My hands were pretty shaken because of the cobbled streets until i reached the paved road at the city limits of Antigua. The road then slowly wound its way over the surrounding mountains before it went mostly downhill towards Lago Amatitlan. Less famous than his cousin to the east and with not quite as spectacular views, it still proofed a nice cycling route along its southern shore as a bypass of the capital. Just when i was leaving the area and arrived at the panamericana, the street was lined with hundreds of motorcycles and it seemed some motorcycle clubs were about to start a tour around the lake.
It was a nice change to be on the highway again. Not only for the smooth surface and the wide shoulder, but also because it follows a more moderate terrain and from that point towards El Salvador it is mostly downhill. It felt close to flying after the uphill-downhill routes so far and i covered in one hour three times the distance than i had in the morning. When i stopped for dinner, i asked for some nearby accommodation and being informed that next door would be one, i set down to eat without any worry about the time. The hotel turned out to be a little to expensive for my taste, one of those car hotels where you pay for the parking space if you need it or not. I felt refreshed after my meal and i wasn’t worried when i was told that i had to cover ten miles to the next town even though it was beginning to get dark. The downhill continued and i was busier with humming to myself than with pedaling until i reached Barberena where i stayed the night. The downhill continued even the next morning and i was already thinking of reaching El Salvador that day when the road became level again and, after almost no need to pedal within the last hours, i was quite surprised that my efforts to do so again did not result in any foreword movement anymore. I never had a problem with a freehub in my life but knew immediately that i had a problem that i could not fix with the tools and parts i had with me. It took me a while to realize what had to be done instead. There were but two options: to take a bus to San Salvador or to Guatemala City, the place that i successfully circumnavigated within the last two days. I opted for Guate as it was closer and easier to reach without any border crossings or changing of busses in between. I pushed my bicycle back to the last pueblo i had passed and even found a repair shop. It was a bit difficult to explain the problem in spanish as i was lacking the technical terms, but after five minutes the man got what was wrong with my bike and showed me some of his replacement parts. It turned out that in guatemala, the cassette and the free hub body are one and not compatible with the two-part system i was used to from Europe. He told me i would be able to pick up the part once i am in the capital, though he wasn’t that optimistic about the chance of a bus stoping for me and taking my bike. But there was nothing for it but to try my luck. It is common here to wait for the auto- or chickenbusses at the speed-bumps as the drivers have to slow down anyway. To my surprise the ayudante (co-driver) of the first bus was willing to put my bike on the roof, though i could see he wasn’t happy about the delay. He told me he had to charge me more for the cargo but in the end i paid only two euros for the two hundred kilometers ride.
Since i hadn’t planned on coming to Guate, i just made my way roughly towards the center and had a look at wikitravel in an internet cafe for some place to stay and looked up the addresses of some bicycle shops. I checked into the “pension meza”. I highly recommend this place as Guate has not a lot of budget options and this was one of the cheapest places i found with clean rooms around a beautiful inner courtyard.
I didn’t stay out long that night. Maybe because of some warnings i read about the security situation in the capital or just because some of the streets were hardly lit-up and with no shops open after a certain hour, i didn’t feel that comfortable wandering around the city after dark.
The next day i continued the search for a replacement freehub body. I had already checked bicycle shops along the way to the center the day before and was directed to one promising place. This modern shop could have been anywhere in Europe as well and it had a couple of items in stock that i had used on my bicycle as well, above all, the cassette without integrated freehub body, which got my hopes up that they might have that part separately. After i tried in vain to explain the situation to one of the guys working at the shop front, i had to wait a while until the mechanic had some time to spare. He immediately understood the problem but had not the part that i was looking for. As i didn’t have more luck the following day, i decided to return to Xela and wait for a shipment with the replacement part.