November 28, 2010 GMT
Five must be the magic number

Meeting people on the road is one of the cool things that happens, it can change the day, dissolve any possible plans and lead you off on paths that you would never normally take.

First we met Evan, a Canadian doing the trip on his own. He spotted the bikes, we started talking and decided to ride to Tikal the next morning together.

Tikal is another "must do" backpacker pyramid touristy site.

tikal1.jpg

As we changed out of our bike gear in the car park, two more bikers pulled in, Mike and Alex from Alaska, they had the same model bikes as Evan, so we started talking and now we were five. After touring the site we met up for beer in the evening back in Flores and Mike suggested we all head off to a remote hostel he had heard about, but is never advertised.

It sounded like a plan.

The ride

It has probably led to the most exciting, exhilarating, white knuckle inducing days riding I have had so far. The off the beaten track roads in Mexico we used with Jim, Tony and Gavin were just a warm up.

Back to riding in a group again, with no one really sure really sure of which way the road we wanted was as Guatemala probably has the worst road signing we have come across yet (and helpful locals who seem to give you any directions they can think of rather than admitting they do not know the way). It took us over half an hour to find the road. And what a good road, great surface, fast bends and well signposted "Tumulus" (the Guatemalan Topes). Then the road ran out and we had to take a ferry. Or what looked more like a flat platform, with a thatched cabin and a motor.

floresferry2.jpg

The road conditions kept changing, some times we had brand new fresh tarmac, others times it was loose gravel for miles in the middle of road works, and then it just stopped being a road. It was marked on all the maps as Highway 5. But it was little more than a dirt track.

highway5-2.jpg

A dirt track that wound its way up int the mountains with large boulders, tight climbing hairpin bends (with boulders) and trucks filled to overflowing with people being transported to and from the many isolated hamlets.

highway5truck.jpg

This went on for over 30 miles, it was slow progress and we knew the sun would set just after 17:00, we had no choice but to carry on hoping the rain that was threatening stayed off. If it had started to rain we had agreed we would just stop and pitch the tents as no one wanted to ride the rocks in the wet.

We were all elated when we found the turn off for the hostel, at the same place the real road started again. However we had another 5 miles of dirt track to negotiate, which didn't pass without incident.

Earlier in the day, Jean had told me that she felt it would be best if she had a slow spill on her bike on a dirt road to get it over and done with. They say you should be careful what you wish for.

Mike and I had hung back to try keep an eye on Jean, and then she wasn't there. We waited, we waited a bit longer, so I turned round and went back up the hill. I found her being helped to pull the bike upright by some passing locals. I tried park my bike, managed to get the side stand down. got the road camber wrong and dropped it, so they had to help me as well.

Jean was OK and smiling, she had not negotiated the bend properly as a car came round and had taken a comedy roll off the road and down the hill. Which fortunately was covered in soft grass and bushes, not one of the big drop offs.

Looks like I need to get the gaffa tape out on the indicator. I can straighten the brake lever, but she will have to live with the dented pannier. However the dented confidence may take a bit longer to resolve.

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The Hostel

The trip was worth it.

A "thatched" Rancho that has a bar, restaurant and dorms, nestled on a hill top near the village of Lanquin with lush green mountains surrounding it.

hostel.jpg

We arrived (finally) just minutes before the bus came in (it left Flores at 0900 to our 11:00 so I think we had a better time). Jean and I nabbed the last private room.

A room with a view.

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The place is idyllic, the people (owners, bar staff and guests) laid back and friendly.

I partied into the night, and now its chill out time.

Guatemala Pictures will be added here

Posted by Bruce Porter at November 28, 2010 05:01 PM GMT
 



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