rancho El Sagrado Property

As we explored the rancho we were intrigued to find the collection of converted bicycle machines. A friend of Lalo and Alex built these machines and they include a husker (to separate the outer shell from the coffee bean), a coffee grinder, and a blender. Unfortunately all the coffee had been ground in the previous month so our legs would have to have a little more rest.

biking the coffee down

You know what really grinds my gears?

We ended up staying a week at Rancho El Sagrado – but could have spent a month! Lalo and Alex have many plans for the property including expanding the trail system, giving tours of the coffee, elevated tree platforms, ziplines, bikes trails, and more. They are completely open to input from their volunteers and visitors which made it an enjoyable place to work. At the end of the week we told Lalo and Alex that our “goodbye” was only a “see you later” and that at some point we will return to Rancho El Sagrado.

Leaving the rancho, we headed back to the ocean and Puerto Escondido. Two of our Argentinean bike friends – Nick and Frank – who we hadn’t seen since Baja, had made it to Puerto as well. They are staying in Puerto for a while and we are not sure when our paths will cross again so we were excited to see them. We also finally met up with Andrew again, after having been separated for over a month. Our paths crossed in a great place and we were all stoked to see each other again. Four really is so much more than three.

Posing with our Argentian cycling friends (and Nicks Mom!)

Puerto Escondido seems to be a major stop on the “traveler/backpacker” Mexico route and there were tons of young people from all over the world. We enjoyed this change and met a lot of people. Somehow, even among hippies, backpackers, and surfers, four bearded Alaskan bikers seem to stick out and it wasn’t very long until people began recognizing us. Possibly its driving attraction is Puerto Escondido’s surf, giving it the name: “The Mexican Pipeline”. We knew we weren’t going to have too many more opportunities to surf for a while so had to get some boards. There wasn’t much of a swell, which was good for us novices since even the smaller break can be quite large there. However the break was impossibly crowded and although we were happy to get some surfing in, the huge crowd made us happy to leave as well.  At a local coffee shop we met a fellow adventure lover traveling south on his motorcycle, he was wearing an Alaskan Brewing shirt he picked up in Juneau!

Alaskan Beer!

It seemed that we were still on the backpacker’s Mexican route.  Our next stops, on the very special day of February 28 (24 years after February 28, 1989), landed us in the small beach towns of Mazunte and Zipolite, also filled with young travelers. We enjoyed the environment of young energy and even met another bike tourer from Colorado who had just finished a trip through South America and was doing a more laid back Mexico trip to decompress. He directed us to an awesome fruit stand where we dug into some sweet, fresh and juicy watermelon and cantaloupe. After relaxing in town and going body surfing we were looking for more ways to celebrate Andrew’s birthday and guess what? The circus was in town!  The circus was compromised of an interesting blend of acts from all over Central and South America. Andrew had a great birthday night and not only were we able to get our groove on but we even saw an up-close performance by a fire dancer.

Two days later we experienced a fire performance of a little different variety. Leaving Mazunte we had been told there was a Rainbow Gathering 100 km south.  None of us had ever been to one of these gatherings and didn’t have a complete understanding of what they were about, but we figured that since it was on the way we might as well stop by. After pedaling a long day through the dry wind and smoky air, we were greeted at the turn off to Playa San Diego by a young group of Mexican hoodlums. As we made our way down the dirt road to the beach we encountered a number of interesting looking travelers, and even got convinced to help carry some backpacks on our bikes for a few shoeless “family members”.

The Rainbow Family greeted us with open arms and a delicious communal meal, dished out by the chefs to about 100 thankful bowls. We were impressed with their ability to estimate and ration out a meal for such a large and uncertain number of hungry bellies. We enjoyed the company of a diverse crowd, and learned about the Rainbow Way, how they are able to pull off such large scale gatherings of hundreds of people for multiple weeks at a time by performing shows in nearby towns and using contributions to feed the Family. It was a great introduction to Rainbow life, but just as the night was about to be surrendered to sleep, the second half of the night ignited, keeping us awake for a couple more hours.

“Is that the moon? No, the moon is over there. Well, I guess that must be the forest fire that we saw earlier then.” The wind was howling that night and the mountains were covered in little blazes that no one seemed to be too worried about. But eventually it was clear that the palm forest we were camped in was about to get consumed by a raging flame. We hustled to pack up all our gear as the alarm sounded throughout camp that everyone needed to wake up and get the heck out as fast as possible. The next couple hours were spent shuttling gear from one spot to the next, getting chased down the beach by smoke and blasted by sand from the wind. Finally we settled next to the lagoon in a place that seemed like it would be relatively protected. After a few hours of sleep behind our tarped-bicycles bunker, we awoke to a flameless beach. All of the craziness from the fire had beaten us and our gear up a bit, so we decided that it was time to leave that place. It was unfortunate to leave the Rainbow Gathering so soon, but with rumors of another gathering taking place in Costa Rica in April; we figured there will likely be more opportunities down the road in a potentially more comfortable setting.

A fellow cyclist pushing his bike down the beach away from the massive fire

Our bike-tarp bunker from the wind, sand and smoke

The following days were wind filled. As we entered the famous Tehuantepec Gap region, the prevailing northerly winds channeling from the Gulf of Mexico down to the Pacific coast made themselves known. Suddenly it seemed that we were back in the desert again, the constant winds keeping the climate untropically arid. The dry, strong air currents kept our body temperatures more comfortable but also made us move much slower. Eventually we ended up in La Ventosa, the center of a gigantic wind farm that had us biking through turbines for hours. Luckily the wind took a bit of a break as we crossed this section; otherwise we might have been trapped on the west side of it by a wind hazard closed road, as happens often in that area apparently.

As we were having lunch in a federally funded “Vivir Mejor” public playground, a sharp looking fellow in a nice car pulled up and waved us over to talk with him. He was wondering why we hadn’t called him yet. He is a warmshowers.com and couchsurfing.com host in a town 80 km down the road, and we should stay at his house when we get there. We knew this trip was pretty easy going, but usually it takes at least a little bit of effort to find places to stay on those online traveler networks. Now we don’t even have to do the research, the hosts find us! We took it as a good excuse to cover some ground, so we hustled the rest of the day to make it to his house before sunset.

Rodrigo and Lupita treating us to all you can eat fresh mangoes!

Rodrigo and Lupita were excellent hosts, entertaining us with a pair of crazy young boys and feeding us with great meals and nonstop mangos off their trees. We even got to do our laundry and take showers! Good times. The next day we crossed the border to Chiapas, our last state in Mexico. The wind picked up strongly again, starting as a tailwind in the morning but eventually blasting us from the side. We pulled in to Arriaga and went straight for the bomberos station. The good people of the public service took us in graciously, and we were able to play a bit of baseball with the high school team as they were practicing on the field behind the station.

All night and the next day the wind was ripping again, and Max was feeling a bit sick from all the mangos of the day before. We didn’t make it far out of town before we pulled off at a gas station to rest and reassess Max’s health situation. It was decided that he would either bus or try to find a ride to Tapachula, the city on the other side of Chiapas that we would likely be able to reach in a few days. Just before Kanaan, Chris, and Andrew were about to bid Max ado, they asked a Canadian guy towing a trailer and a speed boat if he might be able to offer a ride south. As it turned out, he was on his way to Costa Rica, and was driving in a fleet of cargo trucks. They offered to take all four of us, with our bikes in the back of a dump truck, no problem. We figured it was the best option, to keep the group together and take advantage of a good opportunity to cover some long flat distances. So we hopped in three different trucks and in a few hours we were dropped off about 15 km from the Guatemalan border.

Passing through Arriaga, the train was full of travelers heading north

We went to the first restaurant we could find and asked if we might be able to camp on their property if we bought dinner there. They excitedly agreed and soon we were chatting up the night with the whole family, grandparents to grandkids. The next morning they treated us to a variety of fruits from their backyard orchard and sent us on our way for Guatemala. On the way out of town we stopped at some Mayan ruins and explored intricately carved story stones and ceremony structures. We met some visitors from Guatemala who were in town for the international fair and they convinced us to stay for one more night to check out the events. It turned out to be a bit of a different cultural experience than we were expecting (pretty much just an American style county fair in Spanish), but we had fun. The next morning we got on the bikes and officially said our goodbyes to Mexico.

The Mayan ruins of Izapa, our last stop in Mexico

After three months of riding the pacific coast of this great nation, we feel like we’ve obtained a pretty good understanding of what this side of Mexico is all about. It’s been an awesome introduction into the Spanish speaking world, and we are especially thankful for all the caring people that have contributed to our journey along the way. Mucho gusto to the country of Mexico for teaching us so much and delivering such great experiences, certainly to be remembered for the rest of our lives. Now we begin the next leg of the trip, Guatemala and the rest of Central America. Looks like some big mountains are up ahead to start us off…

Retired photos of the month – December + January

Aside

These are the photos of the month from the months of December and January. We realized we should post them up here to make sure they don’t get forgotten!

Biking through the deserts of Baja with our new Argentinian friends. This photo went out to Cycle Alaska for helping us obtain our bike gear.

JanuaryPOM

Stand Up Paddleboarding at Isla Isabella, looking for birds and fish. Thanks to NAO in Juneau for helping us acquire all of our camping gear!