December 01, 2002 GMT
Looping the Loop into Guatemala.

Guatemala was calling, we just had to decide which way to get there. Through Yucatan and Belize, back towards San Cristobal or the loop, along the Guatemalan border past Bonampak, Yaxchilan and the Montebello Lakes. We decided on the road less travelled and take the loop. According the guide books, the road hasn’t been paved all that long so it sounded a bit more adventurous. Ruth and Merv decided to come with us, the Belize option being an expensive one.

First, however, we wanted to see the Mayan ruins at Palenque, the town itself is largely unmemorable, the only good thing about it was we stayed in a hotel with excellent parking and a pool!! All for 50 pesos each a night. Normally the only pools we get are on the bathroom floor, just a pity it was too cold to take advantage and go for a swim.

The ruins at Palenque were as spectacular as I remembered ,the sheer size of the site and the jungle setting making it so memorable.

palenque.JPG

The next day we left our posh hotel and headed towards Bonampak. No sooner had we left the main road from Palenque, the rain began, at first just a light drizzle but then full on, we were glad we were taking the paved road and not some of the muddy tracks that branched off. We reached Bonampak in about 3 hours, parked the bikes and were taken by the local Lancandonian Indians to the ruins.

bonampak.JPG

The rain actually stopped for the couple of hours we were looking round the ruins, which were worth the ride, but kept up for the rest of the day. Accommodation was a bit tricky to find, due to signs that pointed off to non – existent campsites or cabanas in the jungle. Tarmac turned to dirt (read mud) as the daylight threatened to disappear before we were safely off the road.
We found a place across an interestingly constructed bridge

pipebridge.JPG

that had wooden huts in the jungle for an ecological rather than economical price, but it was preferable to camping. As we lugged our stuff from the bikes, down the ever darker jungle paths the rain continued. I read that there were only an average of 3 rainy days in November in Mexico, I think we have had all Decembers rain too. Good news for those here this month then!!

We survived our night in the jungle, despite the spiders, mosquitoes and our own cooking. It wasn’t actually raining the next day, so we set off for the Lagos de Montebello, several beautiful lakes near the border, hardly visited and a great place to camp, walk and swim – ha, we should be so lucky!!

The road, was in the morning rather boring, only made a little more interesting by the military checkpoints about every 75kms. The same routine; stop, hand over passport and tourist card, chat politely until all details entered onto their forms then off we go with a smile and a wave. The afternoon brought much more interesting scenery and roads and less checkpoints, manned ones anyway. The hillsides were jungle and the road wound up and down through the mountains. At one point we were so high, and in cloud so thick, we couldn’t see more than 15m or so ahead.

Unfortunately this cloud followed us and discharged its rain as we entered the Montebello National Park. So, as we rode past, we could only just make out the lakes I had so wanted to see. There was no point staying by the lakes in the rain, so we rode straight on to Comitan and checked into a hotel with hot showers!! It would have been a great trip, but for the weather!!
An early morning start is the norm for border crossing days, however, with only 160 km’s to ride today and news from other travellers that the border at Ciudad Cuautémoc / La Mesilla is reasonably quick and painless we took it a little easier.
We almost missed the Mexican side, but got stamped out and received confirmation that we had exported our bikes. It was all very calm, with only a few people hanging around, and the odd bus coming from the direction of Guatemala. Odd, I thought, this being a Saturday too, I expected a little more to be happening.
We then rode the 4km’s to the Guatemalan side – a completely different story!! It was like Piccadilly Circus, there were so many people that we could hardly drive our bikes through. Helpful bystanders pointed out where we needed to go, first stop was the fumigator who sprayed our bikes for 18.60 Quetzals each. Of course we hadn’t got quetzals yet, so off to find the money changers, ah the “helpful bystanders” should have guessed!! After a bit of haggling we changed our pesos, paid the fumigator and then headed to immigration. Another stamp, a piece of yellow paper and 30 pesos lighter (good we didn’t change all of our pesos!) then it was the turn of customs. This took a little longer, photocopies of everything, forms filled out, data entered into a computer, into the bank next door to pay 46 Quetzales, then we were given a blue sticker for the bike and they wished us a nice stay in Guatemala.

I somehow don’t think that other borders are going to be as easy as this. After all the formalities were finished with, we chatted to Robert, a Spanish guy travelling on a Brazilian registered XT, who was coming into Mexico. Swapped information and our last pesos, then it was time to do some riding in our third country.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at December 01, 2002 10:00 PM GMT
 


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