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Guatemala

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Friday 30th September – Day 118

Palenque, Mexico to Flores, Guatemala – 189 miles / 304 km

A new day, a new country. Nerves were on edge as we approached the Mexican border. Then it was all over before it started. Too easy in fact, which we were punished for later with a $100 fine because we didn’t purchase a tourist visa. So, how is it going to be crossing into Guatemala?

Absolutely amazing! That’s how it is to cross the border from Mexico to Guatemala. There are easier ways, but the shortest route was through customs in Frontera, Mexico and then Bethol, Guatemala. Unfortunately there is a river in the way. Not usually a problem, but in this case it is a problem as there isn’t a bridge, and no scheduled ferry service. Not to worry, we had met a couple in Chicken, Alaksa on the Top of the World Highway who had mentioned the crossing and said they hired a local skiff to take them across. Beauty!

It was very easy, and for those adventurous types a ‘must do’ border crossing. We met some boat drivers (and I use the term ‘boat’ very gently) as we entered the National Park (fee 15 pesos each……not too bad at $1.15 Australian). They sped off on their pushies, three BMW 1200’s in hot pursuit.

The boatmen guided us through customs, which again was super easy. For anyone riding through Mexcio, make sure you pay the tax. Its only 262 paseos and separate from the tourist visa and the temporary import tax. It’s automatically paid if you arrive by plane. This tax needs to be paid at the border, or in Palenque, a 3 hr ride back to where we started. Oh crap! Obviously we didn’t, and neither did Kev. In fact, none of us had even heard of it. Fortunately the customs officer was a lovely lady, and Big Kev has a lovely smile. At least I figure it must be, cause one flash of those pearly whites from Kev and she said “Don’t worry, pay me and I’ll sort it out from here”. Good on ya Kev!

Low on fuel, we top up with 10 litres from the local ‘service station’. By service station, what I really mean is about fifteen 20L drums and a siphon hose in some guys shed. How cool is that! Mind you, I wouldn’t want to fill the 100 L tank on my ute back home!

Next stop, the river. As I ride off the road and head for the bank (there is no car park, foot traffic only for these boats normally) disaster! My back wheel hits a rock, and at the super high speed of 2 km / hr instead of tracking over it, the bike stops, leans past the magic 5 degree angel, and that’s it. Down she goes! Aaarrgghhhhhh! Sorry Rieke.

Crashes 9 – 7. Look out Stubbsie, here I come! Gonna take the lead in no time!

Three skiffs were nosed up to the bank, engines still running to keep them together and in place against the strong current. We un-load all our gear, then Wade takes the plunge and rides down the muddy bank first. It takes 5 guys to man handle Smokey onto the boat. Half and hour later, Aialik and Kev’s bike are tied down. We are ready to go!

It doesn’t look right. It doesn’t feel right. The bike makes the boat look tiny, and how the centre of gravity is low enough to prevent capsizing neither Wade nor I have a clue.

Our little boats gingerly pull off the bank. Everyone, including the drivers hold their breath. They are looking pale, palms sweaty. I am happy to see Wades boat backing out first. As it floats off, everyone sucks in a long overdue lung full of air. We just might make it after all!

Un-loading is hard! Hot, humid, and a steep, slippery, muddy bank. The local Guatemalans jump in and help out. Brilliant! We don’t have to ask, we don’t have to wave cash. They helped because that’s what Guatemalans do. After the bikes were safely on the bank wade offered one guy 50 paseos. He was so happy you’d think stubbsie just handed him is first born son. He was proudly showing his mates the note that would buy at least the first two rounds at the bar tonight.

As soon as we left the heavens opened, in a big way! My goodness did it come down. Water everywhere. Welcome to Guatemala!

We easily floated thru Customs on a bit of driftwood we found on the stream flowing thru the building (well, not really, but it sounds better than simply saying ‘customs was easy’). Awesome! We are officially in Guatemala.

Now, the good news. It is free to enter Guatemala. No tourist visa required, no temporary import, no tax. Nothen. Whoooo Hoooooo! The guy even said it should be free to leave, and if a customs official asks for money don’t pay him. Argue the point. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like the best advice ever!

Saturday 1st October – Day 119

Flores – Bus to Tikal Ruins

We stayed in the Green World hotel on Isle Flores last night. About $7 Aussie each for two double rooms. Better still, off street parking in our own private garage. We gladly left all our bike gear in there to dry out. As we opened the door in the morning, holy #@!$@#!#$#!!!!!!!! I thought Saddam had actually managed to make his chemical weapons of mass destruction and hid them in the garage. One wiff of that would kill a stray dog! Fairdinkum, it was horrible!

It rains, a lot. We leave the bikes and wet gear behind and take a bus. For under $20 each we get our own mini bus there and back and a tour guide for four hours. The ruins are pretty cool. During the boom times of around 100 AD there were 2.5 million people in the city of Tekal. Mind blowing. Until deforestation caused drought and they either died or moved on. Perhaps even more amazing to those dedicated to the Jedi (star wars) the Tekal Temples were in the original film. I know, I know, you’re all going to have to watch the movie for the 20th time to see where and when.

Sunday 2nd October – Day 120

Flores to Coban – 174 miles / 280 km

Another one of those days. There is a main road from Flores to Guatemala city, however we didn’t take it. We choose the other way, then accidently found ourselves on the seriously other way road. As the tar broke up into dirt, then shrunk as two lanes washed away into one, Kev asked “Is this still the right road?”

“Yeah mate, the GPS is tracking perfectly”

What I didn’t say was that for the last ½ hr I couldn’t figure out where we were. This road didn’t seem to appear on my paper map. Argh well, who cares? It’s a bloody fantastic road, and seems to be going in the right direction!

As we wound our way further into the hills the terrain became steeper, the valleys deeper, the drop off closer to the edge of the road. The scenery which exposed itself periodically thru gaps in the cloud was worth every rock, bump, wet sock and ‘prune’ toe.

We wanted to get to Guatemala City where we planed to meet up with Juan, Ivan and Roberto. These guys saw a link to your website when ordering parts from MAX BMW and felt they had to ride with us. Sorry guys! Manana!

Monday 3rd October – day 121

Coban to Guatemala City – 174 miles / 280km

Leaving Coban at 0700 to meet the guys for breakfast 1 ¼ hours down the road. 2 hrs later and we pull in for coffee. Strewth, what a road! There’s been a lot of rain lately, leaving landslides everywhere. It isn’t unusual to come round a bend and look 5m down into a massive void. And I mean void. Void of everything, like road, dirt, rocks, land fill of any description, and most importantly, adequate warning signs. Then add in the rain, fog (couldn’t see more than 20m at times), the bald knobby tyres (we are going to change them in Guatemala City), and the odd beast (cow, pig, turkey, donkey – take your pick, it doesn’t matter). It was an interesting ride, that’s for sure. No way Rieke was falling asleep on the back today! Basically had to reduce speed to the point where you could stop dead in the distance you could see, which was bugger all.

Finally meet Juan and his buddies, all good blokes riding…… yep, you guessed it. BMW 1200’s and one BMW 1150. They are such nice guys, its ridiculous. Each faked a sickie to ride with us, then Juan spend the rest of the day organizing the work to be done at the bike shop and driving us round all day to various parts of the city to satisfy our every need.

And if that wasn’t enough, Juan and his wife picked us up from the hotel (which he organized incidentally), driving us to a private club (no, not that sort of club! A German club actually, which made Rieke happy!) for dinner with Ivan and his wife. Then bugger me if Ivan didn’t paid for it all. There were nearly fisty-cuffs (a fight for all you non Aussies) over the bill, but we couldn’t prevent him from paying. We plan to ride with them again over the weekend, so our shout this time lads!!

We can’t say enough about your hospitality. I can only hope that one day I can do the same for you, or if not for you, for some complete stranger that happens to be riding past my front door and is in need of a handy local guide. Thanks guys!!!

Tuesday 4th October – Day 122

Guatemala city to Antigua Guatemala – 30 miles 48 km

Late. And it’s only 0800. Bugger. The bikes were meant to be finished yesterday, but a mix up meant that they still aren’t done. We should have been in Antigua last night to start our intensive week of Spanish lessons now. At least I’m up to date with the blog now!!! Yippiieeeee!

Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 23:30