Days 123 to 124 April 2024

Posted by The Madbiker on Sun, May 5, 2024

Day 123

I left my accommodation in Coban at just after 8 o’clock in the morning and set off for the city of Huehuetenango which I had decided to ride to that day. Google maps showed that Huehuetenango was just over 120 miles away but the time to do it was show as nearly 5 hours so I knew to expect some slow going in parts of my journey for the day.

Just as I left Coban I saw a really nice roadside restaurant so I pulled in for coffee and breakfast, steak with scrambled eggs for 35 Quetzals (4.50 US Dollars)

Once suitably fed and watered I set off South on road number CA14 then after a few miles I turned off it and on to road number 7W . This road was amazing, this is what I expected Guatemala to look like, high mountains, deep valleys and twisty roads throughout.

The road surface was perfect for about 50 miles and I was in biker heaven but all good things must come to an end and then I hit the older part of the road and this is where the “Tumulos” started to appear again together with stretches of badly degraded road surface over bridges and at junctions. There were also more than a few massive potholes but I managed to dodge most of these.

Then I encountered another bridge over a river that used metal grid plates for a road surface, now with the knobbly tyres on the bike the very short ride over the bridge was more than a little entertaining as the bike squirmed about like a snake that someone had just stood on!

However, despite the deteriorating road conditions and riding through large towns with no directional signs, which caused me to get lost a couple of times, the scenery was superb and once out of the towns I enjoyed the ride through the mountains.

When I arrived in the city of Huehuetenango at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon I didn’t really like it so I decided to push on to the city of Quetzaltenango which lay just over 60 miles and another 2 hours to the South. Again the road climbed up the sides of the mountains and then dropped down in to the valley below before climbing up the other side of the valley. This process repeated itself a few times before I eventually dropped down in to the valley where the city of Quetzaltenango that lay below me.

As I was riding in to the city I noticed that the traffic was getting heavier and heavier so when I saw a nice looking hotel as the side of the road I pulled in and inquired about a room for the night. 200 Quetzals (25 US Dollars) for a very nice room and a safe place to park the bike right outside my hotel room door. Once showered and sorted I took an Uber taxi in to the centre of the city, the road in to the city centre was stuffed full with traffic as was the city centre itself when I arrived there.

There were a few nice old buildings around a small square but apart from that there was not much else to see, I was so glad to have made the decision to stop outside the city centre and not to have ridden through such heavy traffic just to have a look at nothing much.

I took a few photos and in one of them you can see the altitude that the city sits at as there was some low cloud sitting in the valley just outside the city.

Just after I had taken the photos I heard the rumble of thunder and a few spots of rain started to fall from the now leaden skies. I sought refuge in a nearby cafe just in time as, like the previous late afternoon, the rain came down with a vengeance. Once I had finished my coffee I got an Uber taxi back to my hotel through more heavy traffic and I arrived there just as the rain had stopped. I took the opportunity to take a photo of my now rain washed bike parked at the rear of the hotel.

Day 124

The previous evening as I had sat outside the hotel restaurant drinking my coffee and smoking my cigar, it was cold, cold enough that I could see my breath when I exhaled (not my cigar smoke!) I also had to put on an extra layer and that’s the first time that I have had to do that since leaving Spain on this trip 5 months ago. Whilst sitting drinking coffee and smoking, I decided that my destination for the following day was to be Antigua Guatemala, the old capital city.

The reason for this choice of destination was that I had previously spoken with a Danish guy called Dennis that I become friends with whilst staying in Panama city and he had previously been to Guatemala. Dennis told me to avoid Guatemala city as there was nothing to see there and when he was there a year or so ago, there were a lot of robberies in the city, even during the day.

Dennis had also told me a story about a girl that he knew personally, who travelled in to Guatemala city for work, who had been robbed by 2 guys on a bike whilst she was sitting in a stationary taxi and stuck in a traffic queue on her way to work. Dennis is a good guy so when people like that give me advice, I tend to listen to it.

When I awoke it was still very fresh outside and my bike was covered in condensation. I got ready and headed off just before 8 o’clock in the morning and it was cold. I rode out of West on road CA1 (Highway 1) and the road climbed up out of the valley in which the city sits but after about 40 minutes of riding in the cold morning air I gave up and stopped at a petrol station to have a cup of coffee and stand in the early morning sunlight to heat up.

Once back on the road again I rode up over one hill and then down the other. As the sun cleared some early morning mist I stopped at the side of the road to take a photo of the town of Nahuala that I was just about to descend off the mountain in to.

Road CA1 was newish to start with when I left Quetzaltenango but this was interspersed with sections of older, less well maintained road, and since this is the main road from Mexico to Guatemala City it was dual carriageway most of the way. I stopped for another coffee about 40 miles East of Chimaltenango where I was to turn off Highway 1 and take road number 14 to Antigua Guatemala. I had descended a fair bit down and out of the mountains and the air was now thankfully getting warmer.

I eventually reached Antigua Guatemala at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and just before I got there the odometer on the bike turned to 5000 miles. I thereafter quickly found my hotel however the streets in the town, apart from the main road running through it, are paved with very old, very uneven, and sometimes very broken cobblestones. Anything above 10 MPH in first gear and the front suspension started to take a beating.

I had decided to take another short break from riding as I needed to catch up on a few things such as getting my laundry done. so I had booked the hotel for 3 nights for 69 US Dollars.

The hotel was basic but it was clean, it had hot water in the bathroom in my room, but more importantly, they let me park my bike inside the inner courtyard of the hotel.

So, after a quick hot shower I set out to explore the town which I was able to walk around in about 1 hour. I did the usual stuff, I took photos of the old buildings and wandered around to see what the place was like.

The place was full of small restaurants, coffee shops, craft shops and it had the obligatory McDonalds and Starbucks. It was very nice but again it was a little too touristy for me. However, the McDonalds was situated in an old building that had an inner courtyard of about 30 metres by 30 metres, that was full of trees and had a large children’s play area in it. This is where all the outdoor seating was and I have to say it is the best setting that I have seen for a McDonalds.

I continued to wander about the city, and although this placed is called a city, it is only about a couple of miles across, so it’s not very big. However, I took some more photos including one of the type of tourist shops that the city if full of.

As I previously mentioned, ever since I have been in Guatemala there has been a constant heat haze that tends to obscure the scenery and as I was strolling about I happen to seen a large volcano near to the city which I had not previously seen due to the haze.

Another thing that I have noticed here in Guatemala is that almost no one wears a helmet when they are on a bike, not even the police.

The only bike issue that I experienced today was a small oil leak from the camshaft cover. This appears to have been a one off as it seems to have stopped, however, when I first got the bike I had a leak from here caused by faulty O ring seals. Hopefully it was just because of the high temperatures that the bike was running in that the leak occurred, however, once I get back to Panama city I will check it out properly.