A constant aggravation for our trip has been needing to get things done during the weekend. It was Saturday when we left Semuc Champey and we had to stop at three shops and ask around to find a place that would take a look at the DR.
The front wheel was bent out of shape and six of the spokes were in need of repair or replacement. The forks, which had been bent nearly straight still needed work. Even the front axle had been bent. But all said and done, for what had happened to it, it wasn’t that bad off.
The garage we found that was still open and willing to work was a bit different from most of the garages we’d been to. Instead of girly calenders on the walls, there were hand painted scenes of rivers and mountains. They had Bible verses on the walls and used cleaner language than most mechanics we’d met. They were also really nice and fun to talk to, but that’s been our experience with just about all garages to this point.
They worked on it for a few hours and had it looking a lot better, but they made us promise to return on Monday so that they could fix the forks.
We left there and headed towards Jenna and Geoffery’s. They promised us a home-cooked meal and a house to stay in for the night, so spirits were high.
The food was great and it was good to finally have time to talk. Between them leaving for Guatemala City and us heading to Semuc Champey, we hadn’t really had a chance to yet. By the end of the night we also had two new activities for the orphanage. We were going to continue the fencing with an outer line of barbed wire and would visit with the dump kids.
So, the next morning, we attended their church, went back to the house, packed up, charged our electronics, and headed to the orphanage construction site to camp. It was getting dark when we arrived, but with headlamps, machetes, mallet, nails, wedge shaped 2x4s, and a roll of barbed-wire we went to work. Half of it had been dismantled by locals a long time ago for shortcuts to their homes and the rest was overgrown with bushes and grass that had almost done just a good a job of rendering it ineffective. I think we terrified a good few people walking next to the road that night, but we also accomplished our goal and repaired and, in some areas, rebuilt the fence.
We were also being rained on during this time. The rain never really got that heavy around there, though. Eventually, someone told us that in K’iche’, the old Mayan language, of which many in the area still speak, this is called “cheepy-cheepy” – a thick, nearly constant, rainy fog. We hate cheepy-cheepy.
We slept in the second story of what will soon by Jenna and Geoffery’s home and woke up the next morning ready to head to the dump. The reason there are children at the dump is because their parents work there. A small school was built there as a way to accommodate them, but, as one might guess, it’s not the best environment.
The dump is exactly what you would expect. Piles of trash everywhere. Wandering the road ahead as we drove up to some buildings within the dump, were scores of vultures. We got out of the car and walked up some stairs to get to a small blue building on top of a hill. Inside we met the children.
We told them about our journey, answered questions, and played duck, duck, goose and musical chairs. It was an unforgettable experience. Aaron made good friends with a little girl who was normally very shy and didn’t talk much.
We felt sad to leave them, but had promised to return to work on the bikes back at the garage.
I’d been having chain problems for a while that I knew were because of the sprockets being worn down, but I was trying to avoid changing them out for as long as I could. Since the work was getting done on Aaron’s DR, it seemed like I might as well use the time to take care of that.
In the end, they replaced the front and rear sprockets, the chain, and my rear bearings (which I did not know was a problem at that time). We’d been carrying these for most the trip, so in a way it was just good to not be carrying the extra weight. In another way, it’s a bit frightening not carrying spares.
I also changed my rear tire there. The tire I’d been riding had been a source of concern for lots of people who’d seen it ever since Denver. Just about everyone that gave it a good looking over would point and say that I needed to replace it. I got a lot of good miles out of it, but with the promise of more difficult terrain ahead, I felt good about finally changing it out. And, again, it was nice to not strapping an extra tire to the back of my bike.
Aaron still has his two from San Diego strapped to his (Avon Distencias). He changed front and rear in Denver. He bought the cheapest he could find (Shinkos) expecting them not to last long, but they’ve been surprisingly durable… well, the rear lasted to Colombia.
We left the shop around 2pm after paying a laughable bill of about $55 for all the work and parts for the bikes, thinking that we probably weren’t going to make it all the way to Antigua, but we wanted to get as many miles in before dark as possible.
That didn’t really turn out to be that far, but we did make it to a national park area up in the mountains. We finally found a place that looked suitable and pulled over. After seeing the land and the room, we knew we wanted to stay there. After hearing the price, we decided we couldn’t. But after some awkward/funny conversation with the staff and a phone call to their bilingual friend that was really exactly the same as the conversation we had with the staff, we agreed to camp there for about a third of the price of the room.
The woman on the phone was horrified when she learned that we weren’t there to see the fauna and flora. The place, apparently, is where several universities go to study plant and animal life. I think it’s also one of the only places you can go to see a Quatzale. It’s a colorful bird with really long tail-feathers. It’s also the name of the currency in Guatemala and it’s likeness is on all the bills.
Despite her horror, we left after eating breakfast there and headed towards Antigua. Guatemala City was on the way, though, and Aaron still wasn’t completely satisfied with the DR, so we stopped at a Suzuki dealership. They told us they couldn’t help us there, but two of the staff jumped on a moto and led us to the biggest, nicest Suzuki office/dealership/garage we’d ever seen. They even had couches, coffee, and The Bucket List playing in Spanish on a large TV. I’ve never seen the The Bucket List, but Aaron had a few a times, so he was nice enough to translate.
After believing that Aaron had explained the problems as well as he could, we left in search of a restaurant with Wi-fi. Shamefully, this often being our necessity while on the road, it leads to eating at places like McDonald’s and Wendy’s instead of local eateries. This time, we went to Taco Bell.
On the way back we called my friend, David Shinabarger, to apologize for not calling earlier and tell him we’d be a day late. He said it was alright, he just assumed something terrible had happened to us.
When we returned to the Suzuki garage, we learned that Aaron did not convey his problem well enough. While they had successfully replaced the spokes that the other shop could not, they could not grasp that Aaron wanted them to fix his handlebars. This led to a frustrating series of conversations and demonstrations that ended in nothing being done to help the situation.
We left soon after and were in Antigua within 45 minutes. It was easy, despite there being heavy, heavy, traffic. We raced between lanes and made great time.