My general plan for Guatemala was to get to Lake Atitlán, pick a town and study Spanish for a couple of weeks. The area around Lake Atitlán came highly recommended, but as I discovered, it's not conducive to learning Spanish. I think I've gone as far as I can trying to learn it on my own. I can say all the basics, but I know I'm saying it all wrong and no one will correct me since I make myself understood (for the most part). It would be nice to be able to say things the right way though, so Spanish lessons are on the agenda.
Some secure parking in Tactic, Hotel Villa Linda.
After having desayuno tipico (fried eggs, beans, fried plantains, sour cream and coffee) around the corner from the hotel, I took off on a full days' ride. I needed to go approximately 325 Kms today to reach Panajachel, which included passing through Guatemala City (renown for it's traffic and not too easy to navigate). The morning was sunny and warm; the overcast skies from yesterday were history.
Beautiful mountain roads.
I rode through the mountains and then descended into hot dry desert. Mid morning it was time for gas and a cup of coffee. I stopped at a random gas station with reasonable gas prices (although more expensive than Mexico). The stations here are corporate owned (Shell, BP, Texaco) not government controlled like in Mexico, so prices vary from station to station. After gas I pulled up to the cafe for a cup of coffee, and parked just out of sight was a brand spanking new 2012 GS R1200. The owner is a Swedish chap (if I recall correctly) who shared a conversation with me over coffee. Alas, I don't remember his name and he is one of the few bikers I met who is not on Advrider. I suspect he might join as he seemed really interested and was already familiar with Horizons Unlimited (I pitched this forum as superior in certain ways, but told him that's just my opinion [it's not a competition]).
Bike photo of the way.
Very cool BMW Rider. (anyone know him?)
After a nice chat I continued on my way to Guatemala City and beyond. Getting into the city was no problem, getting out the other side caused me more difficulty. There's not really a straight path down a major road. I needed to get onto the CA-1 but it was like threading a series of needles with a camel holding the thread in his teeth (does that even make sense?). There were all kinds of convoluted turns in order to get from one road to the other and not a sign in sight. My GPS tells me where I am, but won't even hint at where to go, so I mostly had to guess. After seeing many parts of the city I didn't really care to (okay, it was actually fun, to be honest), I finally made it onto the CA-1 and continued towards Lake Atitlán and Panajachel.
Entering Guatemala City.
Self portrait (all alone
One more crappy photo:
Once past the city it was an easy and rather pretty ride to the turn off for Panajachel and the long descent to the lake. I made it there well before dark, but it took quite a bit of time to find a cheap place to stay. I knew the lake was touristy, but I had no idea how expensive it would be. Every place I tried was charging hundreds of quetzales (~$25-$30)! After many misleading directions, I found a place (with parking, which was tricky) for 100 quetzales. It was a nice place and not too far from the center, but down a side road a bit. I was tired so I just grabbed some food, watched a movie and called it a night.
Out the other side.
Back towards the mountains.
Lake Atitlán in the distance.