So I have just returned from my Mexican dinner. What was different about this dinner is that I wore full motorcycle gear substituting the helmet for a large brim hat. Why is this you ask? Well…to keep the volcanic ash at bay. That’s right. The streets are black. My bike is covered and people are shoveling the course black sandy ash as if it were snow.
Volcan Pacaya, some 25 kilometres from Guatemala City, erupted today showering much of the city with ash. I reckon that I am far enough away to be clear of any danger but nearby towns have been evacuated. I am watching the news in my hostel and it has now become clear that there was, indeed, lava flow. I do not presently know that the next days have in store. Reportedly, eruptions can last a while — showering ash for several days. I’ve heard claims that the ash can get quite deep — I’m not sure whether I believe that it can be as much as a foot or not. Now *that* would disrupt riding.
There are several other interesting points here. My intention is to hit the Salvadoran border shortly. That said, I had decided to go search for a new rear tire today as my old one was near its wear limit and its sounds like Costa Rica is the next best place to buy tires. So I spent quite a while searching around in the rain. I was finally pointed towards a store that might have been able to help me out. En route I saw a BMW dealership including a Motorad and pulled in as TKC80 are standard far for Beemers. They did carry TKC80s, and in my size, so problem solved. That said, my day took longer than expected. I was heavily debating visiting Pacaya today as a detour to the border. I’m not much a believer in fate, but I had almost become frustrated with my tire search and was considering holding off and heading off to Pacaya. Well that worked out just swell — its pretty much a stroke of luck that I didn’t get caught up in the mess. While I don’t think I would have been in danger, car windows were broken in towns close to Pacaya — which is to say that my helmet would not have been happy. If nothing else, I would have been caught up in the evacuation traffic. I wonder what happenedto the girls at last night’s hostel who were heading off to hike up Pacaya today as part of a tour?!?
I should also mention that there was discussion last night around the Moto Cafe about riding up (I believe) Pacaya. As tour operators, these guys rent out 200cc dual sports and take tours out. I misunderstood the schedule and today was a teaching day, rather than a ride day, but for a short period yesterday, thought I might be riding up Volcan Pacaya today. I woke up this morning feeling a little disappointed on the matter.
Something else was interesting. As mentioned, it has been pissing rain for most of the day. I have had my share of rain in the face for the last while. That said, only late in the day had a noticed the the rain was stinging my eyes — similar to a big city with acid rain. I suspect that this was a precursor to the ash — this, no doubt, was caused by sulfur compounds mixing in with the rain water.
The locals don’t seem to be too bothered. People are still partying it up in near by establishments. I ended up in a sort of club district (Zone 10). Realizing that my tire change took longer than expected, I decided to avoid hassles and got my Lonely Planet Central America out and picked out the cheap accommodation with internet. Boy it was a hassle finding the place. Truly, I haven’t found Ciudad Guatemala as oppressive to travel in as others have mentioned, but it can be tricky navigating the myriad of one way streets. I must have passed the place three times. Neither the sign or the street address is obvious. It ended up being a steel door on the side of a big wall amongst night clubs. Noticing that there was a lot of pay parking in the area, I realized that parking my bike might be a concern. At first the attendant seemed hesitant. But then the suggestion was made that I put the bike in their court yard. Knock on wood, but if someone can scale that wall and carry parts out, they probably deserve them. Having stripped the bike of all luggage, it fit through the front door without problem and I wiggled it through the door to the courtyard where it currently sits covered in sandy ash.
There isn’t much more to report today as the ride was short and sweet as the highways were good and the remainder of the day was focused on the tire and ash.
Question of the day: why would a car/motorcycle dealership keep the concrete floor of their garage so polished that you can roller skate on it?!??! The closest call I have to dropping my bike on this trip was bring it soaking wet to the Motarrad garage — I literally had to shimmy with my feet having felt the rear wheel slide out from under me.