When we left Flores, we had a good day’s ride ahead off us since we wanted to sleep close to Guatemala city. Somewhere along the way we passed over a bridge and when we saw that all the hotels and restaurant involved the word ‘backpacker’ in their sign, we knew this was a popular spot.
From up above on the bridge, this seemed to be a touristy place, and a nice one too, but we decided not to stop here and continue our trip in the direction of the capital.
When we stopped at a local gas station, Seb couldn’t resist asking this guy if we could take a picture with him. All over the country we have seen things like this, armed guards guarding shops, garages, gas stations and so on. We had to get permission from the boss of the gas station, and we got it, as you can see. We must say that Kim felt really safe standing next to this guy, but I don’t know about the girl in the background…
Seb’s front fork of the bike kept leaking and we had the impression that it was only getting worse, so we decided to stop at a local Honda dealer not too far from Guatemala city to see if they could help us. This guy was really awesome, he said he didn’t have the part we needed, so he phoned to the shop in Guatemala city to tell them that we would stop by the following day and he told them what we needed in order to get the bike fixed. Talking about a good service!
A few kilometers before Guatemala city, we stopped in another local love motel and found out that we had a very big guest in the garage.
Very early in the morning, we headed off to Guatemala city with the adress we had been given by the local Honda dealer and after a few wrong turns, we finally made it to the biggest Honda dealer we have seen since leaving the United States. At Honda Powerhouse we were treated as kings and they helped us out straight away, but before they would take the bikes to their workshop, they asked us if we could put them in their showroom so they could take some pictures of them. Seeing as they don’t sell these bikes in Guatemala, this would be their only opportunity to see the bikes live.
In the workshop, the guys were with their hands in their hair because the guys from Kawasaki had put a wrong piece in last time which was too big, so they couldn’t get it out anymore. After some professional guidance from Kim (yeah right) they managed to get the faulty piece out and could start fixing Seb’s bike again.
In the meanwhile, we were introduced to a local famous motocross champion, Vania Medrano Power Girl, who was impressed by our trip and wished us all the best for the continuation of our journey. Kim was actually very impressed by her!
Kim is enjoying her new cap she got from Honda Powerhouse.
We ended up asking the dealer to change both oil filters and the oil and when we wanted to pay for everything we had a nice surprise because they said that everything was free! Thanks again Honda Powerhouse for everything you have done for us!
Before we could leave, they asked us if we wanted to be in a short movie about motorcycles for the program ‘pasión por las motos’, so we ended up trying to explain why we loved the bikes and the country and this all in Spanish because they didn’t speak any English…
We had some laughs with our Spanglish answers to their questions but we were proud to be in their program.
Late in the evening we finally arrived in Antigua and we found a hostel where we could put the bikes in the courtyard so they would be safe for the night.
Antigua has a lot of old church ruins in and around the city center.
The siesta is a well deserved break for a lot of locals trying to sell their merchandise to tourists.
The famous Santa Catalina arch is one of the many notable architectural landmarks of the city.
You can find the Spanish baroque influence throughout the whole city.
La Merced church was built to withstand earthquakes, so it is a low building and the arches and columns are wider to cope with the quakes.
Other than the withstanding of earthquakes, the facade of the building is very beautiful.
At the local market place you get a chance to find some fresh fruit and vegetables but you also get a chance to go do some people watching.
If the lines on your face could tell your life’s story, I guess this woman would have an interesting story to tell us.
Some more old ruins in the city.
From Antigua onwards, we rode towards one of the most beautiful lakes of the world, Lago Atitlan. Atitlan means ‘at the water’ and this is an understatement since the lake is 12×5 km in size and has a maximum depth of 340 meters!
The lake has three volcanoes on its southern flank and the basin is volcanic in origin. We stayed in the small town of San Antonio Palopo in a nice hotel with a view of the lake from our room. In the morning you could still see the volcanoes surrounding the lake, but every afternoon, the clouds would be so thick that they would engulf all the surrounding scenery.
The local fishermen’s boats still look very old school, but they still do the trick.
I don’t know how long the lake will keep it’s title of most beautiful if everyone keeps washing their clothes in it, but this is their culture and their way of living, so who are we to tell them otherwise?
Leaving Lago Atitlan, we could either take the paved road, all the way back around the mountain, or we could take the shortcut on the dirt road through the mountain, so we chose the last one and put the bikes to the limit again.
The beginning of the road was ok, just a normal dirt track with some small stones on the track but nothing to worry about and some real nice views of the lake.
The further we rode, the steeper the road got and the more rocks were scattered on the road. On the steepest part, Kim felt her front wheel coming off the ground, but by leaning a bit more forward and pulling on the throttle a bit harder, the bike kept a steady line and slowly made its way up the hill.
On the way to the border we saw something really amazing, a volcano ‘burping’. I don’t know if you can call it an eruption, but we think it was. There was a whole bunch of smoke coming out of it and a lot of debris rolling off the side of the volcano. It’s the first time we have seen this live and I must say that we were impressed!
They had warned us that the border between Guatemala and El Salvador was a nightmare, and indeed it was. The line of trucks before the border was huge, but this wasn’t a big problem since we could just pass them and continue to the border itself. The border at Guatemala was ok, we just got our stamp out of the country, but for the motorcycles it was a bit more of a problem. After shaking off the local youth offering to help you (for a “small” fee off course), we found out that we had to have copies of almost everything, and how convenient is it that the border area is filled with small shops who have copy machines (for a small fee you can get a copy). In the end it took about an hour after all the necessary paperwork was in order, but then the true nightmare began.
At the border of El Salvador, Cristina was waiting for us. She and Juan Carlos were also at the biker meeting in Belize and they told us that when we came to El Salvador, we could stay at their place. We were so glad to see a familiar face again and we were eager to go with her to her place, but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. After our own paperwork, Seb decided to try and skip the importation of the bikes since this would take 2 hours, so we headed over to the border where we were stopped and asked for the paperwork of the bikes…damn! Playing the dumb tourist, the guy politely told us to turn around and get the paperwork for the bikes before we could enter the country, so we did. Cristina guarded the bikes outside with her life while we had to go inside to get all the paperwork fixed. Everything is free, but it actually does take 2 hours to get it done.
In the end we had all the necessary paperwork so we could enter El Salvador and follow Cristina to have some quality time!