Another country with another culture, landscape, food, rules etc., etc. yes this has now started to become commonplace for us. It has become a sort of normality in our lives. It is difficult to describe Guatemala in a few words but, friendly hard working people, lots of dirt roads, volcanos, green and lush are a few that comes to mind.
When we crossed the border into Guatemala, we met Neil, an English guy who also rode a BMW F800 but a GSA. We decided to ride to Tikal though we were rather tired of temples but we thought that we really had to see this one. Tikal was impressive though I think I enjoyed the jungle, that surrounded it, more. We camped at a campground next to Tikal where we also met, by coincidence, our Belgian friends Mark and Carina again. Last time was when we crossed the border from Mexico to Belize.
We arrived quite late to Tikal and I wanted to photograph the ruin at sunset. Anders stayed and pitched the tent and Neil and myself ran up to the Maya temple just to realise that we missed the sunset, by a few minutes… bummer.
The morning after we woke up from the sound of Howler monkeys which probably have one of the creepiest sound I’ve ever heard. I am just glad that people had told me about them before as it would have scared the hell out of me else.
As we were wide awake, we grabbed the cameras and headed to the Maya temple to photograph the sunrise……. we missed it by a few minutes… Anyways, pictures of ruins are rather boring anyway…. I was trying to convince myself.
Anders and I didn’t have any plans but Neil had heard that Semic Champey was a very cool place. He also said that it was only about 12 km of bad road…. This turned out not to be the case as it was 70 km of a road from hell. Anyway we were very pleased that we were three of us and Neil was such a nice bloke. Before it really went bad we stopped for the night in a cheap hotel that stunk of mould.
The morning after we left the mould stinking hotel or actually we didn’t leave the smell of mould as it was stuck in our clothes for a while. Anyways we continued towards Semic Champey and at the same time as the road from hell started it also started to pour down with rain, great. It was the worst kind of road you can imagine. There were big stones, mud, potholes and very slippery because of the rain. We passed some small villages where the people were very poor and lived in ‘houses’ that was built with whatever they could find.
After hours bumping around on this road in pouring rain we were all exhausted. The road took us up and down the mountains and I was using words like fuck more frequently. Just before my arms completely turned into jellyfish we arrived to San Agustin Lanquin where we found a place to stay. We had a really nice Mediterranean meal in the evening, which included lots of salad and stuff that not had been heated, maybe not the best things to eat in a place like this.
During the night I started to feel a bit poorly but nothing serious so the next morning we decided to leave as it was still raining. Luckily that day there was only 11 km of bad road and after that there was a brilliant road the whole way to Coban.
Coban is the capital of the department of Alta Verapaz in central Guatemala and also the principal centre for gourmet coffee production. Most people we met didn’t speak of Coban in a favourable way but we liked the city as it didn’t feel touristy more genuine in a Guatemala sort of way.
In Coban we found a cheap hotel room with shared toilet. Later that evening the hell started… OMG I got the worst food poisoning so far on this trip…. when thinking of it, it was actually my first food poisoning, which is quite remarkable considering all of the countries we’ve been to. Anyway, I was in bed for three days with a severe stomach ache that nearly made me cry… Anders wanted to take me to the doctor as he thought I had got appendicitis inflammation but I was just feeling too ill to go anywhere. However, after three days I started to feel better again though I was a bit shaky for a few days. After this I didn’t want to stay in the same hotel, it just felt full of sickness to me so we moved to another wonderful place. It was actually the same price but we had our own toilet, super clean, fast wifi, yes it just felt great.
Later that evening we could hear someone screaming outside the hotel. It was three men kicking the shit out of a very poor guy. It was the most brutal thing that I have ever seen. No one said or did anything, I couldn’t stop myself and screamed what the hell are you doing… in English… No reaction whatsoever, after a while the police came and picked up the poor guy and I just hope that he wouldn’t get kicked by them as well. Later I learned that the guy had stolen a mobile phone from someone but still, beating someone that bad for a bloody phone…. made me feel sick.
Ended up in Antigua four times…
After a week we left Coban and headed for Antigua. The road was fun, you know one with the right amount of potholes and with firm sand. Really enjoyed that day’s ride. When we arrived to Antigua, which is a is a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala, we realised that all the streets are made of cobblestones so there was a lot of bumping around for a couple of hours trying to find a cheap place to stay. On MAPS.ME, on my phone, I saw that there was a camping place in the middle of Antigua so we headed there. It turned out to be a police car park. We were allowed to stay there for free one night and we both had a really good night sleep…felt quite safe with all the police around. The next morning we happened to see that one of the volcanos was active… well, it was nearly falling asleep and only gave away tiny small puffs every now and then. Anyway we managed to catch one of the little puffs in a photo.
In Antigua, we met Raul and Asur who were riding two motorcycles. In the evening we decided to have a meal together in an Indian restaurant. My god the food was so nice but ridiculously expensive for the amount of food you got.
After a few days in Antigua we decided to head south to the Ocean. After just a few hours we arrived to Monterrico and it was very hot and very humid. We couldn’t be bothered to search for the cheapest place and just stopped near the beach at Hotel El Delfin. It looked quite nice in a backpacker place sort of way. There were notes everywhere on the walls informing you about stuff that was forbidden in the hostel. There were notes like NO DRUGS HERE … which I think all the people in the hostel completely had ignored, even the owner,… I am sorry but how boring isn’t it to chat people who has smoked weed… not the sharpest knives in the drawer. It actually makes me nearly fall asleep. Anyway as it make me feel very bright something good comes out of that too 😉
After one day at this place we were both extremely bored and decided to leave early the morning after. We didn’t want to ride the same way back so we took a ‘boat’ from Monterrico through the mangroves to La Avellana, which was pretty cool. The boat could hardly be called safe. Firstly, it was very small and secondly the wooden plank was, broken, rotten and god knows what so it took some time to find a wooden plank that wasn’t too rotten to put down the stand on. Anyway we got the bikes on the boat and hoped for the best… that is what adventure is about, isn’t? Of course it went ok. It was a very pleasant boat trip through the beautiful mangroves and we saw lots of different birds. Finally on the other side of the mangroves we needed help to reverse the bikes out the boat. It was a rather steep hill so we were ever so thankful for the help from three locals.
We headed for Guatemala City as we thought it would be great to see that city. We both expected the traffic to be awful in the city but it was no problem. We tried to find a cheap hotel but after a couple of hours we gave up and headed back 40 km to Antigua and to the same hotel we stayed at last time we were there.
Anders had had some problems with the bike, which reminded about when the fuel pump broke in China. So in the morning, before we left Antigua, we decided to buy a new fuel pump to have as a spare in case the bike would get worse. After that we headed back to Lake Atitlan and this time we took another road than the one we came on. This road was a mix between brilliant little bendy road to a dreadful sand road. We heard later that we really should have avoided that road, as there is lots of robbery happening there. Anyway, if we had been listening listened to all the warnings we have got during this trip we probably wouldn’t have come very far from Macclesfield in England. However, the road went over the mountains and the scenery was beautiful so it was worth the struggle riding in sand.
As we now had visited the lake twice we thought it that would be enough and decided ride back to Guatemala City and then head to the Guatemala/El Salvador border. Again we decided to take another road. We didn’t want a dirt road so we checked the map and saw that there was a paved road that went a bit north east…. Never trust a map in Guatemala. This turned out to be a dirt road so instead of riding rather fast we ended up arriving to Guatemala City in the dark and again we couldn’t find a hotel so guess what? we headed back to Antigua again. We found a hostel and fell asleep before we hit the pillow.
Now we were really ready to leave Guatemala but first we went into Guatemala City, again, to buy oil and oil filter as our bikes were in desperate need for an oil change. We got the six liter of oil which we squeezed into one of the pannier and headed towards the border. Now we were on the best road for a very long time. However while I was overtaking a big lorry and said to Anders how nice it was to ride fast for a change and not worrying about potholes… FUCK next second I saw something sticking up from the tarmac and BANG, I hit it. I was riding in about 100km/h and it is unbelievable how many thoughts you can have in a blink of a second. I was incredibly close to crash and with that big lorry very close to me I just thought my last moment on earth had come. As soon as I got control of the bike again I felt that I had a puncture. I managed to pull aside and though I actually didn’t have a puncture the tyre had a cracked side wall and my poor rim had got another bend. Even the back tyre had got some damage. I managed to ride the few km back to Guatemala City (fourth time now) and stop at a McDonalds. As I was sat waiting in a McDonalds Anders went on a tyre hunt. We were so lucky this time as BMW in Guatemala was just this very day waiting to get tyres delivered to their garage so Anders just had to wait for four hours and whoops we had a new front tyre. I spent in total six hours in McDonalds….. yawn.
As it started to get late we decided to stop on the way to the border and cross it the morning after. We found a hotel that let us pitch the tent on one of their lawns. We only had to pay 5 dollars and then we had Wifi, hot showers, two swimming pools and a beautiful view…. some days you are just really really lucky ☺
After a good night sleep, new tyre and excitement to enter a new country we headed for the border and El Salvador where new adventures were waiting for us.
Random photographs from our time in Guatemala