The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions,
and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world.
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HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
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Pictures of Equipment Failures
all 3 book)
Travel Journal for Guatemala #2
Northeast Towards the Caribbean
Antigua to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
(Dec. 27, 2002 - Jan. 6, 2003)
||Antigua. After last nights ordeal with the hotel lady we decided to
change hotels. We went to Hotel Refusio, it cost Q50 ($7.00). We had our own
private bathroom and a semi-hot shower. Some how I stained my back today bringing
luggage up to the room. Ouch!
Our task today was to find a bike shop in
Antigua. Sounds easy but it wasn't. I saw a bike shop while I was searching
for a hotel room so we started there. It was not much of a bike shop, I could see
that this was not going to be easy. We talked with the shop guy and he said he could
get a rim from the Capital and then fix it there. We decided to think about
it. We then went in search of another bike shop, we asked directions and each person
sent us another way. We spent 2 hours walking the streets of Antigua and never did
find another bike shop. Defeated we went to dinner and then back to the hotel for
||We went back to the first bike shop with the wheel. The kid at the
shop tried to true the wheel and pulled a spoke through. The truing stand was an old
Japanese model, with no way to dish the wheel properly. Tim decided that we better go into
the Capital and get our wheel. I guess tomorrow morning we head to the city.
We spent the afternoon taking care of business on the internet, before we knew it, it was
late afternoon. To late to walk around and see the sites of Antigua. We went
to dinner and soon after Tim said he was not feeling well. At about 9:30 PM Tim had
a fever and was achy all over. At about 3:00 am Tim got up and went to the
bathroom. Sick as a dog.
||Despite the fact that Tim was not feeling well we decided to go to
Guatemala City to get a new rim. We took a shuttle van into the city with Gran
Jaguar Tours. As we were leaving town we stopped at Maya Tours, who leads bike
tours, to see if they had a rim we could use. No luck. On into Guatemala City
we went. First we went up a windy road and then down the other side into the
city. The traffic steadily picked up and the air quality got worse as we went.
We had a bike shop picked out but when we arrived it was vacant. The driver was kind
enough to take us to another bike shop down the road. The bike shop, Bicimania, was
modern like any in the US and had a lot of high end equipment. Tim did not
particularly like the rim they had so they sent us to another bike shop, walking distance
away. Bike Center turned out to have a better rim so we bought a Mavic F519,
double walled rim with islets. They could not build the wheel that day so we
returned to Bicimania. They said they could finish the wheel by 4:30 PM. We
happen to be across the street from a mall so off to the mall we went to wait until our
wheel was ready. It was culture shock, it looked like an upscale mall that you would
find in Scottsdale, Arizona. Christmas tree and all. We were hoping to watch a
movie, but the cinema did not open until the evening. We met some local kids on
their lunch break, they worked at a shop called American Classic. We shared some
cookies we were eating and they invited us to their store. When we were at the store
they gave us a couple of promotional T-shirts. Not a bad trade, a cookie for a
The rim cost $US 40 and the spokes and labor to build the wheel was $US 25.
We were getting antsy so we went to the bike shop at 3:00 PM, they still had not
started on the wheel, 4:30 came and went, at 5:45pm, the wheel was ready.
Yikes, it was almost dark outside. We were warned by our guide books not to go out
at night in Guatemala City. We had no choice. We got a taxi to the bus station, a
seedy looking place that is a combination of a market and bus terminal. As soon as
we got out of the cab, Tim noticed some young men across the street who were checking us
out and began moving towards us. We were concerned that they might be a gang of
pickpockets. Luckily, we got out of the cab and straight onto a bus heading for
Antigua. At first we were comfortable and had enough room to sit in the
seat. As we meandered through the city the bus filled up, in my opinion, beyond
capacity. We were smashed in the seats like sardines all the way to Antigua.
We arrived in Antigua at around 7:30pm in the evening. Relieved to be safe and sound we
headed back to our hotel. Again in the middle of the night Tim was up and sick
||We woke up to a beautiful sunny day with a temperature of about 70 F.
We decided to do some sight seeing around Antigua. Our first stop was the Cathedral de
Santiago. This church was build in 1543 and destroyed by an earthquake in 1773.
Huge blocks of pillars
are laying on the ground. They are currently working to restore parts of this beautiful
cathedral. We then walked to Casa Popenoe. It was closed and then I read in my
guide book that it is only open between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. We then headed for
Los Capuchinas. We saw that if we had our student cards they would let us in for
half price. Being the cheap skates we are, we decided to come back later with our
student cards. Besides, Tim was not feeling well still. Even the Pepto Bismol
was not working. We reviewed his symptoms in our health guide book, (it has come in
very handy) then decided it was time for the Citpro. Within 12 hours of taking
Citpro, Tim began to feel better.
Antigua is a beautiful city, and has a lot to do if
you have money that is. The town must have 20 or so restaurants that cater to people
with an international flare for cuisine. But if your on a budget like us, those
restaurants will soon drain all your resources. If you have the extra money to
spend on lodging and food, Antigua is a great bargain. If not, in my opinion, a few
days here would be sufficient to take in the atmosphere. There are over 50 Spanish
schools here but I do not see many students studying, at least I do not think they are
students. The schools are tucked away in every corner of the city. It is a
cheap place to take classes, but I would find it difficult to practice Spanish here
because there are so many tourists to speak English to. The locals seem to speak
quite a bit of English as well. Quetzaltenango or Xela to me was much more appealing
for learning Spanish.
||We toured Casa
Popenoe today. It is a lovely restored Spanish home, it reminded me of the
architecture that is so common in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is amazing the
influence the Spanish had on all the Americas.
I went to the Rainbow Reading Room
Cafe and Bookstore and traded Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain for a book by
a Carmalite Priest who lived with the Inca Indians in Peru for 15 years, it is called A
Beggar in Paradise. I spent the rest of the day reading this book. I would
highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how the Incas live now and how their
ancient religion is intertwined with Catholicism.
can be seen from the balcony of our hotel. I have been watching it since last week
but there has been no activity. Then this evening I saw lava flowing down the side,
awesome, I grabbed my binoculars and watched tiny explosions throw molten rock into the
air. Exciting. We watched the action for better part of an hour.
||Another day of hanging out and reading. We plan on going to Volcano
Pacaya tomorrow. I went and toured Las Capuchinas. Las Capuchinas is a convent
established by Nuns from Madrid. The nuns had 18 rooms off of a circular
court yard. They did not have any contact with the outside world.
||The cost to hike up Volcano Pacaya is Q50 ($7.00)
each and Q25 ($3.50) for entrance into the Park. We went with the tour group Gran
Jaguar, the same group who shuttled us into Guatemala City. We met at 6:00 am and
drove out to the volcano, it is a 1.5 hour drive. We had a guide, actually two and
were told to stay together. In the past this volcano was notorious for robberies but with
the security and police patrol this does not happen any longer. The climb to the top
takes 2 hours and the first hour is relatively easy going through the forest. The
guides stopped often to let us catch our breath. Then we emerged from the forest
onto recently deposited volcanic ridges. It was then that we got a good look at the
top of the smoking volcano and more importantly the steep climb to the top. We
started our climb up the talus slope with two steps forward and one slide back. The top seemed to be farther
away each time I looked up to see how close I was getting. At last we all reached
the top and made our way towards the smoking crater. As we approached the edge of
the smoking crater I could see gases rising up from it's throat and the air temperature
increased. I knew that the cloud was toxic gas so I steered clear of it. Other
people were not so lucky, when the cloud past over them they all started coughing. I
made my way to the edge and looked down into the throat of the volcano. Looking into the smoking crater Mpeg Movie Awesome.
Gases were billowing out constantly. We had lunch at the top but then the
wind direction changed we all left the summit for cleaner air. We did not return
down the same path we came up. We went straight down the slope. The cinders
were deep enough to slide on down. Tim actually skied down the slope for a while.
We all stopped at the bottom to empty the rocks out of our shoes. The ride
back to Antigua was quick, however, it made Tim sick.
While on the hike, we met Joe
(female) and Steve from England. They are traveling the world for the next
year. The started out their trip on September 16, 2002 , which happens to be
independence day in Mexico and yes they flew into Mexico City and had a hotel room near
the Zocalo where the festivities occur. They were dropped off a few blocks from the
Zocalo because it was blocked by the police and they had to make their way through the
crowd of possibly 10,000 people to their hotel room. I would say that they started
their trip out with a huge celebration.
We went out for a few drinks with Jo and Steve to an Irish bar. It happen to be
the bars one year anniversary so it was happy hour prices all night. The place was
packed. They had a raffle and Tim and I won Gallo (beer) T-shirts. It was
||The streets were filled with shoppers today. I did a little shopping myself. We also
did some errands as well. We met Jo and Steve at the La Merced Church for the Dance of the Big Heads. No
kidding. I asked around to see what this dance was all about, I do not think that I
got the whole story. But what I do know is that the dance has been preformed for
centuries, at least since the Spanish arrived here. The king and queen of Spain are
represented along with, a daughter, a devil, an elephant, a snake, white heads and a black
head which represent the general population. They all danced to marimba music as
they made their way from La Merced to the Cathedral on the Plaza.
Christmas eve is the
night of fireworks. Incredible fireworks. We went to La Merced and watched the
fireworks. Unfortunately, a hot firework ash found its way to my fleece jacket and
burned a hole through the sleeve before I could get it off. Bummed about my coat we
At midnight every church around us was setting off fireworks. It was like a war zone.
The racket went on for 20 minutes. I went to sleep thinking that bombs were
bursting around me.
I wonder how family and friends at home are doing this holiday season?
||Christmas Day. Merry Christmas. Everything is closed for the
most part. Everyone looks like they stayed up to late. I can not see anyone
sleeping through all the racket of last night. We were going to go for a Christmas
Day ride. We waited until it warmed up and then realized that the fireworks wars
were still going on. Not wanting to get caught in the middle of all the fun and
games we decided to take a long walk around Antigua instead.
We settled on a dinner and
a movie for our Christmas Dinner. We saw Spider Man. We have been trying to
decide how to leave Antigua. We are not going to ride through Guatemala City.
We looked into a shuttle through the city and they only option is to get on the bus to Rio
Dulce and get off somewhere in the middle of no where. We are tentatively thinking
of taking the bus all the way to Rio Dulce. We also are sending yet another package
home. We will not need our warm cloths once we leave Antigua so we are sending home
our fleece jackets, extra long sleeve shirt, goretex socks, riding tights, maps we no
longer need, Gallo T-shirts we won, T-shirt that was given to us, headlamp we never use,
||Our task today is to find the cheapest way to ship our stuff home.
First we went to DHL, they only had express service (2 days), our box weighed 8 kilograms
or about 17 pounds. The cost was US$162 wow a little to much. Then we went to
international courier, they weighed our box and said it was 6.5 kilos or about 14
pounds. They said it would cost US$112, still cheaper but not cheap enough.
We finally went to UPS, it weighted 6.5 kilo and cost US$69 to ship. So we went with
UPS. I wanted to go back to tell DHL their scale was wrong, but we really did not
have the time. We spent the rest of the day running errands and getting ready to
leave at 7:30 am.
||We got a ride into Guatemala City with Gran Jaguar and boarded a bus
there. We left at about 9 am. The roads were extremely crowded with traffic
and the road was narrow, so I was glad not to be riding. We descended from 1500
meters in Guatemala city to practically sea level in Rio Dulce. For some reason we
seem to take buses down hill as opposed to the easier way of taking them up hill.
After a while I wished we could get off the bus, it was getting uncomfortable. We
stopped for lunch and noticed that there was a pretty stiff head wind. OK we were
glad to be on the bus again. As we got closer to Rio Dulce it started to rain, light
at first and then very hard. It was raining when we got off the bus in Rio
Dulce. Rio Dulce is a cross roads town, everyone going to Tikal must go through it
and boaters dock here because we are at the end of Lake Izabal. We found a room and
packed our bags to go to Tikal in the morning. We are leaving our bikes and most of
our gear here in a hotel room. We are traveling light for once. We plan to
stay in the dorm at Tikal to spend one whole day there and part of the next.
||Just because you buy a bus ticket does not mean that you will get a seat
in a bus. Since we started this trip 9 months ago we have taken 2 bus trips.
This is our third and hopefully we will not be doing this again for a while. I now
understand what most travelers go through to get to certain places. Tikal is not an
easy place to get to.
We paid Q50 ($6.70) per person for the bus to Tikal. We
hoped to catch the 9:00 am bus. It came and went, it was full. The 10:00 am
bus never showed and the 11:00 am bus only took three people. By now we had twelve people
waiting for the bus and it was raining hard. Another bus came and the ticket guy
waved us onto that bus. As I am getting on the bus another guy from the bus said
that I had to change my ticket and pay for a new ticket on the bus because this was a
different bus company. So I go back to change my ticket, of course there was no
time. So he just took my tickets and did not give me change. I ran back to
the bus and boarded anyway. When they came to collect the tickets I told him that
the ticket guy had my tickets. It turns out that they gave the money for 8 people to
get on the bus to the other conductor. The conductor who was clueless was sending me
back and forth to the ticket window. Of course, because of all the running around,
Tim and I were the last on the bus and could not sit together.
Outside of Flores, near the airport, we had to change to a minivan. We were too
late to catch another minivan to Tikal. I was bummed. Now there were 10
tourists all trying to get to Flores
and find a hotel room. People took off in all directions. We stayed with the
van and went from hotel to hotel looking for a room. They place was pretty booked
up. We found a room with a private bath and hot water at Casa de la Laconia? for Q80
per night. We cooked our dinner on the hotel balcony. I got the distinct feeling
that everyone was trying to get away from each other. This explains why people are
not so friendly some times.
We met Melanie from San Francisco out on the balcony of the hotel.
||Tikal. We got up at 4:00 am to catch the 5:00 am bus, we wanted to
get to Tikal for sunrise at 6:15 am. We were in luck, the sky was clear and stars
were out. It did not look like it was going to rain today. A minivan finally picked
us up at about 5:20 am. Then they took us to a bus station, hey I paid for a
minivan. Then we got on the bus and waited until it filled up with tourists.
We waited until 5:40 am until we left. It was obvious by now that we were not going
to make sunrise at the ruins. Then the bus starts moving and that is when we realize
that it is a hunk of junk. An old German bus from the 60s or 70s. We could
barely make it up the hills. I felt like I could race up the hill with my bike and
beat this beast. To slow things down even more we were picking up people along the
way. Then we had to stop and all pay for tickets at the entrance. I tried to
use my student card but it did not work. Foreigners pay Q50 ($6.70) and nationals
pay Q15 ($2.00), Sundays are free for nationals only. At least they get a
break. I do not mind paying more but over three times more is a bit much.
as we got off the bus Tim and I went for the park. We were just trying to get some
peace and quiet. It was a 15 minute walk through the jungle to the Grand
Plaza. We walked through an area that has not been restored yet and then we were
behind Temple 1. It just rose dramatically up out of the forest. We walked
into the grand plaza, we were surround by restored Mayan temples. Temple 1 is the
highest and steepest. No one is allowed on the Temple anymore. In the past a
few people have tumbled to their death on the steep stairs. I have no desire to
climb up there. Temple 2 faces Temple 1 and has a great view of
the area as well. We meandered around the north acropolis and then set out to Temple
4. The jungle was alive with birds and animals. Wild turkeys, more like very tame, were
strutting around showing off their beautiful colors.
We met Melanie at the top
of Temple 4 and we decided to tour the ruins together. We first went to the
Lost World and climbed the pyramid
close by. The sky was clearing and the jungle was a beautiful green, the air was
thick with oxygen. Standing on the pyramid, we could see three of the temples faced
to the east and one faced west. I wonder what the significance of this is?
Getting back down the pyramid seemed to be more of a chore then going up. The stairs
were large and steep.
We then went to the Plaza of the Seven Temples. The temples here in Tikal are
huge, they also are melting away in this environment. The temples are only visible
where the trees have rooted themselves into the buildings. Elsewhere the building is
gone, physically dismantled by rain. We then took a side trail over to the Temple of
Inscriptions and came across a group of howler monkeys. They sound so much louder
than they are. They were perched up in the top canopy of the jungle, a difficult
place to get a good view of them. We were all a bit tired so we decided to stop at
the restaurant for coffee. Just as we sat down the sky opened up and poured
rain. The sun was out yet it rained hard, I thought that only happen in the deserts
of Arizona, guess not.
After the rain we tried to tour the rest of the ruins, but it had since turned into a
mud bog. We decided not to climb on anymore pyramids, they looked more like slippery
slides then ruins.
We caught another bus back to Flores. The driver was one of these macho idiots
who likes to try and scare his passengers. He was swerving all over the road.
I am beginning to think that riding a bike is safer than riding in these buses.
||We caught the bus back to Rio Dulce, immediately the conductor of the bus
tried to double charge us. He wanted us to pay Q100 ($13.40) per person, that is
outrageous. I told him Q50 ($6.70) no more, he accepted the Q100 for both of us and
moved on. The bus is getting old. On the way back we picked up anyone who had
their hand up to stop the bus. We even detoured our way to a little town to find
people to pick up. We were very happy to get off the bus and get back to our other
hotel room. We repacked to catch the boat to Livingston tomorrow. At dinner we
saw Jin, the Japanese cyclist we met in Quetzaltenango. He was suppose to be in
Honduras but he circled back to go up to Tikal.
||New Years eve. We were at the boat dock at 9:00
am. When we asked the cost for our bicycles they wanted us to pay and extra Q75
($10.00) for each bike. We said no and went to Brunos to see if we could find
someone else to take us to Livingston. We just have too much gear to jump on a sail
boat so back to the public launch we went. After a little more negotiations we got
the boat ride to Livingston for Q75 per person and Q25($3.35) per bike. We later
learned that the locals pay Q30 ($4.00)
The boat ride to Livingston was worth every
penny or Quetzal. We went through a large lake area and then down through a narrow
gorge to Livingston. The entire trip took 2 hours and we saw all kinds of wildlife
along the way. We also cruised close enough to the shore to get a good look at how people live along the
river. The houses are all on stilts.
We landed at Livingston and immediately got a guide to show us where the hotels are.
We do not normally do this but we liked Marco and the place was filling up fast.
After looking at a few hotels we landed at Hotel New Millennium, a hotel not in the
guide book. We got a room with private bath and a nice view from the balcony for
Q60($8.00) per night.
The fireworks were everywhere once again, I wonder if all of Central America is into
fireworks at this point it seem like it.
Met Marianne from the US and Danilli from Sweden. They are traveling around for
the next couple of weeks. They both speak fluent Spanish.
||New Years Day. Some things are open but most are closed. We
wonder through Livingston today. It seems that a number of people are drunk so we
did not venture off to far. I read a warning in one of the restaurants that said not
to go on the hike to the seven alters (falls) because you will get robbed even if you have
a guide. Well so much for that hike.
We have decided to stay here until Sunday
then we will take the boat to Puerto Barrios and ride to Omoa, Honduras on Monday. I
really would like to get moving sooner but I think my back needs to rest a little more.
||Wandered around town today. We tried for two hours to connect to
the internet in vain. We had lunch at Restaurant Margote. I had the local
basically seafood soup made with bananas and coconut milk, delicious. We tried to
do our laundry at the Pila (laundry area) but it was full all day long, maybe
tomorrow. Another lazy day. I am getting antsy to get moving again.
||Again we tried to get on the internet, still no success. We did our
laundry by hand, hung it up to dry and then it started to rain. Hope it dries before
we leave in the morning. We sat and watched the activities in Livingston today.
Livingston is an interesting mix of Garifuna, Ladino, and Mayan
and they all appear to get along.
||Packed today and took the big boat over to Puerto Barrios. The trip
cost Q10 ($1.30) and it took an hour and 15 minutes dock to dock. Puerto Barrios is
a shipping port with all the amenities of a shipping port such as brothel and bars.
As we walked around looking for a hotel I noticed that there was open sewers
everywhere. Disgusting. I can only imagine what this place looks like when it
floods. The weather is cloudy and cool. A big change from the normal sunny,
humid and sticky. We tried to get our email today and still no success.
||Another Sunday. We will spend the day shopping for things to carry
over the border. We just do not know what is available in Honduras.
||We woke up this morning to rain. It had rained hard all night.
The dirt streets were a quagmire. We knew once we crossed the border into
Honduras we would be on a dirt road for a while. We decided against leaving today.
Instead packed our bags, a chore that is starting to get old. We do have less
things since we sent the package from Antigua. However, at this point I wish that I
kept my goretex socks to keep my feet dry. I always get apprehensive about crossing a
border. So far the last two border crossing were an adventure. As I was going
through our money I found 900Q ($120). Yikes, I decided we would go to the bank
tomorrow and change it back to US dollars.
Tim at La Merced
Volcano Agua in the background of Parque Central.
Tim looking into the depths of the volcano.
Kids just love Santa Claus.
Parque Central is full of people selling their wares to tourists.
Temple II, Tikal
Cindie at the South Acropolis.
The captain of the boat from Rio Dulce to Livingston, Tim's bike is smothered in luggage.
Traditional home on the Rio Dulce.
The view of Livingston from our balcony.
North and Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03
(July 18 - Aug 22, 2002)
The State of
Guanajuato to Toluca, Mexico
Other essays by Tim
Into the Mist State
of Michoacan, Mexico
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Michoacan,
Full size Picture
- Guanajuato to
Penjamillo to Patzcuaro, Mexico
Patzcuaro to Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan,
Into the Mist Mexican highway 15
Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, to Toluca, Mexico
The Velodrome in Toluca, Mexico
(Oct. 12 - Nov. 8, 2002)
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas,
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Tabasco and
Chiapas, Mexico Pictures
Full size Picture
- Museum La Venta and the
Olmec Heads Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Ocosingo,
Palenque #1 Photo Picture Page
Palenque #2 Photo Picture Page
Misol-Ha Waterfall Chiapas, Mexico
Agua Azul Chiapas, Mexico
Tonina Mayan Ruins Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
Mexico's Day of the Dead Ocosingo, Chiapas,
Ocosingo to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico
(March 15 - April 10, 2003)
Costa Rica #2
Manual Antonio to Monteverde
Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Tim's Emailed Newsletters
Costa Rica #2 (incomplete)
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #2 Pictures
Full size Picture
Parque National Manuel Antonio, #2
City of Santa Elena
Santa Elena, Monteverde
Frog Pond (Ranario), Santa
Santa Elena, Cloud
Forest, National Park
Sky Walk, Suspension
Bridge, Canopy Tour
Sky Trek Zip Line,
Tips & Advice
Tools and Spares
Pots and Pans
Preventing Flat Tires
Bike Touring Shorts
Have Learned On The Road
Injustice of Poverty
Much MORE Gear Here!
Cycle Touring Racks
Tents and ground