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heading for the hills

When I finally set off from Finca Ixobal, it is to meet with Silke, a German woman who is also touring solo, about 70 kilometres down the highway towards Rio Dulce. From there we intend to strike out on dirt roads over the mountains towards Semuc Champey, which is reputed to be one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala.

Clearly I am refreshed by my stay at Finca Ixobal and the road whizzes by under my wheels and I arrive at our meeting spot, an unprepossessing petrol station about 3 hours early but luckily Silke arrives not long after and without further ado we leave the pavement for a quiet gravel road lined with blossom trees.

Petals are strewn across the road with starts out gently enough winding through green fields.

Sky blue and pink. A bucolic idyll.

Riding is relatively uneventful. We stop from time to time to drink coconuts or eat watermelon. Not a lot of foreigners pass this way and so we cause general amazement as we pass. Here the population is largely indigenous and the woman wear fabulous threads.

When I see a stream of children leaving school, each one bearing a coconut, I ask this girl where I can get one. She doesn't lose any time in knocking a couple of coconuts out a palm in front of her house and opens them for us...

... while her younger sisters and cousins stands staring in amazement at the astonishing apparitions before them.

It isn’t long before the road starts to climb into the mountains and the going isn’t quite so easy. The first steep section is paved, though and so not too challenging.

Climbing mountains. Now that I am riding in company again I guess you can expect to see a few more photos of me appearing again. (Photo: Silke Moeckel)

Rising above the clouds.

Silke, my new travel companion, rides across mountain top football field. There is no village or settlement in the area so I imagine that the pitch exists for anybody passing by that feels a sudden desperate need for an impromptu game of soccer..

It's a football pitch with some fabulous views.

When the pavement gives out and the gradients increase the going gets tougher. My bike has been limping since I left Calakmul in Mexico – the chain slipping on all but toothless rings. I turned the middle ring around in Santa Elena to get a bit of extra life out of it but steep rough ascents have me pushing a fair bit of the time.

I arrive in a village as school is getting out and scores of teenagers are streaming down the road. I stop to wait for Silke, who is no lightweighter and consequently is a little slower on steep ascents than I am.

I have ample opportunity to admire the girls fabulous outfits...

...and...

...make a bunch of new friends.

This bike...

... has had a tough life, it seems.

We are constantly surrounded by children in the villages. (Photo: Silke Moeckel)

We are invited by a local school teacher to stay at her house where more children study our every move.

The house is occupied by women and children. The men are all away working somewhere - probably the US.

Our gracious hostess is one of the local school teachers and speaks good Spanish. Many of the women and children in these communities don't.

The morning brings more stiff climbs punctuated by regular stops for mangos and slices of watermelon at rickety roadside tiendas...

... populated by the inevitable poultry.

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