4 August - Capan, Honduras –
Chiquimula, Guatemala - 65km
It was a short
ride to the border where we crossed without any problems. Two
mountain ranges run from west to east, dividing the country into
three major regions. No doubt it is going to be very
mountainous. We cycled along hilly valleys with dramatic
scenery, which sounds easier than what it was.
now heading for Petén;
a sparsely populated area and home to Tikal, one of the largest
archaeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It
is still extremely hot and humid
for rather slow
Along the way
Ernest found that his front rim was broken and nursed the bike
along to the first town we got to. Off to the bike shop he went
in search of a new rim, and spent the rest of the afternoon
spokeing it. After all that work he found that he did not have
enough of the right length spokes to do the whole wheel. Nothing
to do but undo the whole lot and use the spare rim he has been
carrying with him.
We stayed the
following day as well so Ernest could fix his bike.
6 August - Chiquimula – Rio Hondu
off and after about 25km
reached the small village of
Estanzuela. To our surprise we found an interesting museum
holding dinosaur bones and bones from a prehistoric whale from
some 30 000 years ago. Quite amazing. Ernest still had to sort
out his rim, which was not completely round and as soon as we
reached Rio Hondu we found a hotel with rooms around a courtyard
where he could work on the bike and where we could spent the
rest of the day watching the Olympics.
7 August - Rio Hondu – Quirigua -
It was a
fairly short ride today, but it was rather slow due to a
puncture (Ernest) and broken brake cable (me). We cycled along
the river in a beautiful valley for most of the day, with the
green mountains towering alongside,
making for a very scenic ride.
However, this “Carretera Atlantico” is the main road between the
capital and the coast. It is a very busy road, with 18-wheelers
bearing down on us like bats out of hell. I tried to stick as
close to the side of the road as possible but it was still nerve
as the shoulder is often broken or obstructed.
This is an
interesting part of Guatemala, and each day we seem to discover
something new. Yesterday it was the dinosaurs and today we
reached Quirigua where there is yet another Maya Archaeological
site (which we plan to explore tomorrow). This also appears to
be cowboy country where guns, big hats and leather boots are
worn and sold everywhere.
8 August -
We spent the
morning at the Quirigua Archaeological site, well-known for its
huge statues or stelae (I´m getting ever so clever with these
names). The large stone is
10.5 meters tall and is the largest
Maya stela known. The stelae are housed under thatched-roof
structures to protect them from further deterioration from the
elements. It is therefore difficult to get a good photograph. On
our walk back to the village we took the shortcut through the
banana plantations and past the old railways station. Now only a
dilapidated building and a few old rail coaches,
it was still fun looking around. Back at the hotel the lady was
kind enough to do our laundry for us (high time as well).
9/10 August -
Quirigua – Rio Dulce – 74km
It was a
fairly easy ride to Rio Dulce past some lowlands and ranchos. We
reached pretty Rio Dulce on Lago de Izabal and we were surprised
to see many gringos, the most we have seen in a long time;
reason being that it is a popular safe harbour for
We found a cheap room and decided to stay the following
explore the region.
following day we took a walk to the
castle, the El Castillo de San Felipe. It was a short and nice
walk and the castle was
interesting. Castles are always nice to visit as there are
normally more than enough nooks and crannies to explore. The
castle was built to keep pirates from looting the villages on
Izabel, and although it
worked for a while, the pirates
soon captured the castle and
it down. The castle was however rebuilt and used as a prison for
11 August - Rio
Dulce –San Luis - 90km
It was a
difficult day on the road, both hot and very mountainous. We
pushed on the best we could, stopping ever so often to fill our
water bottles. We entered the hot jungle province of El Peten.
unfortunately seems to be fast disappearing as more and more
cleared for the planting of oil palms or ranches.
12/13 August - San Luis – Santa
Helena – Flores - 120km
morning we set off up more hills but fortunately the road
off a bit after Poptum. We reached Santa Helena in the afternoon
and opted to stay in Flores. We arrived in Flores just as the
sun was setting over Lago De Peten Itza on a hot and humid day.
Flores is a stamp size little island, just off the mainland and
is connected to the shore via a short (barely 500m) causeway. We
easily found a room as the little island is jam-packed with
hotels, hostels and restaurants. Our room was spacious and even
had a little balcony overlooking the lake.
not feeling well and seemed to have come down with his strange
recurring illness which he picked up in Borneo. He stayed in bed
the following day while I wondered around the narrow cobbled
streets of Flores. At sunset I took a short boat ride on the
lake, just to see the island
15 August -
Flores – Tikal - 67km
left Flores and headed in the direction of Tikal, the famous
Mayan Ruins. Needless to say it was hot and hilly (part
of the course around here). What
makes Tikal unique is that it is truly situated in the jungle.
The park measures 550sq km, with the ruins somewhere in the
middle of that jungle. From the park entrance we still cycled
for another 17km through the lush and dense tropical jungle
before we reached the camp site at the ruins. Along the way saw
warning signs for snakes, jaguars, and other animals, and we
wondered if our camping plan was such a good idea. The park
houses a large number and variety of wildlife, so it was a noisy
night with howler monkeys and raucous birds.
16/17 August - Tikal – Le Remate - 34km
At 6 am that morning we walked into the
site of the ruins as soon as the gates opened. It was a misty
morning and rather magical to walk through the forest without a
soul in sight. The iconic Gran Plaza, with its towering
pyramids, was half hidden in the fog, giving it a ghostly
appeal. Some of the temples have wooden staircases, which
one to climb up to the top for a view of the other structures
soaring above the treetops.
seen all we wanted we headed back to our tents, packed up and
cycled back to Le Remate. Le Remate is situated on the lake and
is a cool place to have a swim and relax. The following day
Ernest updated his blog and I took the bus into Santa Helena to
some money and do a bit of shopping.
18 August - Le Remate - Melchor de Mencos -
Up and down the hills we went in the
direction of Belize. Fortunately the road was paved for most of
the way, as the small sections which were not, were true dust
bowls as trucks
came roaring past in clouds of dust. We soon reached the tiny
border town of Melchor de Mencos, and as Ernest was still not
feeling well, we stayed for the night. We found a comfortable
room, did some shopping and relaxed out of the heat for the rest
of the day.