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Old 02-18-2013, 03:31 PM   #169
0theories OP
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Eugene, OR
Oddometer: 299
02/08/2013 – Bienvenidos a Guatemala.

We had a long way to go and the border crossing would be potentially time consuming so we got an early start in the morning. After a quick breakfast we rode down to the river and found our guide who we negotiated with the day before. Now, there are two ways down to the river from the office, a road made specifically for cars and trucks (the easy way) right to the water, and a winding walkway, followed by a staircase and then a sandy beach for pedestrians. For some unfathomable reason, I had to ride down the walkway/staircase instead of the road to get to our boat.

Down the stairs.

On the beach.

F'ing heavy bike! (but no BMW GS)

It took four guys to load the bike into the small motorboat that was taking us upstream to Bethel, where we were entering Guatemala. Once again I found a good reason to change up bikes for something lighter. Not only would it have made the walkway down easier, but the loading would have been a breeze in comparison. It still wasn't bad though (which argues for keeping the bike [I mean how often do I load it into a boat anyway?]). I tried to tie the bike down with the end of the rope not attached to the front of the boat, but wasn't very successful so I ended up having to sit on the bike while we made our way upstream. Overall a fine adventure.

When we got to Bethel about a half hour later, we were again faced with the hassle of lifting the heavy ass bike to get it to the bank. This time there were less people on hand so an old Guatemalan lady helped out. It was a little embarrassing to need her, but we did. I gave the guys and the old woman a good tip for the assistance once the bike was safely on dry land. We exchanged some pesos for quetzales with an older woman who was waiting at the boat launch for someone just like us. After some negotiations I actually got a rate better than I have seen since. Pesos are not popular in Guatemala and the exchange rate when compared to dollars is abysmal (the rate is about 8 quetzales to the dollar, but going through pesos it was closer to 6 to one dollar). We rode over to immigration on the outskirts of town and had our passports promptly stamped by a really nice officer who couldn't care less about the bike (no Aduano here). Two other officers came over to check out the bike and shake our hands, but import paperwork was not discussed.


The ride from Bethel to the nearest pavement was interesting. The road was dirt and varied from relatively smooth to outright dangerous (for the bike). I thought for sure all kinds of parts were going to vibrate loose and I was really glad I did the drill-through subframe upgrade on the bike before I left. Riding two-up with the extra luggage I was even a little worried with the upgrade. But when we reached pavement after about 50 Kms of rough road all was well, and the pavement sure felt great! The road took us through some jungle and cultivated fields with occasional mud and wood shacks and villages along the way. The people here are pretty poor, but seem happy.

Hurrah for pavement!

Some distance after reaching the pavement we had to cross a river by ferry. I remembered being here a few years ago with my friend on the bus having to go pee so bad she almost lost it, but the bus driver wouldn't stop. Good times. There were no issues this time around and I made a couple of friends on the short ferry ride when I took some pictures of their bikes, and they of mine.

Ferry crossing north of Sayaxché.

Through the jungle.

And cultivated fields.

And mountains.

We reached Cobán by late afternoon and stopped at the bus station so Laura could check the schedule to see if she could make it to Guatemala City tonight and Costa Rica in a couple of days. There was no way I was getting there in any reasonable amount of time and she was in a hurry. The bus was leaving in five minutes so we said our goodbyes, she grabbed her things and took off. It was a great adventure and a lot of fun. I will miss you Laura! As it was getting late I tried to find a place to stay the night in Cobán with no luck. All the places listed in my outdated Lonely-Planet pdf were either non-existent or closed down. After riding around town for about an hour and even asking some Mormons (who didn't know of a place, but assured me I couldn't stay at their house [not that I had any desire to ]) I decided to press on.

More mountain roads.

I rode as far as Tactic and found a nice hotel in the center of town. It was just getting dark. Guatemala is a beautiful country to ride in. So far it's been all curvy mountain roads and good pavement (once I was off the original dirt). The scenery is fantastic and the people are really nice and friendly. It isn't as cheap as I though it was going to be though. About the same as Mexico, but I remember it being dirt cheap the last time I was here. Perhaps elsewhere in the country...

Enthusiastically skeptical...
KLR650, WR250x

Oregon to Panama RR (Guatemala actually...)
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