Page 53: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
Guatemala Border Crossing:
During breakfast this morning the owner of the restaurant below our hotel said she used to guide tours for Belize to Tikal & Copan. We ask about the road to Tikal. She tells us the roads are in good shape all the way. That has our interest up. This route would be all new Guatemala to us and should shave off a few hundred miles compared to the Mexico route. I was concerned about the roads in Northern Guatemala. The last 25 miles before Belize is bad. We still are not sure that’s the route we will take.
From Copan to the Guatemala border is 25 miles up twisty mountain roads. The beauty of the scenery gets better the closer we get to the border. I did some on-line research for this border crossing. We can do customs here and the rest sounds low-key, just the way we like it. I run down our ‘pre-border’ checklist. For a ‘money changer’ I have $100 in US bills and $20 in Honduras Lempira. The exchange rate is in my head and on a slip of paper. Last night I made two copies of the bike title, my passport and drivers license. All my Honduras customs papers are in a plastic baggie along with my passport, original title and copies. That’s it. We stash our daily stash items and are ready to hit the road, just like any other day. Except, we both can’t believe we will be back in Guatemala, today.
At the border everything is mellow. I park the bike and have to walk around to find a money changer. I changed my Lempira first, I get a good rate. Next I ask how much for $100 US. I didn’t like what I hear and asked him to repeat it. He punches out 600 on his calculator. I smile while shaking my head and saying “No Way” The changer looks up at Heidi and smiles then punches out 700 on the calculator. I say “OK, lets do it” That gives him about four bucks, a fair commission. I find it easy to forget about changing money after a long customs process. That’s why I like to do it first thing. I first take a deep breath then survey the area while asking the changer where the immigrations and customs buildings are.
We are in and out from this border in less than 30 minutes. I think a record for speed and ease of passage. The biggest drama here, for Heidi at least was when a young dog was lying in the middle of road in front of the customs building while an 18 wheel truck was moving in. Heidi is in a panic yelling and stomping trying to get the dog to move but it was too content with the middle of the road. Heidi covered her eyes just before the 18 wheeler moved over and onto the on-coming traffic lane to avoid the dog. She exclaimed to some ‘money change’ guys next to her about the crazy dog “Perro loco” They exclaim back “Chica loca” We all have a good laugh…
After crossing into Guatemala we give ourselves 3 hours before making a decision about our route. We stop at a modern gas station for coffee and juice and a look at our guide book. The book mentions good roads in Northern Guatemala toward Tikal. We discuss putting the motorcycle on a ferry at Puerto Barrias and sail it to Belize. About half way through our cappuccinos we decided to ride north into Guatemala toward Tikal then ride into Belize. ‘All right’. I like how we make ride decisions. Our plan is to have a plan that is designed to change. The further we ride and the closer we get, the more we know. Plotting this on a graph yields near infinite wisdom at a point closest to your destination, more importantly it indicates greater wisdom the more me ride. We love discussing new ride plans and scenarios. The possibilities are endless and it’s just fun talking ‘what if’ with your ride partner.
After turning toward the Caribbean we could feel the temperatures start to rise. There are more palm trees and banana trees now. Fruit venders are selling along side the road in palm roof huts. This is a new Guatemala to us.
We ride over a tall and long bridge over the river ’Rio Dulce’ then into the town Rio Dulce. Judging by the map I thought this would be our best bet for finding a hotel before Tikal. And that’s our goal today.
We checked out 2 hotels before we looked at Hotel Emy’s. This is a great hotel for bike travelers who don’t mind a little tropical garden paradise surrounding a pool. Hotel Emy’s also has one of the best restaurants in town with a bar.
Heidi likes it….
We take a walk into town. Guatemala, Enjoy…..
Local motorcycle shop
The smell is burning plastic. Hmm?
We like the vibrant feel of this town.
There’s a lot of produce and street food in Rio Dulce.
This could be a record for ‘variety at one stand’.
The streets in Rio Dulce are filled with vocal music.
“pollo, pollo frito,…… pollo, pollo frito,……”
As I pass closer. “pollo, pollo frito, ……cheeeken……”
Great chicken tacos are made here.
Mainstreet Rio Dulce
I enjoy going down by the docks, I think it’s in my blood. Heidi and I plan on cruising a sailboat to the Caribbean someday. It’s magical to me being part of the rhythm and flow of a new port of call. Heidi and I talk about the sailboat anchored in the harbor, talking about ‘what if that were us?’ ‘We would be doing this and that right now’. We watch a dingy glide across the bay under sail. I tell Heidi “I want a sailing dingy for our boat” She agrees as long as it also has oars and I do the rowing. That works for me…..
Rio Dulce is one of the safest hurricane holes in the Caribbean. That brings in a lot of cruising sailboats who moor here for the season, which is now. All morning we watch long local fisherman and local families arriving by boat. I assume the families live on the lake somewhere and are just coming in for the day to shop or whatever.
The woman in indigenous dress and her husband came in with two children in that brown canoe at the top. They spread their fish catch out on deck while a guy in a white shirt from shore picks each fish up and spreading them out, then he quotes a price. The guy in the white shirt always wore a stern look on his face. I’m sure the reason he takes so long to examine a small catch of fish is because of his desire to be as fair as he possibly can to these families. He may deal with them several times a week.
We enjoy a slow morning preparing for the ride to Tikal. Coffee and water and that’s it, we are ready to roll. We will look for food somewhere up the road today, wherever…...
This area of Northern Guatemala is filled with small cone shaped hills covered in vegetation. I expected a more desert feel to the area.
In a lot of these small towns you really have to look hard to spot the restaurants. This place was a score with a huge typical breakfast for just a couple of bucks.
Another great hotel with parking security. Aldea Maya Cabanas across from the airport, two blocks down a dirt road. It’s a little on the pricy side but the pool is super and we are close to the island village, Flores.
We walk up to the main road and catch a Moto Taxi in no time.
“Flores por favor”
Here we go….
Flores is an island so you have to cross this bridge to get there. We looked for hotels in Flores first but didn’t see any with parking.
Flores has a number of lake side bars and restaurants. Most of them have a posted ‘happy hour’ time. We met a lot of travelers who are from all over here. This is a good spot to watch the sunset and talk.
The Ride Continues…….
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