Touching a hurricane, Riding to Xela. Guatemala.
I left San Pedro la Laguna at 10am.Â The rain started minutes later, and steadily increased in fortitude. When I was stopped by construction 30 minutes later, it was a solid deluge of water from the sky. And now I was just standing around in it.
I eventually made it out of the switchbacks to the highway, finally able to soak up the rain at much greater velocity. I had opted not to bother with the rain proof lining of my riding pants, as they had proved not to work back in Mexico. The water soaked through my riding pants to the point that water ran down my legs, filling my boots, my right one less than my left of course. My Jacket was still waterproof.Â It was, now less so. With the amount of water I was riding through, I’m sure just what ran down the front of my neck was enough to soak everything on the inside. I’m really sure of that actually. It was like what I imagined riding through a Hurricane would be like, only without as much wind.
Hurricane Barbarahit land on the Oaxaca coast on May 29th. It was barely even a Hurricane. (Category one hurricane cut-off: 74mph winds. Hurricane Barbara: 75mph winds). Where I was the winds didn’t seem that much worse than a standard issue storm.
It was the rain that got me, and caused most of the problems Barbara caused: lots of flooding in Mexico. I’m whining about a barely category 1 storm that I wasn’t even close to. I have now lost all thoughts that it “might be interesting”, and thus DO NOT want to encounter a storm at full force this trip.
So why was I riding in complete and utter misery while a barely– hurricane was spraying rain all over me? So I could go make fun of Alexander, of course, and Alex was in “Quetzaltenango” (commonly known as “Xela” by everyone who ever has to write it).
Alexander had recently had a crash when he encountered a patch of spilled diesel fuel on the highway. While his bike suffered some harsh cosmetic damage, Alexander came out mostly unscathed. Being the good friend I am, I rode up to scathe him in a friendly, put-your-head-on-my-shoulder-so-I-can-laugh-at-you-to-sleep, what-friends-are-for type of way. I also had his share of the care-package our parents delivered to Cozumel, and I needed to pass his parts on to him before Jayne and IÂ headed south.
I couch-surfed Alexander’s couch-surf, and though I got a bit sick from my ride through the rain, we had a fun 3 days catching up. We also had the most productive day I’ve had this trip. Standard expectation in latin america is that you can expect to get one thing done each day. If you do that, you’re doing well. Alexander and I got NINE things done, none of them small items, and all completed in a short break in the downpour from Barbara:
-We took Alex’s bike, Georgia, out for a test ride.
-We took Alex’s bike back in for repairs (of the ‘repairs’)
-Alex ordered replacement license plate ordered for Alex’s stolen plate (lost in Mexico)
-We made indistinguishable colourÂ copies made of Alex’s title
-We had both of our damaged shoes taken in for repairs
-Alex had a haircut
-We bought groceries in the market
-I siliconed all the holes closed on my right boot. The “speed holes” ventilation experiment was officially a failure.
-Number one top task of the day: A new reinforcement bar custom made and welded onto my rear rack.
Ever since before Mirador, and certainly afterwards, my boxes have been bending inwards from repeated drops and beatings. It was bad enough at one point that the left box was hitting the swingarm over bumps. Sure I could stop dropping my bike and bending the boxes back out. OR I could have the rack re-inforced so that it looked and worked like everyone elses. I’ll take option number two please.
This gentleman was incredible. He dropped everything he was doing when I walked in the door and custom built me a new reinforcement bar. Measured, bent, cut, welded AND airbrushed in a little over an hour. For 40 Quetzals. That’s just over 6$. Six! While some things in Guatemala haven’t been as cheap as had been foretold, services here are fast AND great workmanship.
After our incredible productive day of triumph, the rains came back, as hard as before, so we played cards for two days.
In that time of playing of cards, we were able to meet up with Hugo from KLR Moto Adventure club of Xela.
Hugo invited us over for breakfast with his family before we left town, then joined us as a KLR trio to the highway.
Alex and I had been gifted with the first sunny day in a week when we rode out of Xela. Sadly the sun wasn’t to stay. I had been hoping to head inland to experience Semuc Champey, while Alex was heading for his first time to the lake. Sitting at the turn off going back to Lago Atitlan, I watched the clouds darkening, covering the sky where the sun had just been moments earlier. I din’t want to go back down to the lake. As nice as it is, I had already been there three times. I hadn’t yet been to Semuc Champey, and heard such great things about it. We were short on time in Guatemala (Real-sized Kelly had booked a flight to Nicaragua where we were to meet her. We had a schedule again). If I didn’t go to Semuc Champey today, I wouldn’t get to go. I looked at the clouds again.
Semuc Champey was another 4 hours away… when the road are dry. The thought of riding through a storm again, when my boots had still not yet dried from the first one, while still getting over the cold Barbara gave me, was too much for me. I didn’t want to go through it all again, not this soon.
I rode with Alexander back down to the lake. We just made it when the skies once again opened. I probably made the right call.
(Note: Since I’m writing this so far in the “future”, I can happily tell you I did indeed make the right call. I would find out days later that Semuc Champey had been hit HARD by the storm, was completely flooded and closed to the public. I would have ridden 4 hours in the rain only to have to turn around and ride back.)