Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beast of the East Rail Trail Fundraiser ride

Its that time of year again...time for one of my favorite mountain bike tours!  Each year we set out with the good lads at the Phoenix Project to help them raise funds to support their educational programs, teacher salaries and schools for the under privileged rural Guatemalan youth.  It really is a quite cool program.  Check 'em out online for more info.
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The ride follows the old United Fruit Company railroad line that connected the Capital with the banana plantations of the East to the Atlantic Coast port.  It is definitely a throw back to a time long past.  We ride through cool old tunnels, across big steel trestles and through dilapidated train stations.  It really is a rolling tour through Guatemala's history.

We ride 5 days from the outskirts of Guatemala City camping each night along the line passing through terrain that doesn't see too much in the way of tourism.  Being a rail trail the ride itself is pretty non technical as there are no huge climbs or descents and the terrain is pretty moderately graded at %5.  Most of the rails and ties have been pulled up long ago leaving behind a beautiful single track that traces the rolling hills and remote river canyon and valleys of the Eastern deserts of Guatemala.  The bird life is pretty stunning and you might even get a glimpse of a rare Gila monster.

Our support van meets us for lunch each afternoon and at the end of the day to haul luggage, hand out cold beers, set up the horseshoe set and cook up tasty food at camp.  The rides are about 50 kms on average but the heat can make them feel longer.  We have found a couple sweet campsites, a couple along rivers and another in a very cool old Farmstead house.  It even has a pool!

If you're looking to do something new, see a unique side to Guatemala and are interested in helping us help the locals, this is your trip!  It combines an amazing mountain bike tour that has cool and quirky cultural and historical components to it with some quality opportunities to get involved and give back with an amazing grass roots NGO program.  It is tourism with a moral compass !

It's probably too late to get involved in this years ride, but you can still DONATE or sign up for next years ride.
Hope to see ya on the trail.
-Matt Hartell

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