Travel Through Guatemala on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Guatemala on a Harley (22/2/02 - 2/3/02)
Distance 1184 km (278316 km to 279500 km)

This is part of the eighth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Belize

22/2/02 Guatemala and another easy border crossing. No payment for Kay or myself and only $US 7.00 for the motorcycle. Here also a frustration though with an agricultural decontamination spray to the motorcycle, $US 2.50. All vehicles, including trucks getting the spray. Seems a bit pointless as birds and animals cross the border constantly unsprayed. The previously dirt road to Flores almost completely sealed with just 22 km to complete the job. We stayed the night in this small island town on the lake. A Mayan town until the Spanish arrived and not liking their religious habits they destroyed the old buildings. The setting is today as beautiful with narrow streets, hotels and restaurants overlooking the lake.

23/2/02 Tikal at dawn, set amongst a national park with pyramid temple's peaks poking out above the trees. Parrots, toucan and woodpeckers calling in the morning. Gibnuts, kinkajou and turkeys rustling the ground and only a handful of tourists to be seen. Last night's storms had brought down many epiphytes from the tree tops giving us a rare closer look and early spring seeds littered the ground for the animals. The Mayan ruins large and spread out with jungle walks between the main temples. A climb to the top of temple 4, 64 metres above the jungle floor and a view from the top across the canopy.

24/2/02 Rio Dulce, at the cross point between Guatemala's largest lake and it's river access to the Caribbean Sea.Boat trip on the Rio Dulce river The newly sealed road to get here passes through some stunning limestone karst scenery. Lush forests on the pyramid like peaks and maize growing in the valleys. The lake is home to many yachties from the north wintering over in calm fresh waters, and ex-pat drop outs escaping the north permanently. A quiet town strung along the highway with that pleasant mix of locals and outsiders. High priced tourist bars overlooking the lake and broken chaired, broken bottled, fortified local's bars where you don't leave till they carry you out because your pockets are empty. We tried both ending up buying the local rot gut rum sold in 125 ml bottles for under $US 1.00, where people fell off chairs and broke bottles, urinated directly into the river, and the service was friendly.

25/2/02 In the fight for the tourist dollar to take people along the lake, river and through the scenic gorge to Livingstone the many boat operators finally set on an agreement. Those tourists arriving by bus would remain the property of the collective operator, taking turns and those tourists arriving by private vehicle or on charter would be free to bargain with the private operators. This narrowly stopped an all out war for business between boat operators but restricted competition. We negotiated an all day tour, with sightseeing, hot springs swimming at the rivers edge, mangroves, bird watching and a castle, in our own boat for about the same as the collective charges for a direct boat ride. But then we did arrive by private vehicle and not public bus.Taking a dip in the hot spar bubbling up at the edge of the river

26/2/02 420 km along the main road to Guatemala City, a short visit to the small H-D shop for some oils, and onto Panajachel in the mountains. The lush rain forest disappeared the further we travelled west and the higher in altitude.

27/2/02 Panajachel is a lakeside town at the bottom of an enormous collapsed volcano. Three smaller extinct volcanos still lie on the lake shore and villagers till the fertile soils. A popular tourist spot since the 70's many of the local native indians still go about life unchanged, making and wearing traditional clothing and eating basic foods available from street sellers. But like many places once the older generation goes so do their traditions. The youngsters wearing westernized clothes. We did nothing but absorb the ambience. The cool mountain air relaxing us to just watch the local tourist interaction.

28/2/02 Spending such a short time in the region it's difficult to visit other than the more touristed attractions, a quick way to get an overview. The markets at Chichicastenango have been large since before the Spanish arrived.The markets at Chichicastenango, still a locals, traditional market Although the concentration is now as much on tourists as locals it's still a great place to watch happenings. Not being buyers as we can't carry anything, we have become people watchers. Preferring to arrive early to watch the locals set up and do their trading before the tourists arrive mid morning. Almost all the women are traditionally dressed in a wrap around woven skirt and an embroidered top with a sash joining the two. Under the arm is open so the many babies carried in a cloth backpack can get a quick drink. The people are the smallest we have seen. As small or smaller than the pigmies of Africa. Kay at 155 cm is a giant when measured against men or women, particularly the elderly who seem to shrink away to almost nothing. Friendly, smiling faces were everywhere quietly bargaining, most selling and buying.

1/3/02 Antigua last night and tonight. The past capital of Central America with its cobblestone streets and Spanish style block road frontage houses and large courtyards behind. Surrounded by three volcano cones. Many travellers come here to learn Spanish. Others to climb the volcanoes. We are just passing through, looking.

2/3/02 The boys from the local Harley shop have a breakfast ride each Saturday, so a 6 am departure for us to be in Guatemala City to say hi. They were heading the way we had just come and we were heading out to the El Salvador border, crossing at Valle Nuevo. The Guatemalan border again easy, no payments, just a stamp and hand in the motorcycle papers.

Move with us to El Salvador