154 DÍAS EN EL CAMINO ∞ NO TE PREOCUPES, EL SOL SE LEVANTERÁ MAÑANA Y QUIÉN SABE LO QUE TRAERÁ LA MAREA.

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November 10, 2010, 12:17 AM

13: Río Dulce to Guatemala City

GPS Track in Guatemala City / Recorrido del GPS en Guatemala, Guatemala
Photo Album of Guatemala / Álbum de Fotos de Guatemala

    Sunday morning I find my room has been reserved to someone else, even though I reach the front counter by 10. There are signs hung in each room, specifically stating that if I reserve my current room by 12, I can keep it. I strike a deal for another private room at the same cost. I enter to find three extra beds and a small private balcony.

New room (Río Dulce, Guatemala 11/7/2010)

Watch your head (Río Dulce, Guatemala 11/7/2010)

    I decide to spend my last night in Río Dulce visiting Sundog Café. Since my hotel's internet is down, I'm also able to use the wifi there to finish setting up my plans of where to stay in Guatemala City. I'm enjoying a bock beer and a sandwich when get an unexpected VoIP (internet) phone call from a close friend, Diane, who tells me her husband, Edgar, has a brother who lives in Guatemala City. She says he could help me if I run into any problems, and I'm given his phone number. I buy a loaf of Tom's homemade bread, say goodbye to my newly-made friends, and meander back to Hotel Backpackers to call it an early night.

Sundog Café (Río Dulce, Guatemala 11/7/2010)

Candid kitten shot (Río Dulce, Guatemala 11/7/2010)

    I set an alarm at midnight and it wakes me at 5:50 Monday morning. I pull the warm covers over for another 40 minutes before packing my gear in the crisp morning breeze blowing through my room. I take a sip from my camelbak only to find it surprisingly light. It comes together when I realize the inner part of my riding jacket is completely soaked. This is the second time I sat my camelbak down wrong in the night and half it's contents emptied onto me or my stuff.
    This early morning ride is very pleasant, even with my bike sounding the way it does. Responses to a forum thread I started on ADVRider, two nights ago, have given me confidence my engine is not the likely cause of my rough-sounding exhaust. Oddly, from Yucatan to Río Dulce the sound has become worse, but from Río Dulce onward it seems to be sounding better.

A distant mountain range (Guatemala 11/8/2010)

These taxi trikes are everywhere in Guatemala (Guatemala 11/8/2010)

Pit stop to stretch (Guatemala 11/8/2010)

nice view (Click the picture for a larger resolution version) (Guatemala 11/8/2010)

Entering the mountains (Guatemala 11/8/2010)

    The drivers going to Guatemala City seem extra aggressive today. Maybe because it's Monday, or perhaps because of the large amount of road construction causing backups. For whatever reason, there are numerous drivers that are misjudging their ability to pass oncoming cars, with one particular truck nearly running me off the road. There's also a dog that just about ends its life in front of me, but stops a moment before running in the path of the car ahead. My praise of this dog's good judgment is quickly withdrawn when it jumps in front of me, nearly causing me to lock up my front wheel to avoid turning it into another of the many roadside casualties. By now I'm alert and driving more cautiously.
    The mountains that were in the distance I'm now upon, banking back and forth through the steep slices cut through them. Coming into a curve, I notice the very steep and raw mountainside to the right has a small cloud of dust flowing into my lane, 20 meters ahead. I follow the trail of dust up with my eyes in time to notice the beginning of a rock slide. It's too late to stop and I now see small pebbles reaching the road, with larger, baseball-sized rocks following. I keep my path and hope for the best. A quick vision of a boulder slamming into my side is interrupted by a jolting thud that resonates through my right leg simultaneously with a sharp pain in my foot. I'm now past the rock slide and look down to notice the dusty mark on my right boot. My foot doesn't feel broken, but it's painful to move. At least it isn't my shifting foot. I'm thankful to be wearing double-thick leather boots.

Place of impact is the dusty mark (center of photo) (Guatemala 11/8/2010)

    I reach Guatemala city nearly 4 hours after I set off this morning. My GPS doesn't make navigation easy, leading me down a side street that eventually ends at a very steep cliff-side. I ask someone nearby to help me turn around. I'm able to carefully maneuver and drive back up the street, returning to the main highway. I stick to the primary roads and find Zona 10, but my bike is now overheating in the hot midday traffic. I take the opportunity to park, and while the bike is cooling down, run into an office building across the street to use a bathroom. I return 5 minutes later to find a shotgun toting security guard stopping at my bike, who promptly demands $10 quetzales ($1.25 USD) to park. I explain I was on my way to a mechanic and my bike overheated, so I stopped for 5 minutes to let it cool down and use the bathroom. He insists I pay him for parking where I did. I ask for some sympathy and explain my case again. His reply is the same. After we go back and forth a few more times, I'm not sure what to do, so I start to put my gear on. He doesn't protest, so I just get back on my bike and take off.
    Playing circle games with one-way roads familiarizes me with this part of the city and I finally find the KTM shop. David, whom I spoke with about my problem through email, is not in, but another employee, Jorge, is glad to help. Jorge knows some English and shows me to the service department and aids in translating my problem. After a quick inspection, we discover my bike's problem is from the right exhaust pipe's end cap coming loose from a failing rivet. I hang out at the shop's snack bar, where I have a drink and talk with Jorge while by muffler is fixed. 20 minutes later I have a perfect sounding bike and a $200 quetzales bill ($25 USD). I'm thrilled! Jorge is nice enough to allow me to use his phone to get into contact with my couchsurfing host that has agreed to let me to stay with him the next day or two in his home in Guatemala City. I'm even allowed the use of a computer with internet to locate the mall that my host and I agree to meet at. Now that's top notch service. If you ever need to reach KTM De Centroamerica, it's not in northeastern Guatemala City, as ktm.com would lead you to believe, but rather in the southeastern part of the city, at 17 Calle 10-47, in Zona 10. Their phone number is +50223672422.

Showroom (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/8/2010)

Ducati (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/8/2010)

Sweet dash (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/8/2010)

Twin 1190 RC8 Superdukes (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/8/2010)

    Café Barista, in the Miraflores Mall, is where my CS host, Luis, and I agree to meet. I arrive around 2 and have 3.5 hours to myself, so I order a sandwich, drink, and setup my laptop. Malls don't particularly interest me, but the café is nice, so I spend the entire time there. Luis arrives promptly, and after some conversation, I follow him back to his house. After entering his guarded community and meeting his brother, Carlos, I'm shown where I'll be staying. It's a private room with my own bed. After traffic dies down, Luis takes me to Las Cien Puertas to have dinner and a few beers at one of his favorite bars. I taste Brahva beer for the first time over a meal of delicious spinach tacos. Around the dining hall there are thousands of things written on the walls with markers, pens, paint, and other forms of graffiti. Nearly every inch of the walls are covered by marks of the patrons. I, of course, add multiple marks before leaving.

Bar at Las Cien Puertas (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

    On our drive back to the house, I'm shown around the city and told some local history. This evening I'm feeling more tired than usual. Maybe my stressful morning has to do with it. Whatever the cause, I'm able to fall fast asleep when my head hits the bed.
    The next morning I take the opportunity while Luis is at work to explore the city on my own. I find the coordinates to the central park and set them as my destination in my GPS. Traffic is much more manageable than last night, but that doesn't mean it's not busy. I'm able to maneuver a lot easier between cars, as not everyone is in a mad dash to get home from work.
    Guatemala City is a very busy place. I haven't been to many large cities south of the US border for very long, so maybe this is common. People everywhere are jumping into the street on foot and darting to the other side, coming very close to being hit. It's actually very elegant and fun to watch. It seems dangerous, but everyone seems to have this technique down. The street surface has many textures, and at times can give you quite a massage, depending where you choose to put your tires. I'm glad my bike's ergonomics allow me to safely and easily stand up for long periods. The one-way streets sometimes play havoc with my GPS routing. Whomever programmed my map didn't route them as unidirectional, and I've more than once turned onto a one-way street, only to have to quickly pull a U-ey. I am getting better at recognizing them and not making that mistake. Motorcyclists take crazy risks all over the place, going between cars, trucks, semis, and playing chicken with our own traffic and oncoming vehicles. At least I see all of them wearing helmets. Another thing that I haven't seen this much of is the large amount of exhaust pollution. Buses travel everywhere and are generally smokey, but there are many other vehicles that seem as though someone coats their engines with a nice thick layer of spent oil before driving. One particular truck, last night, Luis and I thought was caught on fire, but luckily it just turned out to be almost catching fire.
    I arrive at the central park and am pleased to find motorcycle parking in front of the cathedral. I walk around for a while exploring the area. There are lots of pigeons in the park with people selling bags of corn to feed them. As I walk through the flurry of birds scrambling away from screaming kids, Tom Lehrer gets stuck in my mind.

Parque Central, Plaza de la Constitución (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Tom Lehrer, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park ( 9/11/1967)

The Metropolitan Cathedral (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Palacio de Gobierno (colonial government headquarters) (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Palacio de Gobierno (colonial government headquarters) (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Palacio de Gobierno (colonial government headquarters) (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Biblioteca Nacional (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Lamp post (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

    I have a little trouble getting back into Luis's gated community, as the guard on duty this morning didn't inform the guard now on duty that I was staying for a few days. Things are cleared up after a phone call, though, and I am allowed to enter. I take an amazing hot shower, do a load of laundry, and devour the bread I bought from Tom at the Sundog Café, yesterday. I had almost forgot what a nice feeling it is to put clean clothes on.

The controls are entirely in Spanish, but I figured it out (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

Homemade multigrain bread (Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/9/2010)

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