Friday, 30 September 2011


Wed 28th & Thur 29th September

Antigua was founded by the Spanish in 1543 as their Capital of Guatemala after previous ones were deemed unsafe. In those days Guatemala included the whole of Central America and some of Mexico.

Cathederal from Central Park

Unfortunately in the 1700’s two devastating earthquakes destroyed much of the city and the Spanish moved the Capital yet again to its present location of Guatemala City.

Antigua’s population declined rapidly after the earthquakes and the city has only recently seen a resurgence on the back of tourism. As a result the colourful native Indians are much in evidence selling their traditional wares.

Many of the most impressive Spanish buildings remain in ruins with many being just facades, however, there is a 50 year plan to renovate and reconstruct the most important.

Some, like the Placacio de los Capitans Generales here, has only recently been completed.

Lunch break in Central Park (not quite New York)

There are restaurants here from just about every Country in the World. Bob & Terry were pleased to find the Indian (A Madrass tonight boys).

The whole city has cobbled streets and old colonial buildings are everywhere.

Although tourism and Spanish language schools bring much needed money into the city, poverty is still quite evident.

Terry and I booked a tour to the Pacayan Volcano for Thursday morning. It meant getting up at 5am (ugh). Bob declined the offer and stayed tucked up in his cosy bed.

There were about 10 of us on the trip and when we got to the start of the trek I was surprised to see three horses following us. They were taxis and for a price will transport you to the top should you decide that walking was too much. The rumour was the further you are up the mountain when you admit defeat, the higher the price.

Terry & I made it with the help of a Snickers bar and avoided the ignominy of being transported by horse.

Are we at the top yet?

Pacaya volcano last erupted in May 2010 and although the lava has stopped flowing there is still plenty of the hot stuff about. Marshmallows were cooked on the smoking lava. Delicious!

Me sweating off a few pounds (it's pretty hot down there).

Neither of us had been to an active volcano before and as you can see the landscape is quite dramatic.

Antigua has been designated a World Heritage Site and with about 70 schools in the city is also a favourite destination for foreign students learning Spanish, so it is quite a hotspot for travellers and tourists.

Arch of Santa Catalina

School children waiting to cross the road. They are all immaculately dressed in uniform.

Compania de Jesus (one of the many buildings that are currently just facades)

Courtyard off Avenida Norte.

If all goes according to plan we will be heading into El Salvador tomorrow (wish us luck at the border).

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Panajachel to Antigua

Tues 27th September

Antigua is only about 50 miles away and shouldn’t have taken us longer than a couple of hours so we didn't rush to leave Panajachel and Lake Atitlan this morning.

Unfortunately we lost Bob within a few hundred yards of leaving the hotel and it was an hour before we found him again.

Then he decided that the Sat Nav was not taking us the way we wanted to go………

........another two hours later and after deciding the mud track was getting a little tricky we turned around.........

.............and ended up back in Panajacel. We then took the road the sat nav indicated which was the right one all along.

Our lunch stop was in the middle of nowhere. The coffee looked like grey mud but tasted great (it was organic) and the veggie soup and garlic bread was to die for. The contrasts are extreme, you have a restaurant serving food that you would be happy to pay top dollar for in London........

...........and these men who have been working on the fields that probably supply Tescos with all your vegetables (have you noticed how much of your veg comes from Guatemala).

After lunch we rode into the mountains...........

..........and along more roads that have been washed away.

View of the road from the top...........

...........and me riding along it.

Another part of the rural economy here is dredging the river beds by hand and then grading it for the local aggregate industry.

We eventually dropped down into Antigua, arriving at or hotel around 5pm.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Panajachel (unplanned extra day)

Mon 26th September

The plan was to leave Panajachel and ride to Antiqua today but once again the plans had to change because Bob’s sat nav bracket hadn’t been returned from the locksmiths by the promised10am.

The clouds had already gathered around the volcano (7.30am).

In the end we decided to stay another day and Terry and I decided to go to a nature reserve whilst Bob waited for the bracket to turn up.

Atitlan nature reserve was more a trail through the jungle and across chasms.....

.......and waterfalls. We did see a couple of spider monkeys up in the trees but not much else from the animal world……..

We didn’t see many birds either but butterflies were quite prolific.

The most impressive part was the jungle itself. It was a bit like being in the domes of the Eden Project. The roots from this tree looked they had melted over the rocks.

Back in town it's the colourful textiles that are all over the place. It is the main source of income and we have already met several people who are here to buy wholesale for their businesses back home. It is good quality at cheap prices. Unfortunately we haven't any room in our panniers.

As you can see we are losing weight quickly with the local diet!

Bob’s sat nav bracket has been returned and is now on his bike with a new lock fitted so we'll try for Antiqua again in the morning.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Huehuetenango to Panajachel

Sat 24th & Sun 25th September

We left Huehuetenango without too many regrets and set off for the tourist area around Lake Atitlan.

We haven’t had any GPS maps for Central America as Garmin don’t appear to do any, however, when we met up with the Globebusters tour the other day, they told us about a company that produces some. We have downloaded these and apart from taking us straight through the chaos of the market in Huehuetenango they seem to be working fine. If anyone is contemplating a trip here, check out

She has rather a lot of bananas to sell and didn’t look too happy about it.

Once on the open road we rode through some stunning countryside on......

.....roads that were pretty much like this most of the way.

Bob & Terry deciding who was going to go in front!

Overlooking one of the many valleys.

Then suddenly our side of the road just disappears. There has been a lot of rain here and consequently lots of landslips. You may have heard on the news recently that there was a particulary bad one where a number of people were killed and many homes destroyed.

Bob riding through one of the villages.

Our first view of Lake Atitlan before we dropped down into Panajachel.

Our hotel just off the main street. None of us took advantage of the pool as the temperatures are pleasantly cool.

View of the Toliman & Atitlan volcanoes from the lake edge

On our second day here it had been our intention to take a boat trip to some of the villages around the lake and/or climb to the top of one of the volcanoes. Things never go according to plan as the day was mostly spent sorting out the bikes. My exhaust was blowing badly and we found that the gasket between the silencer and balance box had disintegrated. Secondly Bob lost his GPS lock key so he can't remove the unit from the bike to load the new maps.

The locksmith taking Bob's GPS bracket to bits.

Our luck is holding out. The hotel owners son (Paulo) appeared on a R100GS in the carpark where we were working. Within 10 minutes of telling him our problems, a locksmith appeared and picked Bob's lock and took it away to make a new key and a Mechanic (Oliver) appeared and looked at my bike. He rode off and returned a short while later with some gasket material for us to make a new seal. All this on a Sunday. Many thanks to all of you.

In between working on the bikes we were treated to a Children's Sunday school type procession providing a colourful interlude.

Getting ready for the start of the procession.

A couple of the younger ones in paper mache outfits!

In the evening we have been eating in a local open fronted shack type restaurant. The food has been exceptional and we have been treated to some good live music. A local, rather the worse for drink, suddenly appeared and tried to join in. He became the entertainment for a while before being taken off by local police.