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Rumble in the Jungle, El Mirador

11 Jun

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A combination of all of this made my thinking very irrational or perhaps I just refused to give up. I decided to head out towards El Mirador. Not knowing the way, no civilization, no signal, an hour of daylight left and 60km of a narrow rocky path. Within miles I know I’m not going any further. I passed 2 junctions already with no idea if I am on the correct one. The path is now only a hair wider than the bike with boulders spicing things up. Trying to turn around the bike goes down. All right. I knew I will have to muster up what’s left. I left the bike in the sleeping position for about 5 minutes to get a breather. A little struggle and up it went and now to finish the 30 point U turn. El Mirador will be conquered next time. Assessing the damage, the luggage box must have picked the pointiest rocks to fall on putting a huge dent right in the middle and the other bending the bottom of the box to a point where it separated the seams. Woohoo. I got what I asked for. I am mad at my own stupidity. I run from Carmelita. My body and brain all go into emergency mode and gather strength from I don’t know where. What took me 3 hours before, I just did in just over an hour. I completely forgot that I could have stayed at the rancho there or pitch and ran for Isla Flores. I have never bottomed out the shocks on this 20 000km trip. During this hour alone, hitting speeds up to 100km/h, I bottomed out the front 8 times and even the rear once upon a landing. I make town just after dark almost dropping the bike at one of the roundabouts in town. My almost non existent rear tire must be getting to the last bit I’m thinking. Hotel Green World. Finally. Same place even the same room Alex and stayed four months ago. Anxious to get to bed I go outside to start the bike to drive it into the reception again. For those catching up now. Isla Flores is a picture perfect little island on Lake Petén with colourfull colonial homes and hotels pretty much glued on each other. No front yards, no backyards. I turn the key and nada. No way I’m thinking. After all this? Tried again and nothing. Not even the dash lights up. Well, I do like this place. I push the bike inside the reception and park it. No point of thinking about it today anymore. Almost 400km today with 75% in the dirt. I undress my bike gear and no food, no shower, exhausted I fall asleep.

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I don’t like tasking on an empty stomach so I go around the corner to get something in my stomach and in front of the hotel next to mine I see a guy mingling with a Suzuki Vstrom. Fellow rider from Georgia tackling on Central America. As it turns out, Ray, had a little mishap on the way to Samuc Champey. The same place where my headlight and front caliper fell off four months ago, Ray dropped his bike there and was stuck for 6 hours. He broke the shifter but unbelievably he carried a spare. The bikes get an unreal beating here.

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Stomach is now satisfied, now to the electrical problem. Within minutes it’s eureka as I realize it’s just a negative connection that must have gone loose on my insane trip back from El Mirador. Thinking back now I realize just how crazy yesterday was. Easy fix. I strap my bags on, put my gear on and ready to make way for Belize. I get the bike off the center stand and try to push it out of the reception but the thing does not want to move. Now what? Within seconds my eye catches the flat front tire. I must have punctured it last night coming back I’m thinking. Now it makes sense why I almost dropped the machine on the round about last night. I must have been riding almost on flat. No problem, I got a tire kit. But what the hell is this?? I notice the front rim is completely bent open about an inch from its original shape. Yup, I think I remember which pot hole that was. This could be a real delay.

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Head down I go back to the room to take all the bike gear off again. The hotel owner offered to call her mechanic last night when I had the what I thought electrical issue. After a short conversation he points me in the right direction. Or so I thought. I pop the front wheel off along with the bent left luggage box and jump in a tuk tuk to take me to a wheel repair shop. Upon arrival the driver and I realize that it’s just a tire shop. “I need somebody who can heat aluminium and bend this thing back”, I’m explaining to the owner as he’s filling the tire with air to check for anymore leaks. We submerge the wheel into the water tank and more problems. The tire is fine. It’s the rim that’s leaking. It must have been such an impact that it created crack through the rim, right at one of the ten spokes. Staring at him I say, “now I need someone who can weld aluminium also” He seems to know someone just down the street, so we pop the tire off and back in the tuk tuk again.
The place sells hydraulic lines and has some lathes in the back. One guy is saying yes, one no, as I explain to them what I need done. Like synchronized bobbing heads, bobbing in different directions. “I can do it”, a voice from the back that must have been listening to us. As the bobbing heads make room, out comes the biggest and dirtiest Guatemalan I have seen yet. “I can do it, come back in an hour” he repeats. With some hesitation but little choice I leave the bent rim and the luggage and head off to find an inner tube. Just in case the rim still leaks, I would prefer to have one in there. No more off roading I’m promising myself. I’m staying on asphalt all the way to Canada. Within an hour I’m picking up my items. Wow. Asides from a few spots where the hammer struck, the box is resembling its original shape. The rim, the rim! Let me see the rim!! Have I had not known where the impact was, I would have not been able to tell. The crack was cut into and refilled with aluminium. The heat treatment to bend it back scorched a lot of the paint but he took his time to sand and repaint with matching paint. Genius. “That will be $25, is it ok?” The big guy says. Not only would I never say no to him, I was refraining myself from giving him a friendly punch how happy I was. In Canada it would be way over $100 with leaving the rim there for a few days. Ok, back to the tire place, assemble it all with the inner tube and back to the hotel…

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Guatemala/ Isla de Flores Dec/28/2012

30 Dec

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I forgot to mention that, despite its bad rep, both Alex and I were extremely impressed with Mexico. Towns, especially in the south were super clean. I have even seen encouragement for recycling. Nothing but friendly people along the way and wherever we hung out. Even though we probably broke the traffic laws a few hundred times with or without the presence of the police, there was never any trouble nor bribes necessary. Police was always friendly and helpful. Despite thousands of topes (speed bumps) we have gone over, Mexico is in my top ten.
Remember Jim and his wife, the club owners that we met at Chichen Itzá? I got an email from him that he featured us on the club sites. www.musclebikesofamerica.com and www.musclecarsofamerica.com Thanks Jim. I will be sending the photos shortly.

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We pack up and head out towards the Guatemalan border about 100km away. We drop by at a hotel/ restaurant about 20km from the border to get a coffee. Coincidentally, the South African owner was from Boquete, Panamá and we had a lot of friends in common especially from the bike club there, the Macho Montes.
Again, easy border. By now we are getting into the routine. In and out. Having no lineups really helps. Thus far, the Canada to US border was by far the most dreadful.
Beside us pulls up an old school, camo KLR with Ontario plates. Blake is an awesome dude from Ottawa that has been doing the same trip and has been on the road four months now. We drive together about 80km to Isla de Flores. Amazing town on a lake island. Very reminiscent to old Quebec. Narrow cobble stone streets with music coming out of the tons of restaurants and bars. In someway I feel pity for people who buy into prepackaged vacations in the ordinary vacation spots. We have hit dozens of magical spots along the way that are easily accessible for single travelers, couples and families on any budget.
We settled in a nice hotel for only $30 a night overlooking the lake and backing onto one of these cobble stone streets. Due to its tiny size, there is no back nor front yards on Isla de Flores so the nice lady let Alex park his bike right in the front lobby and I drove mine down the hallway right up to the room.

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After the usual stroll through this beautiful island town, we set out to the boardwalk where there is dozens of stands and vendors selling local food. For 10 Quetzales (equivalent to about $1.25) I had a filing supper of 6 tostadas with just about every possible topping. And I was told it gets cheaper the further south we go.
We meet up with Blake and head the bar district to share many amazing stories and many more beers.

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