Days 125 to 126 May 2024

Posted by The Madbiker on Thu, May 9, 2024

Day 125

When I took a few days off in Antigua Guatemala right across the road from my hotel was a bike shop so I took the opportunity to have the guys who ran the shop try to straighten out my rear wheel ABS rotor. As the bike had just turned 5000 miles on the clock I asked them to change the engine oil while they were at it. They told me that they had straightened the rotor for me but the malfunction on the rear ABS is still there, I will probably need to buy a new ABS rotor on my return to Panama city.

I had planned a short riding day, my destination for the day was Port San Jose on the Pacific coast some 50 miles or so away. I left Antigua Guatemala about 10 o’clock in the morning and to be honest ride there was pretty uninspiring because the heat haze was very thick and I could not see very much. I arrived at my destination at about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and eventually found my hotel no thanks to Google maps that had me going in circles for about an hour. Once unpacked I got changed and headed out in a 3 wheeled taxi to have a look at the beach.

The sand was a chocolate brown colour due to the volcanic nature of this part of the country, I went for a paddle in the Pacific Ocean and the water was warm. The sand was absolutely scorching hot and I nearly burned the soles of my feet only walking on it for 20 yards or so before I hit the wet, and cooler sand.

The beach is very wide and there were lots of locals scooting up and down it on 4 wheeled buggies. I walked along the beach for a while and I came across and old pier that had disintegrated.

A small seawater canal separated the beach from the town, unfortunately it was full of rubbish and it was bordered on one side by some shanty town dwellings. As I was taking the photograph an inhabitant of one of the shacks threw some rubbish in to the water.

I then walked back in to the town but there was not much to see other than the usual road chaos with lots of bikes with multiple persons onboard, even small children sitting on the petrol tank in front of their parents.

I had debated with myself about staying at this place for a few days if it turned out to be nice but it was not so I returned to my hotel and planned my route for the following day. At least the hotel was nice enough at 175 Quetzals (22 US Dollars) and it had secure overnight parking for the bike.

Day 126

The previous night I had decided that I had had enough of Guatemala and I decided to cross the border in to El Salvador. I awoke early and I was out of the hotel and on the road for just before 7 o’clock in the morning. I headed North on road number CA-9 and then turned East on to road number CA-2 that would take me to the border.

In the distance to the South I saw a giant plume of smoke that was obviously coming from a volcano but I was too far away to see the actual volcano. The road started to rise as I neared the border and first I stopped to photo a large lake that sat at the side of the road

and then to take a photo of some wetlands that also sat near to the road.

On looking at this photograph one would think that Guatemala is a beautiful place to travel in but as I have already mentioned even this view was spoiled for me by the large amount of litter dumped in the layby that I stopped in to take the photograph. See for yourself what I mean.

When I took the above photo I was about 20 miles or so away from the border. As Guatemala obviously has no mandatory helmet laws I decided to ride for a while without wearing my helmet as it would probably be the last time that I have the option to do so. The last time that I did this was in the 1980’s in Sardinia where it was also legal to do so at that time. So, I rode with my helmet over my arm to the border and to be honest, I enjoyed much it more than I did when I last did it so many years ago but that’s probably down to the fact that I was only doing a maximum for 50 MPH and not 70 MPH as I previously did without a helmet.

Anyway, helmetless I reached the Guatemalan side of the border shortly before 9 o’clock in the morning where I was directed to park my bike in the middle of the road outside the immigration and customs building

I then went to immigration where I got cleared for exit from Guatemala in about 10 minutes at no cost. I then went to the Guatemalan customs to have the TIP for my bike cancelled and this was another dose of the border crossing pantomime. I needed to give them my passport and original bike documents plus copies of each, which I had. No problem. I had also to give them my driving licence, the Guatemalan TIP that I wanted cancelled, plus copies of each.

They also wanted a copy of the page of my passport which had all my previous C4-A stamps in it. (Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala) Since I did not have these copies I had to trot off to a small building that had the copy sign outside it. When I got there it was basically someone’s house with a scanner and a photocopier in the kitchen.

I gave what I needed to be copied to the old woman who obviously owned the house and operated the photocopying racket, sorry I meant business. I got the copies that I needed (a total of 15 sheets of A4 paper) and it cost me 50 Quetzals, just over 6 US Dollars thank you very much!

I then trotted back to the Guatemalan customs with all of the relevant documents and copies, then the guy came out and checked the frame number on my bike, then he cancelled my TIP, stamped one part of it that he gave me to show to the customs guys at the actual border, again this was all done at no cost. I got on the bike and headed over the bridge, showed my cancelled TIP to the Guatemalan customs guys who signed it and then I entered El Salvador.

I parked up at the El Salvadorian immigration and customs offices.

The time was now 10 o’clock. I went to El Salvadorian immigration, the guy stamped my passport, wrote in the number of days that I had left in the C4-A area, and welcomed me to El Salvador. All done in under 5 minute and at no cost. The I went to the customs for my TIP. They needed my passport, original bike documents, plus one copy of each and my original cancelled Guatemalan TIP.

I was then given a form to fill out with the usual details, you know the details that were already in my documents, such as my passport number etc. I filled it out, signed it, and my bike was once again examined for the correct frame number. After that I was issued with my TIP, again at no cost, and that was it, all done and dusted in 30 minutes.

I stopped just after the El Salvadorian border for the usual photo and again a short distance down the road for the main sign to indicate that I was now in El Slavador.

I continued to ride South on road number CA-2 and after a while I turned North on to road number CA-12 in the direction of the capital San Salvador and then at the town of Sonsonate I peeled off in the direction of Santa Ana that would be my destination for the evening.

The road started climbing and as it rose up in to the mountains I saw that the tops were covered in cloud, surprisingly though when I entered the cloud it was not cold, that’s a definite first for me on a bike. Once above the clouds I was again in sunshine and shortly after I began descending in to Santa Ana.

I tried to find my accommodation for the night, a hostel near the centre of the city, but again I had a tussle with Google maps. As I had forgotten to buy a SIM card at the border I had offline maps but no internet. Eventually with the help of a guy in a shop where the Google maps directed me to I found the place and he telephoned the owner, who arrived within a few minutes.

The owner and his wife, Manuel and Marisha, were most welcoming and did everything they could to make me feel welcome. In fact, I liked the place so much that I decided to stay for 2 nights which I paid 32 US dollars for. El Salvador uses the USD as its currency.

I then ventured out and bought a SIM card for 1 US Dollar and 4 US Dollars for a top up but for some reason it was not working properly and I would probably have to buy another one so I realised that that was my fist job for the next day.

In the courtyard of the hostel building

there was a tree with some odd looking fruit like things growing on it. I asked Manuel about this and he told me that in Spanish they are called Morra, apparently they take the seeds out, dry them, grind them up in to a powder, and make a drink from the powder.

I took the opportunity to walk around the city and I took the obligatory photos of the place which was a lot nicer than a lot of the places that I so far been to in Central America.

I also wanted to have another look at the ABS rotor to see why the ABS problem was still persisting, as straightening the rotor should have solved the issue. The rotor was still curved in places, the guys at the bike shop in Antigua Guatemala obviously hadn’t bothered their arses doing anything about it.

This is the reason why I try to do all my own maintenance on the bike, I have found over the years that most bike shops can’t be trusted to do a proper job and it would appear that the same problem exists here in Central America.

Whilst staying at the hostel of my friend Manuel in Santa Ana in El Salvador, I met and got in to conversation with a really nice English couple from Norfolk, Billy and Jemma, who had saved up to go on an extended trip in South and Central America. We exchanged stories about the places that we had been to and which ones that we liked and the usual stuff. However, when I mentioned to them that I had found Guatemala to be a really dirty country the told me the following story.

Apparently they were on a bus going from one part of Guatemala to another and Billy had just finished one of those small plastic wags full of water that they sell in here Central America. Billy put the empty bag on the floor between his feet and then a local woman who was sitting across the aisle from him, gestured for him to throw it out of the open bus window, naturally Billy declined to do so.

This story together with what I saw with my own eyes whilst riding through Guatemala tells me something about the nature of the people who live there, namely that throwing litter out of a vehicle on to the road is a perfectly acceptable thing for them to do. No wonder the place looks like a giant rubbish dump.