As soon as we crossed to Guatemala, the first impression about their roads was not too great. Big potholes in the road everywhere, we had to slow down a lot and ride in zig-zag. But that was a short stretch, and then they got a lot better. But the traffic got worse. More impatient people honking everywhere, passing like crazy, sharing lanes. There is no such thing as personal space here. At some point we were riding through the mountains, admiring the beautiful landscape, when suddenly after a turn we see a herd of cows running toward us, on our lane. On the other lane there was a big commercial truck. So I guess both Vasile and I had the same thought: the truck driver might have more common sense if he sees us on his lane, and he might slow down, as the cows won’t for sure. As we changed lanes and we saw the truck approaching, we realized that so far drivers in Guatemala didn’t impress us with their common sense, so maybe it was not a good idea to count on the driver's common sense. Then I see Vasile going onto the left hand side shoulder (thank God there was a shoulder!) and I am thinking we can stop there. But as I get onto the shoulder, I realize the shoulder is very inclined, which for a person short-legged like me who barely touches the ground means a real challenge to stop and put the feet down. So I start praying “Vasile please don’t stop, please don’t stop”. Since I was right behind him, if he stopped I would have been forced to stop as well, and chances are I would have dropped the bike in the deep ditch. But looks like Vasile and I were on the same page; as he got onto the shoulder him too realized it would have been hard for me to stop there, so he kept going, until we passed the truck and the kettle herd, and then we went back onto our lane. We were both like “What the hell was that?”
We stopped for the night in Rio Dulce, by the Lake Izabal. It was very hard to find a hotel with internet, so we had to settle for one without, but with pool
The downside of it was that the neighbours were some very active people at night, so all night long they were hammering something, and killed our sleep. (I guess they feel active at night-time, since during the day it seems like everyone is in a continuous siesta all over Central America)
The next day we went to find another hotel, left my bike at the hotel and we went two up to find El Paraiso, a place with thermal water. We were asking locals for directions, but they all have different definitions for distances and directions: one would say “it’s about 1 km from here”, another one would say “well, about 8-9 km from here” or “well, it’s not too far, just one km, about 10 min on the bike”. Are you kidding me? One km in 10 min on the bike? Anyway, if you want a piece of advice: don’t rely on directions from locals here. And as we kept traveling this just got more and more obvious.
As we were riding back and forth to find El Paraiso, we ended up in a place where there was a nice canyon. We negotiated a canoe ride with a young guy, and it was well worth it; the canyon was gorgeous.
The Mayan Ritual
The Mayan face (on the rock, to the left)
After riding tons of km extra looking for El Paraiso, my neck got really sore and we did quite a lot of gravel that day. We were ready to go back to the hotel, when we saw a washed out sign with El Paraiso. We found it! This was the most incredible thermal water place I’ve been to. The hot water was actually a waterfall, which was falling into a little cold water pool. It was unbelievable! We enjoyed it thoroughly. We could stand right underneath the hot waterfall and get a nice water massage. We did not have the camera with us to take pictures, but here is a link to a picture online, just to give you a taste of it.
We went back to town and we walked through all the “tiendas” to find AAA Litium and a sticker with the Guatemalan flag. Both inexistent in that town.
Next day we were hitting the Honduras border through Champas Corrientes. Details about the border crossing in the next report.