Okay so I’m fully aware that I’ve been far too lax in my posts… But you go ahead and try to take the computer away from Brandon some time.
I’ve got it now… but mostly because we’ve finally made it to Lanquin and he has celebrated in such a way that as soon as happy hour was finished… so was he.
So why celebrate? Well frankly, If you’re reading this, You’ve probably read a good portion of Freewheelings, at the very least, the latest few installments regarding our wreck and the ensuing adventures. We’ve finally made it. That 90 mile stretch we’ve been working on for the better part of a week, we are at the initially determined destination! So a quick overview from my side of things:
well… I say quick…
Five days ago, we once again packed up our moto and headed out for an exciting new destination. Generally we try to pick places/areas based on something of interest nearby, or recommendation from someone we meet on our way. Often times we like to choose places that may not necessarily have roads (on the map) leading to them. Lanquin was one of the latter type. Chosen for it’s proximity to whitewater, caves, hiking, etc. It promised to meet back up with the backpacker trail a bit but with much to offer to make it well worth the return to the tourist zone.
We left El Estor at length, having waited out the rain, and headed down the road to where the pavement ends… Initially not too bad, having been prepped for improvement, the road allowed us a fairly decent pace, warm sun on our faces,wind in our hair… things were going great. Then the bike started acting strange. We had filled up the tank on the way out of town and it was acting as if empty. We pulled over and poked around trying to figure out the issue. Eventually, a mechanic showed up and offered to help. It seems that having been there 15, 20 minutes, one of the locals took it upon himself to mention our apparent situation. After a while, it is determined that our radiator is flithy and we’ve overheated. We had been standing still perhaps an hour, and I’ve shared all of my hard candies with the local kids who wandered up curious about los gringos, our moto starts right up again. We confirm our directions with el mechanico and head out once again on our way.
Lost in the vistas, forgetting at times to lean forward to aid in our ascension. We catch up to a pair of big trucks and take breaks as to avoid literally eating their dust. The road, while steep, rutted, rocky, and in generally bad condition, is dry at this point. We make our way through several small villages, at each, we are a curiosity, obviously our visit is not normal. People hear us coming and are shocked to see two gringos ride by. Children wave excitedly, I wave back, feeling like a princess on a parade float. on a few occasions kids come running out of their little houses and chase us down the road until they can’t keep up.
We finally crest the mountain and the view is astonishing. I climb to the top of a boulder for photos: 360 view
Headed back down now… we’re on the shady side of the mountain, things get wet, sticky, mucky. I get off the bike and walk a bit, better safe than sorry.
When it’s dry I hop back on, we continue. Repeat this sequence a few times. The road climbs again, seems to improve, we hit some mud, I’m about to offer to hop off again and WhaBAM!
We are in the mud.
I take the photo, we’re going to want it later… That’s a lot of oil…. Crap. Okay we’ll set up camp. I’ll go mention it to those locals, to be polite, if this is someone’s yard… “Buenas tardes, nuestros moto se rompio. Esta bien si nos encampamientamos?” crickets. “Se habla usted Espanol?” ‘No.’ waggle of an index finger, giggle giggle something in a mayan dialect.” perfect. “Brandon, we’re in a Mayan village, they don’t speak Spanish” We set up camp anyway. We don’t have much choice, it’s getting dark. Enter our audience.
In what to these folks must be a strange role reversal, I set up the tent and Brandon makes dinner. When our food is about ready, the tent up in a corner of the clearing and someone who speaks Spanish joins the crowd which has gathered to watch what we gringos are up to. He kindly offers us a place to sleep and I express my thanks but decline, pointing out our tent in the growing shadows, telling him, “Tenemos una casita.”(We have a little house) Looking back, I’m fairly sure this was our soon to be friend from the tienda about 500meters down the road with whom we’d become acquainted the following morning.
We hang around the store all day, people seem to come in groups or not at all… In the afternoon, la senora starts weaving some beautiful fabric and gives me a crash course in making and using a loom.
Late in the day we are informed that there will be many trucks going to town the following day to take the villagers to market, If we got on the first one, there would be room and will only 100Q ($12.50) this could be arranged for just 10Q. by the way, this camion leaves at 3am.
We set up camp on the patio when the store closes (with permission, of course) pack up for morning, planning to go to bed in our clothes. the neighborhood kids arrive to meet the gringos, apparently the don’t bother them decree has been lifted (this is assumption of course, but with a community gathering, there weren’t adults around to scold them) we laugh and chat with them for a while, they speak as much or less spanish than I and it’s a challenge to communicate, but less stressful than with adults because kids just don’t care as much. Then Brandon breaks out the firecrackers.. It take a while after that silliness to get the kids to realize we mean it when we say okay enough, we’ve got to get up really early. but eventually, they wander off once they realize “No hay mas cuetes.”
At 3am I wake with the roosters, I didn’t sleep well, I was too worried about missing our ride. We load up on the truck when it arrives an hour later. Sketchy… The sacos de cardamomo, which are assisting our cam straps in holding the bike in place, smell amazing. The ride, giving any gnarly river shuttle ride a run for it’s money, and mostly in the dark, has me wearing a goofy grin and giggles for the entire two+ hour trip. We realize the wreck was a divine intervention.
If we thought loading the bike with a 1’x10’ for a ramp in the dark was iffy… try sliding it down a 1’x8’ plank backward with the ramp being held in the air by half a dozen guys until the bike is totally off the truck so that it doesn’t catch the undercarriage on the way out. Did I mention the bed of this truck is at about my shoulder height?
Holy Poo! It is now about 7am and we need a beer. We settle for bad coffee with our breakfast of huevos con frijoles.
Two days in Cahabon, the hotel is across the street from the mechanic. It’s got a fantastic view of town. The owner, Victor, seems to know EVERYBODY. He’s super nice. Brandon quickly befriends the mechanic who speaks fairly decent English. The rest of the guys in the shop quickly get to like him as well when he teaches them a new phrase, “pain in the ass.” Who doesn’t love learning to curse in foreign languages? Shortly thereafter, you hear them all saying it and laughing like little boys who think they’re not being watched.
Local delicacy here is fried chicken…. actually, that’s about all you can find to eat around here other than huevos con frijoles. There really are no restaurants in Cahabon. We gain a crowd of truly pathetic looking stray dogs as we eat standing near the center of the crowded market. In spanish, I say something like, “you think just because we’re white…?” which elicits a laugh from a fruit vendor who had been sort of heckling us earlier. He tells me I’m eating dog. I translate this for Brandon who mimes to the dogs (who have circled us like seagulls with a popcorn vendor) that they’re next in the grease. This gets a grin out of the girl selling the fried chicken who until this point had been fairly stoic, and a big laugh out of our heckler who is still trying to sell me a whole watermelon.
The motorcycle shop is closed …we’re stuck here another day. Brandon finds us an activity. Kukaan , a local cenote/ swimming hole fed by a beautiful little waterfall in a valley outside (and upstream)of town. There is an honest to god chance that we are the only gringos to ever splash in this creek. Brandon also learned a new trick, apparently if you get caught pinching your nipples by a Mayan woman, she’ll give you bananas.
Victor had given us a ride to the cenote, our first time in a car since San Antonio, Tx. We hiked back up the hill and into the edge of town, getting to experience again, the realization that we are THE ONLY gringos some of the children we pass have ever seen you can just see it in their eyes, it’s neat. Once in town we hop in a tuktuk (rickshaw) and got a ride back to the hotel the name of which we didn’t know for 5 quetzales. “hotel de Victor” worked like a charm, everybody knows this guy!
This morning the motorcycle shop opens back up and we expect to still need to take a part to the welder. To our surprise and delight, it’s been done. The bike is fixed and it only cost about $25US That’s a darn bargain.
We pack up and get directions out of town. we make it perhaps half a mile from town before the first ugly mud patch.
Oh no… not again… I’d been saying since we’d arrived that we need to arrange a truck out of town. We pull into the gasolinera and fill up. I ask about the road to Lanquin… Es malo. Are there any trucks that go there? No hay. “…”
We sit on the short wall in front of the gas station, me with my english/spanish dictionary, and watch the tuktuks go by… Should have traded the bike for one of those…I go back to the attendant and try again… “We need to get a ride to Lanquin, our bike is too big and made for paved highways.” Es muy dificil… I go back to the wall…
A pickup truck with a long empty bed pulls in for gas. I ask the driver(probably 17 years old) Are you going to Lanquin? No. “Do you want to?” he laughs. “ We will pay you.” …Si, ok. He makes a phone call, unloads his passenger into a tuktuk, we load up using the oilchange ramp,strap her in tight and off we go.
I ride the entire way standing in the back of the truck. The views are amazing, and incredibly, this is the worst looking stretch of road yet. Did I mention it rained last night? Totally worth Q400 ($50) besides, camping two days saved us about that much anyway.
2:30 pm, we’re in Lanquin with a room at an ecohotel on the beautiful blue Rio Cahabon. Unloading was fairly straight forward, there was a small hill inside the entrance, and 2’x12’s sitting nearby. the bike was facing backward in the truck so Brandon just drove her out.
We go into town for lunch, eat our fill of good food and return to the hotel for a nap…First we wander down toward the river.Instead of a nap we end up with some locally made (from scratch) chocolate and start celebrating… (Who am I kidding? I had 2 pina coladas at lunch)There are a bunch of other English speaking travelers here, but we’re the only ones from the states. This place has a great vibe. We’ve already made some friends and have plans to go caving tomorrow afternoon… by the time happy hour is over, I manage to coerce Brandon back up to the room and into taking the first hot shower in weeks. by 8:45 he’s snoring away. Now that I’m done with this novel, I’m going to join him.
we made it.
Incidentally, during happy hour here, Cuba Libres (aka rum and coke with lime) costs 10Q that’s approximately $1.25 and they’re similar to how I pour them. As a result, Brandon is currently snoring away contentedly next to me… I’d take a photo… but no…