January 05, 2008 GMT

After spending some time with friends along the way in Mexico I'm now in Atitlan, Guatemala. Things seemed to change the moment I crossed the border, the shapes of the mountains, the rivers and definately the roads. I found I really need to be aware here, more than normal, as in, on good roads and drivers who know and obey the rules of the road. Here there are little of either. I find this very difficult because the scenery is so beautiful I catch my gaze drifting out into the countryside, or following the course of a river that's racing along side me, only to look ahead to find a bus passing another bus and not bothering to get back into his lane, at all. They pass a vehicle and just continue on for ages in the wrong lane. Luckily, sometimes the shoulder of the road is in better condition than the actual road itself. Needless to say I spend a bit of time driving on the shoulder of the road.

The drive from Zihjuatenejo to Oxaca was incredible! I did the same trip by truck two years earlier and swore I would never do it again, it was by far the worse drive I had ever done in my life. There must be hundreds of topes (speed bumps) along the hwy 200. These are not little topes that you may find in a supermarket parking lot either. These monsters must've been designed by the Mayans; they're lethal, and you have no choice but to stop at each one and creep over very gently, which is nerve wracking, because just as you get up to a good cruising speed you've got to come to a complete stop and do it all over again, hundreds of times in a day.

However, on the bike it was a different story. I still had to slow way down, due to the fact that my KLR is heavily loaded but I was able to cut through the middle of many of them as they sometimes leave a small gap between the two lanes, this made all the difference and made the drive pleasure, with some of the most spectacular coastline I have ever seen.

If you ever get a chance to make it down that way stop in Hualtulco, one of my favorite seaside towns. The thing that struck me most about this place was how clean it was, and the obvious sense of civic pride the people who live there share. It's not nearly as hot as the other coastal cities to the north and the people were very open and freindly, probably owing to the fact there were fewer tourists of the Gringo variety, which, I have seen after living in Mexico for four years, gradually changes the local people. Tourists objectifiy the locals, making them into objects of fascination and curiosity, only seeing the all the differences and none of the similarities that we all share. To me it seems as though they're on a trip to the zoo. But that's just my observation.

On the way up to Oxaca you must stop in a place called San Jose del Pacifico, don't bling or you'll miss it. Once there just ask anyone for the house of Dona Catalina. She is a Shaman (I truely believe this) and will put you up for seven dollars a night . It's an experience you won't want to miss. During the mushroon season it would be a reigious experience. Unfortunately when I was there it wasn't the season, but we made do with what was available. There anywhere fron three to a dozen travelers there at any one time and it's a very chilled-out place so respect the atmosphere and Dona Catalina.

I ate like a king there too. Everyone chipped in a couple of bucks and two people went to the local store to buy whatever they had available, and luckily fo us, there was one lady staying there who was an excellent chef and always managed to pull something amazing out of the oven with what ever she had chosen at the store.

It's a communal enviorment and every one pitches in, preparing meals and washing up, etc. I highly recommend this place.

From Oxaca I rode back down toward the coast as I want to see San Christobal de las Casas, which is also very much worth a visit. On the way you'll have to pass through La Ventosa, the Windy place. Be prepared; it's VERY windy. I got lucky and passed through fairly easily, although riding most of the way at about a twenty degree angle, leaning into the wind, but every now and then a gust would catch me and send me right over onto the shoulder of the poard before I could make a correction. I've had friends cross, saying they've seen five semi-trucks blown over on this twelve mile stretch of road, which is pretty much unavoidable unless you want to go a long way out of your way. You've been warned.

The border crossing at La Mesilla was easy, other than waiting an hour for the electricity to come on so they could process me and the bike.

Posted by Jeff Akins at 06:43 PM GMT

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