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Huehue to Pana was a section of contrasts – the steady climb along the Panamericana (the main highway down Central america) with it’s stream of comedors and little tiendas, and the off-road section from Toto with beautiful riding on moderately technical traffic-free trail.

The Panamericana just involved a day or so of steady chugging. The top of the hill turned out to be about 40-50km out of Huehue, rather than the 30-40km we’d read in the central american cycle touring guide. The scenery wasn’t too bad, but there’s not much more to say about it!

We’d been looking forward to an off-road section from San Miguel Totonicapán to Los Encuentros for a few weeks, and it had been one of our reasons for coming this way through Guatemala. It had been recommended to us by Matthew McCarthy, a warmshowers host in Panajachel, who’d even given us a detailed google-earth file generated when some friends had taken a GPS along the ride a couple of weeks before. In the end we rode the majority of this 40+km on Sarah’s birthday. She was in her element with narrow pine-needle strewn tracks, sunshine and interesting riding. For a pretty technical mountain bike trail we managed surprisingly well on our loaded bikes. There was only a short 200m loose/rocky uphill section that we didn’t ride. The only slight cloud were the 2 or 3 local men who told us we shouldn’t be there and not to take pictures of the trees. In the end we were able to work out that they were really worried about outsiders coming in and prospecting for timber or minerals. We took to explaining that we were just passing through, and this seemed to help.

The old road winds its way around the hills between Toto and Pana. Lots of it passes through mature pine forest - all completely without traffic. Having come from a mountain biking background to this cycle touring lark, it was really nice to pick our line through the obstacle course. Sarah reckons it's the single best section on the entire trip so far!

Another gratuitous pine-needle strewn pickie

Coming down from the last climb (3200m down to 1500m in Panajachel) we had a ball swooping through perfect turns and skipping down rock steps. The bikes even managed to keep up :-)

Sarah reckons it was a great way to spend a birthday, and possibly the best riding section we’ve done so far :-)

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