My morning ride

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Heading out of San Andres de Izatapa, home of Mayapedal and my base for this last month, at a bright and early 6am. With most of my days have been spent in the semi-obscurity of the workshop delving through oily pots of bike parts, it always feels good to get out.

Being the rainy season, the sky tends to be clear and sunny in the morning. The downpours kick in during the late afternoon and evening, turning the streets into torrents of murky water, carrying their cargo of street flotsam and jetsam.

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This is one of my favourite loops. It begins with a climb out of the back of town towards Chicasanga… long, steep, and most definitely gruelling. Part hardpack, parts rutted, part cobbled. I usually share the track with locals heading off on horseback to their corn fields; their xylaphone-ribbed dogs delight in taking chase, motivating me forwards.

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While San Andres can’t claim to be the most beautiful town in Guatemala, the area all around is riddled with impressive volcanos, many of which are still very much active. Here's 3976m Volcan Acatenango. Plumes of smoke occasionally appear on the horizon.

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More of the same... 3763m Volcan de Fuego.

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Officially I'm on a break from the bike while I get over my bronchitis. So seeing as Totopos - my trusty steed - is parked up at Finca Ixobel, Peten, I've been borrowing this classic old Panasonic to cruise round on. No suspension or SPD clip-in pedals. 5 speed block and friction shifters. Japanese chromo frame. The technique? Hang on and let it roll. Feels good to get back to basics.

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At an hour and a half long, this is an invigorating, boneshaking loop. Back down the mountain on the other side is a massive, gullied descent with epic views. And for some reason, the old Panasonic clunker suits the soul of this wild terrain - right down to the brake fade on the final, steepest stretch of the descent. Very Mount Tam.

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San Andres (18oom) from above looks way bigger than it feels to live there. The population is around 38 000 yet there are only a handful of grocery shops, a few comedores, the usual greasy taco stands - and a disproportionate amount of cheap panaderias and hand-slapped tortillerias. The centre is compact, with a lively market busy with elderly, gold-toothed ladies, who preside on the pavements in front of their wares. I generally gulp down a 5Q (60 cent) glass of freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the street stands, and pick up some bananas, a papaya and a mango on the way home.

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The post ride smoothie. A perfect warmdown...

6 thoughts on “My morning ride

  1. Stephen Horn

    Hi Cass, I found your blog after looking through wishfish ‘s cycling blog – cool lady too. I am just writing to pass on my admiration of your pics, they are stunning. I am from NZ – planning a cycle trip next month in Europe, but was blown away by some of the stuff I have seen from you in the Himalayas. Would you mind outlining some of the photo kit you are carrying with you – are you using filters much and can you give me any tips on problems you have faced in lugging your camera gear around?
    Have fun, I am glad I stumbled onto this site, look forward to following your progress. Stephen

    Reply
  2. otbiking Post author

    thanks stephen for the comment.
    I’m been using a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds GF1 for a while now, a good deal smaller than a DSLR, but close enough in image quality to be good enough for me. I used to use a Nikon D200 with a 17-55 2.8 lens and a 50-150 2.8. An awesome camera, amazing quality, but also incredibly big and heavy.
    I’ve worked up to three lenses over my travels: 14-45 (28-90) for general use, the tiny 20 (40mm) for low light and street photography, and the larger 45-200 (90-400) which I really only use when I’m with other riders for ‘little bikes, big mountains’ shots. Even with three lenses, it’s still way smaller than my previous setup was. There are plenty more micro four thirds cameras out there now, as well as sony’s nex range, all of which really suit bike touring. Oh, and the new Lumix LX5 looks pretty amazing too if micro four thirds is too bulky. That goes to 24mm, and I sometimes miss that kind of wide angle.
    Don’t carry filters/flash etc… but I do take pics in RAW and process (ever so slowly) in Lightroom on my little netbook, a samsung nc10.

    Reply
  3. Nick Gilbert

    Beautiful pics, bro. Btw, Joni’s left the 17-55 at Sheldrake. Can’t wait to get a mo to pick it up and play with it! Chat soon. Much love, Nick x

    Reply
  4. Stephen Horn

    Thanks for the info Cass, that is really helpful. I have been using a Lumix LX2 for the last few years and love the compact nature of it. Great to see the results you are achieving on the GF1. Enjoy the rest of your trip out there,. you are providing lots of inspiration to those following your blog I am sure., I hope to go through South and Central America soon as a result of seeing your blog. If you ever head down to New Zealand, look me up if you need a place to crash. Kia kaha. Stephen

    Reply

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