Do All Roads Lead to Guatemala City?
Our bikes were packed, we’d waved goodbye to our family and our final task in Antigua was to check email. Arno’s bike however had other ideas. The repaired starter motor, now refused to work!! While I was internetting, Arno was outside with pieces of BMW spread over the pavement, trying to fix it. He got it working, but we decided enough!! Time to replace the wretched thing. We rode into Guatemala City and were taken to the BMW dealership by a biker that we had asked directions from. We knew that they had the part in stock, we just had to speak to our contact and hand over the Visa card – Ouch!!
Arno taking the dodgy starter motor out for the very last time!
Arno put the shiny new starter motor into Black Betty in about 30 mins, on the forecourt outside the dealership. Alongside him, brand new cars, waiting for their owners to come pick them up and put the first dents into the bodywork. Another bike rider led us out of the city and by lunchtime we were finally on our way to Lake Atitlan.
It was nice to relax at the lake for awhile, no homework or classes to go to. We drove a little way around the lake, but were nervous about going too far.
Recently a European tourist had been killed when shots were fired at the minibus she was in. There was now quite a noticeable police presence, but we didn’t want to take any chances, so hung out at the very touristy Panajachel. In hindsight, it would have been more interesting to have stayed in Solola, high above the lake, less touristy and more happening, especially on market days.
We had to ride through Guatemala City yet again, to get to Coban. Despite trying to go around, we ended up in the middle again. People were really helpful and gave us good directions or told us to follow them, so we were soon on our way. Once we had left the crazy traffic of the main highway that led to the coast, the road up to Coban was great to ride. Nice scenery and a good road that twisted up through the mountains. The rain came to greet us for the first time since we had crossed the border, so we arrived in the town a little soggy. Found a nice Hospadaje, not yet in the guide books – always a bonus, that had parking for the bikes. The owner had a lorry and backed it out of his garage, so we could squeeze the bikes in front. The bikes were holding each other up almost, Arno had to lean his against the wall, no room for the side stand! At least we knew that they wouldn’t be going anywhere.
The bikes squashed into the garage
The next day the rain had stopped, and we headed out of town towards the junction that would take us towards Lanquín. The maps that we had, showed the road as being of the same standard as yesterday, i.e. tarmac. The road out of the next village was most definitely not tarmac. We turned back and asked directions, thinking we had missed a turn. No, we were pointed back to the dirt road, where an earth mover was busy doing its thing. I thought to myself, “ah, that’s ok, they are just digging up the road here, it will get better soon” After 10kms, I had to face the fact that the next 180kms were not going to be any better – in fact things got rather worse. The road was nice and wide, something to be thankful for as there was plenty of traffic, buses, pickups and lorries, but it was also nice and muddy thanks to yesterdays rain and it wasn’t long before the bikes and ourselves were plastered.
Plastered with mud, on a pretty good section of the road
We got to the Lanquín turnoff at around 10am, now clear that stopping off for a “quick look” at the caves was not really possible, we rode on. The road began to narrow as it climbed higher and by the time we got to a largish village I was finding it tough going. The usual one way system was in place, even here and we were directed around the houses and up a really steep stony road that would have been difficult in the dry. Now nice and slippery, I couldn’t make it. Arno having ridden ahead, and then seen a lorry, wheels spinning and sliding, came running back down the hill to ride the XT up for me, while I ran up the hill to look out for his bike. He made it up, no thanks to the chain, which jumped off at a crucial moment and the bus coming up behind him with no room to pass!! We had a break here and for the first time on the trip really, a group of people gathered around the bikes.
Ready to go again after our break
It was all good-natured and we practised our Spanish as we were asked all the usual questions plus a few more. Time was moving on and we had to get going, at the Sebol junction we headed for Frey, where there was tarmac, but only in the centre of town! The road then turned to gravel, but good solid gravel and we were able to speed along, much easier than trying to avoid the many pot holes. At 3pm, after 7 hours of riding dirt, we finally reached the junction at Modesto Menedez and tarmac. From there it was a rainy but smooth hours ride to Poptún, to the Finca where we stayed the night.
Posted by Sian Mackenzie at December 23, 2002 02:34 AM GMT