First things first: We're celebrating ONE YEAR ON THE ROAD!!!
Nothing says Party-Time like coconut cream cake. Mmmm...!
I think the cliched thing to say is that "It's hard to believe we've been traveling for a whole year", but it's not that hard to believe at all. We've seen and experienced so many different things in the last 12 months that it's quite the opposite - it's hard to imagine that it all fit in a year! Especially compared to our lives before, where larger-than-life adventures had to be shoehorned into 2-3 week boxes between the crates of sedentary working existence.
Marking the passage of time while outrunning the changing seasons also contributed to this very concrete feeling of time being a rushing wave that we were constantly trying to ride on top of or ahead of. I imagine if we were just traveling through somewhere tropical, our temporal senses may have been more subdued.
Ride all day, drink all night
Central America is a funnel. While travelers roam across the north or south continents, they may occasionally bump into each other at nexuses like motorcycle meets. But when the land narrows like an hourglass to the thinnest point in Panama, right in the centre, these traveling grains of sand start bumping into each other as they line up single file to hoist their bikes onto sailboats or pack them into cargo containers to fly between one side of the hourglass to the other.
We've been keeping in contact with other travelers online and while we were in Antigua, we met up again with Andi and Ellen, the Two Moto Kiwis from New Zealand. We originally met at the Horizons Unlimited meeting in California last October. We also spent the evening with Phil and Jayne, from The Ultimate Ride, the brother and sister motorcycle duo whose goal is to play Ultimate Frisbee everywhere they travel. We ran into them briefly last December in La Paz, Mexico at the ferry docks crossing to the mainland. Also with us that evening was Julio, AKA GauteRider, an Austrian ex-pat who now lives just outside of Antigua and plays host to pretty much all the motorcycle traveling grains of sand that trickle by his front yard.
Having dinner with Andi, Ellen, Phil and Jayne was a riot of a time, comparing stories of our adventures. We all started about the same time last year, taking very similar treks from north to south and while other riders race towards the Antarctic for December 2013, we joked that our three teams were in a much different competition against each other: To see who could ride the slowest down to South America! Poor Andi and Ellen have been besieged with breakdowns and injuries and Andi was actually laid up in Antigua mending a broken rib. As for Phil and Jayne, they meander and dawdle worse than we do! All of them accused us of cheating because we had actually made it to South America, but then took a detour through the Caribbean to end up back in CA again! I guess you don't technically lead a slow race if you lap someone...!
Ellen and Andi on the right teaching a local restaurant owner how to make sushi
Ellen's sushi is famous amongst motorcycle travelers, she makes it everywhere they stop for hosts and friends
While Phil and Jayne didn't stay too long in Antigua, Andi and Ellen are spending a month here so we hung out quite a bit, getting to know them. They are a very friendly and genuine couple, and it was really nice to be able to celebrate and commiserate with folks going through the exact same things we were going through.
Two Moto Canucks!
Other than trying to reach certain destinations, we've been without a true quest our entire trip. But Andi gave one to us: to fetch his motorcycle from Guatemala City, where he left it after his crash last month. He couldn't ride it back himself because of his broken ribs. GC is only 45 minutes away, and we needed to get Neda's bike serviced anyway, so with a little help from Julio, we managed to do all this in a single trip.
Andi and Ellen have got a beautiful KTM 950SE that they've nicknamed Maya. I make fun of KTMs all the time, but I used to have a KTM dirtbike and Neda and I spent many weekends on the trails around Ontario, roosting each other and crashing into trees. Thankfully the road between Guatemala City (GC) and Antigua is very twisty and I got a chance to test out the 950SE. It's comparable to the F800GS, similar weight and power but the SE sounds a heck of a lot nicer and felt more flickable than the Beemer. It's very much a hooligan bike, I liked it a lot!
Que es el problema, Maya? No se...
I know from personal experience that KTMs are very finicky and maintenance-intensive. So it wasn't too much of a surprise when riding back from GC, Maya's rear brake seized, forcing us to pull over in heavy traffic. We couldn't pull over safely for quite a distance and when we finally stopped, the rear pads were smoking more than Neda did in Cuba.
I txted Andi to ask him if this was normal. There was a bit of confusion over the phone. Apparently, New Zealand English and Canadian English are not the same, so I pulled out my Google Translate and sent him a Canuck-to-Kiwi translation:
Croikey dick, the rear brake's done near knackered! I give the old gal a bit of a kick and whadayaknow, Bob's yer uncle and everything's a box of budgies! I'm feeling pretty chuffed and Neda piped up with an ole, "Good on ya, mate!" so hooray to Guatemala City! We spent a few moments dodging lorries on the roadway, had to tella few to "NAFF OFF" but we got to Antigua all home'n hosed and just in time for tea! Phew, I could really go for a vegemite sarnie, right about now!
To my surprise, Andi understood that perfectly.
Wheeling in Maya into Andi and Ellen's hostel
We had Andi, Ellen, Julio and his wife Luisa over for dinner where Neda cooked up some yummy Croatian dishes.
Something happens when you stay a while in one place: you start growing roots. Our social calendar was getting booked up with people that we met, dinner with a Japanese couple, Miwa and Kohei, who opened up a B&B in Antigua, and hanging out with Andi & Ellen and Julio & Luisa, who hosted quite a few get-togethers in their beautiful home just outside of town.
Julio use to be a chef and cooked up some amazing plantain flambe
Luisa is an amazing hostess and quite the avid gardener
Chilling at Julio & Luisa's