December 8, 2010

We left Popun with the intention of taking a leisurely drive towards Honduras. It turns out that we are either very skilled riders or very dumb. We breezed through the traffic, overtaking trucks and cars with ease but the roads were definitely starting to get more crowded. Many, many trucks hauling north and a lot of Dole trucks… guess they need to get their fruit to places fast. The roads themselves were in good shape and we unintentionally made it to the Honduran border within 4 hours. We passed another adventure rider on a BMW GS but he was wedged in between two trucks and was going so slow that I just rode beside him for a minute and then passed all the trucks in about 5 seconds. I guess he doesn’t understand the whole concept of driving in Central America! It would take me 2 years to get to Argentina with the way he was driving. Anyway, we arrived at the border and bumped into the Kiwis we met in Tikal. They had already started the crossing process so Alex and I had lunch before trying to catch them up 🙂 Alex used his speed Spanish and before long we caught them.

The border crossing process near Copan goes like this. Go to the Guatemalan import/export office with three copies of your Guatemalan bike import permit. They do some magic with them and your passport and before long your bike has been exported. No fee. Then you go 100 yards up the road and give your passport to the Guatemalan immigration office who stamps you out of the country. No fee. Then you need to deal with the black market currency exchange guys to get some local currency to pay your fees to get into Honduras. There is an ATM in Copan 5km up the road so you only need to change about $50 US at the border. Keep some Guatemalan Quetzals handy for the copies since the Honduran photocopiers are off limits. Then you move to the next window which is Honduran immigration. They stamp your passport (and you) into Honduras and you pay a small fee. Then you go two doors up to the Honduran import/export office. There you need a 3 copies each of your passport, bike registration, drivers license and bike title. Once you get your original Honduran bike import form, you then need to photocopy 5 copies of it and you need 3 copies of your passport stamp (that you just got from Honduran immigration). You have to run back and forth between countries to make copies and they cost 1 Quetzal a page. Once you return with your copies you pay about 662 Limpira to import your bike for up to 3 months. Off you go on your bike and don’t lose your original import permit or you will face a hefty fine to get a new one! Easy right? Just wait until have to cross the border into Nicaragua by myself with my non-existent Spanish… Alex has been spoiling me 🙂

We drove into Copan and bumped along its rough cobblestone streets. Our Kiwi friends, Chris and Allan, had told us where they were staying and given us rough directions but we couldn’t find them. Looking lost, we headed across the bridge and were on our way out of town when this Rickshaw driver rolls up next to us yelling Chris, Chris, Chris!!! Apparently, they had told the driver to keep a lookout for us and to bring us to them. So we whizzed back into town following this guy and were soon in a little courtyard of a small guest house. We gave the guy a tip and got unpacked before the four of us headed into town for dinner and a beer. Not a bad day of traveling but we didn’t do a lot of sight-seeing and I stupidly did not stop at the first two pineapple stands on the side of the road… they would be the last two I saw in Guatemala 🙂



December 7, 2010

I made a few adjustments to the bike in the morning. My tire pressure was low on both tires so I put some air in them. I had to reattach my mirror that had vibrated loose the day before. I also reattached my spare keys to their hiding place and also reattached $50 US to its hiding place. All set, we headed out for the 25 min trip to Tikal. We got to the park without any issues and parked the bikes near a vendor who we asked to keep an eye on the bikes. Just as we were about to leave the bikes, a Kiwi couple walks by and asks us if we are going to Panama by any chance. They think we may be the two guys looking for passage via boat to Columbia in late December. Turns out that these two are also riding down to Tierra del Fuego and have been traveling for 7 months already having started in Seattle. They were a nice couple and we chatted with them for a while. She was really short and was riding a small 250cc while the guy was also on a KLR. They are taking the boat crossing on Xmas day so Alex may run into them again.

Tikal turned out to be a really good Mayan site. I was getting a little bored of all the ruins but this one turned out to have some huge, tall temples and was really deep in the jungle. It was quite a bit different from the others and the history behind the site is quite interesting. Check out mu blogroll for more info. One of the amazing things is that supposedly the decline of this great city was precipitated by it being conquered by Teotihuacan in Mexico. Amazing to think that another city some 600-700 miles away could have conquered this place.

There were many howler monkeys around the site and Alex and I decided to do our best Conquistador impersonation and traipse through the mosquito infested jungle in a misguided attempt to get pictures. Considering that dense jungle is known for poisonous snakes, pumas, deadly spiders and the occasional giant ant, you would have thought we would have known better. We did not… and we didn’t get any pictures of the howler monkeys either! We got within 200 yards of their trees and they suddenly stopped howling and simply vanished without a sound. We did manage to record their howling… Check out the video and hear that screech that kept me awake all night camping in Palenque!

We left Tikal around 2pm and started to make our way south. We ended up staying the night at a little hotel in Poptun. Check out the wiring in the shower where Alex electrocuted himself trying to figure out how to turn the hot water on. What was that I said about his days can only get better? Our next major objective is the ruins at Copan in Honduras. From there we head to San Pedro Sula to find a place to store my bike for the two weeks I am in Florida. I fly out on Dec 13th.


December 6, 2010

We got up this morning to a first. Alex was the first on the trip to get something stolen. The bikes were not 100% secure last night and early in the morning, some scoundrels had rummaged through his unlocked tank bags and stolen what little there was in there. Some tie-wraps and some bungie cords were gone but Alex was sufficiently annoyed on top of being sick. I felt bad for him as I know how irritating having something stolen from you can be. That was to be the first of a few bad things to happen to Alex during the day.

We left Belmopan behind and headed west for the Guatemala border crossing. We arrived at the border with very little money except for US currency. We managed to use a combination of currencies from Belize and the US to pay our exit costs from Belize. Our passports were stamped out of the country and then we had our bikes also stamped out. Off we went to the Guatemala side where we had to pull to the side to have our bikes fumigated. The half blind man spraying the bikes with some carcinogenic substance was a bit overzealous and didn’t even wait until Alex was off his bike. He sprayed the bike and Alex’s right foot and leg before Alex could hop off. Bad thing number two :). I learned from his mistake and gave the bike a wide berth during the spraying. That cost us $2 and then we locked the bikes up and headed to the immigration line to get into the country. That cost us another few dollars and then we had to stand in yet another line for the bike importation. Copies of our passports, drivers license, registration and title had to be provided and then we had to go stand in a huge line at the bank to pay the $5 bike import fee. Fortunately, the security guard at the bank quickly guided us to the front of the line past 30 or so other customers. Since he was carrying a shotgun nobody had anything to say and Alex slipped him a tip of a couple of bucks for his help. Ahhhh… the good part about tips/bribes/grease whatever you want to call it in Latin America :). It gets things done. Of course, the bank would only take Quetzals so we had to change 20 US dollars with the black market currency guys that congregate at border crossings. We got an exchange rate of 7.50 Quetzals per US dollar which was close enough to the official rate of 7.98… these guys need to make a living as well.

All in all, the crossing went quite smoothly. We got out of there in less than an hour and were soon whizzing along in Guatemala. The roads were really nice until suddenly they turned to absolute crap. No asphalt at all and huge potholes everywhere. However, it didn’t slow our progress too much as we are quite adept now at dodging anything in the road. We stopped for lunch shortly thereafter at a dubious looking roadside shack that I had my doubts about. However, I’m not sick yet so all is good :). The chicken had been freshly killed that morning and I saw the lady mixing the dressing into our salads with her bare hands but hey… it’s and adventure right? The great thing is that we each got a chicken breast, tortillas, rice and a cucumber salad for 20 Quetzals or about $2.50. I will take a little illness for that 🙂

Back on the road, we headed for Tikal to see one of the better Mayan sites. We got into the closest real town to Tikal and found out that the nearest ATM was in Flores which was about 25 mins away. Having no choice, we rode into Flores and eventually found an ATM. Flush with 2000 Quetzals (about $250) we decided that it was too late in the day to go to Tikal and rush through it so we found a nice store area that had a big supermarket and some other businesses and did a little food shopping. We also each got a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut for, get this, 13 Quetzals or less than $2!!!! What a deal. My pepsi cost more than my pizza! One thing that was really cool is that motorcycles are HUGE in Guatemala!!!! They are everywhere and all small 150cc or less type bikes that you would see in Bermuda. It really reminded me of home. It also reminded me of India because of the rickshaw type taxis they have there and also here 🙂

After lunch and shopping, we headed back toward Tikal and stopped overnight in La Reforma. On the way into town, Alex spotted a strip of land that extended into the lake a bit and we decided to ride our bikes out onto it for a photo. Little did we know that there were 4 girls, one man and a few women out there as well. The kids were half dressed and bathing in the lake. The man was soaping himself down and appeared to be buck naked. His eyes got rather wide when we rode right up to him and pulled out our cameras. The women were washing clothes in the lake. They all looked at us like we were from Mars!

We rode around town looking for a place to stay. Alex wanted to stay at some broke down hostel but I said no way 🙂 We ended up at the El Muelle Hotel. It was a nice hotel, with Internet, a pool, a restaurant and was situated right on a beautiful freshwater lake in front of Crocodile Mountain… all for $30! We found out later from some sandal wearing, tree-hugging, granola chicks (no offense Emily) that when the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 that the great apocalypse is supposed to strike right at Crocodile Mountain… supposedly because the Milky Way lines up with it or some nonsense. The people we meet have been living in the jungle too long!

Alex figured out bad thing numbers 3 and 4 when he discovered that he had somehow lost his pocket knife. That was right before he got bitten by some large unidentified spider that gave him a rather painful welt.

I enjoyed a nice beer out on the pier and then took advantage of the Internet to catch up on mail and skype with Nick, my parents, Chris, Colin, M and Kelly… who rudely did not answer my call :). We had a so-so dinner at the restaurant and then I spent the rest of the night updating my site. I’m trying to stay current. Alex also got bad thing number 5… he spilled ketchup all over the table at dinner. Suffice it to say that his days can only get better 🙂

I also realized that it’s only a week until I see my kids for Xmas… Yeah baby!!!!! We are going to Disneyworld for the first time so I hope they love it as much as I love them 🙂