Monday, April 13, 2009

Xela to Lake Atitlan: Steaming Brakes

After a dusty climb (due to roadwork) out of Xela, we arrived at the bit of Guatemala referred to as “Alaska”. According to the guidebook, this region turns white with frost in the mornings. We then had the best downhill of the entire journey into Nahuala, dramatically weaving in and out of clouds, coming out of curvy corners into a bright blue sky. I felt so alive. At one point we were rolling at 79 kilometers per hour (49 mph).

After documenting a few locations of burning trash by the side of the road (there were flames in the site pictured on the right), we turned off the highway onto a side road that went towards San Pedro and San Marcos on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

We had a really tough uphill climb to the lip of the caldera. Kids ran with us on the flats.

At the rim, we put on our rain gear, expecting to get chilly on a steep descent. Hah! Little did we realize that a STEEP descent equals HEAT.

A kilometer into the downhill, Gene pulled over. He said he started seeing sparks. It turns out our front hub drum break was overheating, and little bits of the break pads were incinerating upon contact with the extreme heat. I sprayed water on the hub, which hissed, steamed and sizzled. The rims on the tires were hot, too, from all the braking. We got into a routine where every half-kilometer, Gene would pull over, I would hop off, get the water out of the trailer, squirt down the hub, front rims, rear rims, and the front hub again, put the water back into the trailer, and hop back on. We went from having the best downhill earlier in the day to having the worst, most tedious downhill at the end of the day.

We finally turned a corner and could see the lake, a few communities on the shores, warmly lit in the late-afternoon sun. There was also garbage on the side of the road, with dogs.

We thought that perhaps once we got down to the lake, the road would get easier. Not so. Down near the shore, there were still vicious ups and downs. We were glad to get to our destination just as it was getting dark: San Marcos, a peaceful little place with cliffs to jump off of into the lake, one street food lady, and lots of folks that dig meditation, yoga, and healing cleanses.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Love your blogs. A friend an former owner of the Breckenridge Stables,Laurie Kaye lived in ares for many years in the 60ies as a hippie.