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EP00 – Guatemala (Introduction)

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Aug 11 2016
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Guatemala

A vibrant land and culture

Guatemala is a wild, colorful, and vibrant country evident not only in its landscapes, but in its native culture and Mayan people. Guatemala is also one of the most ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse countries; with twenty-one different Mayan languages being spoken along with Spanish.

Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Central America, largely a result of the decades-long civil war which ended in 1996. The country has been recovering from the war, but is still considered by many a dangerous place to travel.

Lake Atitlán from the summit of Volcan Atitlán with volcanoes San Pedro (left) and Volcán Tolimán (right)

Pura Utz Pin Pin!

(Brendan James) In the past year that I have been in Guatemala I have seen some of the most amazing things in my life. Amazing beauty, amazing poverty, amazing kindness, amazing natural wonders and amazing environmental destruction. Living, working and navigating this incredibly dense country has been a daily adventure for me.

The people of Guatemala are incredible, no really. It was their openness to me that kept me here as a traveler and gave me new comfort in the world unknown. As one of the few gringos in the country racing mountain bikes – they embraced me. They have given me hospice in their own homes and taken me into their extended family.

You really are never alone in Guatemala.  The indigenous are constantly pushed deeper and deeper into the rugged mountains to continue a tradition of farming and subsistence living off the land. When exploring within country you need to bring your manners as you never know when you will stumble upon a campesino working. With a friendly greeting and a bit of small talk they are always willing to help you along your way.

There is no such thing as “too remote” for a village in Guatemala. Roads begin and end in the middle of nowhere- cuttoff by enormous landslides. The infrastructure of the country is webed together in a unofficial transportation network of Tuk-Tuks, Chicken buses, Fletes (trucks) and pickups. You never have to wait more than 15minutes for a ride in Guatemala, and more likely than not they will ask you first.

Guatemala is a living anthropological site with an incredible diversity of people and culture. 80% of the population is indigenous and for many spanish is a second language. The density of tribes here is profound. At lake Atitlan it is not uncommon to run into a different traje or traditional clothes from one town to the next – each village speaking their own distinctive language.

Guatemala! Pura Utz Pin Pin!

Land of Volcanoes

Nestled between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean Gutatemala is incredibly mountainous – with sharp ridge lines percolated by deep canyons. Guatemala is home to twenty-two volcanoes, ten of which are over 10,000 feet and seven of which are active. For this project we attempted five of them:

Volcán Santa María

Quetzaltenango

Elevation: 12,375ft
Last Eruption: 2013

Volcán Acatenango

circle_acatenango

Chimaltenango

Elevation: 13,045ft
Last Eruption: 1972

Volcán Santiaguito

circle_santiaguito

Quetzaltenango

Elevation: 8,366ft
Currently Active

Volcán Tajumulco

circle_tajumulco

San Marcos District

Elevation: 13,845ft
(Highest point in Central America)

Volcán Tacaná

circle_tacana

Sibinal

Elevation: 13,320ft
Last Eruption: 1986

View from the summit of Volcan Acatenango, Guatemala’s highest volcanoes in a chain along the Sierra Madre de Chiapas

Fatbikes in a Foreign Land

For this trip we knew we would be taking fatbikes where they had never gone before. We became quite a spectacle in Guatemala where the locals would cry out “Bici Gorda! Bici Gorda!” (fatbike in spanish).  Everyone wanted to pick up the bikes and feel the tires.

Equipment:

For this expedition we brought two Alaskan built Fatback Rhino Bikes with Lauf Carbonara Suspension forks and 4.5″ tires.

The bikes were outfitted with custom made bikepacking equipment by Mayasak in Panajachel.

For the extreme mountain conditions at 13,000ft we brought Gore Bike Wear outerwear and photochromatic Julbo eyeglasses.

Nutritional and hydration support provided by SkratchLabs out of Colorado.

Photography equipment including Panasonic Lumix Micro 4/3rds cameras.

Bikes:

Fatback Rhino
Lauf Carbonara
SRAM XX1
Kenda Juggernaut Tires
Race Face Componentry

Camping

Primus Gravity II MF Stove
GSI Cookware
BigAgnus Jackrabbit 2 Tent
Marmot Sleeping Bags
Thermarest Sleeping pad

Electronics:

2x Panasonic G7 4k Camera2
2x Gopro Hero3 Black Cameras
Various Gopro Mounts
Tripod, Monopod
Garmin 310xt GPS

Luggage:

Deuter Guide Tour 35SL Backpack
Arcteryx NoZone 35 Backpack
Mayasak Frame Bags
Mayasak Headset Bags
Mayasak Seat bag

Clothing:

GORE Bike Wear
Julbo Stunt Glasses
Julbo Aero Photochrromatic Glasses
Julbo TREK Photochromatic Glasses
La Sportiva Down Jacket
La Sportiva Boulder Approach Shoes

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