Friday, 6 July 2012

Day 82 to 85 – to Antigua, Guatemala

11 to 14 June    Kms travelled – 19,405
An early start was ensured for my first day in El Salvador as the auto-motel was paid for by the hour, which ran out for me at 6:00 am.  No matter, the sky was clear and with the road before me I decided to head towards Santa Ana before swinging round to follow the Route of the Flowers (which was recommended by a guide book) – but which I found signposted on the road as the Route of the Oranges.  Either that or I followed a different run.  I had the day to enjoy the countryside, and the road led me up and around a series of old volcanoes with lovely scenery.  The route was also a little cooler due to some degree of altitude. 

I made a pit stop at a roadside restaurant which was lined outside by a string of bikes.  It was not long before I was chatting to Jorge, who works for the local Yamaha dealers, and his mates about bikes, the trip, his country – you know, all that sort of thing.  Nice!  The downside was that I discovered that I had already pretty much completed my planned route for the day, and it was only 10:00 in the morning!  El Salvador is not a very big place.  Seeing this long line of gleaming metal did put me and Idris´ somewhat muddy countenance to shame, though we were able to rib one of the guys who felt a trip over a day long was probably a bit too far to ride!   

Trying to get the most of the decent from the hills, I was soon heading out towards the coast in the hot, sweaty weather to which I had become accustomed.  One big plus was, however, the realisation that I was no longer coughing and sneezing in my helmet, but that I actually felt pretty good.  Needless to say the coastal area didn´t last long either, and I soon rolled into a border town called Cara Sucia at around midday with a smile on my face.

I had a smile as Cara Sucia means dirty face and seemed a funny choice for the name of the first town a visitor from the north might encounter.  Luckily the local hotel had safe parking and didn´t take the town´s name to heart.  The afternoon was spent chilling out, wandering around the small town seeking some form of internet connection, and wondering at the timeliness and the force of the late afternoon thunderstorms.

The border the next day was pretty straightforward until it came to the Guatemalan customs (Aduana) for the temporary importation of the bike.  That necessitated a bit of running around, paying fees direct to the bank (to avoid any possibility of corruption – well done Guate!) and that sort of thing.  At least their offices had an indoor waiting room with good air conditioning.  Both sides of the border had been completed well within my (now) 2 hour time limit – which was becoming a bit of a target or challenge for me.  We mustn´t take longer than 2 hours... just don´t ask me why!

My plan was to ride up to Lake Atitlan then back to Antigua for an extended (for me) stay at the previously recommended, and most welcoming, Hotel Calle Ancha.  But despite the nice dirt road I was on, it just got too hot.  By the time I was getting close to the turn off for Antigua I had had enough, and headed directly up to the town, cooler weather and a break.  As soon as I was settled in I was out and about exploring this fascinating town.  I got Idris cleaned up and serviced – we were rapidly approaching the 20,000 km mark.  And I also made the necessary arrangements to get to the airport the next day to collect one of my sisters who was flying in for her summer hols.  We were going to spend the next three days hanging out in the town, before I headed off towards Mexico and left her to her own devices.
And what a place to hang out in.  OK, I know that Antigua is a bit on the touristy side, but there is certainly a good reason why tourists head in this direction.  You are faced with a wide range of good quality eateries, reasonably (and unreasonably) priced places to stay, lovely buildings separated by original cobblestone streets, a wide array of crafts and gift shops – most of which seemed to be owned and run by indigenous Guatemalans – all of which sits at the base of the most spectacular Volcan de Agua (volcano of water).
Also one of the more noticeable aspects of this country is the number of the wonderfully attractive and colourful indigenous people you encounter when visiting.  Those we engaged with were charming, and the textiles they produce were just begging to be bought.  We lost track of the hours spent wandering around the market area; a place so large that it was also easy to lose track of where you were.  I hate to think what I would have come away with if I had had room on the bike.  Guatemala was seriously challenging Nicaragua for the spot as my favourite Central American country.

Thought for the day
It was great to hang out with one of my sisters, even if it did seem a little odd that we were doing so on the other side of the world (it was also a great opportunity to dump some bits of kit that I was not using). 
As we each plough through our respective daily grinds we often don’t get the chance to spend a bit of quality time together.  At their best, families are always there for us, blood being thicker and all that, especially in times of need.  But it is still really nice to spend time with family when there is no particular need.  I felt I was leaving Antigua rested and recharged, with my glass back to being half full.  Both Idris and I were shiny again.


  1. Hi Pat, I'm really enjoying your blog and I loved the sentiment about spending quality time with family. From, Jenny

  2. Thanks Jenny - loads more to come!