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Guatamala 2002

Guatamala – A Ride on the Wild Side – 2002


A four hour trip to London saw me in Putney parking up outside the Haddocks video shop on the Lower Richmond Rd, after dispensing with a few customers the Haddock and I soon set about a few beers and the obligatory chinese carry out.Sleep followed and the Haddock dropped me off at the airport the next day, only too sorry that he was staying at home.

Its always easy to spot others on the same trip, the boxes and kitbags are a dead give away, I quickly pushed into the Q with John and Trish and we were soon joined by Richard and another Ian.

The 9 hour flight was uneventful, apart from the cabin staff advising a woman to hold her baby rather than tie it up in seatbelt as the babe might be hurt in the event of an impact, we wondered whether this was kind of a bump on the tarmac impact or the full on 500mph hurtling towards earth kinda impact.

Miami was a complete nightmare, one and a half hours between flights and thats how long it took us to get through immigration, this delay mattered not as the flight was cancelled anyway due to a controllers strike in Guatamala.Some fine work by John found us in a hotel for the night looking to fly out 36 hours later, some even finer work by John got us booked onto the extra early morning flight., hoorah.

So we arrived a day late and missed out on a ride, but food and beer sorted the world out.

Saturday and its the first ride for most of us, some of the group have already been out and about as they arrived early.Matt leads us out on a steady 13 miler, with just 750m of climbing, after the climb is a sweet singletrack through the trees and skirting the edges of the fields, this gives way to a wide dusty double track, and a big crash for me, the guys behind did a good job of stopping and avoiding both the bike and me as the dust settled.A short time later Phillipe had a huge get off, landing with a sickening thud and lying imobile in the middle of the track, we headed down whilst Matt went for a truck and Jamie waited with a very sore Phillipe, later at the hospital it transpired he had four fractures to the Femur, one of which was about 8 inches in legnth, oops.

Sunday saw us in the minibus for a transfer to Imiche, after a wander round the ruins we set off on an undulating dusty track carrying on for some time before a wide fast double track descent to the base of a 3K road climb.Lunch was waiting fo us at the top with spectacular views over Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro.

There was a choice after lunch, a 10K tarmac descent or a 5K single track to the lake over 300m below, the group split 50/50 and we headed off onto an amazing descent, the south facing track had been hard baked by the sun, this area had not seen rain for a couple of months and the dust flew as tyres locked up braking for the next twist in the track or drop off that appeared suddenly.The heat was incredible with the temperature increasing as we descended, the mid afternoon winds added to the blast furnace conditions.The final half K of the ride drops down into a small village with stone steps twisting their way down narrow alleys before we popped out onto the main high street and a short ride round to Panajachael and a boat ride to our hotel, La Casa del Mundo.Perched high on a cliff overlooking the lake and volcanoes, we sunk a few beers and discussed the day sitting in the hot tub a few meters above the lake before bed.

Next morning, bright and clear, with sunrise over the volcanoes, I had to complain about the standard of my room as I had to sit up in bed to appreciate the view.After breakfast it was into the lake, crystal clear deep warm water, fantastic, swimming round to the next bay saw us climbing up the side of the cliff for a 15m jump into the lake.

Another boat transfer took us to San Marco la Laguna and a bitchin afternoons ride in scorchio conditions.we bumped into four Americans shortly after setting off and found that they had just been robbed at knife point, we closed up and rode together for the rest of the day.The long wide downhill claimed a victim in Nye who had a spectaculer excursion over the bars landing heavily, mullering his hand and thigh, no technical skills some of these Americans.

Next morning a bunch of us were up at 7 for an early morning dip, Andy doing his best impression of a large slighlty overweight land lubbing creature entering the water a great speed, the grace and agility of something with no grace and agility.

Another boat shuttle took us back to Panajachael where we caught the bus transfer to Huehuetenango, a pretty uninspiring town of absolutley no interest at all.

Wednesday saw us heading into an 11K road climb, blistering heat and steep tarmac meant only one thing, wait for a suitabley slow truck and hang on, which I did for a couple of miles……… this climbing lark is hard on the arms.Lunch at the top at Mirador (viewpoint) with spectacular if a little misty views to the mountains and a distant Mexico.Another short climb took us to a plateau for a few K before the final ascent of the day, taking us to 3245m or the magical 10,000 feet.We left the heat and sunshine behind for the descent, heading down into the cloud, excellent riding conditions and rocky single track, only Trisha opted out of this route, heading down on the road but getting delayed by a landslide.

The rock soon gave way to a mixture of gravel and grass singletrack, with steep drops down to the river below, Matt managed to do a flier over the bars, but came up smiling and we dropped down onto the river bed were Jamie and I wrought havoc tearing through the group, racing over the dry river bed before the final track descent to Todos Santos.

A heavy night on the beer left me feeling a little rough so I took the easy option and retraced the previous days descent on the road in the back of the van, a short ride from the top, back across the plateau saw us arrive at a horse ranch and our rooms for the night.

After breakfast on Friday morning Matt, Nye, Jamie, Norman, Andy and I headed out to do a little loop round the top of the mountain, only four miles but the most amazing four miles you can imagine, a mix of single track and double track and technical as it comes.

Lunch and straight into what turned out to be probably the best ride of the trip as far as I'm concerned.A dusty double track spilt the group and after only a short way we had to wait for John who's rear disc brake had decided to lock on, after a little gentle mullering we carried on, at least for the rest of the afternoon.Always a pre cursor for a crash Andy passed the video camera to Jamie to take some video footage of the rest of the group.The track narrowed and steepend andthe bodies started flying everywhere.I shot past Jamie and headed for the rest for the group who were waiting a short distance dow the trail, I fucked up on a left hander and took off the edge of a bridge, managing to land a four foot drop off saw me heading for he Kiwi who was standing on the racing line, I caught the back of his rucksack with my bar end and flew gracefully into the dirt, not a bad landing considering, except that I landed on the day 1 injuries, it smarted.Fuckin Kiwis!Gerrof my line.

The known single track finished at a wide double track road that would take us down to the hotel for the night at Aguacatan, however the single track continues, its just that Matt has never ridden the trail before and does not know what to expect or were it comes out, after asking a local little old lady he establishes the track does indeed take us were we want to go, but we could not possible ride it as it is very rocky, perfect.The track soon split and we spent a while working out which way to go.The first and only rain of the trip started to fall and Guatamalan mud proved to be pretty sticky. As we descended it seemed the entire hillside was coming out to look at us, Matt told us we were probably the first gringos some of them had seen, this was the first time this trail would have been ridden.

Saturday proves to be the hardest ride of the trip 37 miles with 1850m of ascending and 1565 descending, taking about 5 hours in all.For the first time the morning is cool and overcast as we start to climb on wide double track, the first 9 miles climbs about 300m before the sun comes out and the temperatures soar again as we descend to a river and the base of the biggest climb of the trip, 10m in temperatures around 36 degrees, the hill just goes on and on, John reports at gradients of 25%.After a short flatish section and a bit of downhill we climb again into cloud for the last big descent of the day, very fast, very rocky and very cold, by the bottom I have to peel my fingers from round the bars.We overnight in Nebaj

Sunday, the day starts with the previous days descent, once the climb is out of the way the day is mainly downhill, huge views, a couple of short single track excursions, a hot 3 mile climb and overnight at Uspantan

The final days ride started off just outside Coban, along the busy main road through another small town and onto a dirt road taking us through more coffee plantations, everyone got a right wriggle on whether it was because everyone knew it was the last proper ride of the holiday or that there was a chance of going tubing in the afternoon, either way we rode the first section quickly so Matt suggested we head straight to the hotel and had lunch there.

Holi arrange lunch by the river and as soon as we finished the first wave of tuber hit the water, floating gently downstream through the occasional rapid and steep sided gorges to the get out, were the tubes were thrown on the bus back for another go, Mena swam the whole section and sat most of the second session out on Holi's lap, just tubing. That night is a bit of a blur, but I am sure we had a load off beer. Th ehotel staff seemed to start work about 5am the next morning so it was a bit of a rude wake up call having pots and pans slammed round the kitchen, which appeared to be next door, apparantley they thought we were awake, even ear pugs could not keep the noise at bay. A select few gathered with their bikes to ride to the river and the Limetsone bridge, those with a little less energy sat the trip out in the back of a truck, if Matt was in a truck that told me all I needed to know. Hol was the injured soldier today, her arm hanging limply by her side, the evils of drink, old Suck em Dry took a tumble on the way back to the hotel landing heavily on her right shoulder, rendering it next to useless. The Limestone bridge is mighty impressive, the river disappears under it for about a quarter of a mile before remerging, whats left on top of the bridge is a serie of plunge pools, still clear warm water you only see at the movies, cool as. We lunched away from the hotel and headed for the straw hut hippy place just the other side of town were the beer just flowed and flowed, Jamie managed to fall out of the roof and landed on the Kiwi, no injuries tho. I managed not to fall out of the roof and we all headed back to the hotel leaving Jamie asleep in a hammock, were he woke up the next morning. I dutifully nipped over there on the bike to make sure he was alive and managed to scoff my way through the biggest pancake fruit breakfast you have ever seen.

The trip back in the busses was boring and hot, then hot and boring, back into Antuiga for a few beers and food. Saturday morning, and it was a choice , a tour round the coffee plantation or another volcanoe ride. The road climb out of town was a bit of a killer but the single track traverse and descent more than made up for it, as always, hot and dusty as hell but it provided some great video shots for Andy's video.

For sheer riding this trip provided some of the best trails I have come across, mainly dusty single and double tracks.

Matt at Old Town Outfitters knows his stuff and will show you the best trails in the region,