|August 15, 2010
We are in Coban and will spend the day resting and getting caught up on emails and I have to make a few calls.
Yesterday was entertaining to say the least. We left Nebaj around 9am and went the proper (paved) way south towards Sacapulas. When we got to the ‘T’ intersection I turned the wrong way and went 15km’s before I asked for directions. We wore our rain gear because all reports say that it’s always rainy in Coban. Wearing rain gear makes for some hot riding as there is no air flow.
We rode east through Uspantan and the pavement stopped here. This section of road is the main reason why I had the tyres changed in Guatemala City. We drove a little further and stopped at a little village called Aldea Baleu to take a little break. The lady at a little tendida told us that the road was not passable due to a derumbe, about 7km’s up the road. Damn! This meant at least a days drive back around to the main highway. As we contemplated our dilemma another villager came over and told us we could get through but Cara would have to walk. No big deal; we have done this before. I asked him how big it was and he said, ‘not so big’. We decided to go see for ourselves.
As we drove up closer to the derumbe the scene changed from quite jungle to some sort of small makeshift border town. Trucks all lined up, lots of people, lots of dogs, litter, some food stalls, etc. As we drove up to where the road ended I couldn’t believe my eyes. Half of a mountain had slid into the valley leaving a huge gorge. It had to be at least 700m across. Far down below we could see dump trucks and backhoes making a new road through the debris. They looked like ants. I couldn’t believe it. It was larger than the Frank Slide in BC!!
Buses would drop people off at the other side and they would carry their belongings across the debris and up to where we were. It looked like the Yukon Trail! It was crazy amazing.
Looking down it appeared that the road they were constructing was passable. A huge crowd started to forming around Electra and Cara. I asked a couple of young men if I could get through on the road they were working on. Of course, they all agreed. We got on and rode down into the debris field with six young men following us laughing and giggle the whole way. When we entered the debris Cara hopped off and I rode Electra in. It was bad very bad. I got about 200m in and dropped her. The young men came over and helped me pick her up. The road was 6” of soupy mud covered with basketball size rock. Only a few sections were solid. It didn’t look like this from above. They helped me push the bike to solid ground while a backhoe was honking at us to get the hell out of the way. Once on solid ground I rode another 200 or 300m and then I couldn’t go any further. They six men came running up and helped me push her through shin deep soupy mud and rock.
Just as we reached the other side a mini bus with several backpackers got out and where just starting on to the road. White runners and clean clothes. As we pushed the bike past them not one said a word to me. They all had this look about them. Stunned. I was covered in mud as were the six men helping me. Sweat was dripping off my nose. When we reached the other side I looked back to see if I could see Cara. She was stuck in the mud and some guy was trying to help her out. I was spent. Wearing my rain gear was a bad idea. I was sweating like there was no tomorrow. I asked the guys how much they wanted and they just looked at each other, I suggested 10 quezales each and they thought that that was cool. I could never have crossed with out there help. They left as I met them, laughing and giggling. Cara arrived, we got on Electra and drove about 300m up the road to take some pictures and cool off. I asked Cara if she got some pictures of me and the porters and she said no that she was too stunned to what was going on. We had a good laugh. It was stellar. I wonder what the people at the ‘border town’ were thinking as they looked down at us. We would have been just pin pricks anyway.
We arrived in Coban around 3pm and found a cool place for 150q per night. We went for a walk around town and saw only two other sets of travelers. When we got back to the hotel I immediately noticed four DR605’s with California plates on them. As I stood there and foreigner came in from off the street; we got to talking. He was from New Zealand. He and three of his mates bought the bikes in California and were driving to Patagonia. I met the rest of the guys later and two of them had worked at Silver Star last winter! And another tree planted in the Kamloops area. Can you imagine: In the middle of Guatemala at a hotel that is a little out of the way, where there are no other guests running into a group of riders from New Zealand that know where Kamloops is!!!! What the hell? We are going to keep in touch as they are going the same way as me but only sooner. It’s kinda like having my own scouting expedition.
August 17, 2010
I got to thinking about the NZ guys and their little journey. I sat out and spoke with them on the morning of the 16th as they prepared to leave. One had a flat. They found the culprit and plugged the hole with ‘slime’. This is a product that when you put it into the tire it’s supposed to swish around when the tyre spins, finds the hole it plugs it and then you’re good to go. It seemed to work. They were driving from Coban to Antigua. This is at least a one days drive and they left about 10am. That’s a long one. They will be arriving at night. Really supper cool guys. I wish I was riding with them. They had DR650’s all decked out for the overland thing.
This morning before we left I noticed a Honda Arprila and a Suzuki ??? parked in the lobby and there was a nice 4x4 parked inform of them. The owner came out to speak to me. He was from Guatemala City. He spoke very good English. He was a Rotarian and I think he was an eye doctor doing some volunteering work in El Pepen. His name was Jorge Alonso and he told me that if I had any problems I could call him all would be resolved and he told me that if I was ever in Guatemala City I could stay at his house! We spoke for a while and I met his friends. I think the two guys driving the truck were his body guards because they had 9mm’s on them. Unconcealed of course. Great people. All the Guatemalans are very cool people.
Today we went to Grutas Rey Marcos. It’s a cave system about 15km’s from town. When we arrived there were two other gringo’s there. Their names were Johannes and Lya. There were from Germany. We went on a guided tour about ¼ of the way into the caves. I brought my big camera because Cara didn’t order the charger for my water/shock proof camera until the week she was leaving EVEN though I told her to order it at least a month in advance because they will have ship it in. A guess what. It’s little things like this that piss me off about people when I speak to them that they that for granted. For instance: I called someone the other day and they said to me, “Can you call me back, I’m in the mall?” Hells no I can’t!! It took me four hours to find a place that would allow me to call outside to Canada and I’m to wait until you’re done shopping? Tell you what…I won’t call again because, “It’s too much of a hassle for you!” And by the way, don’t send me an email wondering why I don’t call anymore!! (NOT YOU SUSAN!! I will keep trying to get a hold of you!).
Today we drove about 70km’s north east to a village called Lanquin. The road was paved about 50km’s then terra the rest of the way. Good terra though. The bike gets heavier by the day. I keep buying shit. Yesterday I bought a pair of low cut cowboy boots. As a kid I remember Uncle Bobby had a pair or something like it. In Nebaj I also bought two types of tocoyla. These are women’s head coverings and are traje indigena (traditional Mayan clothing). They are beautiful and elaborate bands of cloth woven throughout a woman’s hair and then about the head. They are decorated with tassels, pom poms and sometimes silver ordainments. The books say’s that they are only worn for special occasions and tourist photos but we saw lots of elderly women wearing them in the market everyday. I will send them home with Cara.
Anyway back to Lanquin. We are staying at a backpackers retreat (read: Hippy) called ‘El Retiro’. Using Lanquin as a base camp, tomorrow we will see ‘Grutas de Lanquin’ a bat shit covered cave. Should be good! Then the next day we will go to Semuc Champey. There is supposed to be a 300m-long natural limestone bridge, on top of which area series of stepped pools with cool flowing river water which is supposed to be good for swimming and another cave. The pools are supposed to be turquoise to emerald-green. Being the rainy season I bet the water is muddy and maybe a great time to get guardia! I have been told that the ride in is hell and only 4x4’s can make it. Well, we’ll just see about that. The Darien Gap has been traversed by motorbike, solo and unassisted by motorbike, what’s a few steep hills?