I headed for the border to Guatemala. Getting through the Belize border was straight forward. Unfortunately, the Guatemalan took much longer. Firstly, I didn’t have enough money so had to walk across the border to an ATM machine. When I got there, it didn’t have any cash. Lucky enough there was a couple who couldn’t get cash either and spoke good English. I asked them where the next closest ATM was, it was in town. They phoned a taxi for me and off I went to get the cash.
The taxi dropped me off at the border. I had to pay a fee for my bike to be fumigated; it wasn’t, then through immigration, then to customs. Customs wanted a copy of my passport, copy of the entry stamp, copy of my bike registration papers and finally a copy of my driver’s licence. There was a photo copy place just up the street. Once all that was done, I was free to ride. Off I went to Tikal Mayan ruins. US$20, NZ$30 to get in.
In the evening we walked down the street from the backpackers to the food stalls, there was music playing and a nice atmosphere. All the locals partake in the festivities and ended up sitting outside their houses on the steps people watching. It’s a very laid-back place.
There are lots of young Western backpackers travelling through this area.
Well, what a day it’s been.
I left Flores and headed south on CA13 through the hills on smooth winding roads. The jungle was all around; it reminded me so much of Indonesia. The wooden houses with the palm roofs, the men and women cutting small branches and bundling them to carry back to their homes as firewood.
The people were really friendly; they gave me acknowledgments as I rode by.
I turned off CA13 onto Ruta 5. Ruta 5 started very smooth winding its way high into the hills, through the clouds I gazed at the panoramic views on either side. All of a sudden, the road turned into gravel and rock and progressively got worse. The road was getting steeper, rockier and there were more and more pot holes. At one point the road resembled a steep riverbed minus the water. After I had gotten to the top of a steep, physically demanding section I decided to have a rest. I put the side stand down and stepped off Winston. In slow motion Winston was overpowered by gravity and over he and I went.
It was 3:30 in the afternoon and darkness falls around 5:30, I had 2 hours of daylight left. The clock was ticking. I needed to get Winston up, the trouble was the side stand was down and jammed into the rock. The only way to get Winston up was to lift him on his side stand. This seemed almost impossible. I got my hammer out of the pannier and started to try and break the rock to free the side stand. Every time I broke a piece of the rock Winston slid down hill and the side stand remained jammed. I hadn’t seen any one on this road for hours.
When the guys had left, I loaded the gear back onto Winston and we were off again.
The riding was all first gear only averaging 20km per hour; it took a couple of hours to get back onto a tar sealed road. By this time, it was dark and the rain started too really poor heavily. Visibility was really bad, with the rain hitting my eyes, the glare of the occasional headlight; the twisting potholed wet roads made for a dangerous bit of riding. I could think of better things to be doing.
I finally arrived in a town but no hotels so I moved on towards the next one. Finally, there it was, a lit hotel sign, shining through the dark, with the waves of rain being illuminated like a fairy lights. I was attracted to it like a moth to a light. Sanctuary at last!
Today was a day of contrasts. I headed south for Chichicastenango. Chichicastenango is in the hills and it is said that the population there have the purest Mayan bloodline.
The sky was blue and there was no sign of rain. Things were looking good. The first section of road soon turned into a rocky, dusty potholed road. If you have kidney stones and want them removed, try riding down this section of road. I was up and down like a jack in the box.
The road then, as if by magic, became smooth as silk, ascended and descended with an abundance of tight turns and hairpins. It was a lovely piece of ride.
The next section had a few pot holes and gravel but much better than the first piece.
It was slow going though, 200km in about 5 hours. I arrived in Chichicastenango and found a hotel. It was a bit rough and I got the price down to NZ$20 (what can you expect for $20) and a lock up place two doors up the road for Winston. The cost NZ$2.
There were markets on until 6pm. They were huge, the main street was closed because of them. They’re on twice a week so I was lucky with the timing. I didn’t want to buy anything; I just enjoy people watching. They sell great hand cut chips for NZ$1.
I had an old woman come to me begging for money. I thought I’d be nice and went to give her a small note. She motioned she didn’t want that one she wanted a bigger one. I ended up giving her nothing. What is the adage “beggars can’t be choosers”. Well, that was her missed opportunity.
Chichicastenango is over 6000ft above sea level so at night it gets cool. The room I stayed in has no air conditioning or heating so the room was cool and the bed damp. The bed or should I say the mattress wins the worst bed competition so far on this trip. Besides being damp and worn, when I lay on it I could feel the beams of the base in my back. To fix the problem I lay my riding jacket on the mattress and the foam back protector did just that. I ended up having a much more comfortable night.
When I got up the sun was shining, maybe the rainy season is finally finishing?
I headed south to Lake Atitlan which is the deepest lake in Central America with an average depth of 220 metres. At one end of the lake are some active volcanoes. In recent history thousands of people were killed in the eruption of one of those volcanoes.
I then headed east down the CA-1 to Antigua Guatemala. On the way there I saw the longest traffic jam I have ever seen. I say saw because for the most part I was able to ride down the inside on a lane wide enough for a motorcycle. I rode over 10km down that lane and the car and truck traffic were almost at a complete stand still. The jam must have been longer than that because I turned off at the fork to head to Antigua Guatemala while the other traffic was heading to Guatemala City.
I decided to find a place to stay earlier than normal and have a good look around. Antigua Guatemala I is a Baroque Spanish town. Like all Baroque Spanish towns this one was colourful and ornate.
While I was admiring the architecture a small procession passed by, it consisted of a small lorry with a musical band playing and some large manikins dancing in time to the beat.
In the evening I went into the square where there were food stalls set up. It’s the cheapest way to eat while on the road.
I spent the day at Antigua Guatemala.
In the morning the sky was blue and the smoke rose from the volcano behind the town. It certainly made you aware that nature is a formidable beast.
I walked through the multicoloured town checking out the various sites and architecture.
In the evening I went to the square where all the food stalls were. They had a local band playing local music.
Eastward I rode heading for Honduras. It was a much slower trip than I expected as the road I was on was closed for a couple of hours. The reason, a petrol tanker had caught fire and was right in the middle of the road.
The fire crews had just arrived when I turned up. The beauty of riding a motorcycle is most times you can get to places cars can't. It was interesting watching the fire crews at work. It was clear they knew what they were doing and the fire always looked under control.
I free camped at a ranch at the end of the day. It had a pool and cost NZ$5 for a swim which I gladly paid. It looks like I’m leaving the rain and cool behind now. Tomorrow I will be in Honduras.