Back on the road – the Guatemalan Highlands

After semi-patiently allowing my bronchial infected lungs to recover, I’m now on the road once more. And it feels good, especially as I’m finally feeling close to full strength again – well, I will once my legs reacclimatise themselves to the rude awakening of a fully loaded bike again. Aside from my unladen morning rides, this last month has been spent largely off the saddle and in the worshop of MayaPedal – broken up with a stint of jungle trekking to El Mirador, up north in Guatemala’s forest enshrouded El Peten district.

And I have company too. Cara is a fellow dirt road enthusiast, and will be joining me for the next month or so. We’re already shared many a far flung biking adventure together – India, China, Laos, Cambodia – so there promises to be some great times ahead.

Our loose plan is to ride a loop of the lush yet relentlessly rolling Guatemalan Highlands, seeking out a recipe of quiet unpaved roads, remote indigenous villages and handmade tortillas along the way. The only fly in the ointment is my impending need to renew my Central American visa – unbelievably, I’ve been in this country almost 3 months with barely any southerly progress. And of course, we’ve had to resign ourselves to the sunshine/drizzle/downpour weather triptich that charaterises the height of the rainy season – potentially making for some mucky, gloopy ride conditions and soggy camping.

Cara fine-tunes the Moongoose Alta she bought from MayaPedal. Forget those $2000 luxury tourers. A hundred greenbacks gets you a fine, mid ninetees steel hardtail, perfect for taking on the Guatemalan backcountry.

In fact, she hadn’t been in the country more than 24 hours before we headed off on my local loop for a fully laden, shakedown testride of her new/old steed. The ride begins with an endless dirt road climb that wends its way towards mist shrouded volcanoes, before being answered with a blisteringly fast, rutted and almost endless descent into town again. The Mongoose did just fine – turns out old style cantilever brakes work pretty well…

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Weaving our way round the water snakes that streak across the rainy season roads, just waiting to grab a tyre and send you flying.

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Leaving San Andres de Iztapa. Our bicycles rubbed shoulders with horses, as farmers headed out to their corn fields. Idyllic riding, though note the pile of rubbish on the edge of town. This is Guatemala, after all.

Going light. Two front panniers and one of Porcelain Rocket's expandable saddle packs. Works great as a mudguard too...

The climbs here can be brutally steep. And long.

Misty riding. We’re aiming to follow dirt roads where we can, away from the Chicken Buses that hurtle round the highways.

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Not that Central American blacktop is necessarily a whole lot smoother…

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The rainy season, complete with marauding hurricanes that sweep in from the Caribbean and their accompanying, all-destroying landslides, means that sometimes there's not even a road at all.

The adventure has begun…

8 thoughts on “Back on the road – the Guatemalan Highlands

  1. Andrew Clark

    Waves at Cara :-)

    Nice to see you back on the road making the rest of us jealous. I’ve just been pottering around English lanes this year, no bad thing in itself but this site is giving me the itch again.

    Have fun!

    Reply
  2. simon g

    So glad to see you guys back on the road again. Have great time exploring the highlands. t-7 in the Giles household…exciting times. Will drop you an email when we have something to say…next Wednesday or Thursday I suspect…safe travels…S

    Reply
  3. otbiking Post author

    Thanks for the comments guys (easy, Mr Gibbons!) Just been out kayaking on the lake. Pouring now… Big ride planned for tomorrow.

    Simon – so exciting!!

    Reply
  4. sidetracking

    just like old times! maybe you should start running tours there? hope you’re both having lots of fun in the mud. jo-anne and i bought ourselves some local bikes in china and have done some riding these past few weeks. the roads were (usually) in better nick than the ones in guatemala, traffic much heavier…

    Reply

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