Days 121 to 122 April 2024

Posted by The Madbiker on Thu, May 2, 2024

Day 121

It was another hot day in Honduras, when I set off from Puerto Cortes at 7 o’clock in the morning it was already displaying 33 degrees Celsius on my bike. I headed for the Guatemalan border that was about an hour away and as the road passed close to the coast I stopped to take a photograph.

On my arrival at the Honduran side of the border at 8 o’clock in the morning, as usual I was stopped and asked for my passport. I was then allowed to proceed to the main border building. I had hoped that by arriving at the border early it would be relatively quiet. However, when I parked the bike I saw a huge queue of people standing at the Honduras exit window, apparently everyone else had the same idea as me.

I waited in the queue and eventually I got processed for exiting Honduras at no cost! Then I went to the window for entry in to Guatemala in the same building, again I waited in the queue until I got my entry stamp with my new total of 79 days added to it, again at no cost!

Whilst I was waiting in the queue I saw an old VW Beetle in good condition park up next to the immigration offices. I always liked these cars and I even liked the paint job on this one.

By the time I had cleared both immigration offices an hour had passed and I now had to go to the Honduran customs to have my TIP cancelled and go to the Guatemalan customs for my TIP to be issued for Guatemala. Fortunately both offices, like the immigration offices, were right beside each other.

I asked if I could suspend my Honduran TIP as I was planning on returning to Honduras within a few weeks, but no it had to be cancelled. So I handed it over and signed on the dotted line, again at no cost!

Then I had to go to Guatemalan customs to get a TIP from them. No problems, I gave them my bike documents, my passport and my Panamanian driving licence with a copy of each. Then the guy came out and checked the engine and frame numbers on the bike. Then he eventually gave me a document and told me that I needed to pay the 183 Guatemalan Quetzals (about 23 US Dollars) by bank transfer for the TIP. I asked him where I could do this and he told me to go to a customs office just across the border inside Guatemala.

So I walked over the border in to Guatemala

and I was direct by one of the border guards to a small wooded shack with the customs sign on it.

When I got there the woman told me that she could not accept cash and I had to do a bank transfer. I explained to her that as I did not have either a Honduran or Guatemalan bank account then this was impossible for me to do. She just shrugged her shoulders and said there was no other way to do it. Eventually the border guard came in to see why I had not returned to Honduras and they had a conversation about the issue.

Then I asked if one of them could make the bank transfer for me and I would pay them in cash. Both of them looked at each other and then the woman started typing on her keyboard and shortly thereafter printed out a receipt for the payment. I then handed over the cash to the woman and I returned to the customs office at the border. Once I had given the customs officer the receipt for my payment, he started typing on his computer and eventually he issued me with my TIP. I was now free to enter Guatemala and by now it was 10 o’clock in the morning.

I got on the bike and rode up to the border that I had previously walked across, produced my TIP to the border guards and that was it, I was allowed in to Guatemala. I had intended to buy a SIM card once I had crossed the border in to Guatemala, however whilst I was hanging about at the border I realised that my Honduran SIM card was still working, giving me internet, so that was a bonus.

I then set off for the town of Flores in the North of Guatemala that sits on the South side of a large freshwater lake, I had been told that it was worth a visit so that was to be my destination for the day. As I rode from the border it started to get hotter. By the time I had done 100 miles or so from the border the temperature on the bike was now registering as 45 degrees Celsius, a little cooler than the day before but still very warm.

I decided to stop for a coffee and to let the bike cool down for a while so I pulled in to a small restaurant with a grass roof at the side of the road near to the town of Seja on road number CA13.

Once refreshed I set off again North on the CA13 and whilst the ride to Flores was decent enough, because of the heat the scenery was obscured by a very thick haze, however the roads in Guatemala had so far been very good with the very occasional rough patch here and there so it was an easy, if a tad boring, ride.

By about 2 o’clock in the afternoon I arrived at my destination for the night, a small hotel which I had booked the previous evening and I was cooked as by now the temperature was registering as 47 degrees Celsius. The hotel cost me about just under 200 Guatemalan Quetzals (27 US Dollars) and the first thing that I did was to have a cool shower.

The hotel also had a secure parking area where I parked the bike for the night.

Then I set about exploring a small island that is connected to the main town by a couple of bridges. The place was quite charming if a little touristy for my tastes.

Whilst walking around I noticed that the lake was encroaching on to the land or the land was sinking it to the lake but whatever the cause, this part of the island was closed off.

It was still sweltering hot so unlike me I stopped in a waterfront bar and decided to have a beer with my cigar instead of my usual coffee.

Some of the other patrons of the bar also decided that it was also too hot for them and they jumped in to the lake to cool off.

Once I had finished my cigar I decided to get a taxi back to my hotel, here in Guatemala, like Honduras, they use small 3 wheeled bike engined carts as taxis. I had never been in something like this before so I decided to give it a whirl. The ride to my hotel was 20 Quetzals (2.50 US Dollars)

Once back at my hotel I did the usual stuff, like writing the days events in my blog, and then I went on to the rooftop terrace of the hotel for a coffee and a smoke before heading off to bed with absolutely no idea where in Guatemala I was going to ride to the following day.

Day 122

So the previous evening I had decided to ride to the city of Coban which, when you look at a map of Guatemala, sits just above the capital city. Again it was a hot one with the bike registering 33 degrees Celsius as I set off at just before 8 o’clock in the morning. I stopped to fill up the bike with petrol and then took what looked like the best way out of town, bypassing a large town some 10 miles away.

The road was empty with a new tatmac surface, everything was going great until 5 miles in to the journey when the tarmac ran out and it turned in to a gravel road full of potholes for the next 5 miles or so. Now I know why no-one else was using this road. However, once my off road excursion was over, I was back on tarmac and heading South.

This part of Guatemala is not how I imagined it to be as it’s very flat. Therefore the journey was pretty boring except for the speed bumps, or as they are called here “Tumulos”, that seem to be everywhere on the roads in this country. Most of them are unmarked and they are large, rough strips of badly formed concrete slapped over the road in a mound like fashion.

Some were broad and about 6 inches high whilst others were so narrow and so high that I had to almost come to a complete stop to get over them and they still hit the bash plate that is bolted on to the bottom of my bike. Sometimes as I rounded a bend there in front of me was an unannounced speed bump which I had no time to slow down for. The bike suspension took a hammering on these occasions but nothing burst or came loose.

Apart from that the only other excitement was a ferry crossing at the town of Sayaxche. For some unknown reason they have not built a bridge over the river and ferries are used to carry people and vehicles across the river which is called El Rio Del Pasion (The river of passion)

There was a small boat taking only bikes over the river but I would have had to U turn the bike on a steep gravel slope and then walk the bike back down the slope and on to the boat as it only had one loading ramp. I decided against this and opted for the large ferry with a ramp at each end which the cars and trucks use. I got on it, it cost me 5 Quetzals (about 60 US Cents) and within a couple of minutes my excitement for the day was over.

I rode on for another couple of hours and by this time the temperature on the bike was reading as 46 degrees Celsius so I decided to take break and let both the bike and myself cool down. I parked the bike in some shade under a tree at a roadside shack that sold food and grabbed a couple of bottles of water and some scrambled eggs for 35 Quetzals (about 4 US Dollars)

Whilst I was sitting a three guys in a small pick up with some pigs in the back of it pulled in and had some lunch but not before going down to the nearby river and dowsing the pigs with buckets full of river water, they made quite some noise as the cold water hit them!

So I then set off having about 50 miles left to travel that day. The terrain was now changing and I was now riding in amongst some hills which were covered in lush vegetation. The roads became twistier which was better for me but they were still full of unannounced “Tumulos” so I had to slow down and watch for them unless I wanted a trip down the road on my face.

I stopped to take a photo of the scenery but as you can see in the photo the side of the road is strewn with litter, as was every other road that I had so far been on.

As I continued my journey at one point I was riding through a small town and I found myself behind a small bike with a young guy riding it and a middle aged woman sitting on the pillion seat drinking out of a water bag, (they also sell water here in small plastic bags) when she had finished it she just dropped it on to the road, perhaps this explains the litter problem.

I arrived in the city of Coban at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I checked in to a hostel where I got a single room for the night for 180 Quetzals (22 US Dollars) and there was a secure compound opposite it where I was able to park my bike overnight. The place was a little run down but it had relatively nice covered rooftop terrace. I then set out to explore the town and get to an ATM as I needed more cash, however just as I got my cash an enormous thunderstorm rolled in and it started chucking it down with rain.

I stood in a shop doorway with other people who were also sheltering from the torrential downpour and after about half an hour as the rain was showing no signs of stopping, I flagged down a passing taxi and headed back to the hostel. On the way back the taxi driver had to make a couple of detours as some of the streets were flooded with over 3 feet of rainwater and the police had closed them off. According to the taxi driver this is normal for here when it rains.

I got myself fed and watered back at the hostel and as I sat on the rooftop terrace smoking my cigar and drinking my coffee, the rain eventually stopped and the skies cleared just before it got dark. Again like the previous evening I had no idea where I was going to go the following day so I got on to my laptop to help me decide.