We hadn’t planned to go to Tikal, but so many people had said how good it was and we had met other people who had driven or ridden there without any problems, that we decided to ride up there and see what all the fuss was about.
We left Poptún and got to the park gate far too early. We wanted to get to the site in time for the sunset and be able to see the following days sunrise. This was possible on one days ticket but only after 3pm. Tried to convince the guard that we wouldn’t actually go into the ruins until after 3, but if they could let us in so we could pitch up our tent and have lunch…….. No chance!! Instead we rode back to El Cruce, by the lake, had an early lunch, then went and sat down by the lake. I crashed out and slept for 3 hours!!
Sian asleep by Lago Petén Itzá
Got back to the gate at 3pm on the dot, bought our tickets, then headed for the ruins. Left the bikes at the Jaguar Inn, where we were going to camp and went in to see the ruins. They truly were spectacular, bathed in the glow of the setting sun, tops of pyramids poking out of the jungle. After the sun had done its thing, we went to put up our tent and fell asleep to sounds of the jungle.
We got up the next morning around 5 and walked back to the ruins. Climbed a pyramid and waited for the sun to appear. It was really misty and as we waited the mist thickened instead of clearing and the sun stayed stubbornly hidden. It was very atmospheric though.
Tikal in the morning mist
After another few hours, wandering around the ancient city seeing lots of wildlife and not many tourists, it was time to ride back to the Finca near Poptún, where we were going to spend Christmas.
It was Christmas Eve, but before we could relax, we had to do some ‘bikey stuff’ The first task was to wash the bikes and get rid of the mud that was still baked on to most surfaces, that done, it was the turn of my chain. It had lengthened to such an extent it was jumping off at regular intervals. We wanted to get a few thousand more kilometres out of it, so decided to take out some links. I had a couple of chain connectors with me, so Arno took the chain off, gave it a good clean and oiling, then fitted it back on. It was only when he came to fit the chain connector did we find out it wasn’t the correct size, too big!!
After lots of swearing and forcing, we rode into Poptún to see if we could get another one. We weren’t really surprised when we couldn’t, it being late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Back at the Finca, we tried filing the holes a little bigger, also without much success. Luckily there happened to be a nice big bench drill in the workshop, so Arno used that to drill the holes just big enough to get the connectors through. Whew, with only 3 days left on our bike permits that could have become a tricky problem!
We did manage to relax a little more on Christmas Day, thankgoodness, spent a lot of time chatting with Mike & Sharon, swapping stories and infos. They are driving their Landrover around Central America for a few months and are searching out all those lovely dirt roads.
With Christmas over, it was time to leave Guatemala and head to Honduras. Ruth & Merv had done the border crossing 2 weeks ago or so at El Florido and we were headed for the same crossing, with a list of what we were prepared to pay. Honduran border officials are renowned for being the most ‘inexact’ in Central America. No one ever seems to pay the same fees, it has been reported as costing between U$20 and U$60 and taking between 2 hours and 3 days!!
We had spent the night in Chiquimula, less than an hours ride to the Guatemalan side of the border. Things went smoothly, we paid 10 Quetzales at migracion to leave and nothing for the bikes – they didn’t even remove the blue stickers. Rode the 30 metres to Honduras, arriving the same time as a bus full of Copán bound tourists. Now wishing we hadn’t lingered over breakfast, we had to queue for a good hour to pay our U$1 to get our passport stamped.
Waiting around, we noticed that there were oranges in little piles everywhere and every now and again, people would just help themselves. The mystery was solved when we looked across the road and saw the underside of a lorry staring back, the axles at a rather strange angle. On closer inspection it seems that the vehicle had toppled off the road and into the riverbed below, its cargo of loose oranges escaping for all to help themselves. As we started the customs process, another lorry arrived to pick up the ever diminishing pile of fruit, which was now being transferred into sacks by an army of workers.
The source of the border oranges
Customs or aduana is usually the tricky bit, it took awhile as our bikes were thoroughly inspected, the details noted and then laboriously typed up onto forms. Receipts for everything were written out and the amounts actually corresponded with the huge notice on the wall detailing the fees, and with what we were expecting to pay. It took about 2 hours and cost us each U$28, a border crossing to be recommended. Welcome to Honduras.
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