Inuvik to Ushuaia

Narco-Traffickers in Mexico

Our entire experience of Mexico has been of a very tranquil country, with wonderful people. We haven't had to worry about our safety anywhere (except on the roads, of course, and you've already read about our safety situation on the road, or will below). It doesn't feel like we have to do much at all to keep our stuff safe, and we've had absolutely no issues with our personal safety; knock on wood.

That said, we also read the newspapers. And Mexico is in big trouble with its/our narco-trafficking problem (since the US is the primary consumer, it's a problem shared by both the US and Mexico). Big trouble. Even when you factor in that the media is fascinated with the subject and maybe they've overblown it, you still have daily assassinations of policemen, more than 1000 in the country so far this year. It seems that every day somewhere in the country a dismembered human head will be delivered to a police station with a "narcomessage" threat. Observers think that some parts of the police are clearly compromised by the drug traffickers. And reporters (print and media) are also being targeted at a rate almost as high as anywhere in the world. (Remember that all our information is coming from the newspapers.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Mexico Map and GPS Resources for the touring cyclist

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If you're seeking the back roads of Mexico, you need good maps.

All of our routes are shown on the hobobiker under routes - we have maps and the distance and elevation information. The Mexico routes and info are here and if you need anything else we can give you we'll certainly try to provide it. Send us a note.

We delighted in two geographic resources for Mexico.

  1. The Guia Roji "Por las carreteras de Mexico" available from and in bookstores and the like in every major Mexican city. It is up-to-date and has excellent detail. We just ripped out the pages we didn't need.
  2. In our Garmin GPS we used the excellent Bicimapas GPSmap available from It wasn't perfect and in some cases missed new roads, but it showed some amazingly good detail.

Palenque - Maybe the coolest ruin in the Americas

We're still in San Cristóbal de las Casas, at the very south end of Mexico, in the magical state of Chiapas. We got here and it was so cool and easy that Nancy took a long breath and said "I want to stay". She had been working so hard to stay sane down in the hot lowlands, and the cool, cool temps here really appealed to her. So we're doing a couple of weeks of Spanish language school - Nancy's doing ever so well, and she loves the 50 degree morning temperatures and the cool afternoon rains.

Leaving Mexico and entering Guatemala.

New friends along the way
Originally uploaded by refay
It was our last day in Mexico. We had spent a lovely afternoon swimming in the aqua colored water of this very quaint lake in the lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. We set up our tent not ten feet from the waters edge and cooked our beans and ramen noodles. As I fell asleep with the sounds of the jungle all around, I thought about what the next day would bring. We where going to enter into Guatemala, our first country in Central America.

I had heard so many different stories about this country, I did not know what to expect. Would the border crossing be dangerous, with hordes of kids overwhelming us and perhaps slashing our pannier? Would the border immigration officials try to charge us horrendous fees? Would the money changers rip us off? As we rode the hot flat road toward the border, my stomach had a twisted knot and my head hurt. What would happen to us?

Riding the Guatemala Highlands

Is this really this steep-Yes
Is this really this steep-Yes (View on flickr)

We didn't really know what we were getting into when we heard about the beautiful new road that runs east from Huehuetenango (Way-Way-tenango) - everybody said it had just opened and was a great new road. But it sounded like low traffic and a good road, so we took it. It was probably some of the best riding we've had on the trip. Almost no traffic, beautiful road surface, and sometimes even and shoulder!

It's all huge, brutal, beautiful green mountains. We've never seen so much green. The landscape looks like a quilt because of the efficient agricultural use of this land. In every village and along every road we meet colorful indigenous people who smile and say hi or call out to us, impressed by our trip. Often we hear someone yelling out "bye-bye" in English or the young children come running out of their house, waving and in unison cryout "Gringo Gringo". Nancy usually responds with Ninos! Ninos! (children, children) and gives a hearthy wave back.

In every village the people have a different "tipica" outfit, and the women's outfits are just absolutely gorgeous. I don't know what it would be like to live in a village where all the women wore the same dress every day, but the dresses they wear are beautiful. And each one tells a specific story; the women weave their own "huipiles", and it often requires three months of near-full-time effort to weave one.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Volunteering for - A Major Change of Pace!

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Arriving at the Friendship Bridge Office in Panajachel
Arriving at the Friendship Bridge Office in Panajachel (View on flickr)
One of the goals of our trip (and one reason we are taking 3 years instead of the more normal 18 months) is that we want to be able to volunteer and study along the way. Well, now is the time for our first volunteer stint! We are so excited to be able to volunteer for here in Guatemala.

As we were riding through Mexico, we were really impacted by the poverty we saw, and became tremendously interested in the concept of microfinance, the practice of offering small loans ($100-$1000, usually), without requiring collateral, to tiny businesses. It turns out that last year's Nobel Peace Price winner, Mohammed Yunus, is the originator of the concept, and his book "Banker to the Poor" is tremendously inspiring. What they did with tiny, collateral-free loans in Bangladesh is the most hopeful story about alleviating poverty that I've ever heard in my life.

Where We Are - Early July 2007

Today we're in Panajachel, Guatemala, one of the most beautiful places we've ever been. And we've been a to a lot of beautiful places on this trip! It's right on a glorious calm blue mountain lake presided over by towering volcanoes. As you can read elsewhere, we're going to be here in Guatemala for a month or two or more helping Friendship Bridge post profiles to We plan to be riding our bikes all over western Guatemala to the various Friendship Bridge branches and meeting people in the villages.

In the past month we rode from the southern part of Oaxaca, Mexico along the Pacific coast for a few days, then up a huge climb into the mountains of Chiapas. Nancy liked the climate so much when we got up into the mountains that we stayed for two weeks and she studied Spanish. When we got going again, it was just a few days into Guatemala and then a glorious week or so exploring the green, mountainous western highlands of Guatemala.

New Pictures

Nancy's Second Day of Interviews

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Maria Chox in San Antonio
Maria Chox in San Antonio (View on flickr)
Wednesday I headed up to San Antonio, Solola, Guatemala. It was the second day of volunteer work for Friendship Bridge and My job was to interview four women and write about them and take photos which will be posted on the Kiva site so that people in the rich part of the world can make small loans to them via the Internet.

Patti (the Friendship facilitator) and I hopped into the taxi (really the back of a pickup). We snaked our way along the shore and up the side of a mountain -- the view was incredible. As I looked across the emerald lake toward the towering volcanoes, I wondered how such a beautiful place could house such incredible poverty.

All day I sat with the Mayan women in their homes, business and community center learning about their struggles, victories and dreams.

These people had been living in a war-torn area for twenty years only to be further pummeled by the incredible natural disaster Hurricane Stan in 2005. The torrential rains as a result of the hurricane washed away many communities. Whole neighborhoods no longer exist because of the mudslides that swallowed up the land the neighborhood sat on and with it thousands of people. It threw these people further into grave poverty.

The ride to Xela (Quetzaltenango)

We just climbed 7000 ft (2000 meters) in 65 kilometers (40 miles) The land goes straight up into the heavens and is covered with rich jungle vegetation. The tops of ridge often end up being volcanoes with smoking plumes or rainforest clouds wrapped around the top of the cone. Wow! We even had a police escort through the back roads of Guatemala and through a remote canyon, in an area that supposedly had an assault recently. At the end of the day we rolled into a village which has never seen gringo cycle tourists coming into their village. Everyone stopped whatever they where doing and stared at us. After we went to several places to ask for a hotel or something (there was none) for the evening, a young lady asked if we wanted to come home with her. Her family adopted us for the night and we celebrated the dad´s 53rd birthday. The girl, Raisa is 15 years old and is learning English in high school and wanted to take us home so she can practice English. We were honored to meet her and her wonderful family

What we're doing in our daily work

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Dolores Lopez
Dolores Lopez (View on flickr)
As you know, we're spending some time in Guatemala as "Kiva Fellows", working with the excellent Microcredit organization Friendship Bridge. Here's what we've been doing so far.

During the week, we go to a village every morning and meet with one of the women who are the workhorses of Friendship Bridge, the "facilitators". These are the women who form the credit groups and know all of FB's clients. The facilitator will take us to one of more of the clients' homes and may stay with us or may deliver us over to the women. We then sit down and chat with as many as six or seven families, one at a time, about their business, their life, and what they're doing with their loan.
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