Our Hotel in Sayaxche kept a secret that nobody was aware of until he or she was trapped behind the high walls of the building, that was additionally guarded by heavily armed soldiers.
The nicely arranged garden around the pool area turned unexpectedly into a pre-historic jungle from which no-one was able to escape anymore.
Soon we were surrounded by giant creatures which immediately took hostage of our bicycles and some riders.
It was almost impossible to escape from their claws and jaws.
With a final gulp I disappeared into the dark throat of this ancient and long thought to be extinct creature, revealing a last glance onto the shocked fellow riders at the far end of the scene … Was this the end, although the real Doomsday is still 5 days away?
It was yesterday night at the ‘Del Rio’ when a sudden blast rocked us out of our post-dinner lethargy. A loud explosion followed by a bicycle that flew past the terrace in the upper floor of our hotel, with a tire and inner tube dangling from the rear rim. Usually a loud bang is nothing odd in a Central American country. It could be anything from a fireworks cracker to a gun that is often fired. However the shiny white bicycle frame high in the air, in a cloud of blue anti-flat slime, caught our attention. What has caused it to fly that high and who’s bike was it at all? Those who do not have a white frame were immediately relieved, however those with a white frame were in shock! First JJ came running to check for Jean’s bike, as she was doing some tire maintenance prior to dinner. Eventually the bicycle was identified as David H’s, from the still attached Doomsday plate #116. So, it was Cristiano’s duty to pass the message to David, who was already relaxing in his bed. With the determination of a Canadian Mountie David showed up at the scene and immediately started to cleanup the slimy mess and patiently started a second attempt to make his bike fit for the next day’s ride to Flores. Besides some blue stains on nearby bicycles, there were no more signs the next morning of the late night incident.
It is further to mention, that the locals must have inadvertently taken the tire blast bang as their signal to start a big and loud firework with more big bangs and sparks in the air.
Another easy and short cycling day from Sayaxche to Isla de Flores. 64km in 3.5 hours. Arrival at 10am. The day and the following are all to rest and relax.
Again a start into the morning mist, after crossing Rio de la Pasion on a ferry. The sunrise was as fabulous as yesterday. In addition to the spectacular colors you could hear the voices of the howling monkeys in the near distance. Unfortunately one couldn’t see them, but their shouts continued until the dawn was replaced by bright daylight and the birds started with their concerts.
The first 40km were on perfect pavement and the kilometers ticked down in almost no time. Smooth enough to fall back in daydreams while the sun burned away the remaining mist.If I didn’t miss a turn turn today, I should get on gravel in a few minutes. Yes, here it starts, I am on the right track! After riding on tarmac for the past 2 days, it wasn’t easy to control the bike on gravel. 2 times my front wheel slipped from the shoulder, forcing me to jump off the bike to avoid a fall. All went right and the final 20km on gravel to town were soon history. My Garmin and the flagging guided my directly to the ‘Hotel De Lago’ on the island in the lake. From here Belize is just one more cycling day away. Getting ready for my 5th bracelet and the doomsday arrival.
We will stay here for two nights. I got a double bed room for my own this time. Maybe a result of my other roommates complaining about my coughing and staying up late reading?!
This afternoon we will decide on and organize a sunrise tour to Tikal and the Maya ruins.
120km (134km) – 1034m up – 1123m down – 5034 kcal – 7:24h
It was easy rolling today on a beautiful Sunday, with no trucks and busses on the road. 120km planned. However, if you are daydreaming, inhaling the clean air and sounds of the forest and thus miss a mandatory turn, you end up with some extra kilometers. But nothing to worry on such a gorgeous day and environment.
We started in the morning mist into a day that turned out very sunny and hot after a while. I was almost the last to leave camp but soon I became ‘the last rider’, as there was a myriad of chances to stop for photos in the morning light. Soon I was waiting for a good shot of the sunrise during the dissolving mist. Even Henry, who was the morning sweep today, passed me. ‘Hakuna Matata – No Worries’, I’ll will catch up again, sooner or later … earliest, after I get my sunrise photos and what is to follow thereafter. Mike, also stayed behind to capture the morning atmosphere on camera.
The sunlight, the mist, the landscape and the sounds and voices of the forest were fantastic. There were many more photo stops this morning and we were trailing Henry for quite a while.
Is my camera battery charged enough and do I have enough memory space to capture all the images? The sunlight was playing with the environment. The lose bark of the tree on the right hand side shined bright red and gave it a mystic touch. Other areas looked spooky and haunted, as if doomsday is near …
Now it was time to gain some distance and catch up with Henry again. Soon I passed Mike and later I met Henry, who was seeking shade at a gas station. We exchanged a friendly welcome and I continued my ride. Neither of us was aware, that this was exactly the spot, where we had our only turn of today. Henry remembered that Cristiano’s instructions were as such: ‘tomorrow’s stage is straight forward’, so he didn’t not bother to write them down or memorize them. However ‘straight forward’ obviously didn’t mean ‘always stay straight’! Other than me, Henry, was luckily enough to be corrected by JoAnne who used the bathroom at the gas station, but only after a longer debate who of the two was right. However, I was heading into the wrong direction. After about 7km, at km 36, I hit a T-junction, but no red-tape-flagging! Both directions didn’t seem very inviting, as they continued either on gravel or bad pavement. Neither of it was expected today. Time to check my direction notes! Ouch, what did I read there: ‘L @ gas station’. Again I was ‘L’ost at a ‘L’eft turn … So I U-turned and traced back to where I came, adding another 14km to todays total. At km 40 I closed up with Henry, JoAnne and Mike. They told me that once they recognized my mistake, they gave a local driver 10 Quetzals and a paper to inform the ‘cycling Gringo’ to turn around. However this message never arrived. Maybe he already saw me on my way back, or he enjoyed a complementary TdA-Cerveza from the money he received as a messenger. Reunited with the ‘sweep’, I relaxed cycled the remaining 30km to lunch with Henry, exchanging memories of our previous Tour d’Afrique rides and other stories. The final 50km from lunch to camp was easy rolling. I couldn’t believe that at the end of the day all these little ‘rollers’ added up to more than 1000m of climbs. It was shortly after 2pm when I arrived in Sayaxche and plenty of time to chill out and relax at the new location.
Tomorrow is another short riding day – if all turns are taken – to our next rest day location in Flores. From here we will start a trip to Tikal to see the Maya temples.
It was the long expected day with the huge drop into the lower regions of Guatemala. We rolled out of Santa Cruz in the morning fog at temperatures around 15°C. It was nice to ride without tension and pressure, since we know it is going to be a short (time wise) cycling day. So we enjoyed to cruise along the hills and the
buildt-in houses and plantations. However soon the topology and vegetation will change as we dive into a big plain and the low lands of northern Guatemala.
The sun burnt away the remaining fog and temperatures were up to 33°C at 10am, so that even the ‘always cold German’ could change into a short sleeve jersey. The downhill was fast and lunch at 60km was reached very early. It was rather a deferred breakfast at around 10am. The downhill continued thereafter. However, the morning heat made the rollers a bit harder than expected, maybe this was the reason, we were accompanied by a red-cross ambulance car. Nevertheless the remaining kilometers clicked away and soon we reached Chisec, a small town where nobody expected to find a hotel big enough to fit us all. However surprise was big, when we finally saw the huge facade of the ‘Hotel La Estancia de la Virgen’, where Cristiano, safely guarded, gave us a warm welcome.
Below you will find the details of the final 6 cycling stages to Belize City and the Lamanai Temple. We will have 3 more days in Guatemala before I can get my 5th bracelet in Belize. The track details of the final stages are looking like easy rolling towards the end. Nothing compared to what we had to master in the past. Only 500km to Belize City in 5 days and another 130km to the ‘Party Zone’ at Lamanai. Less then 90km thereof on unpaved roads and averaging not even 750m of accumulated climbs per day. That means that the support vehicles will be deserted and everyone is on the bicycle again and not being shuttled up to the summits for a downhill release. The first day gives us an elevation loss of more than 1100m leading us closer to sea level.
After finding the ‘Secret TdA Branch’ in El Paso, it turns out that TdA is building up their own Coke Stop Network in Central America, extending their business with their cycling clients and making sure that everything is on stock we may ask for – maybe bicycle spare parts, too?
Now that the tour comes to its final showdown – Doomsday is only 6 cycling days away, it is time to talk about my long time trustful and strong friend and companion ‘Mrs. Wiggley’, who was with me through pain and joy though out the many cycling years. ‘Who am I talking about?’, you may ask. Sure, my bicycle – I lately call ‘her’ Mrs. Wiggley because of the wiggling and wagging movements she developed over time when I ‘ride her’. Together we are ‘Mr. and Mrs. Wiggley’ – as baptized by fellow cyclist Jos – and you can recognize us from far away as there is no other ‘couple’ displaying the ‘wagging tail’ all day long, making you think we enjoy every single inch and peddle stroke of the tour when we ride together. Do we like it, even on very hard, cold, wet and dirty days? Yes, to some extend we do, because you need to enjoy cycling if you voluntarily do these kind of tours and ‘hardship’.
Our relationship started in late 2007, when I bought ‘her’ to do the Tour d’Afrique with me and completed the first kilometers in Cairo. We are now almost 5 years together – not that we share home and bed (although at some places she is allowed to sleep over in my room, when there is no secure bicycle park) – but we shared many hours and kilometers together on the road. In total it is more than 40000km or more than 3000 hours of cycling together. We have been 2 times to Africa and now to Central America for the Doomsday Ride. Besides these epic multi week/month tours, we cycled thousands of kilometers in Germany on weekend trips and to bring me to work and patiently waiting for me to get me back home again. Together we have double the miles on bicycle then on my fancy TT Roadster, in the same timeframe.
I must admit I haven’t always treated you well . Often you were just ‘dumped’ in the dark bicycle cellar after using you, dirty and wet as you were and not cleaned or maintained for many weeks. But you almost never failed on me. If so, then just to give me a hint to better watch your signals to be more safe and prepared when we go on the road. So we always found our way back home, even if only walking and pushing.
During the long tours I always tried and happily succeeded to lose weight to relieve you from unnecessary load, as I packed you with a lot of extras during the days.
We have been though the roughest, hottest, highest and most beautiful parts of Africa and Central America together. Whenever I couldn’t help you personally we could visit the ‘bike clinic’ and consult our tour mechanics Luke and Paul to gently lay hands on you and help us out of our miseries, to get fit again for the next stages. I am confident, that we will both master the final 6 days and 630km of cycling to arrive in 1 piece at the Lamanai Temple in Belize on December 21st.
Now, after 5 years of good and reliable partnership and often hard ‘riding’, I promised my ‘Mrs. Wiggley’ that ‘she’ may retire after returning from this tour. Her links and joints developed a kind of ‘arthritis’ that may not be fully cured anymore, leaving her in pain with every peddle stroke. This said: ‘No more long distance flights in dark cardboard boxes! No more long days on the road’. I will probably ‘frame the frame’ and give it a well deserved display in my apartment.
It wasn’t the longest day (time wise) but definitely the one with the most accumulated climbs (almost 3000m) and for sure the muddiest and dirtiest of all stages. At arrival at the Park Hotel in Santa Cruz Verapaz, we first had to get a bike wash, before we were allowed to store them away in the marble tiled reception area. Body wash came later and the shower looked thereafter more like a sandbox then a bathroom.
The night at the steel bridge was noisy. Not only the cars running over the lousy steel panels made noise, but also the rain, which was pondering on our roof. During the night I made the decision to ride the truck, if it wouldn’t stop raining until we leave. Riding for hours in wet cloths would have killed me in my current condition. To our surprise roads were already dry when we got up.
The day started early. At 4:15am the first alarm clocks went off. Bags loaded on the van was at 4:40am. Breakfast to start at 5am. All to get an early start to make it to Santa Cruz before sunset. However the sun didn’t play our game and it was pitch dark, so we couldn’t leave until shortly before 6am. Everyone was more or less patently waiting until it was halfway safe to get on the road.
If you camp at a river you know that you are deep in a valley. In other words the only way out is to climb up immediately. So we gained 900m already on the first 12km. Needless to say that these few kilometers took us almost 2 hours. Thereafter it was easy rolling and a quick downhill just followed by another 500m climb.
Lunch at 50km was a surprise, as we expected it to be at 60km. We all stocked up some calories for what has to follow in the second part of the stage. A 1000m drop after lunch brought us down to 650m Rio Pasaul which we had to pass on a fragile looking steel bridge. Thereafter the pavement ended and we found ourselves on a muddy, sandy, corrugated and worn out gravel road on which we had to regain the 1000m drop over the next 18km as today’s destination is located at 1480m. At km 78 Luke was waiting with pops, cookies, potatoes and encouraging words to prepare us for the remaining 26km. After almost 30km on gravel and mud we finally hit tarmac again. After a final coke stop at a gas station we happily cruised the remaining 7km to the Park Hotel in Santa Cruz Verapaz where we spent the second to last rest day before we hit doomsday.
I’ll use the rest day to continue to cure my cold. Today I was asked, if I forgot to shave and I replied ‘I have a habit to not shave, if I am not feeling good’. The photo may give you an idea, for how long I wasn’t feeling 100% good. I am constantly wearing 4 layers of cloth and still freezing like in deepest winter. One reason is the cold that caught me a few days ago, the second is the loss of natural insulation. I have lost a remarkable amount of kgs – a goal of this trip – however my body fat reserves are gone, too, thus not much protection for the cooler temperatures in the regions above 2000m. Luckily the day after tomorrow we will drop back to 300m above sea level, thus temperatures will be hopefully in favor of me again.
As nicely Panajachel was locate at the lake, it was a trap. Whoever was in charge to dig a tunnel from there to Sacapulas, simply wasn’t finished. It looks as if he did not even start the job and so we had to climb out of the kettle again into the Guatemalan highlands. It was a long, but not too steep climb into the chilling morning. However it still took us almost 3 hours to make the first 20km. Thereafter it was rolling down and up all day. The usual ‘river crossing’ scenario: ‘Down in a valley, over the river and up, out of the valley’ and so on. And so the climbs added up to another 2200m this day. The final descent into Sacapulas was a gift and required to save enough energy for the following day – the one with the biggest accumulated climbs on a single day. You can see from our current destination where Cristiano is going to drive us up tomorrow morning
The early birds, who left camp before the flagging was started, got lost in the next town and circled for 30 minutes until they found their way out.
In the afternoon we met ‘Aaron Lisco’ from Maui/Hawaii who is in his second year of his 5 years mission to fulfill his dream and cycle around the world. He started his trip from Alaska and is carrying an extra 50kg of bags on his bike.
Today we are again stacked into a very basic room, sleeping 3 of us, just to make us appetite for the next rest day location. The rooms are so small that we have to cuddle up with our bags in the primitive beds as there is no space to store them.
The Hotel is directly located at a shaky steel bridge which makes squeaking noises when a car goes over it. The steel panels are partially broken, big wholes give way down into the river. Too risky to pass at night without lights.