|Tuk-tuks--not just for India. These are found everywhere in Central America, running people in town or even between towns in the mountains.|
Following our amazing afternoon making chocolate, the skies continued to dump on us. While we were sleeping cozily in our hostel dorm, accompanied only by the dorms resident giant cockroach (he seemed harmless enough, but I chased him to the other side of the room anyway) the rain was no bother. Getting on the road later, it still wasn't an issue as we rode back towards Coban.
By the time we got back to the top of the dirt road that had taken us down to the river, things were in fact quite dry. I was leading and as we approached the turn off we had taken, I thought about the extremely sharp left turn we'd be making, across traffic, to head back. On the way down, it had been a very sharp right turn from a paved road to a dirt road heading immediately down hill, filled with loose rocks and ruts in the turn. I had made the choice to ride to the very large shoulder and turn off my ABS, before making a u-turn on the paved road and hitting the downhill loose stuff straight on. No problem, easy-peasy.
On the return trip, as I neared the top of our dirt road, I thought I would do the same in the opposite direction--ride straight up onto the shoulder, turn my ABS back on, then u-turn onto the paved road. As I crested the top of the road, however, I saw there was a large truck parked in the shoulder. I decided it was no biggie--there was very little traffic there, and I'd just make the turn.
As I got over the hump, onto the pavement, and well into the turn, I saw the one other piece of the equation I had forgotten. There were three potholes in the road. These aren't just little potholes, but giant motorcycle-eating potholes that probably drop bikes and riders all the way to China. At the last moment, I straightened my curve in order to ride the narrow 6" strip of road between two of them, realizing at the last moment I wouldn't have time or enough road to make the rest of the turn.
Since I had straightened up a bit, I figured I'd just stop, but as I did, my front wheel got far enough that it started to slide into the giant bike-eating gutter. My rear end slid around, and suddenly my bike was lying in the gutter, much to the horror of the men on the side of the road with the truck, and to Josh who was just getting up onto the pavement.
I was fine. We got the bike up, and other than bending the gear shifter (which we bent back), there was no damage. I just looked at Josh and said, "Leave it to me to not be able to figure out pavement..."
|The start of 7W. As there are no road signs, I pulled up a mapping app to make sure we were going in the right direction.|
Back through Coban we went, heading west. We knew we would be coming to a rough patch of road that day as we had seen a number of comments on iOverlander about 7W. As we got through town--after negotiating one-ways and all the turns one has to make to get through town since main roads don't just go through--the pavement ran out, and the dirt road began. We knew we had 27Km ahead of us of what had been labeled "terrible" road that you "shouldn't do."
We take everything with a grain of salt, as those reports are often made by people in bigger overland rigs, or Subarus with roof tents. Things tend to be a bit easier when you only have two wheels and you can bob and weave around holes, rocks, etc.
There was no bobbing and weaving.
The road was like Lacey Swiss cheese, only with more holes. Then, what was left of road was mud, because it was the raining season, and it had just rained for 24 hours straight. The only place there weren't holes, was where the road was a currently-running river, and we just rode the river path, or where a landslide covered the road.
And there were a lot of landslides. Most were easily negotiable (well, easily-enough), but one was huge. Half of the mountain side had come down, and was lying in a wet, muddy heap across the road. An enormous bulldozer was slowly moving sopping wet earth, and we sat and watched for a while. Unfortunately, one the side we stopped on, someone was also burning a huge pile of trash. It was a pretty bleak sight--mountainside gone, road gone, one lone piece of heavy machinery, and a pile on fire.
Josh couldn't take the stench of the fire anymore, and as the bulldozer moved to one side of the "road", he started down and across.
As he hit the really deep part, he said, "Oh, it's not that bad."
I said, "Really!?! Because you have both feet down as outriggers, and your rear end is fish tailing all over."
He repeatedly told me it wasn't bad, but I couldn't shake that image. I sat for a few more minutes as the bulldozer made another few passes, then gathered myself and headed down. Have I mentioned how much I hate mud? I really hate it. It's unpredictable and it makes your bike unpredictable, and throttling out of a bad situation can just wind you sideways when there is nothing solid for your tires to catch.
I did just fine. Through the first section.... But, I then reached the mound made by the bulldozer's blade constantly scraping, and I was running at an acute angle to it. As all the mud was the same color, it had been hard to spot earlier on, and as I approached it, I knew there was no way to go over it at a ninety-degree angle. I hit it instead at probably thirty degrees, and without enough speed. I went down on my left side in the slick, snotty mud.
|Looking back at the landslide/fire, while covered (me and the bike) in mud.|
I'm not gonna lie, I came up pretty pissed. I had been riding standing up, as that was the best way for me to control my 500+ lbs. of bike in the mud. I couldn't duck-walk my bike through like someone who had feet that touch the ground, I had to use better technique. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Josh came running back to help me get my bike up for the second time that day, and we got to the other side of the mess.
|A smooth section of 7W...|
We continued on. The road was terrible, but nothing more like the intensity of that landslide. Eventually, we rounded a bend, and magically, pavement reappeared. We had come to the end of 27Km of Hell. A very cool bridge with a steel deck lie in front of us, and though steel-deck bridges can make motorcycle riders extremely uneasy, after that road, it felt smoooooooooth.
A few miles beyond that, and we reached Restaurant Rancho Don Canche. We had read about the spot as being a great place to stay for the night, and as we stripped off helmets and gloves, Don Canche came out to greet us. He is immediately everyone's friend, and he welcomed us to his restaurant, and asked us to please stay with him for the night.
|Our new friend, formerly of Denver! Sometimes our world is a small place!|
We said we would love to, but lunch and a beer first. It was late in the day, and there were a number of men there who were all friends, having Friday afternoon beers. We were immediately everyone's friends, and as the majority of them left that night, Don Canche told us how excited he was we were there, as he had lived in Denver for a few years.
|One of Don Canche's friends quickly became our friend as well!|
|We rode the bikes in at night, and camped next to them.|
We sat up into the night, talking with him, and I made friends very quickly with his pit bull/boxer mix, Campion. Campion watched over the place, but was also a big, 80 lb. mush of a lovey dog. When the last of the customers were gone, we moved the tables and chairs, and Don Canch insisted we set the tent up in the restaurant, and bring our bikes in as well.
|My good buddy who just wanted to be where I was.|
|Campion, just chillin' in the morning.|
As I was lying down in the tent, Campion came over to me, trying desperately to figure out how to come inside. I assumed he would probably head into the house to be with Don Canche, but I guess he decided I was good people, and he would look out for us. In the morning, I saw that one side of the tent was leaning in a bit, and as I looked out, I saw Campion curled up, lying against the side of the tent. Josh confirmed he had been there the whole night, lying on the dry bag that had been left outside.
|Hey lady, quit looking at that map and pet me!|
Eventually, after breakfast, we said good-bye to our new friends, a motored on to Chichicastenango. We encountered more miserable, muddy, pothole strewn road, followed by paved twisties in the mountains, playing chicken with the chicken buses. We arrived Saturday afternoon, quickly found a hotel, and wandered the streets. Fireworks were going off regularly, and though we thought it might have been a festival day, it wasn't. It was just a Saturday. I had the best fried chicken of my life (seriously, no one does fried chicken as well as the Guatemalans, who knew) and we woke the next morning at 4:30, when the town was waking up and preparing for market day.
|Riding away from Restaurante Rancho Don Canche--the beautiful view of the valley.|
Sundays and Thursdays are market day in ChiChi, and it is a feast for the senses. Also, you can get your shampoo, a chicken or a turkey (live), some chicken (fried), and a rug or some Crocs. The entire downtown of the city is jam-packed with people haggling over prices or socializing with friends and family. People come from all the neighboring areas for market day, and this was the first place we really saw a large number of tourists. They were easy to spot. The Germans, Dutch, and Americans towered over the relatively short population that are the Guatemalans. At 5' 3 1/2", I was a tall person there.
As we slowly wound our way through the crowded streets, people from every direction shouted prices at us, walked textiles up to me, and tried to make sales everywhere they could. There was a frenetic energy to the whole event that I fed on. The textiles there are stunningly beautiful, and Guatemalan women still do a large amount of hand embroidery. Women in ChiChi dress in more traditional clothing (with a slight modern twist) than there counterparts to the north, and my eyes tried to take it all in at every turn.
I was exhausted that night!
Interestingly, our hotel had a terrible little tv, but it had Sunday night football on. Josh enjoyed that while I wrote a bit. We got a good night's sleep, and because we had done some work on the bikes the afternoon before, we hit the road to Antigua feeling pretty great, riding twisties and dodging chicken buses the whole way....