Or should I say “Regresar a la escuela!”
I’m not quite fluent enough with the language to write en Espanol so I’ll leave that to Lisa for the next update after we have finished studying 😀
We have been in Antigua for a week now and have found it a great place to study, visit the sites while taking in some history, or just kick back and relax.
The small colonial city was designated a UNESCO site due to historic ruins that are dotted around the area.
Antigua was originally the nations capital but was moved to what is now Guatemala City in the 1700’s due to the risk of lahar’s from the volcanoes surrounding it and powerful earthquakes that have flattened the city several times.
The views from our hotel roof terrace.
Monday morning blues are not really a problem in Antigua.
We get up at 7am, grab a bite to eat on the way to school and then have 4 hours of one-to-one study with a local teacher. Some of the teachers speak a little bit of English but if not, you just have to learn quicker!
Mi maestra, Gaby.
Just around the corner from our hotel is a place called Luna de Miel. They do the best crepes in town, savory or sweet, and is best washed down with a huge smoothie (with a splash of rum if you like).
The city has a strong Mayan influence with many of the street sellers speaking a Quiche dialect.
Stopping for a quick beer at Moto Cafe.
We visited Santa Domingo hotel which is one of the most expensive places to stay in town. It used to be a monastery and has an interesting history.
Yesterday we traveled to the markets in Chichicastenango with another overland biker called Paul along with Betina who is studying at the same Spanish school. The markets are approx 2 hours from Antigua and I thought it would be a good test run for the bike after getting a local mechanic to straighten the front wheel.
The markets in ChiChi are made up of indigenous Mayan people selling everything from arts and crafts to livestock. Some of them are camera shy so I resorted to taking sly shots from the waist to avoid being noticing. It’s pretty easy to fill up a memory card while taking hundreds of shots to get just a few decent ones though.
We arrived back in Antigua but the bike still felt weird and we found that the new front wheel bearings fitted in LA have gone bad so have replaced them after visiting the local moto-store for some new parts.
Celebrations seem to have already started for “Day of the Dead” where Catholics pay their respect to their ancestors.
Locals and tourists get close to the action.
The “Torito” dances around the crowd with fireworks on his back. No sign of the HSE here..
We have our first Salsa lesson this week. Lets hope it’s easier than learning Spanish……
And that’s about the extent of my Spanish….it’s a good job we’re going to be starting language school in the next few days – you can expect the next blog update from Dan to be written entirely in Spanish 🙂
We finally managed to drag ourselves away from the comfort and relaxation of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. After over a week of lounging around the pool by day, late night swimming watching lightning storms out at sea and also meeting a few of the local insects, it was time to get back on the road.
Here’s Dan trying to stop a tarantula from sneaking into our room – poking it with a stick didn’t work though!!
We had a great time staying in Zipolite near Puerto Angel at Casa Vista D’oro with Val and Max – thanks so much for your hospitality!
Our first day back on the road was a long one….over 8 hours of riding to the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Another cool old colonial town with great architecture and a very relaxed atmosphere – the kind of town you could hang around for a while, people watching and strolling the streets.
Some odd characters were hanging around though…..it’s the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival at the end of the month – I’m guessing this isn’t usually a feature in the town all year round.
The next day we headed for the town of Palenque to visit the nearby Maya ruins. A shorter day in terms of mileage, but the winding mountain roads, pot holes and topes meant that it took over 5 hours to travel around 120 miles – traveling by motorcycle in Mexico is much more tiring than in the US. We also had a small incident with our tool box which is mounted to the belly pan of the bike – the combination of a pot hole and tope lead to a bent up tool box and a slightly bent front wheel. Not too much hassle, Dan just had to knock the box back into shape and we’ll sort the wheel issue in Guatemala 🙂 I feel kind of bad for Dan, he can’t take his eye off the road for a second to enjoy the views….me neither for that matter as I am the second pair of eyes for the unknown obstacles which might pop up on these roads!!
We spent a couple of nights in Palenque so that we could enjoy a rest day off the bike (all of the relaxation from Zipolite was now undone!) and also spend sometime at the ruins. The Maya ruins date back to 226 BC and are surrounded by jungle so makes for an interesting day trip.
In amongst the ruins were a few waterfalls and pathways through the jungle, where we also came across the biggest ants we’ve ever seen!
Because of the issue with the front wheel we decided the best option would be to head back to San Cristobal the next day and head straight for Guatemala as we figured we could get the wheel sorted whilst we’re having Spanish lessons and not riding the bike for a while.
Is was good to head back to San Cristobal anyway as we had stayed at a really nice guesthouse called Posada Sancris. The owner was really helpful and friendly and they served up a great breakfast too!! The bike developed a ‘squeak’ on the way back so Dan wanted to get some grease pumped into a joint on the bike. The helpful owner, Ernesto, speaks good English, but it took some badly pronounced Spanish on Dan’s part and a brief blast (including dance moves!) of ‘Grease Lightning’ from Dan for Ernesto to understand what he needed – he then promptly took Dan to a local mechanic to sort the problem. I was quite sad to learn that I had missed Dan’s John Travolta impression – but did have a good laugh when he told me about it!!!! I think Ernesto thought he was pretty crazy – I doubt he had ever watched ‘Grease’ 🙂
The following day we headed off early to cross the border from Mexico into Guatemala. We had enjoyed a month in Mexico – it’s quite sad that the US media give Mexico such a bad name and tourism is really low in some parts – we had been repeatedly warned that traveling around would be dangerous, but from our experience this is all just media hype.
We crossed the border at the town of Cuidad Cuauhtemoc in Mexico to La Mesialla in Guatemala. The Mexico side was pretty straight forward. We had to stop in Cuauhtemoc, about 4km before the actual border, to get exit stamps in our passports and cancel the bike permit. The exit stamps were easy, no queues and done in a couple of minutes. The cancellation of the bike permit proved a bit more tricky. You have a pay a refundable deposit when you enter Mexico to get permit for the bike and it came to light when cancelling this that there was a slight discrepancy between the VIN on the registration paperwork and the VIN on the bike – not good organisation on our part as we should of double checked all of this!!! Anyway, luckily the Mexican official agreed to overlook the problem and issued us the refund, but this did leave us with an issue as we have about 10 more countries to enter and exit. A problem like this would likely lead to ‘fines’ by various border agents – it’s not like they need much of a reason to try and get extra money out of people!! So, there we were outside of the government building ‘doctoring’ the V5 registration document with a black pen!!! All we need to do is ensure whenever we enter a country that the bike permit paperwork VIN matches the bike VIN and we should be ok!!!
So anyway, onto Guatemala we went – we had been expecting to be hounded by ‘helpers’ who will (for a fee) assist with getting the necessary paperwork to enter a country. We always do lots of research beforehand so that we don’t need any assistance but we actually didn’t get offered help anyway. The entry process was simple – ride across the border, stop in the ‘coned’ area and get the bike wheels sprayed by the fumigation guy, pay Q12 and get a receipt. Next up, the immigration building is right next the fumigation area – pop in and get both of the passports stamped (there was no fee at this crossing – we have heard of ‘unofficial’ fees at other crossing – but there should be no cost!!). In the building next door you need to show the bike registration document, driving licence, passport and bike permit cancellation paperwork from Mexico in order to get the required documents for the bike to enter Guatemala. Then pay a fee (for us it was Q160 which I’ve read is the standard fee – although I think others have paid more!!) and get the permit sticker for the bike. We double checked this time that all of the permit paperwork had the correct VIN number and rode on into Guatemala.
Here’s a few shots from the border…it’s a pretty crazy market area with people everywhere, but the crossing was generally pretty straight forward and not really any hassle…still many more to go though 😯
Our fist impressions of Guatemala are good, the people seem really friendly and the scenery pretty amazing.
We spent the first night in the town of Quetzaltenango before heading along the Pan American Highway to Antigua.
So far we love Guatemala – just need to get to grips with another new currency and plan out the rest of our route through Central America 🙂