The day had started well. We ordered breakfast in our local rooftop cafe and did a bit of stretching & yoga whilst admiring the volcano view (sounds a bit ponsy eh?). The kidney beans and fried eggs on a tortilla set us up nicely for the day, or so we thought.
The first hill had me. We were (well I was) dying within 10km of the hotel! Lots of negative thoughts were going through my head- "we've bitten off more than we can chew, we should have brought bikes with lower gears, we've got too much shite with us...." Finally we made it up to the crest and joined the highway, we were actually glad to be on it!
Now I'm a bit bah humbug but Santa is taking it a bit far I reckon!
Roadworks slowed everyone down and for a while we were the fastest moving vehicles out there. Then the climb started. Not too steep but by noon we'd come up 600m again.
Another pee stop
Finding lunch in Patzicia was hard work and rubbish. I'm not sure how but we ended up pushing the bikes through the local market. We squeezed through. Stepping over fruit & veg laid out in bowls on the floor and pushing past stalls of plastic toot and all kinds of crap. Tourists would have been very happy if their bus & guide had brought them there. It was the real mc coy. Wizened women, crowded, colourful and hectic. For us it was a right pain in the arse trying not to tromp on bowls of veg as we attempted to get the bikes through. Finally we spotted a choice eatery and hauled the heavy bikes up the stairs and leant them against the dining tables. Shite hotdogs were the order of the day. If we hadn't felt quite so desperate there's no way any of us would have entertained eating them. Feeling unsatisfied we hit the local supermarket where the best we could come up with was 4 yoghurts into which we tipped the pack of granola cereal I'd been carrying since day one. The supermarket car park was the only place to sit. Pure class
Patzun was the next stop. We'd googled it the day before and all we got was a report from 2014 about the increase in local armed robbery and general gun crime. Well I can't believe we looked so scary that they hid the shooters but the worse treatment we got from the locals were confusing directions on which to take next. One dude even gave us a hi 5 and we got plenty of waves and "Ola"s.
As we bumped our way out of town the road suddenly plunged (love that word) into a deep valley. It was pretty scenic and flipping steep. What's that saying? What goes up must come down, well it works in reverse as well!
The only thing going in our favour was the cloud had come in. It meant no stunning views but it kept us cool as we panted our way up the rough, broken road that twisted and turned through the bizarre mix of jungle and pine forest.
The road then came to a dramatic halt and we found ourselves at a washed away bridge. The water didn't look too deep so we went for it with nothing worse than 1 wet foot between us.
Once safely across, the climb continued. The combination of stupidly steep roads and empty bellies caused Mel to crack first which I must say surprised me as she is 'well sporty'. We started to push the bikes.... Then that was even too hard.
We just stood there for a while in a bit of a daze until Kate pulled out the half loaf of banana bread she had secretly stashed in her pannier. We had to do something about our situation but didn't really know what.
This is my fave photo of the trip so far
We could hear the occasional vehicle struggling up the hill. Even before they appeared around the corner we could tell if they were already loaded to the max by how strained the engine sounded.
A truck full of sand, complete with 3 workers laying on top crawled past, the driver merrily waving. A similar but smaller one struggled up, this one full to the brim with manure. Hmmm, what to do? Then a pick up truck approached. The engine sounded like it may have a bit more energy to expend and it was lightly loaded. Well, lightly as in 2 blokes standing in the back holding onto 3 spare car tyres and some big sacks of 'items various'. We flagged them down. Result, they were going our way and could take us "no problem". We piled the bikes in then clambered aboard. Thank gawd for that! The road must've kept going up for about another 5km. That would have taken us nearly 2 hours at the pace we were walking.
Our amigos dropped us at a little junction town. It was a right turn for them and straight on for us, apparently all down hill.
18 long & bumpy km later we arrived in Panajachel. It was dark by now and the pothole/speed bump combo needed all our concentration to descend.
Pana is a tourist town on the lake of Atitlan. We checked into our digs and then headed straight out to the nearest pizza/pasta place. After the first hearty grub all day I thought my energy might pick up, wrong again, we were tucked up in bed by 9.30