Bike Free Guatemala

Tilapita sunsetTilapita sunset


Tilapita sunset


Time is slipping away like sand through my fingers. I have been off the bike long enough to forget, at times, what I am doing here. And, to make it all a bit more elusive, I am in limbo waiting for a package to arrive. Xela has lulled me into submission, but now I find myself eager to shake free of the routine. I wrapped up my foray into Spanish lessons last week with the terrific Utatlan Spanish School. At 6 weeks of lessons, my abilities and confidence are up, but my fluency is still just a distant dream. It is not all a lost effort, because my time at school introduced me to a huge array of new friends, and thanks to some school trips, exposed me to a few sites in or near Xela. New friends also brought about a few weekend trips; first, to the beach at Playa Tilapa near the border with Mexico, and second, a trip this last weekend over to Antigua.

Glorious Chicken Buses!Glorious Chicken Buses!


Glorious Chicken Buses!


Chicken Buses:
School field trips took us to surrounding villages to see old churches (the oldest church in Central America in Salcaja, and the famous yellow church in San Andres Xecul). We took a weekend trip out to the market town of Chichicastenango for souvenir gathering, or in my case for pictures. Along with my two non-school related weekend trips, all of our adventuring relied heavily on the Guatemalan Chicken Bus. Having fielded a constant stream of confused questions about my chosen mode of transport, and the skeptical looks and exclamations of insanity, it is my turn to shift the table. At times, being in a Chicken Bus is to forfeit your life to a higher power; the rule of the road holds that the loudest and fastest win. I have seen chicken buses outrun every other car on the road while climbing or descending hairpin mountain passes. If the wheels do not lift off the road on a turn, then you are not trying hard enough. Likewise, a hundred passengers is only a start to a full bus, there is always room for more. This weekend they are attempting a new record in Antigua, 210 passengers! I glimpse these colorful beast of burden while slowly plodding along on my bike, but rarely do I see their acts of daring. People who use the chicken bus as a reliable and steady means of transport are crazy – get yourself a bike and take solace in knowing your life is in your own hands.

Chichi market souvenirsChichi market souvenirs


Chichi market souvenirs


Lost Treasures and New Decisions:
During a moment of foolishness at the beach, we left a few items outside while we went to dinner and returned to find them scooped up by an unknown, never to be seen again. For me, this meant I lost my rain fly and ground sheet for my tent. Just as I was becoming anxious over the arrival of a different package, I now have to sort out the issue of a replacement tent. If I get one from the states, an actual replacement of my tent, then I would send it on to Panama to pick up when I get there. Thus, forcing me to rely again on unreliable mail delivery, and spend extra money on nights under a roof. Option 2, I pick up a North Face tent from a shop here in Guatemala. It would avoid the hassle of shipping, but would be a huge sacrifice in weight and quality. This tent will at some point be responsible for sheltering my from frigid nights in the high Andes and brutal winds in the Patagonian plains, all after hundreds of nights of use, assembly, and dis-assembly. All these expenses are weighing heavily on my mind, and pinching my wallet frighteningly tight for another year on the road. But, if I have learned anything from a traveling life, it is to just take a deep breath and deal with one thing at a time. Some things are out of your control and not worth worrying about. Decisions need to be made and then trusted.





I can’t justify going very far without my new package. Someone would be forced to send it on down the road, or I would need to return for it. All taking time and money that I don’t want to waste. The arrival of my package also determines my plans for going south. I am teasing the limits of my Visa for the four countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. If I do not receive my package this week, I will need to consider a trip to Mexico to renew my Visa. Or, I put my head down and race to Costa Rica, an option that is somewhat appealing after dallying in Xela for so much time and itching to avoid unnecessary time in the hot lowlands. We are seeing some rain here in Xela, a bit early for the season, but it puts extra concern over my tent decision. Even though I have slipped out and about for some off-bike exploring, my thoughts always return to these decisions. When I do remount the steel steed I will ride over to Lago Atitlan, possibly back through Antigua (if for no other reason than a cup of coffee at Tretto Cafe), before heading south and east through El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. It is a quick 1200 miles to Panama City from Xela and then a bit of logistics to find a sail-boat trip to Colombia and a new continent.

One Response to “Bike Free Guatemala”

  1. Martha says:

    I was wondering when you’d be back online. Love the colorful pictures. Where can I send some money for your next bit of adventure?

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