Volcanoes, Lakes, and The Pan American

The last time we left you, the crew was still in Mexico, anticipating the border crossing into Guatemala. The day of border crossing was a complete mess from start to end. The day started with two flat  tires from this German man named Heinrich we met the day prior. Then Tommy finished his last 10 km of Mexico with two flats as well.  Going over the border we were already flustered. As the border hustlers tried to rush us and scam us for our last pesos, we pushed them aside, took care of business in the Border office and got our exit stamps. Same story goes for getting stamped into Guatemala, quick and harmless because we knew what needed to happen and were not about to let some scam artists take us.

IMG_1747

 

~Finally made it to Guate!~

IMG_1749

~The little Potojos (ducklings) that greeted us upon crossing into Guate~

Once over the border, Tommy’s streak of bad luck with flats continued and he got two more within being 15 km into Guatemala. Tired and frustrated from the days mishaps, Tommy decided to hop on the bus that Hen was taking to Quetzaltenango (aka Xela). Hen was suffering from sickness and exhaustion and was not physically well enough to conquer the mountain passes that lie between the border and Xela. As Hen and Tommy loaded their bikes onto the chicken bus, they boarded the evening bus to Xela, not quite knowing what to expect. The bus driver was extremely friendly to us and so was the other locals we conversated with. We were in the “friendly Valley”. As the bus winded through the mountainous passes of Guatemala, we had the opportunity to gaze at the full moon (our 3rd of the trip) over the jungle mountains. Exhausted from the day, Hen and Tommy checked into the hotel near the bus terminal and slept the day away.

IMG_1751

~The not so packed chicken bus that we took to Xela~

The next day Hen and Tommy were waiting around the Central Park of Xela anticipating the arrival of Bradie, but had no idea if he would show up that day or the next. As Tommy was talking to a local, helping him practice English, he saw out of the corner of his eye a white helmet and a fully loaded bicycle ride, instinctively knowing that  it was Bradie. Stopping mid conversation, he ran and flung his sombrero toward Bradie and with deadly accuracy nearly knocked him off his bike! Bradie had been reunited with the crew, but we were still awaiting Ike to show up later that day.  The rest of the day was spent drinking coffee in the square and recollecting various adventures  over the last month. It sounded like Bradie and Diana had quite the adventure, as well as the bike crew. We grabbed a cheap hostel for the night based on the advice of our friend Warren, who we just ran into again after meeting him in Puerto Escondido on New Years.

IMG_1762

~Posted up in the square of Xela…Helping Carlos practice English~

IMG_1758

~I think Mr. Manana had too much to drink~

After reconvening with Ike the next day, the bike crew  plus Diana and Warren all shuffled over to the popular Black Cat Hostel where we would make our home for the next two nights. Xela is a beautiful city located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and sits below the active volcanoe Santa Maria. The scenery of the mountains that engulfed Xela was breathtaking and definitely brought these Colorado boys back to home a little bit. The coast of Mexico was great but we love being in the mountains. Our time spent in Xela was amazing! During the day we would browse the streets visiting the local markets and exchanging conversation with various locals and travelers. The Quetzltrekkers volunteers were hosting a benefit party for the local children, so we attended this wild bash and were drinking for the kids! What a great cause!?! Another highlight of our 3 day binge in Xela was “Fuentes Georginas”, the natural hot springs in the jungle mountains outside of Xela. We got a large group from the hostel together and we took a tour bus to the hot springs. We have all been blessed to visit some of the best hot springs in the world, but as far as scenery goes, Fuentes Georginas may take the cake! It was also the backdrop of the crew’s infamous farewell Mexico postcard.

IMG_1789

~The main pool at Fuentes Georginas!~

IMG_1818

~Our homemade postcard…Give us your address!~

After 3 days in Xela, Tommy and Ike decided to move onward towards Lago de Atitlan. Bradie and Diana were going to feel out Xela for one more day and then meet up in Lago De Atitlan the day after. Hen wanted to explore the opportunity to do some solo adventuring.  Tommy and Ike took off from Xela around noon, choosing to ride two half days to get to San Pedro, a small pueblo around Atitlan. Exiting Xela, Ike and Tommy entered onto the Pan American Highway, the world’s longest contiguous road. Smooth pavement and a wide shoulder greeted us as we started climbing a beautiful pass that overlooked the volcanoes and the large valley we were leaving. The climb was great, passing through farm country allowing us to harvest leafy greens and farva beans. As always a climb welcomes a downhill section that we cruised through and led us to our home for the night. Taking a turn to explore what the sign said was a waterfall park, Ike and Tommy came across a forest playground. This park was equipped with jungle swings, teeter-totters, monkey bars, and tree houses all made from the pine trees harvested on site! It was the coolest park either us had visited and hands down our favorite campsite on tour so far!

IMG_1824

~La Rosa Azul parked on the pass, with Vulcan Santa Maria in background~

IMG_1839

~Ike on the Jungle Swing~

IMG_1843

~Cascade de Domingo, down the trail from camp~

Next day, we biked to the top of the pass and got to see the overlook of Lago de Atitlan , the volcanoes encircling it, and the pueblos that surrounded the lake. Absolutely stunning! One of the most beautiful backdrops we had seen, anxiously we started cruising down the steep roads to get lakeside. Saying this road is steep is an understatement. Easily the wildest road we have ever been on…Steep, sharp curves left and right! We typically pride ourselves on not using brakes on downhill sections, but this road, we boasted of how hard we were gripping the brakes! The road switch backed over 50 times easily! After 2 hours of traversing down this vertical mountainside, we finally made it to San Pedro, the more lively pueblo around the lake. Ike and Tommy found the Yo Mamma’s Casa, a hostel that hooked us up with a great deal for the group that would arrive shortly. Sending Bradie a message on how to find us, Ike and Tommy passed the time by watching the Broncos seal the deal and go to the Superbowl!!!

IMG_1861

~Overlooking Lago De Atitlan with San Pedro at the base of the Volcan~

IMG_1875

~Lookin’ across the beautiful Lago~

The next day and a half was spent chillin in San Pedro, checkin out the hippie vibe that surrounded the lake and San Pedro.  Gypsies, artesians, organic food shops, and juice bars lined the streets. The people of San Pedro were a unique culture, a mix between hippie locals, Mayans, and travelers. The market in San Pedro was large and offered avocados for 1Q, which is equivalent to $.13! We got the opportunity to see this awesome reggae ska band at a joint called “Sublime”. The music was great, the bar was a great place, the vibe really reminded us of home. Hen met up with us, the crew was reunited again, and all was good in the world. Lago de Atitlan is a pretty magical place and it is easy to understand why travelers get sucked into the lake lifestyle for months on end.

IMG_1883

~Ike posted up at Yo Mamma’s Casa with new friends~

IMG_1874

~Really cool mural on a street in San Pedro~

The next day Hen, Tommy, and Ike decided to take the lancha (water taxi) across the lake to another pueblo called San Marcos. Bradie and Diana decided to stick around San Pedro and chill with Paul, a traveling friend of Diana’s from a year prior, who happened to be in San Pedro again. Loading bikes onto boats has gotten easier of the months…San Marcos is known to attract a more tranquil  form of hippies including but not limited to: Yoga babes, spiritual healers, vegans, musicians, and writers. A really cool vibe, especially the overwhelming amount of the Yoga babes! An ex-pat named Rick quickly spotted us as we got off the boat and is stoked on bike tourists. His girlfriend Julie Schumann owns Posada Schumann which is lakeside and right next to the dock.  He invited us to camp in the empty grass space on the outside of the Hotel, where we had a private dock, a secure location for our stuff, tucked away from sight! This is also in the list of the top places we have camped! If Rick’s hospitality wasn’t enough, he also bought us dinner from the restaurant! What a great guy and a welcoming entrance into San Marcos.

IMG_1893

~Camp in San Marcos~

IMG_1896

~…And the view from camp~

Our full day that we spent in San Marcos was very interesting, especially to the more rational minded people. We decided to attend a Cacao Ceremony that was led by a man named Keith but more commonly known as the Cacao Shaman.  The ceremony was initiated by everyone drinking a chocolate mixed drink made from Mayan spiritual grade chocolate. The next four hours was spent meditating and having Keith guide us through the ceremony. The cacao is supposed to help one harness the energy within ourselves, guide our thoughts, and potentially produce a spiritual experience for the individual. It was a very interesting experience and we all had different opinions of the experience. But overall we had a positive experience and something worth trying if given the opportunity. After coming back to our luxurious campground, we were offered dinner again by Rick. We gratefully accepted and had a delicious meal with Rick and enjoyed the stories he had to share.

IMG_1890

~Bikes on Boats~

Our last day on the lake we went to the more developed town called Panajachel, which offered the exit out of the lake within the Volcanic crater. Panajachel was okay, definitely more touristy than we wanted and nothing worth sticking around for more than one day. So with the crew finally all together and ready to ride bikes the next day. Our time on Lago de Atitlan was great and definately too short. Atitlan is one of those places that you could travel too and just stay indefinitely. But were ramblers and we gotta go!

IMG_1921

~Awesome mural on the street in Pana…Oh how the turntables have…~

Leaving Panajachel was a lot easier on paper. The road out of “Pana”, was a 6 km of vertical roads. If the grade of the road was not enough, battling traffic up this steep slope was another story. Tommy feeling the affects of some sort of stomach bug wasn’t in the shape to climb this road, so he stopped and got a hitchhike to the top from the local police. The other boys bravely climbed to the top where they would meet Tommy in the town of Solola. Ike and Hen were feeling stoked to ride and Tommy didn’t have the energy to ride much for the day, so just as the group had gotten back together, we separated again. So us two Rangers stuck around Solola for an hour or so, rested in the park, and gathered the energy to push a little further before the Puesta del Sol (Sunset). Leaving Solola was difficult as the road above the town was just as steep as the road below. Once at the top, we searched for camp high and low, but no one was willing to help us out. We asked two churches, the police, and at least 10 plus farmers if we could camp on their land, only to be shut down by everyone. This was a first for us. Defeated and dark, we had to race back to Solola to find a cheap hotel to sleep the day away and start fresh manana.

IMG_1923

~One last look at Lago de Atitlan~

So we got to climb the hill out of Solola twice. The second time was easier as Tommy’s stomach was feeling better, perhaps a 48 hour stomach bug. On the top of the climb, Bradie groundscored 8 cans of beans that appeared to have fallen off a truck! We are always in search for the infamous road treasures and this by far was one of the best! Finally, we had reached the Pan American again and got to appreciate the quality road and wide shoulder! The rest of the morning was spent climbing and descending mountainous passes. Up and down all day, fighting with a windy storm system that was passing through. This day proved to be full of suprises. At a roadside snack stand, Tommy was inquiring the price of the honey the man had for sale. He had a few different varieties that Tommy tried. Miel Pura, Miel Blanca, and Miel Negra. After sampling the first two, Tommy was sat down, head tilted back, and the man poured the miel negra into Tommy’s eye. Stinging with pain, the man told him to relax and that his eye would feel fine in 5 minutes. Apparantly this is a good practice for increasing your vision and providing energy. Meanwhile, Bradie is standing in the background, not exactly sure what just happened to Tommy. Later in the day, we met another bike tourist named Yuta, a guy from Tokyo, Japan. Yuta is biking the Pan American from Vancouver to the tip of Argentina by himself! What a chiller!  After riding with Yuta for a bit, we split up to find our home for the night. Our camp was at an abandoned house in construction which had nice, flat patch of grass, big enough for two tents.

IMG_1924

~ Free Frijoles! Yes please~

IMG_1929

~These terraced farmland is absolutely amazing~

Camped just south of a town called Tecpan, we were only 45 km away from Antigua, which is where we would meet up with Ike and Hen and a sought out tourist city in Guatemala. The morning ride was beautiful…After we dropped into a wide open valley, we were staying at the Volcanoes Fuego and Agua for the rest of the day. Even better, Antigua is located at the base of these two giant volcanoes. Part way through our day, we ran back into Yuta who had gotten a flat tire. Once he got back on the road, we cycled with him for the remainder of the day. The ride into the Antigua was quite enjoyable, mostly downhill but also some short, steep uphill sections. It was odd arriving into Antigua because we didn’t even know we were there, until someone said we were. No signs saying “Welcome” or anything. The cobblestone roads made it difficult to ride as well. But we found a cool hostel called Base Camp Hostel. It is a hub for adventurists to congregate, go on awesome expeditions and meet other adventurists. It is a pretty cool place and full of other travelers with great experiences under their belt.

IMG_1935

~Our new buddy Yuta~

So this is where we leave you. Hanging out in Antigua for the next day and a half checkin out the the colonial vibe that Antigua holds. Very old architecture, collapsed churches, and tourists line the streets. We hope to be summiting either Vulcan de Fuego or Vulcan de Pacaya in the foreseeable future. Our two weeks in Guatemala have been absolutely amazing. The food is great! The culture is intriguing! Couldn’t have been better!

What ever adventures lie in store are welcomed with open arms and heavy bikes! Can’t wait for whatever is next!

Stay Tuned

-Ranger Bee Koz and Ranger Tom

Advertisements

BeeKoz’s vacation from bike tour

Wow… It’s hard to believe that I got on the ‘Down to Earth Bus’ one month ago. The transition from bike tour to backpacking happened pretty quick. After saying hasta luego to Ranger Tom, Hen and Ike the big green bus rolled south. Apparently I was on the bus and the dudes were now off the bus. The two days hanging out with Ike and Laura and their dog Reggae were incredible. They converted an old Forest Service Hot-Shot bus into a house on wheels equipped with stove, oven, fridge, bed and of course a chainsaw. Cruising the thousand kilometers to Puerto Escondido was quite the fasttrack but the Police and Federales slowed us down seven times by pulling us over. After rigorously searching the bus, checking our documents and playing with Reggae they let us on our way. Traveling via Auto is quite different than on bike, the police didn’t bother us at all on bike tour. Enjoying making coffee on the stove while driving, drinking beer, exchanging stories and life experiences, mountains, coast lines, trees, hot dogs and cans of beans on open fire, picking up a few more hitchhikers, and sleeping on top of the bus… I couldn’t have enjoyed my hitchhike more. Making it to Puerto Escondido in two days which took the dudes 10 days of riding, I realized I was on a different kind of adventure. Upon arrival in Puerto Escondido it was time to say goodbye to my incredible hosts and catch my first collectivo to Oaxaca City.

DSCN0470

 

~Cruisin’ with Ike, Laura, and Reggae on the Down to Earth Bus~

DSCN0454

 

~one of the many epic views from the passenger seat~

Collectivo (noun); mini bus, chicken bus, big bus, school bus and everything in between. Supposed to seat 10 but at least 30 people riding it, bags stacked on top with anything from corn to chickens, one beautiful blue bike and maybe a few more people riding on top. Extremely comical, not for the faint at heart or the average backpacker. They drive fast!

After leaving the beautiful Oaxaca coast line I quickly headed into the mountains, BIG difference. I started to see the Mayan influence. I saw five year old kids filling pot holes in the road and the driver throwing pesos out the window for their hard work. 8 hours of incredible windy mountain roads and I arrived in Oaxaca to meet up with the one and only Diana Tubbs.  Oaxaca is a beautiful city and we quickly made the decision to stay there for Christmas and experience the culture. It was nice to lay low for a few days, enjoy a hotel room with hot shower, internet, coffee shops, laundry, openair markets and of course the Zocalo. The Zocalo is the main square with lots of street vendors, performers and amazing people watching. Since 1897 Oaxaca hosts the Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) every year on December 23rd. It is one of the most impressive vegetable festivals in the world. Mexican craftsmen carve giant root vegetables, which are grown especially for this event and weigh up to 3kg, into human figures and other vivid forms. The first-prize winner of the carving contest gets their picture in the newspaper. Although the competition lasts only for few hours, the celebrations do not end on December 23. The festival continues on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with other joyful activities like float parades, fireworks displays and street dances. We got to experience one of the most amazing cultural events and fireworks displays we have ever seen, there was a fireworks waterfall over the church in the Zocalo (plaza), absolutely beautiful!

 

DSCN0475

 

 

DSCN0480

 

DSCN0481

 

~A few pics from “Noche de Rabanos” in Oaxaca ~

We then decided to make it back to the coastline. Taking another collectivo through the mountains we made it to Bahia Huatulco. Trying to find a spot to camp without success we had to get a hotel for the night.  The rooftop was a great place to cook dinner on the MSR whisperlite stove and enjoy a few beers. The next day I rode my bike and Diana took a bus to Playa San Augustin.  Within 10 minutes of arriving at this small Mexican tourist beach we were invited to camp at Alfonso’s Restaurant.  Alfonso, a gourmet barbecuer left his post at the fire and invited us in to setup the tent and hammock. Life could not be better, another 10 minutes went by and we ordered beers and ceviche from the hammock. So relaxing! Playa San Augustin is unlike any other beach that I had seen on the trip. It is a day resort with busses  and boats full of Mexican tourists arriving at 9am and departing at 5pm, we had the place to ourselves at night.  Alfonso takes his boat out nightly to drop his fishing nets and picks up his catch in the morning to cook up at his restaurant every day. Some of the freshest seafood we have ever had.  The local kids saw me spinning fire on the beach and were more than anxious to give it a try. It was so cool to see 5 year old kids spinning fire poi for the first time.  We then took a skinny dip and enjoyed the bio-luminesence in the surf.

DSCN0534

 

DSCN0538

 

~Enjoying Alfonso’s Restaruant~

Enjoying two days of relaxing in the hammock it was time to make moves.  We had a night bus out of Huatulco at 11pm so we went to chill in the square until then. While chilling in the park we got asked for some pesos by two drunks, a Mexican and a Honduran suffering from polio, they were curious about the bike. It quickly went from asking us for money to offering us a beer and some good conversations. The Mexican guy grew up in a small mountain town with aspirations of moving to a big city where ‘life is better’. He told us about the problems Mexicans have with their government and how the gringos come to Mexico, staying at fancy resorts with gardens, fountains and pools and never actually get to experience the ‘real Mexico’ with all its poverty. Though living a life of poverty, he missed his mountain town where the food is local with tortillerias, fruit stands, panaderias, and carnecerias.  Big business has moved into the cities and the small localized shops can’t compete with them. They very much enjoyed meeting gringos just sitting on the grass of the main plaza drinking a beer with them.

The night bus is a double edged sword, you don’t have to pay for accommodation but you also don’t get to see the scenery that you pass.  In the morning we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas. We found a campground just outside the city and explored the downtown.  Located in the central highlands with its unique feel we were bummed to only have one night here.  We need to go back to explore some more.  In the morning we made our way to Palenque for New Years. Though taking collectivos is WAY faster than bike tour, you have the opportunity to sit back, enjoy the scenery (at an accelerated rate) and cover some ground.

DSCN0542

 

~Diana loving life in the morning~

Making it to Palenque at dusk, we made it to our campground just outside the National Park of Palenque. We got settled into our Palapa where we soon got to meet our pet ants and a tarantula (or some other big-ass spider). The spider was just chilling in the thatched roof and wasn’t bothered by us but the ants were on the constant search for food. We figured out that if we feed them at the other side of the Palapa they stay occupied, so the ants got their half of the Palapa and we got the other. That night Diana and I made our way to the restaurant bar for some delicious New Years eve mojitos. While there we started chatting up some other gringos who are on an overland trip from CA to Panama, in a Toyota truck with their camper and their little dog Neli. They have another blog called Neli’s Big Adventure, check it out. It was awesome to share New Years and some Mezcal with Victoria and Jason. Extremely refreshing to hear their stories of the high-roller money-making lifestyle of NY and LA and how they had not really experienced life because they work too much. They decided to give it up and live the dirt bag life style and travel. So cool to hear about their transition.

Dirtbag – A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other social norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communaly and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle

DSCN0587

DSCN0613

~Epic views of Palenque~

The next day we explored the Palenque ruins, a Mayan city in the Mexican state of Chiapas that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date back to 200 BC to around 800 AD. After its decline, it was absorbed into the jungle but has been excavated and restored and is now a famous archaeological site. The discovered area covers 2.5 km² (1 sq mi), but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle. Palenque is a medium-sized site which contains some of the finest architecture, sculptures and carvings that the Mayas produced. Today, the Mayas form a sizable population that maintains a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs. Millions of people still speak the Mayan language today.

Sweet, so let’s write about the border crossing into Guatemala. On our way from Palenque to the border we stopped at the Lancandon Maya Biosphere Reserve for the night and set up camp right on the Rio Laconga. The next day the adventure began.. from the main road we hitchhiked 40km to the border town of Frontera Corozal to get our exit stamp. We enjoyed our last Mexican Tamales before boarding the longtail lancha (boat) to cross the river to La Tecnica, Guatemala. A street vendor changed our leftover Pesos to Guatemalan Quetzales, pretty sure we got ripped off quite a bit but there was no other option. After hanging out in front of the Tienda for an hour we loaded the bike and all our gear onto another collectivo and made our way to Bethel where we got our entrance stamp for Guatemala. The border checkpoint was located inside an old ladies house, the strangest passport control ever. We definitely chose the road less traveled taking this border crossing. Getting to know some of the bumpiest roads Guate has to offer we finally made our way to Flores where we spent two nights at a shitty hotel.

DSCN0639

~bikes on boats, crossing the river into Guatemala~

Next stop Tikal.  After haggling the tour operator for cheaper travel and receiving some used park entrance tickets from two french backpackers, we saved some cash.  The entrance fee to Tikal is quite steep so luckily we were able to dirtbag it. Sunset was approaching so there was no other option than to head to the ruins for some incredible views.  The next day, we snuck around the fee station and a crocodile pond to explore the ruins and temples more. Another free entrance. Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the Maya civilization.  Tikal was the capital state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee between  200 to 900 AD.  During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily. Population estimates for Tikal is some where around 90,000 inhabitants.

FSCN0653

DSCN0682

~Tikal with its drastic pyramids~

After enjoying camping at the park for two nights with howler monkeys and all, we made our way back to Flores for a night before starting the trek to Semuc Champey. Basically having a private shuttle for 8 hours, we arrived in the small mountain town of Lanquin. From there it was into the back of a pickup truck for another 10k on a mountainous and very muddy dirt road.  Again, 13 people packed into one pickup with all their gear. The transportation is such an adventure. We soon became friends with the other travelers during our hour long truck ride. Without a doubt some of the best and most chilled friends we made on my vacation away from bike tour.  We camped at a hostel at the entrance of the park for the first night and moved into a cabana the next after being attacked by a swarm of ants. Im talking about a ten square foot blanket of thousands and thousands of ants that completely covered the tent for an hour before the swarm moved on. We saw them again the next day making their way up the stairs to the restaurant, I have never seen anything like it.

DSCN0735

 

DSCN0765

 

~Could not have enjoyed these pools more~

Semuc Champey is a natural monument which consists of a 300 m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabon River. Atop the bridge is a series of stepped, turquoise pools, which are epic to swim in. We enjoyed the chill atmosphere with our friends in the mountains covered by jungle.  It is about time to catch up with the dudes and get back on bike tour. Over the next five days we made our way through the Guatemala highlands to make it to the “meeting point” of Quetzaltenango..aka..Xela. The highlands are made up of a series of high valleys enclosed by mountains.  Absolutely beautiful, covered with farms and an extremely rich Maya culture.  We were off the gringo trail so the locals looked at us a bit longer than usual, and they had to switch from speaking Mayan to Spanish for us.

DSCN0776

 

~one of the many random lunch stops~

Now in Xela and back with the dudes, about to say hasta luego to Diana…the adventure never stops. It’s time to transition from backpacking back to bike tour.

“Keep on living to the fullest, facing each day with acceptance of what will come.” – Wes O’Rourke

-Ranger BeeKoz and Diana

 

 

New Years, Windy Daze, and Warmshowers!

Well…Our New Years stint in Puerto Escondido was quite the hoot, and just what we needed. The Hostel Tower Bridge served as our refuge for 5 days in order to rest, relax, and take in everything around us. Puerto Escondido is on the backpacker circuit, so we got the opportunity to meet lots of other travellers from all over the world, who congregated at the hostel for the New Years celebration, my favorite holiday of the year! The people at the hostel were great…We were intrigued by their travel stories, and they were even more intruiged by ours.

IMG_1569

~Chillin hard at Tower Bridge Hostel

We quickly found out that Tower Bridge is a party hostel. If you are looking to get a good night sleep, you might want to try somewhere else. This served as the perfect hub for having a great New Years. The New Years Eve day was spent relaxing, checking out Playa Zicatela, home of the Mexpipe (rival to Hawaii Pipeline). However, the Mexpipe didn´t have swell and was flat. NYE night, started off with a delicious dinner that I prepared for the gang. I made carne asada tacos and everyone in sight was jealous of our gourmet feast. We jokingly convinced the other travellers that I was a chef at a Mexican restaurant back home! After dinner,  it was time to start drinking. Mixing tequila cocktails and drinking cervesas, we quickly achieved the desired affect of alcohol. This lead to spinning the wheel at the bar of the Tower Bridge. The wheel, is a wheel of fortune of sorts, and whatever spot you land on, you must do. After spinning, I was assigned to give one of the lucky ladies a lap dance! This is what all the bike training has lead up to, achieving buns of steel, perfect for this situation! After pregaming at the hostel, the entire compound taxied down to the beach where the count down to 2014 commenced and the beach party continued! Sporting my new Mexi haircut and our nicest shirts, these cyclists were dressed to impress, looking for success! The New Year celebration was amazing, we all got separated where we would meet up in the morning to recall the insanity!

IMG_1576

-Maintaining the status of Kings of the Kitchen at Tower Bridge

IMG_1584

-Carne Asada Tacos and cabbage salad for NYE dinner!

Typically, the hostel is busy and loud in the morning, but not on Jan 1. Everyone feeling the effects of the night before, cooking coffee and stewing around. It was international hangover day and what better way than to spend it with internationals. We recounted our wild stories with each other and our new friends Warren from Espana and Tom from Australia! We had all had hilarious tales from the night before filled with lust and debauchery! There is not much to say about the rest of the day…It was spent sipping coffee, eating food, and enjoying a nice smoke in the countless different relaxation zones within the hostel quad.

IMG_1592

-This is how we survived our New Years Day hangover…LOTS of coffee!

The next day would be our last in Puerto Escondido. Again we relaxed most of the day at the hostel. The backpackers are thrilled to hit the beach all day, but for us, we lived on the beach for 2 months and sitting in the shade of the hostel is way more enjoyable and relaxing. However, we did decide to check out the small beach close to the hostel as it is supposed to be quite nice. However when getting there, it was overcrowded and just not what we were looking for.

January 3 marked our exit of Escondido. Having 5 days off the bike is what we needed. We love biking but getting off the bike and really exploring an area for a few days is great! Leaving the hostel, we were sluggish because it so easy to sit around all day, but were ramblin´men and we gotta go. So we sent south, with Zipolite in sight for the evening. Zipolite is a small beach village 80 km south of Escondido and is home to the only nude beach in Mexico. After riding up and down the steepest hills we have ever experienced on bicycles, we made it to the small village that had been overtaken by gypsies and artesians. One of those artesians, Santiago, recognized we were looking for a place to stay, and pointed us in the direction of a Italian woman’s compound that accommodates campers. Santiago is also a bike tourist who has extensively travelled Centro America, but has made temporary home in Zipolite.

IMG_1602

-~The only way to sell bread is on your head

The next morning before leaving Zipolite, we had to indulge in the nude beach. There weren´t many nudists at the beach, but there was three more once we arrived to the beach! Drying off, we gathered our clothes and our bikes and continued south. The morning riding was tough. We had a 15 km climb from the beach to the highway and it was pretty steep. This climb would mark the start of a 3 day stint of riding through the big, steep rolling hills Oaxaca! The entire day, we would climb a hill, gasp for oxygen before quickly dropping back downhill. At the end of the day, we made camp in dried up river bed hidden from the recently constructed section of highway! We are pretty open when looking for a camp site, but the one principle we follow is ¨Out of Sight, Out of Mind¨.

IMG_1600

-We met these Argentinians who have been travelling for 4 years in this van..So rad!

The following day was similiar, climbing and descending all day. The scenery was phenominal, and although the riding was difficult, it was enjoyable. At the end of the day, we found ourselves at the end of a huge valley, where the mouth of a river exited, which would be our home for the night. Getting to camp on a river is a real treat for us because A) it fulfills our daily desire to go swimming and B) it serves as a source for bathing and washing our clothes. It´s primitive and that´s what we love. Living simply!

IMG_1617

-Awesome riverside campsite…Notice Hen in the Rio

One days ride from Salina Cruz, the highway greeted up with 10km of flat road with a slight tailwind easing us along the highway. However, these conditions were only temporary. As the day continued, the hills got bigger, and the wind got strong, rapidly changing direction. Short on supplies, we persisted through the strong wind all day until we could stalk up and make a final 25 km push to Salina Cruz where we would spend the night. But as summited a large hill that over looked Salina Cruz, the wind even more ferocious! Wind in our face and semi trucks at our backs, we were pedalling as hard we could to go downhill! Once we hit the bottom of the hill, the headwind turned crosswind continued to grow, realizing we had just entered a wind corridor. And it is this wind corridor that mark the start of ¨The Heinous Winds of 2014¨. Wayyy more consistant than the winds of 2013. After pushing in the wind all day and exhausted, we made it to Salina Cruz around dusk. With very little options to camp in this industrial port city, we opted to ask the police to stay at the station for the night, where permission was granted.

IMG_1631

-Overlooking Salina Cruz, just before the Heinous winds of 2014 really took effect

IMG_1639

-Camped at the cop shop

Waking up at the police station was weird, but comforting at the same time. Hen, Ike, and I were laughing about how the last time I slept in a police station this summer, is was not by choice and I was on the other side of the bars! We decided to take a rest day in Salina Cruz because we were tired and Hen was getting sick. We spent the ENTIRE day lounging in the square of Salina Cruz and it was great! Surrounded by street vendors in the wind blown city, we filled our stomachs with the infamous 2 peso tacos, and dug the scene of Salina. We had our bikes rested against a wall and we just sat in the square, a spectacle to the passerbys. Everyone was intrigued, questioning us and taking photos with us! An amigo even bought us dinner from Burger King because he loves America and wanted to treat us well! After couchsurfing opportunities fell through, we resorted to buying a cheap hotel for the night, and pushing through the wind mañana.

IMG_1646

The bikes posing in the plaza of Salina Cruz

Taking advantage of the luxuries that hotels provide, such as indoor plumbing and wifi, we got a late start before pushing into the wind to head south. The section of road that we would hit for the next 2 days is notorious for being extremely windy, and during peak wind conditions, is known to blow cars off the road. Often times, police will close the road for up 3 days at a time until wind reduces enough to make safe passage. I guess 50+ km/hr winds aren´t justifable to close the highway, so we pushed through, using all of our energy to maintain the bike upright and as well as trying to pedal forward. The wind was so strong, Hen was blown off the road on three separate occaisions! WOW! Stopping in the business hub of Jucitapan, I bought some fresh brake pads for the mountains of Guatemala that are soon to come. The golden hour was approaching and we needed to seek refuge from the night and the wind. So as we entered the wind farms, we quickly sought out a little Rancho on the side of the highway that granted us permission to sleep behind their house for the night! The real treat was that they gifted us some Hecho a Mano (Handmade) tortillas, and Angél (the farmer) grew the maseca himself. These were the freshest, most local tortillas that we will EVER eat!

IMG_1659

-Camped at the ranch…With windmills comes LOTS of wind

Our sleep spot for the night was windy. Hen was worried his tent would blow away in the wind. However, we were camped under a windmill, which was pretty awesome. Hitting the road, it was windy. The wind has been our life for the last three days, and we´re anxious to get out of it. For the first half of the day we fought the wind and then after lunch something amazing happened. The road turned south and these Gail Force winds were at our back, allowing us to absolutely smash on the bikes, something that seemed a distant memory in the past. We smashed for a bit until we found a very inviting river in which we took a dip. After swimming, we continued to ride, with wind no longer an issue. It was getting late in the day and camp was in mind. As we cruised through a Pueblo called Zanatepec, spraypainted on the road, it said ¨Warmshowers este lado¨(this direction). Knowing that this could only mean it was directing us to a warmshowers host. For those that don´t know, warmshowers is an online community that is set up to host travelling cyclists worldwide. Following the roadside directions, we made it to Rodrigo y Lupita´s house, where we would live for the night! It was amazing having no expectations for a campsite for the night, and all the sudden we had a guest cabana, a hot meal that Lupita cooked, and great conversation. Rodrigo is a long time advocate for bike tourists, and although he is not a cyclist himself, he loves hosting travellers. He said he hosts 50-100 people a year! What hospitality! We are members of warmshowers but had yet to use it on the trip, and I think after the hospitality we recieved, it will be a much more useful tool, espcially in Central America!

IMG_1666

-With more windmills comes even more wind!

The next morning, we indulged in  more of Lupitas delicious cooking. She prepared us Huevos con frijoles (beans) and coffee. It was wonderful! After drinking 3 cups of coffee and taking farewell pictures with our hosts, the crew was psyched to get on the road! Today marked a new era! The road is flat and wind slightly at the back, which envoked the perfect conditions to smash, smash, smash! Loving the riding all day, we maintained the paceline formation all day! The riding was beautiful. We were riding parallel to the Sierra Madre Sur mountain range, so we got the enjoyment of gazing at the mountains but not having to scale them…yet. Today we also crossed into Chiapas, our 10th and final state of Mexico that we will visit. After riding all day and clocking in 110 km for the day, we made camp at a family Rancho that  was in the median of the highway. The highway that appears to be recently rebuilt was built around this ranch, where the Abuelo Mario had been living for 60-70 years! Wow! What an experience living in one place for that long. Tired and hungry, we celebrated the day with a cold cervesa and a large, hot meal!

IMG_1677

-Rodrigo´s Casa! He is stoked on couchsurfing/warmshowers and so are we!

With 230 km to the border of Guatemala, we made the plan to ride another 110 km to stay with another Warmshowers host, Noé Sanchez. We had written him the day before requesting a stay and had to bike to the next town Pijijiapan to check the email to see the reply…After taking in another casual 60 km of riding through beautiful landscapes that are starting to become more junglesque, we stopped and accessed the interweb! Yes! We had another host and would not need to search out a camp yet again…Riding another 45 km to reach Noé´s home in the town Mapastepec became easier knowing we had a basecamp. Arriving to Noé, we were quickly greeted by his wife Anita and she sat us down, feeding us tall plates of taquitos and cold coca-cola. We were also introduced to Matt, a fellow bike tourist who stayed with Noé two months ago, and has since moved here and is teaching English for an undetermined amount of time. The rest of the night relaxing and drinking cervesa. When Matt showed up with a bottle of tequila, we knew our rest day was in store!

IMG_1692

-Nothing like some roadside prescribe burning…I love fire use!

And today…The rest day has been great! It is Anita´s birthday and it is a Mexican tradition to light firecrackers for the birthday person, so that was our wake up call! Then Anita cooked us the most enormous breakfast I have had all trip and it was delicious! Huevos con Chorizo, frijoles, and pan dulce (sweet bread), with coffee! It was so great and really cool to have a meal with the entire Sanchez family to celebrate her birthday. Hen, Ike, and I even sung her Feliz Cumpleaños! Later Matt took us to a small mountain village 15 km called Costa Rica, where a beautiful river flowed through mountainous jungle and plenty of places to swim and cliff jump. We have been fiending some cliff jumping, especially Ike and Hen who are the aerialists! The cliff jumps were awesome, the river were refreshing, and the scenery spèctacular! We returned to Mapastepec via hitchhiking instead of the Colectivo we paid to take us there! Free rides are the only way to go!

IMG_1720

-The swimming hole at Costa Rica!

So currently, we are hanging around waiting for Anita´s birthday dinner which will be followed with cake! It´s been a great rest day and really easy for us since we have great hosts! Our warmshower hosts have helped us tremendously recently!

Tomorrow we hit the road for Tapachula, the last border city before crossing into Guatemala! Then we will wake up and send the border and start a whole new adventure! Mexico es mi amor ( Mexico is my love) and we have all thoroughly enjoyed the time here!  But it is time to cross a new frontier and apparantly that frontier is vertical. Everyone has told us of the wall of mountains we have to climb into after crossing the border and we couldn´t be more psyched!

Hasta Luego Mexico y Bienvenidos Guatamala!

Ranger Tom