Arriving late in the day we know the border requires patience – clearing Mexico was reasonably painless, just time-consuming. Entering Guatemala is another story! Once through the gates and into the country, it is a wild mass of people and vehicles – and no real clear directions for clearing. “Helpers” (individuals who will help you process your entry) surround the bikes, all vying for the opportunity to get the business. I elect to try it on my own, after all this is not the first border I have had to go through! WIthout too much difficulty we have our TIP (Temporary Import Permit) and have cleared. WIth sunset approaching we decide to stay in this wild border town and manage to find hotel Laura with secure parking and pool.
The next morning Matthew has made an appointment in Guatemala City at the BMW dealer to deal with his rear brake – so he leaves early agreeing to meet up in the evening at a pre arranged meeting spot. Michael, Lee and I have planned a twisty side road agenda and can see immediately that distances are not what they seem – meaning 50km of curves, with trucks, scooters, dogs, cows, pigs can make for some exciting riding, but as we all agree the best we have experienced in some time.
A short word about the riding style here in Central America – to say it is wild, is probably an understatement. There are no rules, most aggressive wins and the larger you are the more weight you have to threw around. A moto riders job is to weave their way in and out, splitting the traffic at a pace and order that clearly would never happen in North America. Accustomed as I am to riding in Italy it is never a challenge for me.
Small roads, Atitlan lake and smoke where the highlights. Wood is the primary source of fuel and a familiar roadside view is of women and children carrying bundles of wood on their heads, which is only second to the same women and children carrying water jugs. The secondary result of all this wood burning is that the skies are foggy and there is rarely a clear view of the beautiful mountains and jungles surrounding us.
We find a wonderful hotel in Escuintla with a protected court-yard where Matthew joins us after an eventful day in Guatemala City where the BMW dealer went as far as stripping bikes for parts to make sure he could get back on the road as quickly as possible. However, as much as the bike was fixed, the tragedy of the day, was that he lost his top case. Speed bumps in Latin America are called “topas” – some are gentle and others are just plain ugly sharp bumps, and we assume he just hit one at speed and blew the case off.
Next morning, we were lucky enough to view the active volcano put on a little show of smoke on our way to Antigua – a beautiful colonial town not too far from the capital Guatemala city. Then headed for our next crossing into El Salvador.