So, we finally gave up on ol’ Belize and rolled across the border to Guatemala, making our way to Quetzaltenango, our promised land for language school.
A money-changer on the Belize side told us the in-processing fees would cost us more than 175 quetzals each – a lie which we thankfully ignored, saving us a 40-minute trip back to town for an ATM – the actual cost was less than 170 quetzals for both of us. We did have to pay to fumigate the bikes, which Tim at least found an outright fraud.
Then we made our way to the mountain town of Coban. Below is our delighted review of the hotel we stayed in.
Night in Guatemala
Tim Tells How He Fell in the Water
Right, so we got to this little town after we left Coban, taking a ferry over the river.
We took too long over dinner, so it was dark when we looked for a campsite. We rode down near the river to look for a spot. We found some nice trees mostly away from people that would do for the night.
Here’s where things get dicy.
There was this little creek, see, with this little footbridge. And the best trees to camp on were on the other side of this little footbridge.
Pretty solid footbridge, in my opinion.
Joe says, man, we should leave our bikes here, on this side of the little creek. But he’s also whining because he thinks Guatemalan bandits hide in the tall grass to ambush you, and I’m saying we’re good to camp out here because it’s dark and no one can find us and anyway the town is quiet. But he’s still whining (remember, this is my version). So I’m like, watch this. I will motorcycle across this bridge so the motorcycles are right next to us as we camp. I got this, man. I got this.
I swear I almost got it.
Like, I was most of the way across the little bridge. Hindsight being 20-20, I should have removed my boxes. Then they wouldn’t have hit the pole that was holding up this bridge and the motorcycle wouldn’t have tipped to the left and I wouldn’t have fallen in the water to the right.
Man, I was wet. That water was deeper than it looked. I clambered back up and Joe says, don’t move, man, what is that on your shoulder? It was a gray shell insect thing that looked like Gollum’s favorite food or something. I screamed and shuddered like a girl as it fell on the ground.
Right then the bike was okay, with the front wheel on dry land and the back wheel on the bridge. After Joe stopped laughing (an hour later) he came over to help with the bike. We got it upright and tried to move it forward onto dry land.
I’m still not sure how the bike fell over and into the water, but it did. She wasn’t totally submerged and getting her back upright wasn’t hard, but the bike was pretty well sandwiched by pieces of the bridge. In the end I almost totally destroyed the foot bridge to get it out of the way (sorry guys). Not only was the bridge no longer good for motorcycling, the bridge was now hazardous for foot travel. It took us a good 45 minutes to get the bike back on dry land.
Now, it’s all fun and games until the bike don’t work. I had to choke it all the way up to get it to start, and once it was going without the choke, it wouldn’t go above 2000 rpm. This bike wasn’t going anywhere. In the end we towed it to a hotel.
The next day, after three oil changes later, the bike was still not working. We started making contingency plans. At the end of the day, after surfing various KLR 650 internet forums, we drained the carb chamber. The bike revved right up! High fives and chest bumps!
The next day we did more bike maintenance, and finally took off the third day. So, all’s well that ends well, though other casualties of this misadventure include my iPod and our last camera. All other pictures here were taken with my iPhone.
And for the record, we went back to pay for the bridge but the construction workers had already repaired it and were using it.
The Shortcut Through the Mountains
Soon after we set off from this little town, we met up with another roadblock – this time a literal one! It was spontaneously organized to protect President Alvaro Colom, who’s very controversial but very popular with the poor and indigenous here.
Tim walked up to ask what was happening and was immediately surrounded by about 50 rather genial folks. After he figured out was happening, he asked, “So, you guys are patriots, then?” The woman answered, “Yes, we are patriots – and soldiers, with pisols and machetes and hachets!” Tim backed away: “I’m scared…” The crowd cracked up.
After we got past this roadblock, we kept rolling down the road, despite the rain. Unfortunately Tim’s back tire is getting a bit worn and kind of sucks. Going down a slope, around a curve, in the rain, the thing started sliding. The devil on one side was riding straight off the road, and the devil on the other was trying to turn and losing all traction. Braking and turning was a poor compromise. Tim and the bike skidded for about 30 feet.
Later the road got much worse, as narrated by Joe:
It was really the most challenging road we’ve had so far, through very traditional villages where the farming is still done by hand and horse. Joe’s front tire had to be fixed twice (though we pulled an old nail out of it, which was probably the real problem).
That’s about it for this post, folks – stand by for the first installment of our time in Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala, taking immersion classes at a small but awesome school!