Guatemala was calling my name. I’m not sure I was listening. It occurred to me that I really didn’t want to leave Mexico. I made lame excuses to stay. It was too hot. There might be some rain today. The pool is calling my name, I must stay another day, then another day. And on, and on. Crossing into Guatemala was not what I expected.
It was lunchtime when my motivation level peaked. I pack up and moved onward to Guatemala. It wasn’t long before I found myself cycling down a remote dirt road. Past farmland and small villages where horses, dogs and pigs outnumbered the chickens and humans. I was the novelty in villages when I would stop to grab a drink of water. Children would just stare at me. Not many Gringos make it to this part of Mexico.
A miscalculation on my part had me run out of toilet paper after an emergency toilet stop. It would be rocks and leaves from now on. I always make sure that I have ample supplies of this most important item. Lucky, the next village had some.
I was enjoying the back country cycling. The remote back road was a series of roller coaster style hills. Hummingbirds buzzed me on a regular basis. I guess my bright yellow cycling jersey summonsed there attention.
As the day started to turn to evening I arrived in the last major town that I would see in Mexico, Tenosique. Like many Mexican cities they love to have a large, bright coloured sign to advertise themselves. The town seemed to be the regional center for the area. It had all services, including cheap hotels. I bedded down for the night and gorged on a large meal.
Talking of big meals. I have struggled to eat while cycling due to the extreme heat and humidity. I have survived off fruit when I can find it and sugary drinks when I can’t find any. A bulky heavy meal just doesn’t sit well in my stomach. Despite being a warm blooded, heat loving, humidity craving creature, I seem to be struggling with the heat. Who would have thought it, not me. I guess having spent so much time in colder weather it has softened me ability to cope.
It was midday when I cycled into Guatemala. I will be returning to Mexico fairly soon when I travel up the Yucatan peninsula. So, it’s not good bye, it’s see you later.
I entered the overly large immigration building in Mexico to get my exit stamp. I was advised I didn’t need one. OK, how do you know I’ve left the country?
I crossed the border into Guatemala. Nobody stopped me and there was no obvious Migration building. There were some official looking dudes spraying chemicals inside a vehicle. I bypassed them. In the distance I spotted a large Guatemalan flag. Must be Immigration, I thought. Nope. I had just cycled into Guatemala. No stamp, no visa, nothing.
I was looking rather lost when a dude on the motorcycle pulled up next to me. The immigration building was down near the border, near the traffic cones on the road. I returned to find a small bit of photocopy paper taped to a pole with the word, Migracion, written in small writing. A guy wearing clothes several sizes too big for him was sitting out the front of this shipping container style building, feet up on a chair in front of him. I asked if this was Immigartion. He nodded, without saying anything. I gave him my passport. One minute later he returned my passport with a free 90 day visa. He said nothing, then sat back down and put his feet back up on the chair. Welcome to Guatemala.
The daytime temperature was oppressive. I asked around for a place to exchange some Mexican Pesos for the Guatemalan currency, Quetzales. Most of the small stores at the border in Guatemala exchanged money. The rate was surprisingly good. I must admit I expected that I would have to negotiate as they would try to rip me off. Nope, the rate was very fair.
Camping on a Soccer Field
I continued cycling into the late evening. I stopped at one spot to try and camp for the night but within minutes I had two ticks crawling on me. Ticks are horrible. I wasn’t going to camp in a field with ticks. I kept cycling. In fact, I have been plagued by ticks since entering the tropical jungle regions of Mexico and Guatemala. Almost everyday I have found tick on my legs. They are small light brown creatures that blend into my skin. They appear like a freckle or skin spot and are hard to distinguished. Death to all ticks, I say.
The day progressed to night very quickly. I passed house after house with no possible place to camp. The sun had set and I was starting to get stressed about a place to camp. I thought I would have to knock on somebodies door and ask to camp in their yard. A small village had a full sized soccer pitch. That would do me nicely. I set up camp in the dark on the edge of the field.
As I crawled into my tent I could hear the local church giving a loud nightly sermon in competition to another place across the road that blared impossibly out of tune karaoke. Welcome to Guatemala.
I was packed up and cycling before sunrise. For several hours I enjoyed the cool, still morning. It was Sunday and people were slower than normal to make a move. Often times I would ride past a small shack or village and watch people cooking their breakfast over a wood stove out the front of their house. Things move slowly in Guatemala. I like the country already.
It was about 10am when the heat started to slow me down. I would ride for 45 minutes then find some shade to guzzle as much water as possible. When near a town I would seek out a cold bottle of fresh water from a shop, if lucky and frozen ice cream.
I struggled to make miles in the afternoon. With an early start I had hoped to make it to the town of Flores before sunset. It would have meant a big day of almost 150km of cycling but I felt I could have done it. Specially with the promise of a cool lake to swim in, great food and several days to rest and relax. By 4pm I rolled into the town of La Libertad. A couple of Quetzals (the name of the Guatemalan money) and I had a hotel room. It was all I could do to have a cold shower, no hot water in this hotel, and lie under the fan to cool down.
With only 30km to Flores I took a detour on a dirt road past many small rural villages. The riding was easy in the morning coolth. At lunch I arrived on the island township of Flores. A well known town on the central American Gringo trail. For less than US$5 per night I was set up with a place to stay and within minutes Iwas sharing a beer with other wandering souls.
I have at least a week until I rendezvous with Spontanious and Sky, my favourite South Korean hikers and cyclists. In the mean time I am making some epic travel plans. And with a week to kill I have found several cheap places to learn Spanish. It’s time I had some professional tuition.