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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake


Crazy Night

February 7th, 2009 by sunflowers

I don’t ride at night. I don’t like being on the roads on weekend evenings in any country due to drunk drivers and Guatemala City is one of the worlds most dangerous cities in the world (Guatemala had 6000 reported murders last year with 80% of them in the city – proportionally New Zealand would have to have 2000 to be the same). So what was I doing riding into Guatemala City on a Friday night!

Leaving Rio Dulce I decided to stay at the same roadside hotel an hour out of the city as they had a Suzuki place close by and I needed my chain adjusted and with no centre stand to put my bike up it is hard to do myself. A friendly Nicaraguan/French bloke I had met had written out the Spanish for chain adjustment so I got it done for 50 pence.

Back at the hotel when I was online I got an invite from Julio, a motor biker from Guatemala City, to join him, his wife and another couple for a weekend of riding in the Western Highlands. I was hesitant as I had paid for the room and it was already five o’clock but I decided the chance to ride with people who knew where they were going couldn’t be passed up and made arrangements to meet Julio at the Shell Service station at km 9.

Getting to the service station I queued for a phone card and couldn’t understand the attendant, so queued again with my phrase book and got no where. Then decided to ask someone if I could use their phone for 10 Quetzals (1 pound). After two attempts I made my phone call to a wrong number. Getting out my laptop to check I had the right number I started to worry as I had no last name, no address and hadn’t seen any hotels riding in.

I had been at the petrol station for an hour when two girls came up to me asking me if I had any money so I offered them my tenner to try their mobile phone and only use the local number (as I had been including the country code, which I thought was the area code but Guatemala doesn’t use area codes). I don’t think that their mobile worked so they led me out of the station away from my bike which was nerve racking until I realised it was towards a pay phone. It was with a huge amount of relief I got through to Julio. Now I was just being picked up by a stranger in a foreign country where I can’t speak the language. But hey they ride motorbikes so they can’t be that bad 😉

Posted in Guatamala | 4 Comments »


Hot Water Falls

February 6th, 2009 by sunflowers

The main reason I had come to Rio Dulce was to visit the hot water falls were you can stand under the gushing hot water in the cold river. I ended up climbing over the rocks to were the river was flowing as the little fish kept biting my legs. After a couple days of feeling a bit blue I spent a long time under the hot water reflecting on whether I wanted to be back in London just finishing work and heading to the pub with my mates, go home to New Zealand to be around my family, do the rest of the trip in a hurry or take my time and do it properly. It is pretty hard to be in such a beautiful place, half way around the world and not feel like you are very lucky to be experiencing it, even if you have to do it by yourself because you have no one who could come along.

Rio DulceRio DulceRio DulceRio Dulce

Posted in Guatamala | 1 Comment »


Rio Dulce

February 6th, 2009 by sunflowers

Rio DulceI have a confession to make. I never wanted to ride a motorbike. I just thought it sounded cool riding a bike from Alaska to Argentina and as I have clumsy coordination it would be a challenge. But there is something soul satisfying about sitting on a bike, listening to music and watching the colours of the world go by.

Rio DulceWhat I don’t enjoy is getting to a town after a long days riding and trying to find accommodation where you can safely store a bike and depending on my frustration level I can be a bit prickly towards people when I first find a place to stay which isn’t the best start to the visit.

Arriving in Rio Dulce (town on the north eastern edge of Guatemala’s largest lake with a huge bridge that crosses the river into the lake) I had stopped several times to look for accommodation and was getting hot and bothered. Riding around I passed the signs for an ecolodge that had camping so I rode up the kilometre road and met the owner who was just leaving and said it was one of the few places that had safe bike parking. So I carried half my stuff on the 10 minutes of walkway into the lodge only to find out that they don’t have camping and the accommodation was out of my budget but I ended up staying due to lack of inertia. So I was in a beautiful, romantic cabin in a mangrove swamp in a funk.

Rio DulceRio DulceRio DulceRio Dulce

Posted in Guatamala | No Comments »


One for the Family

February 5th, 2009 by sunflowers

I was moaning to my sister last night that I spent all this time writing my blog and nobody was putting any comments and I woke up and she had commented on four entries and signed the guest book. Love you Dawn.

FloresMy mother has asked for more photos of people and me (though I distinctly remember when I was 17 and hitch hiked around NZ and Australia she said that all my photos were of people and not places). So here is one of me about to get onto my bike in Flores. Btw the reason for the unflattering jacket is it is made to have multiple layers underneath including a back brace and a water pouch on my back as well as save my life.

Posted in Guatamala | 4 Comments »


Weather Worries

February 4th, 2009 by sunflowers

Weather Worries

Semuc ChampeyWhen I left Semuc Champey I was worried about riding out a muddy road in the rain, slipping over the edge and never being found. Worried about getting lost and not being able to stop and ask for directions and worried about being alone. So a kind man from Oregon gave me a compass (thank you Greg) and a lovely couple from New Zealand assured me that good weather had been following them.

Semuc ChampeyThe muddy road turned out not to be a problem. I got lost in Coban (turns out to be quite a big city) but managed to ask enough people to make my way out. I followed a truck with motorbikes in the back when the mountain mist was so bad I couldn’t see the road (I thought about stopping the truck to explain that my mother wanted me to put my bike in the back of a truck for dangerous bits but figured my Spanish wasn’t up to it).

Semuc ChampeyI did have to skip the first too routes due to road works on the first and too much mud on the second. I did get lonely even though two people came up and talked English to me at the lunch stop and I had been looking forward to my own room after sharing for the last five days. But I figured I was tired and would feel better in the morning.

The coolest thing I saw was a cave with thousands of bats flying out of it.

Posted in Guatamala | No Comments »


The French

February 3rd, 2009 by sunflowers

Semuc ChampeyToday Sri headed off to the Honduras border but I am staying behind for another day as unfortunately I met this lovely French couple last night and had too much to drink to face a dirt road in the rain. I also realised that I have never actually talked to anyone that is French before. It was really interesting. We discussed how we both would rather have Obama than Nicolas Sarkozy and Gorden Brown. That London is where all the ‘go getters’ French went to work (though not now). They admitted that they strike a lot and that they don’t dislike the English, it is the Germans they don’t like.

Semuc ChampeySemuc ChampeySo tomorrow I will be travelling by myself but after spending my first couple of Guatemalan days with someone who was comfortable in the country I feel much more relaxed. So today I am going to take it easy and do some river tubing in the rain this afternoon.

Posted in Guatamala | No Comments »


Frolicking in the Falls

February 2nd, 2009 by sunflowers

We were told that the road to Semuc Champey (warm pools and waterfalls) was too tough for a motorbike so we decided to take the collectivo which was a bus crammed full of people including the roof and my lap. On the way back we had a bit more room as it was an open truck.

Semuc ChampeySemuc ChampeySemuc ChampeySemuc Champey

Semuc ChampeySemuc ChampeySemuc ChampeySemuc Champey

Posted in Guatamala | 1 Comment »


Good on Guatemalan Girls

February 1st, 2009 by sunflowers

FloresOne of the first things that I noticed about Guatemala was the number of females riding motorcycles (it is easy to tell as no body wears a helmet). I even saw a couple of girls with guys on the back of their bikes which until now I thought I was unique in ferrying around fellas.

FloresSo in this spirit Sri and I swapped our bikes for a couple of hours. I think it is the first time anyone in Guatemala has seen a 6 foot Indian bloke on a shortened DR650 with a 5.6” Caucasian chick on a much larger Vstrom as we got a lot of funny looks, toots, waves and a few kisses every time we stopped.

We spent the night in Flores on an island in the middle of a lake and it took 8 hours to do 200 miles including 10km of windy, steep, gravel road but it was a beautiful day of riding.

FloresFloresFloresFlores

FloresFloresFloresFlores

Posted in Guatamala | 2 Comments »


Tikal at Night

January 31st, 2009 by sunflowers

My first night in Guatamala I was taken into the jungle by two strange men with one gun and I didn’t have a torch. It was everything that my mother would have warned me about if she knew I was in Guatamala.

At the gates of Tikal (the most spectacular Mayan ruin of Central America) I met up with another long distance biker. An Indian bloke living in Californian who had actually come across my blog when researching whether to take a DR650 or not.

We decided to stay in the park in order to be there at sunrise and walking up to the gate he convinced the guard (in the Spanish he learnt in 1 week at the cheapest language school I have heard about) to take us on a private tour of the ruins. I can’t describe how magical it was to walk around the shadowy shapes of the ruins on a moonlit night.

Unfortunately after a sky full of more stars than I have seen I woke to rain and didn’t get my sunrise. Still life can’t be perfect.

TikalTikalTikalTikal

TikalTikalTikalTikal

TikalTikalTikalTikalTikal

Posted in Guatamala | 2 Comments »


Crossing and Conflict

January 30th, 2009 by sunflowers

My crossing into Guatamala went relatively easy other than the women in the photocopying shop being out at lunch forcing me to walk over the bridge in full motorcycle kit in the noon sun.

When Guatamala gained independence they claimed Belize as theirs. The British which had been plundering the land of hardwood trees (mahogany without replanting I might add) for many decades made a deal with Guatamala that they would keep Belize in exchange for paving a road from Belize to Guatamala City. A case that the Guatemalans are still arguing with the Belizians. As I rode along a potholed, dusty road I cursed the British for not keeping their promise as I managed to bottom out my bike on holes I couldn’t see until I was flying up the other side.

Belize was a colony until 1981 which I had assumed was like being in the Commonwealth but actually it meant that the people of Belize could not vote or rule their own country until 1981 and my tour guide said the country had been raped and the reason Belize has such a low population compared to the rest of Central America is due to the fact their weren’t their own country and that slavery existed until 1960.

Posted in Belize, Guatamala | No Comments »


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