An annoying thing about reading this blog must be that we go out of our way to seek out mountains and challenging cycling, then complain (boast) about how hard it is when we find them. Nonetheless, you’ve read up till now, so let’s not change things. Cycling in Guatemala was really mountainous and hard. Like a squeezed up version of the North Island, with all the 100m hills turned into 1000m. Luckily unlike the North Island, you can buy frozen bananas dipped in chocolate. Yum!
On the whole though its food was more or less like Mexican but a bit lamer. Corn based breads with beans, fried meat, and some veges. There were still some chilies round though and the other day one was so hot that my forehead stung when I touched it after having de-seeded the chilies. A lot of the milk and even some cheese comes from New Zealand though, which means that the occasional person has heard of NZ and we don’t always get reduced to “near Australia”.
The mountains make for some awesome scenery however and since it’s getting hotter than hell in Central America at the moment so we are plan our route to stay in the highlands. Guatemala is not a real small country and doesn’t have a huge population, but there seemed to be people everywhere that was even faintly flat. The first 30km or so in from the border was one long village stretched along the road like Oamara along SH1 with houses on either side the whole time but rivers and canyons behind them. Coffee is the cash crop here and we saw heaps of baby plants being grown along the sides of the roads. When they are big enough they get moved up into the big plantations in the highlands.
The first half of Guatemala ride was through the mostly Mayan villages in the NW of the country. The ladies and some of the men all wear their homemade traditional clothing, and their weaving is pretty good. Apparently the locals can all tell where anyone comes from by their outfit. We were obviously easy practice for them and heard ‘gringo gringo’ shouted more times in the first 10km in Guatemala than the whole time in Mexico. This despite Kath’s efforts to blend in with her new bright pink shirt. I suppose my “Mexico” hat was the giveaway. Often when we tried to buy a meal or ask directions in these towns we’d find that either no one could speak Spanish, or that we never got to find out if they did or not because they’d collapse into embarrased giggling fits when we tried to talk to them. And with 23 Mayan languages just in Guatemala we didn’t even try and learn words in any of them.
We had our first crash between us since I dropped my bike on the Kapiti Coast Cycle Trail on the first day leaving Wellington. Kath decided to get a particularly steep sand-and-rock downhill out of the way quickly by rushing down and banged her knee when she slid off. Luckily we had a week’s holiday to recover and she is stronger than me once again…
After a week on the bikes we arrived in Antigua to meet Tony and Steph on SPRING BREAK. We spent an awesome week off the bikes exploring that corner of Guatemala with them. Tony has already blogged about it. Highlights included fried chicken, a mangrove swamp, and some Mayan ruins. The week was so fun that we were persuaded to return home via Portland rather than via Colombia etc as we were previously thinking.
Then they left and we were back to our daily riding. One day dodging between Lake Amatitlan (Poison Lake) and Guatemala City (Murderville) and we were back in the countryside again. The rum and chicken diet of the week off hadn’t helped our fitness and it was a struggle at first but settled into routine soon enough. One day while we were eating a whole cake for second breakfast we met George and Astrid, a lovely Guatemalan couple who invited us up to their farm for a beer, then lunch, then to stay the night. It was lovely. Here are some of George’s baby coffee plants:
Next day was Good Friday and all Guatemala was busy making carpets out of sawdust on the road ready for processions. This was a surprise and cycling through them was a fun way to see the action:
And now we’re in Honduras. Which means…