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.
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.
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.
More of the same... 3763m Volcan de Fuego.
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.
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.
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.
The post ride smoothie. A perfect warmdown...