Riding (and city camping) in Guatemala

November 17th, 2009

The last two days I was riding from Tapachula (Mexico) across the border and then East towards the capital of Guatemala. I took the coastal route to avoid the huge mountains in the central region of the country. As expected, the weather along the coastal route is very hot and humid. Yesterday it got up to 36C (96F) with high humidity! Yes, we have that also in July in Florida, so I’m somewhat used to it. But we don’t have mountains, and we don’t have super-stinky buses driving up those hills and leaving behind a black cloud of diesel smoke – probably not the healthiest part of my trip here!

One of the great things about Guatemala is the availability of fresh fruit everywhere you stop. Once I drank from and then ate a coconut which I had just watched being chopped up and opened minutes before. And plenty of bananas, mandarines, pineapples, you name it. Check out this photo at a roadside fruit stand!

Full stop at Fruit stop - roadside scene in Guatemala

Another great thing are the huge tropical trees you find here along the road. Some of those trees rival the Giants up North in California, maybe not in height, but they definitely reach massive proportions, stretching out 30-40m in every direction, like huge bowls with a massive trunk!

Huge tropical trees line the roads in Guatemala

After 130km, some 1500m elevation gain and 7h on the bike I reached the town of Escuintla, my goal for the day. I looked for a restaurant to get some dinner and drink plenty of water. I even got Internet access during dinner, so I could check email. And they accommodated my bike inside the restaurant by moving a few tables aside, letting me lean my bike and trailer against the wall, and moving the tables back!

Bike allowed in restaurant (recumbents only)

As I was one of the only guests at the restaurant, the owners talked to me and took an interest in my project. Then they asked where I would stay for the night. “At some hotel or campground, if possible – don’t know yet.” That got them thinking…
Just around the corner from the restaurant is a hotel whose manager is friends with the owner of the restaurant. So he sent me there. Bueno, I rolled around the block and got to the hotel. Unfortunately they are sold out and have no available rooms, I was told. Just as I am about to leave again the restaurant owner shows up on his motor scooter and talks to his friend, the hotel manager. He tells him about my journey and the special bike I’m riding. So after a few minutes one thing is clear: They will find a place for me to stay here! Who needs a room when you have a tent?

Who needs a room at the hotel when you have a tent?

I end up camping in a corner of a safely locked and guarded parking area. Since the hotel has a swimming pool, I can use the poolside shower and facilities. El agua es fria! I am warned, but who wants warm water when you have been sweating the whole day and look forward to cooling off anyway!

Cooling off in the hotel pool after a long, hot day on the bike

This is actually the second night that I am camping at a hotel with swimming pool and enjoying the amenities at a greatly reduced rate! Welcome to Guatemala…

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