Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Washington DC
From Tikal I spent a night in Flores and had dinner with three guys that were also motorcycling down to Tierra del Fuego. Dan, Mike, and Shannon. Dan and Shannon were riding down together and joined Mike somewhere along the way. Mike was actually in Cordoba, MX volunteering at an orphanage for a month. Small world. Dan's blog is here http://peschiodesign.com/blog/ looks like Shannon got pretty tore up in South America.
I would eventually meet up with Mike randomly on the streets of Antigua. Which really happened time and time again. I seemed to have impeccable luck at just being at the right spot at the right time.
Flores was fine for a night, an interesting island city but my ambitions laid further south. A friend who was in the Peace Corps recommended that I could not miss Semuc Champey. So that was my next destination. Well worth it. I've read quite a few ride reports and it seems most people pass this stop over, I'd highly recommend it for anyone traveling down.
Catching a ferry en-route to Coban.
The ride to Lanquin, Guatemala (village near Semuc Champey) was probably the best of the trip so far as far as scenery and the road. Curve after beautiful curve. There were times when I wished I had more of a dual sport, but jumping on the throttle coming out of a turn wasn't one of them.
Amazing how the trees change at higher elevations.
I stayed at the El Retiro Finca & Lodge which is definitely the place to go if you want to drink, party, and carry on. The owner is an Irish guy. Cheap happy hours, interesting people. Lots of booze. I will say that you attract a lot of attention driving a large motorcycle in Central America. Most of it good, some of it bad. A day after arriving, most of the small town heard about my exploits, wanted to sit on the bike, bought me pop. It was really uncanny.
My accommodation. Second floor on the right. The rickety ladder was not conducive to climbing up drunk in the wee hours of the morning.
I rode the big bike to the entrance of the park the next day which was an adventure in and of itself. The road was rough and extremely steep at times and parts were paved for that reason. Its nice to be 6'5" at times.
View from way up high.
Best part about driving yourself there, when the tour bus leaves its just you. Actually that's the best part of having your own transportation. No schedules!
From here it was on to Antigua, Guatemala. I've heard horror stories of riding through Guatemala City. Hours of being lost, rough neighborhoods, complete lack of signage... I can say that most of it is true. It is extremely hard to navigate, I was only using a compass and a road map of Central America. It was useless in the city. The main road dumps you off in the city and its up to you to find your way through it. I'd mainly stop and ask for directions when I got to a junction and had no clue. Only one time did I feel unsafe, a local told me that I better turn around and get the hell out of this zone. I promptly turned around. I read daveg's posting earlier about getting mugged at gunpoint in Guatemala so I was a bit wary. Eventually I made it to Antigua.
I believe that I stayed at the same place that igorshen stayed. It had the highest rooftop in the entire city and made for some great morning coffee atmosphere.
There are tons of Antigua photos out there far better than mine, but i'll share this one.
Randomly I ran into two other riders from the states that were doing a similar journey to mine. I was sitting in Riley's an Irish Bar (common theme) and started talking to Nathan who he and his girlfriend Lindsie were working making some cash to continue on their journey. I had read daveg's report and actually saw a few pictures of and heard of their story when dave got held up. Again another completely random encounter that worked out for the best as they were leaving Antigua in a week and we would later ride together.
New Zealand Bird
And who could forget the Brazilian models doing a shoot in Antigua.
The next day I while walking through town, I heard the distinct roar of a large displacement motorcycle. Standing at a corner, randomly three large GS's cross the street followed by Mike on his silver KTM. Who I met in Flores. He sees me standing there, I wave to him. Later I find a note on my motorcycle which was parked on the street during the day of where he was staying at. Two days later we met early in the morning to continue onward to Honduras.
The group was Me, Mike, and two french couples on their heavily ladened GS's. The other GS was a Mexican couple touring around Guatemala who didn't ride on with us.
I really like this shot. All these decked out, crazy expensive motorcycles, any my old bmw which I picked up for 2 grand. Whatever problems my K100 had had been addressed 80,000 miles beforehand. BTW does anyone have any contact info for Mike? A nice guy and looks like he make it all the way to Tierra del Fuego.
The plan was we were all going to ride into Guatemala City and stop at the BMW dealer where the French couples were going to have a bit of service and Mike was going to swap out his tires. I had never ridden in a pack of bikes before so it was a hell of a lot of fun having four big bikes riding together. Drew a lot of attention as we tore up the mountainsides to Guatemala City.
This day was really a cluster fuck, spent an hour or two driving around Guatemala City trying to find the BMW dealer, the French couple had coordinates which turned out to be as useless as my compass and map was. I will say that I did get a full tour of Guatemala City though.
The Torre del Reformador wasn't in my sights to see, but what the hell lets drive underneath it while lost. Looking back, I think the French just missed the Eiffel Tower and plotted our course underneath it.
Eventually we do end up making it to the BMW dealership where we proceed to spend the next 6 hours! Perhaps some other people on the boards have had a decent experience here, but besides the head honcho in the service department everyone else was a complete lackey. They really should have just stuck to washing the bikes and not working on them. I'm not sure what the French were having done, but it took three hours. During the process of changing Mike's tires they lost one of the bushings in the rear wheel. Lord knows how, they were rolling it around the building when it fell out somewhere. The dealer tried to get another one from the KTM dealer but didn’t want to fork out the money to buy a new bushing as evidently they had to buy all five and it was too expensive for them. Who knows, they were just stalling I think. Finally they found the bushing; it fell into a storm drain. They popped it back in and everything was hunky dory. Six painful hours we were back on the road fighting rush hour traffic trying to make our way to the Honduran border.
A side note on this, during the time we were sitting outside the dealership, waiting for them to remove their head from out of their asses, a teal new style mini cooper pulls into the parking lot with two large black suburbans. One was in front the other behind. A guy gets out of the mini and goes into the dealership, one of the guys in the suburban jumps into the mini and turns it around for the owner. The owner of the mini was probably inside 10 minutes, being curious Mike and I check out the mini. On the passenger seat is a huge god damn revolver just sitting out in the open. I don’t know too much about guns, but it looked like a .38 or .45. A proper hand cannon. Mike and I are like who is this guy? Obviously someone important… Out he comes, see that we aren’t locals and shakes our hand and asks us how we are doing, what brings us into Guatemala. We tell him we’re riding motorcycles down and visiting the country. He is glad that we are enjoying Guatemala and is happy to hear we were having a good time. He jumps in the mini and takes off nestled in between the suburbans. He was a really nice guy , very warm. Instantly I go inside and start asking the employees of the dealership who that man was. It was none other than the Mayor of Guatemala and former President of Guatemala, Alvaro Arz˙, Guatemala’s most prominent political figure. And by all accounts a great mayor. http://www.citymayors.com/mayors/guatemala_mayor.html
BMW dealerships in third world countries, always interesting.
Looking back, meeting the Mayor/Ex-president was one highlight of the trip and probably worth the hell endured that day.
It was getting late as we made our way across Guatemala, there was no way we were going to make it into Honduras at this point. Reluctantly I joined the consensus that we needed to stop for the night. I was supposed to meet a friend in La Cieba, Honduras the next evening which meant a extremely long ride the next day. Before going to bed, everyone was of the mind that we would be leaving at 8 am because I had 400 miles the next day to make it where I needed to be. I got up early along with Mike and one of the French couples, we had breakfast at a local restaurant nearby. It was getting close to 8 and we were all gearing up ready to leave. At 7:55am the other French couple leisurely rolls out of bed, and down to where we are. I ask if they have already eaten and are ready to go. They reply nonchalantly and seem a tad put-off that I would even suggest leaving now. They tell me, as they would tell a child, that they require breakfast and coffee and couldn't possibly leave for another hour.
WTF, I just stare blankly at them. They were only going to Copan, Honduras which was close, but a plan is a plan as far as I was concerned. The others looked at each other and everyone showed they were irritated. I had pretty much had it by this point with this couple. Between me waiting patiently the day before and their general disregard for anyone but themselves, i was ticked. I'm normally pretty even keeled, I'm also Irish/German, (read: when I get hot, i get hot) I was ready to toss this little French man into a nearby ditch.
As they were starting breakfast, I shook hand with Mike, bid adieu to the nice couple, and let the other couple enjoy their croissants as I burned out onto the highway. I was a bit disappointed that I was riding alone, I had heard bad things about the Honduran border and had 400 miles ahead of me before the sunset.
lukeman screwed with this post 05-07-2010 at 01:11 PM