Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kittens, Puppies, and Dynamite

All of the guys at the river crossing
 We headed out for Antigua the next morning with the rest of the crew; little did we know that it would be impossible to make it to Antigua in a day.  We decided to take a road which, on the map, was labeled as a major highway.  In actuality, they had begun to pave the road but either ran out money or just quit building it part of the way in.  The curvy, mountainous road quickly turned to gravel and what should have taken us no time at all took much of the day.  The road did have the most stunning views so far, but we weren’t able to enjoy them like we usually would due to our circumstances.  When we reached the summit, we were stopped by a couple of local police on motorcycles telling us that the road ahead had been blown up just a few hours earlier and that it would be two or three hours before we would be able to cross.  We hung out for a while enjoying the view as well as the town drunk’s antics; he had made his way up there somehow and the guys found him pretty entertaining.  

Stopped due to road explosion
 There was a town about twenty minutes back the other direction, so we turned around and decided to wait there.  Ty needed to find internet to check for updates on his mom and everyone wanted to grab a bite to eat.  We arrived to the town, which had no electricity at all except for generators.  Amazingly, there was an internet cafĂ© that was powered by one of the generators and Ty was able to talk to his brother.  I walked in to check up on what was happening and discovered Ty had made some new friends; The local boys were climbing all over him, trying to see what he was doing.   

Ty with his new internet friends
 We lured them outside with lollypops and hung out with them for a while; they loved playing with the cameras and getting their picture taken and we had a lot of fun with them.  There were no other adults in sight and it seemed like the boys had little to no supervision.  We saw that traffic was coming through from the other direction again, so we knew the road was once again open.  

Charlie, Ty and Patrick with the boys  
Some "very good" pictures the kids took of us!
Everyone said goodbye to the kids and we headed towards Lanquin, the small town next to Semuc Champey, one of the most famous outdoor spots in Guatemala.  We had already realized by this point that it was going to take us a few days to get to Antigua even if we pushed it, so Lanquin seemed like a good stopping point for the night.  The guys had heard of a place called Zephyr Lodge, and had been told that it was not to be missed.  Whoever told them was absolutely right; it was a beautiful hostel just outside of Lanquin, perfectly positioned on top of a mountain overlooking the river and the other surrounding mountains. 
This is no joke!
They had several small A-frames which were all occupied, so we decided to camp for $2 for the night.  The hostel had a full outdoor kitchen and bar which we all enjoyed thoroughly along with the eighty plus other people staying there.  It was a big outdoor party in the middle of nowhere in Guatemala and it helped to take our minds off of what was going on at home, since there was nothing we could do at the time.  The hostel also had twelve other occupants that had major appeal to us; eight brand new puppies, three tiny kittens and a little teenage rascal orange tabby.  There is something about a tiny kitten or puppy that can make everything seem a little bit better.  We enjoyed some cold beers and the company of the guys and listened to music late into the night.  
Two cute guys :)
Babies Everywhere <3
The next morning we woke up around six with the sunrise and, definitely a bit tired, decided to get going.  After taking an open-air shower and having breakfast, we sadly said our goodbyes to Alex, Tom, Charlie and Patrick.  There was no way they were going to leave Zephyr so soon after arriving so we headed for Antigua just the two of us.  We hoped that we would be able to catch up with them again somewhere along the way and were so happy that we got to know such a great group of guys. 

We love you guys and can't wait to see you again soon!

Lago de Mojito

Mojitos on the Lake

We decided to make it an early morning the day we left San Ignacio in hopes that the border crossing into Guatemala would be less crowded and that the temperature might be a little cooler.  We only encountered one problem at the border; they wanted full page copies of our passports and motorcycle title and we had cut our copies in half to conserve paper.  They were very insistent, so I watched the bike while Ty ventured in to another “free zone” to find someone with a copy machine.  Not surprisingly, there was a guy on the side of the road waiting with a copy machine.  We crossed into Guatemala and immediately felt a difference in atmosphere.  The temperature dropped at least ten degrees and the scenery became much greener and hillier; we decided it was the first place since the States that we would have chosen to take a ride and not just gone because we had to.  Flores was our first destination and we had not heard much about it, except that it was supposedly pretty dangerous.  When we pulled into Flores, we laughed; it was one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly places we had been.  There was a very nice little hotel with a dock and a beautiful view of the lake for next to nothing a night, so we unloaded the bike and went to the restaurant next door.  We were very pleased with the cheap drink specials, such as two for $2 mojitos and cubetazos (bucket of beers) for $6, the amazing food (best sandwich I have had on the trip,) and the extremely friendly waiter;  We probably could have stayed all night but decided we should probably catch up on some sleep.
The beautiful view from our hotel room

Our plan was to stay in Flores for just a day so we could see Tikal, but our friends Alex and Tom showed up the next morning and it didn’t take much convincing to change our plans.  Everyone was having so much fun in Flores that no one was even interested in checking out Tikal yet.  We went for a swim in the lake, consumed more mojitos (I am pretty sure I single-handedly ran our favorite restaurant out of mint,) and caught up with the guys.  We decided that we would head over for Tikal in the morning with Tom and Alex and it turned out to be the perfect day for it; cool and cloudy.  It didn’t take long to get there and, as we pulled in and drove down the main stretch, I made my first monkey sighting.

I had been waiting the whole trip to see one, so, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited.  I shrieked, almost sending Ty off the road.  Tikal was completely different from the rest of the ruins we had seen and we both agreed that it was our favorite of the trip.  There were still giant, unexcavated mounds all over the place; it made you feel like you were an explorer discovering the ruins for the first time.  Climbing to the top of a few of the temples was no picnic, but absolutely worth the effort as the views were outstanding. 

View from the highest temple in Tikal

Wildlife surrounded us in all directions; we saw monkeys, anteaters, fox and several species of birds, among others.  It was also the first location of ruins where we weren’t sweating our butts off, which was a huge perk.  After several hours of exploring, we made it to the end of the loop and headed back to Flores.  On the road leading out of Tikal we ran into the guys’ Australian friend Charlie, who was also traveling on a motorcycle.  He said he was riding with his friend Patrick, from San Francisco, and that they would meet us in Flores.  And so it began; the six of us quickly became friends over cubetazos and mojitos and decided we would make the trip west all together.  That night, however, Ty’s brother emailed us with some very bad news; his mom was in the ICU at KU Medical Center and we needed to get home as soon as possible.   We all decided that we would leave together the next morning and we were glad that we would have the guys along with us.