Page 19: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
Guatemala: Panajachel (Pana)
Friday is the big market day in the city of Solola and this is considered one of the best markets around. Say no more, Heidi and I pay the 33 cents for the chicken bus ride to Solola.
On the way to the bus stop we see someone squeezing fresh orange juice. We can’t pass that up…..
The chicken bus was just over half full. It’s all up hill to Solola, steep with constant switchbacks. We couldn’t believe how the driver just whipped the steering wheel around those turns. I say “He’s going faster then we do on the bike” Heidi says “Yeah, he’s a young kid and cranking American rap music” I say “For sure. I wonder what the ride back down the hill will be like”
We made it. Heidi and I wait while people start unloading their stuff from the overheads. A women about 4 foot zero was trying to grab a large round bucket sitting over us. I attempted to move it more forward, closer to her but it wouldn’t budge. I said to myself ‘Holy crap!’ and jumped up to help her. I barely lift the thing over the rack and she grabs it and rests it on top of her head. It had to be at least 50 pounds. She thanks me and marches off the bus balancing the bucket on her head.
There is a lot of activity around the Solola market.
The crowd looks impenetrable. Heidi finally finds an open path directly to the center square of the park. I’m thinking ‘maybe we don’t want to go to the center’ We’ve heard stories of the huge crowds and pick-pocketing here. I stay quiet.
The central park square was crowded but manageable. I could feel our eyes bug way out as we walked up onto the square, dozens and dozens of traditionally dressed indigenous Guatemaltecos, all very distinct and proud looking. We look so ‘way different’ than everyone else here, but we’ve been in these kind of situations often enough. We cruise straight through acting as natural as possible to the other side and straight to the heart of the market (I wish I could have gotten a photo but we felt it would have showed disrespect here). Wow, this is not for the faint of heart. Getting pinned in with people pushing you from all corners, trying to move out of the way of woman carrying large buckets on their heads or some guy carrying a large sack of something on his back. This is not what we want.
Stopping to look at something was a big deal. A woman was cutting up papaya and we wanted some but it was in the densest traffic area. We tried to stop but soon gave up, it was just too brutal.
Heidi did get a chance to look at some pretty earrings. She looked at several, the guy showed her several and I could tell she was ready to walk away. I bend over and ask the guy how much “cuanto” 65 cents. I immediately tell Heidi "the blue ones would look beautiful on you" (big spender, wink) That brought back her interest. She walks away a happy girl with new 65 cents earrings.
Before we walked away an older guy at the counter warned Heidi to not put them in her pocket, instead carry them in a bag. He said there are robbers here, while motioning pick-pocketing.
Yesterday while closing my tool bag the strap that holds it onto the bike broke. I see this guy with tons of small belts. I test one that looks like an exact replacement but stronger, nice. $1.30 and I have a new tool bag strap.
Ohh, this is where all the color in peoples cloths come from……
Chickens, geese, turkeys and who knows what. This is how some of them ride on the bus.
We feel battered and bruised, But we made it out.
Time to take a little walking tour around the village. We pass a small church with its doors open. I walk up front to the counter where some candles are burning. I do a ‘sign of the cross’ over my chest and deposit a couple coins in the donation box. On the way out Heidi was waiting at the door, we whisper a few words (I don’t know why we were whispering) and I look over and see this. I say to Heidi “These are chicken pews” I’ve never heard of or read about ‘chicken pews’ but that’s what these have to be. They are loaded with chicken poop and feathers. I want to know more……….
A lot of the people selling stuff in Guatemala have these balance scales made out of a stick, some rope and two equally sized buckets. I always thought a known sized weight must get placed in one bucket but here I saw grain in both buckets while a woman was measuring out a sale. ??
Getting on a bus back to Pana is easy. Just go to the bus area and get on the one where the guy is yelling out “Pana!, Pana!”
Wow, if you are into amusement park roller coasters, don’t miss the chicken bus ride from Solola to Panajachel. Ya know, when you are racing down a super steep run and you say to yourself “we can’t possibly make this turn” but then you make it. The whole ride is like that.
The woman in the photo wasn’t standing for very long…….
Of course when we get home I noticed that I got pick-pocketed, my reading glasses and case got snatched from my front thigh pocket. And I thought I was immune because of the precautions I take.
The next day we are on the road early going the long way around the lake shooting for a small but popular village, San Pedro la Laguna. It was a beautiful ride with a lot of hills and sharp turns.
I get a ‘double jab’ from Heidi. Yes, we do need to stop for a few pics.
As we were approaching another small village on the lake we see a bunch of people bathing, washing cloths and we assume washing dishes also. We wonder if that’s a thermal spring they are centered around.
The roads and villages are getting more primitive looking the farther we get. On the outside of one village we see a sign ‘S Pedro la Laguna 15’ The road turns to dirt. The photos do not do justice describing how steep and rugged the road is. Huge rocks, washouts, gullies, and super steep. We thought this road went around the big volcano not over it. At one point we think we were up at the top of the volcano.
After one unreal climb spitting rocks out with our rear tire, turning left, right, left, right, left, right the whole time, we paused. We had to let this truck that was ahead of us gain some distance, I needed to go faster than him to keep balance and my R’s up so I wouldn’t have to clutch. Anyway, after one pause Heidi voiced her concern. After the next unreal ‘competition like hill climb’ we pause again. Now I voiced my concern, I said “If we get to another one like that we are turning around” No argument from Heidi.
When we were pausing earlier, this truck passed us. As they were passing they stopped and asked if we needed any help. How nice…..
The road didn’t get any worse and I had no problem hammering up the remaining hills. We were glad to see pavement starting several miles before San Pedro la Laguna.
Guatemala coffee beans: Hard to see but that’s them on the left.
We are seeing a lot of people on the road now carrying huge loads of wood and who knows what.
San Pedro la Laguna:
We stop at the center of town right in front of a sign that says ‘Espresso Cafe’ We order a couple and I walk up the hill and inquire about a hotel. I come back and this woman is asking Heidi if she needs a mechanic, Saying this guy will do anything, oil change or whatever, his name is Indie ?? Later, Indie came by asking me the same thing. I politely said “No, but thanks” giving him a smile. While walking away he turns and says “Are you sure you don’t need a mechanic? Your riding a Harley aren’t you” A nanosecond later I fire back “Your living in the past”
What a place. It’s like we were dropped out of a time capsule back in the 60’s. Hippies abound, young and old, drugs, sex and Rock and Roll is still the mantra, which only adds to the whole ambience. We talked with several people while hanging out here. One guy raised his eyebrows when we told him we rode clockwise around the lake. He said the cops don’t even go down that road. People seemed to enjoy checking out our Wisconsin license plate.
Fresh banana bread, 65 cents. Can’t pass that up…… This is Manual.
The hotel is just up the hill.
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