Having spent the last two weeks climbing up from the coast, climbing next to an active volcano and chilling out by a beautiful lake. It was now time to load my bike and head northwest through the mountains before turning east to the limestone pools of Semuc Champey and then north Flores and Tikal to Belize. If what lay ahead was anything like what lay behind I would be very happy but with a heavily loaded bike and a steep hill whilst heading into the mountains I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
Sunday 18th November
Although I was feeling good to get on the road the thought of climbing out of the lake was daunting. Once I’d eaten as many coco pops as I could to reduce the weight of my bags I loaded my bike and headed out to the road.
My bike was so heavy and I knew what the first climb was going to be like having already travelled it up it to the Indians nose. I headed out of the village and up a short climb to San Juan and onto the start of the climb. At first the road went up and down rising about 80 metres then dropped a couple times before the road ramped up steeply for the main climb. The road was a wide dark red dirt track which made the going slow to start with but the steepness of the hill was around 12-15%.
Knowing I would be climbing over a 3,000 metre pass and would need to climb around 2,000 metres in total I needed to take it slow and steady. With all the presents I had brought my bike was so heavy but I knew it would be worth it to see their faces.
As I climbed the view across the lake became more and more impressive
As the road worked it’s way through the trees I could look out across the lake towards the volcanos. Although it was tough going the scenery was beautiful and once I had got over the first climb I then had to drop a few hundred metres then onto the second where the road turned to a good concrete surface.
looking down at the dirt road below as a bus made its way through the trees
This was better to ride on but with it the gradient increased. I had been warned about the second climb which was another reason to take it steady and although my bike was heavy I was feeling good. As I gradually gained height I also got closer to the main highway which although I would still be climbing the gradient would be much kinder.
I reached the highway around midday and although I should’ve stopped for something to eat, I wanted to make it to San Cristobel before dark. Not really knowing how high the pass was I started to drop to a river on the main highway before it once again began to climb.
The last push towards the pass
It wasn’t as I thought and got much easier and as I neared the summit . Once at the top the next few volcanos came into view along with the town below.
As I started to descend the amazing tarmac highway I was presented with incredible rays of light shining through the clouds. I stopped for a moment to take it in before continuing to drop. As I came round a long bend I saw a dog on the other carriageway that looked like it had been hit by a vehicle and to see them always made me feel sad. As a car went past I saw it lift up its head but not move. By this point I had gone past but knew I had to go back. I slowed down to find a point where I could safely cross and started to ride back up the hill. It took me about 5 minutes to climb back up and as I got closer cars and trucks were beeping at it to get out the way. I lent my bike up on the side of the road and went to check it. Not sure if it would bite I took it steady and luckily the drivers could see what I was doing. The dog was terrified and looked so sad. As I got closer I talked to it gently and held it by the scruff of its neck and picked it up in my arms. Once I had him I carried him to the side to see if he was ok. The poor chap had blood in his mouth and was constantly licking it. I knew there was nothing I could do as I was on a bike and no one cared for these strays, I just hoped he would recover. I sat with him for a while seeing if water or food would help but he just lay for a moment. The fear disappeared from his face and after 5 minutes he got up and walked off into the bush. I would never know what would happen to him and if he would be ok but I knew he wouldn’t be scared.
Once he had gone I climbed a little more before crossing back over the carriageway to drop towards the town. After another 20 minutes I reached the town and not having eaten anything I stopped at a small corner restaurant and ordered my food. I was soon met by a few guys that had been drinking which always made me feel a little nervous but they were fine and all they wanted to do was ask me questions. I was soon finished and heading into town to find my warm showers host Carl following my mobile that had a pin on the map where he lived. This was the easy bit but the next problem was I then found that the pin wasn’t where he lived. Luckily for me a few people knew Carl and I was taken to the other end of town where I was told to wait. After about 40 minutes Carl arrived and told me that another cyclist would arrive and take me to another place. After a short while longer Reto arrived and Carls wife made dinner. The whole time this was going on I had to sit in the yard when all I wanted to do was shower, eat and sleep. Warm showers is great and I do get to meet some amazing people but I was tired and it took a lot of energy to keep moving from one place to the next.
With dinner ready we sat and ate and with it now getting late I was then taken to the other house where I would sleep. It took about 15 minutes to cycle there but it was worth it. Carls other house was a lovely wooden octagon house set within a beautiful garden.
Inside the beautiful building where we would sleep
We made ourselves at home and I finally had the chance to shower and relax. By this time I was exhausted and just wanted to go to bed but first I had to do a few jobs. Reto was really nice and really great to chat to but I needed to sleep. With my thermarest set up as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. It had been a good day and had been told by Carl that know one else had ridden from the lake to his house in a day and after having added so much weight it felt good.
Monday 19th November
Waking up to find Reto Gone I was about to get up when I got a call from Sharon’s parents. It was so lovely to speak to them and really made me miss home. Sharon’s dad had been keeping an eye on my bank account and asked me if I was coming home. I couldn’t believe he had spotted it and as I wanted it to be a surprise for them both I said no then emailed him to say I was but not to tell his wife Wendy. After chatting for a while I reduced the weight of coco pops a little more before loading my bike and heading out . The place I was in was amazing and although I had been offered to stay longer I knew I had to keep going if I was going to make the border in time.
Enjoying a quick look around the garden before I set off
After a little look around the garden I pushed my bike out to the road and set off. Once out to the highway the road started to climb up to the pass for the next two hours.
Some of the volcanos looked so cool from a distance
From there it undulated through the mountains as I slowly headed north. After around three hours the road started to drop making life a lot easier and more enjoyable.
A good place to stop for lunch before tackling the rest of the climb
I stopped for lunch on one of the descents and then continued on dropping until around 1,700 metres where I started to climb again. My legs felt tired today and so slowly pushed on with ten miles to go until town. As I got closer to the summit a motorbike pulled over to find it was an English man called John from Portsmouth. He was such a nice guy and very tall. I told him I was his height when I started cycling and I was envious of his KTM motorbike.
John and his very cool bike
We chatted for about an hour and with him wanting to try and get to the Mexican border and me needing to get to my warm showers host we wished each other luck and rode on. It felt like forever to get to the top and ride into town but I was getting nearer and soon reached the tiny pin on the map. I asked for directions only to find I was not only in the wrong street but the wrong end of the city.
Reaching the outskirts of yet another city
I couldn’t believe they had put the pin in the wrong place and now had to find the house. I spent the next half hour heading towards zone 1 when I spotted two police guys on a motorcycle who told be to follow them. I was right behind them for about forty minutes then after reaching the house they then tried ringing the owner. While I waited they asked around and couldn’t believe how persistent they were. Eventually Anturo’s room mate arrived and let me in. I thanked the police for their help before being quickly shown around. While I had a shower he said he had to go out but his Anturo would be back and could then eat. After a while he arrived and was so great to meet him, needing to eat we headed out to buy ingredients to make tea before returning to cook.
He was such a nice guy and was such a nice evening. From the moment I woke to the moment I went to bed I had enjoyed the day apart from my legs. I just hoped they would feel a little better tomorrow. I was now very tired so got my head down for another long day west tomorrow.
Tuesday 20th November
After a good nights sleep I got up and Arturo helped me sort out his coffee machine. Needing to head off to work I was left to lock up and relax while I reduced my large bag of coco pops even more. After two cups of coffee and a stretch I was feeling good so took my bike back down the six flights of stairs to the road.
Navigating my way through the centre
With San Cristòbal Verapaz in the GPS I followed the pointer west out of the city. The road climbed and soon made it out of the built up areas. With 100 miles to the town and two big passes I knew I wouldn’t make it but knew it was a good goal to aim for.
The roads were good and the scenery was green with all kinds of crops growing. I reached a small town just after 2 and looked for a place to eat. As I reached the outskirts I spotted a nice cafe that sold chicken and rice which is a perfect combination to keep me going. I headed out of town and to the start af several hills. As I started to climb I met about 80 motorbikes heading the other way. It ws great to see them and so waved as they rode past one by one.
I started to think about all the hills I had ridden up, all the descents I had glided or been shaken down and found it hard to comprehend how far I had come. I was pleased I had written a diary and even then it’s hard to remember the whole day’s route as each seem to blend in to another. As climbs kept coming the scenery stimulated the mind and the steepness reminded the legs I knew that this day would soon blend into all the others. As I got higher I reached the cloud base then climbed not just into cloud but also the rain.
Still having another 400 metres to climb to the summit at around 15% it was hard and slow going but with some persistence I reached the junction where I climbed a bit more then started to descend. As I dropped out of the clouds I could see I dropped another 400 metres into a Combe with the road climbing out the other side.
The scenery was incredible but I was paying for it. I did think I would ride out of the mountains but I stayed in them all day. Climbing out the other side was hard and very steep. I stopped a couple times to have a cold drink but pushed on trying to get to Uspantàn. Being around 10 miles away I thought it was perfect but with yet more climbs I was starting to wonder if I would even make it to this one. As the sun got lower the light changed and the houses started to glow.
This was one of the many different coloured houses that lined the road and glowed in the evening sun
All the different colours made the landscape vibrant and warm, motivating me to keep going. With 5 miles to go,then 4 then 3 all the time with short climbs I got within 1 mile when the road rapped up so I could barely turn the peddles. I stopped part the way up but with the rain coming in I needed to find a place to stay before I got soaked. Within twenty minutes I found a place which was ok and made my way into town. It had been a long hard day but I had been rewarded with incredible scenery and that’s why I love the mountains.
Wednesday 21st November
Waking up and hearing the rain beating on the roof is never great when you want to get going but with it only being 7.30am I just hoped it stopped by the time I was ready. It very rarely rained all day so turning over for a bit more sleep was great. Still having about half a kilo of coco pops I went for some hot water to make a coffee and have breakfast.
The hotel for the night in the very wet mountain town
By the time I was ready to go the rain had stopped but instead of clearing skies I entered a misty gloomy day. With a short climb out of the town I started to drop towards a large river. It was a long descent that was beautiful and followed the craggy mountains I was quickly getting ever lower.
Looking down as the road turned back on itself to get down the steep mountainside
As I dropped I went though large landslide areas where the road was just visible or filled in with loose stone
The end of the tarmac for the next 100km
I had seen on my GPS that I would drop to the river then climb to around 1,500 metres the other side. It didn’t look that big a climb to start with but as I dropped the higher I would have to climb. Finally reaching the bridge a little over 500 metres I knew I was in for a long climb but what I wasn’t expecting was a terrible washed out dirt road.
It was not only steep but hard work to stay up right with big river stone as the main surface, washed out gullies that cross the road and wet sticky sections from the recent rain.
Climbing through a large landslide area in the fog while raining wasn’t the best place to be
I was climbing just over 50 metres every ten minutes which at times it would be more and others I could barely turn the peddles. As I got higher I came to a long section with kids repairing the road. All of them wanted money which made me feel uneasy. They never tried anything like I’d had before but it wasn’t nice having the constant hassle.
As I reached 1,400 metres the road seemed to drop climb then drop. Wanting to get to San Cristòbal Verapaz I pushed on past lunch and reached the town around 3pm. It was a busy town with a large market going on. Wanting to find a quiet place to eat I rode through the town and found a place on the outskirts. It was so good to get something inside me as my stomach as I had been hungry for hours. I left town and within five miles I crossed my 28,000 mile mark. Normally we would stop and make a point of taking a photo but the further I went the more they starting to blend into each other.
These dogs made me laugh all barking knowing they had a bigger dog behind them to back them up
As I set off out of town I was finding that my wedding rings on my fingers were becoming painful. I had ridden with both rings since I returned to South America to continue what we both Started. I knew at some point I would find the right time to take them off but never knew when or where but somehow, don’t ask me why but it just felt like the right time and saw it as a sign to move on. I had covered so many miles and I knew I had many more to go but I had to look forward, to build a new life.
That didn’t mean I wanted to forget the past because it was painful but remember it for what an incredible life we both lead together and to use what I had learnt to become a better person. It felt strange at first but also right with a feeling of peace. I had learnt to move Sharon from her loss to my heart and mind and remember what life can be wonderful if we let it.
Know being on the East off the town the hard rough dirt road finally turned into Tarmac and levelled off a little. It was like the last few days were tough for some weird reason and now I was on a smooth road and looking ahead to a new life. The road to Coban was good and being at a good time to stop I reached the city and looked for a hostel. Finding one on Hostel World I followed the map through town and just couldn’t find it. After an hour of searching the streets and asking around I finally managed to find it. After being told it was full by a local who told me about another hostel I arrived and found they were far from full having plenty of room. After a while sorting out my stuff and having a shower and feeling really hungry I headed out for food. It had been a long hard day which felt like mostly up on bad roads but I had made progress, crossed a mile stone not just in distance but also in my life and I needed to for me. I had one more days riding to get to Semuc Champey where I could take a few days off and enjoy another beautiful part of Guatemala.
Thursday 22nd November
As I tried to sleep all I could hear were lots of dogs barking and just wouldn’t them to stop. After an hour or so they feel quiet but then one of my room mates started snoring. This went on for about two more hours when he feel quiet only for his mate to start. I couldn’t believe it and felt so tired. I eventually feel asleep but woke shattered and hearing the rain falling outside wasn’t what I needed. I got up hoping it would stop soon but judging by the look of the sky I was in for a wet day. With my bike loaded I went to fill my water bottle up when after asking for a little water the owner snapped at me saying 3 Quinzalis. She almost made me jump and took me by surprise. I sorted my things and after an hour of having breakfast I was ready to go. By this point the lady had gone so asked if I need to pay for the water and was told of course not. I left bemused with the place and entered the damp gloomy streets of Coban heading for Semuc. The road undulated out of town for the next twenty miles and I seemed to be making good progress. After a couple of hours the light rain turned heavy and so I quickly covered as much of my stuff as I could. Within 10 minutes of riding I hit a large pot hole I hadn’t spotted soon enough to avoid it. How I never blow the tyre I will never know but sure enough it had broken my pannier once again so I needed to stop. Spotting a large undercover area I pulled over and set about fixing it. It took about 10 minutes before I was back on the road. After another 15 minutes of riding I felt something strange as I peddled. I knew there was something wrong with my peddle but On first glance I thought it was the bearings wearing out but riding on another ten minutes I realised that the whole peddle was going to fall off again. With 25 miles still to go I rode the bits I could and pushed my bike up the hills I couldn’t. After the second climb I passed a workshop for mending tyres.
Set to work on my peddle was great as I would have a chance to get to town
Having given it some thought on how I could fix it, I explained I needed a short piece of threaded bar welded to the end of the peddle so that a nut could be put on the end pulling it tight against the crank arm. I stood and watched him grind and weld when finally he managed to fix it at least until I got a replacement crank arm and peddles.
They were all really nice and managed to fix it all for £2.50
I just hope it will get me to Mexico
Last bit of tarmac before the descent to Semuc
Now being able to ride my bike I started a series of short descents towards the turn off for Semuc Champey. Once off the highway the road turned into a dirt stony track which dropped really steeply towards the valley below. As I neared the bottom of the first section I noticed my bike felt strange and unstable. Not sure what the problem was I continued slowly onwards when suddenly the front of my bike disappeared in front of me.
Luckily only going five miles per hour I came to a sudden halt then realised what the problem was. The track was like glass covered in grease with the super smooth compacted wet river stone and me not having any tread on my tyres it was a lethal combination. Hardly being able to stand up on the road let alone cycle I carefully made my way down until it levelled a little then picked a line with better grip. Reaching a small cabin I stopped for a snack as I hadn’t eaten anything and pushed on. With 6 miles to go I reached the river and a guy on a motorbike. We got chatting for a bit and he recommended me to stay just down the road as the road to Semuc was really steep and had struggled to get up on his motorcycle. With the light fading fast I agreed to follow and was soon at a nice place with him and two girls from Barcelona. It was a nice place but with the rain so heavy and the river overflowing I knew I wasn’t going to see the place for what it was famous for. It was however nice and would arrange to see the caves tomorrow morning. It had been a long few days and I just needed to relax and enjoy the company.
Friday 23rd November
Wanting to see the caves I joined the Steve and asked if we could ride to the caves on his motorbike. It was a BMW 800cc tourer and was amazing. Having met so many people on these bikes it just made me want one even more.
Once we reached the caves we met the guide and were taken on a tour. The guide had told us there was an expedition in the caves where caver’s had spent 3 months underground finding new and undiscovered caves that had never been seen by man. This cave system was massive and having just basic equipment we could only see a tiny fraction. With so many bats in the cave it had taken on its own ecosystem with the bat droppings supporting many other tiny creatures. After spending a couple hours in the cave we made our way out and headed back to the hostel. With the rain getting heavier and the river bursting their banks the chance of seeing the limestone casks of Semuc was disappearing out of sight. With not a lot else to do other then try and do some work I ordered some dinner and set to work.
Semuc in the rain
Semuc how it should look
Being deep in the valley also meant the hostel had limited internet that was almost impossible to connect. Reduced to editing and picking photos I decided to take a break from time to time and watch a movie or sleep. As the day went on more people arrived and I got to meet a lovely couple from Iceland. They had also come to see the casks but as the rain fell there hopes were also disappearing. We spent the rest of the chatting and hoping the weather would clear along with the river.
Saturday 24th November
Although I had slept well I was annoyed I needed to leave. I was really looking forward to seeing the blue waters of semuc but with the constant rain I knew it wasn’t possible. Although I knew about the rain my plan was to sit it out and work while I waited but with the weird times for the Internet which seemed to be when the owners felt like it and even then almost impossible to connect I had to go. I paid my bill and started the short trip to the village to catch the bus back to the junction where I had left a couple days ago. I rode out of the lodge and had to stop and push on the first hill. It was not only steep but it was also unbelievably slippery. It was like someone had spread grease over the stones and I was even struggling to get any grip from my shoes. After a bit of pulling and pushing along with a short ride to the village I stopped in the centre to look for a bus. The first vehicle that stopped wanted Q100 about £10 to get up to the road but when the bus arrived they wanted Q25 with my bike. I unclipped my panniers noticing one had broken again and lifted my bike onto the roof. From here it took an hour to climb the thousand metres back up to the road with the bus struggling up making me pleased I had decided to take the ride. Once there I got all my things off and took my bike off the guy who had climbed to pass it down only to find one of my bottles was missing. The guy looked at me and shrugged his shoulders and waved goodbye. Not only was it a good bottle but the only one with water in it. The bus drive off and then I realised my stick I used as a bike stand was still on the bus. I couldn’t believe it first I couldn’t find my SD card and now my bottle and stick were gone. Having to fix my pannier again put me in a bad mood.
Looking up at the bad dirt road as it climbed steeply over the pass
Although I was annoyed at myself for not taking them off I thought it could be a lot worse so set about fixing my pannier, clean my chain and tighten up a few nuts that had come loose. Once I was ready it was by 11 am and I needed to get on as I wanted to get to the next major junction which was about 50 miles away.
As soon as I set off the good concrete road turned to stone and smooth round river stone at that. It wasn’t only slow going but also hard going. On the climbs it was hard to get a grip and on the descents it was slow due to large rocks and slippery stones. With no water and only a few villages I stopped at a few shops but none sold water. I asked for some but people just didn’t understand me. I pushed on with no dinner or water and followed the rough track up, down and around the many steep crackly peaks as I slowly moved northwards.
It was such slow going but there was nothing I could do about it
After a few really tough days I was pleased to see the mountains coming to an end and the plains speed out into the distance
Passing some really cool rock formations
By 3.30pm I got my first glimpse of the low plains in the distance. From here there was little in the way of climbs but it was so slow navigating the large rocks and loose stones. As I slowly got lower and within 8 miles of the first smaller junction I spotted an amazing road ahead.
As I reached it I let go of the brakes and glided with ease and at speed. It felt amazing and loved every second. Although I was out of the main group of mountains I still had a few climbs before it would level off. Once at the first junction I was back on a bad road for about a mile then onto Tarmac once more. I got my head down and pushed on. I had an hour to cover 14 miles and knew I should make it.
Feeling good I gave it everything and with 3 miles to the junction I reached quite a big town and spotted a hotel. It was a very cheap one but as good as any so with only a short distance to the highway I stopped for the day and went out to get food and water. It was so good to eat and drink making me feel loads better along with putting a little of the energy I had used up during the tough day. I checked how far it was to Flores tomorrow and being at just under a 100 miles I knew it would be a long day. Deciding to give it a shot I decided on an early night and have a go at fixing a couple things. It had been a tough day with loosing stuff which I hate but I had made the distance I wanted and if I could get to Flores tomorrow and find somewhere with good internet I could stop, work , see some sights and relax knowing I was there in good time.
Another hotel in another town
Sunday 25th November
Knowing if I wanted to get to Flores by the end of the day I knew I would have to get up and get going. I put the town on my phone and saw it was just over 100 miles away. Judging by the map it looked like it should be flat and I knew I was over the worst of the hills so I got up, packed away the remainder of my things and headed out on to the road.
I went to put my glasses into their case and found it was missing I couldn’t believe I had lost another thing but couldn’t work out where. With no sign in the room all I could do was get my head down and just hope that I had put it somewhere.
Being 4 miles to the junction I rode through the town, though the markets and onto the first of many short climbs. Although they weren’t steep they were tiring and not having had any breakfast I knew I wouldn’t last long if the road stayed like it did. I pushed on for 30 miles and arrived in a small town where I knew I had to eat. With fried chicken, two fried eggs and rice it would give me the strength to keep going. On my map It showed a road that was straight as an arrow but the question was, was it flat? After another thirty minutes of bends I turned the corner to find out and the answer was no.
It was up and down as far as the eye could see and well past. Although the hills weren’t big and I could get up the worst of them I still had to drop into a low gear to get up the last few hundred metres. Picking a GPS marker to aim for I tried to see if I could reach the point before 1pm. It was good to set myself small goals helping me stay motivated and managing to reach it with two minutes to spare. From here I headed west to a Sayaxche which by the time I arrived in the town it was already 2pm. I had already covered 60 miles but with another 45 miles or so to go I had to keep going. Needing to eat I spotted a supermarket and grabbed a few snacks, Quickly eating them before setting off again. I knew it wasn’t the best thing to do but I needed to get as close to town as I could before dark. As I headed out of town I dropped to a river where there was a ferry to cross.
I’m always amazed at who these tiny ferries float with such heavy loads
Although I really needed to get on it was nice to see the ferry and have the chance just to stop and be forced to relax. I waited for about half an hour for the ferry to arrive and off we went once ours was loaded. I was told from here the road was flat but then I had been told that before. pushing on I was making good progress and other then the odd climb the road remained much better. Kids waved from the villages, often shouting Gringo or even chanting it with huge smiles on their faces as I passed.
This guy looked cool in amongst the palms
To many the name Gringo isn’t liked but it had never been called out to me in a horrible way and only with a smile and a wave. Getting ever closer the road turned east where I had a decision to make. Either 14 miles of dirt road or 20 on a smooth tarmac. Opting for the tarmac I pushed on my forever loosening peddles and with the fading light reached a small town 8 miles from Flores as the sun set. With a few climbs I knew with Flores being on a lake it should be down hill and sure enough it was. I reached San Benito by dark and steadily navigated the streets aiming for the bridge to the island. once across I asked around for hostels and soon found one that was a good price with reasonable internet. With a day of work planned for tomorrow I headed out for food and a couple beers before heading back for an early night. I was tired and happy I had covered 106 miles and managed to get a long way north. I was a days ride from the Belize border and now had 3 days to work relax and become another year older.
Monday 26th November
Today was a rest day and although I had a lot of work to do on the blog I would be resting while having a look around the streets to break up the work. I headed out first thing to get to the supermarket which was just off the island and picked up some breakfast things and a few snacks that should last for the next few days. Once I had got what I needed I caught a tuk tuk back to the island and set to work.
heading into town
It was good to have the time and the internet connection but as the day went on the connection just got slower. From a fast speed in my room, then needing to sit pretty much on the router until that became impossible, It was then a last resort and connect to the hotel across the road by leaning out the window. I was getting my work done but having to move every hour to get a connection was so frustrating. Just like most days I am working on the blog the day disappears and nightfall descends. By the time it was dark I was hungry and needed to eat.
My office for the day
Before heading out I first booked a trip to see Tikal which is a large group old Mayan ruins that featured in the Star Wars which I thought was pretty cool. With it also being my birthday tomorrow it was a perfect day to treat myself and take in some sights. For now I was hungry so I set out to find a restaurant and relax before an early night ready for a very early start.
Tuesday 27th November
With my alarm set for 2.45am I got up and waited for my ride to the ancient mayan ruins. Once the mini van arrived we were driven for around 2 hours North East from Flores before arriving at the entrance. From here it was a twenty minute walk to the view point where we would watch the sun rise. On climbing the steps in the dark with the mist hovering around us we all soon realised there was not going to be a sun rise as the fog didn’t look like it was going anywhere. It was however an enchanting place with the mist lifting with the warmth of the sun exposing a series of towers over 2,000 years old.
The first major works at Tikal started in 400BC and the capital increased in size spreading across central region for hundreds of miles. The population was estimated at its peak to be around 90,000 people and came to an end around 200 AD. The site would have been clear of trees with water channels cut in the ground that lead to the site. As the population grew the resources needed became to great and unsustainable which lead to the temples being left. There is so much history in this forest it is hard to grasp a time when the mayan ruled and seeing the ruins in the mist left a lasting mark on the imagination.
Tikal in the mist
The seen from star wars
These weren’t just small towers scattered in the forest they were precisionly built temples built inline with the sun and the equinoxes. Many of the mayan ruins have since been consumed by nature but the thought of these incredible structured being devoid of trees and dominating the horizon with such precision yet with no modern aids. This place was used in the first star wars film ‘A New Hope’ and I could see why. They couldn’t have picked such an iconic land mark that was created in a time that the stars were worshiped. As the day got lighter we sat and took in the sight of the towers poking out of the misty jungle feeling almost like we were lost in time. The sound of the jungle waking up around us was amazing and adding to the timeless feel in the film Jurassic park. The sound of howler monkeys was used to represent the sound of dinosaurs which will give you an idea of what it felt like to look across at what looked and felt like gateways to another world.
Once the sun was well and truly up we spent the next 3 hours being shown around seeing the sights along with the monkeys, toucans and tarantulas. With the sight still not that touristy we found that a few of the temples we could still climb. We set off around the site to take it all in or at least the little our minds could stretch with many of the temples buried under a thousand years of jungle and once ready we set off back to the bus to return us to Flores.
Temple number 1 facing the main square
With the bus ready to take us back we reached Flores just before dinner where I returned to the hotel. I checked my emails and Facebook to see I had so many birthday wishes and just wished I was with everyone of them. I was in a hostel that was so quiet due to me wanting good internet but as a result I saw no one and had rubbish Internet. I tried my hardest to get a blog ready but I was fighting a battle with the router that kept loosing signal. I think I succeeded in the end but being a new site name I just hoped it worked. For me today was a new hope that it would work and just had to keep my fingers crossed. Needing food I headed out and brought some amazing street food and some cake. I think this is the first birthday I had spent in my own but I knew I had amazing friends and family which was enough for me. With tomorrow off I had a couple large beers and wanted to watch the Star Wars film to see what the ruins looked like. It was good day with seeing the ruins and how lucky I was to have such amazing support. Plus if there wasn’t anyone there who knew it was my birthday it would mean i didn’t get any older 🙂
Wednesday 28th November
After falling a sleep within 15 minutes of the film starting I slept until morning to a day of work. I was in a nice place and could have gone looking around but I needed to work . I didn’t mind as any time I was sat working was time sat resting. I knew it wasn’t rest for my mind but then I get that when i’m on my bike.The the day went past as usual and as usual I didn’t get as much work done as I wanted but I was happy. I broke the day up with the odd trip out to buy food, presents and a little sight seeing and although I could have seen more I was content with what I wanted to see. Planning my route for Belize was making me excited about another country and knew I didn’t have far to go. With a long days ride ahead I spent the last part of the day sorting my kit, protecting all the presents I had brought and had a shower after sweating over my ever increasing bike bags.
Although I hadn’t really got to have a good look around the island I did get to watch a beautiful sunset
Tomorrow I would say good by to yet another country which had been incredible and had completely taken me by surprise..
Thursday 29th November
Wanting to head for the border I got up and packed my things. It was about 9am by the time I was packed which gave me time to have breakfast before I left. After half an hour I was ready to go and hit the road.
Crossing the bridge as I left Flores
It had been great to stop and see the ruins and knew there was so much I could have seen but with so much work to do I needed to work. Hoping the work I had done would be ok as I had to make a new web page I left knowing I had at least put in all I could. It was a nice day, perfect temperature and the roads were quiet. Being Sunday I passed many dressed for church and all seemed pleased to see me often waving and calling gringo with big smiles.
Its amazing seeing these snakes but always a shame to see them killed
The road west was good, only having a few massive pot holes but on the whole I was making great progress. If I kept going at the rate I was I should reach the border by 2.30pm and have enough time to reach a town the other side. Apart from a unfinished section of road that broke my panniers again and needing to stop and fix it, I had no other problems and even my peddle stayed on. As I reached the border town and having one mile to go I stopped for dinner using up a little more of the currency I had left.
Last bit of road to the border and to my next country Belize
From here I dropped to the border to get stamped out. With in minutes of arriving my passport was given an exit stamp and I was then heading to the Belize border control. I was surprised at how quickly I was stamped out and was making my way across the bridge into Belize. From here I was in an English speaking country and which felt weird. After waiting five minutes I was soon stamped into Belize and a kind guard welcomed me to Belize in a very good English accent and rode into my 36th country. Spotting a bus with ‘Belize bus company’ written on it I went to take a picture when I heard loads of women on the bus talking and all I could here was F ing and blinding profanities coming from the bus.
It took me by surprise but the bus driver made up for it by being the true gentleman. I waved goodbye and set off for San Ignacio which was about 10 miles away. The road from here was much harder with short steep climbs making it for slow going.
The rolling roads of Belize
Its always a nice feeling riding into a town that has its very own rainbow
The scenery seemed to change but couldn’t put my finger on why or how. It was just as green, still had big rivers but there was something. It could be the English signs or the people who all looked different. There were a black Caribbean influence that was so different from Guatemala but it wasn’t that. After an hour of slugging up the hills I reached the town soon finding the hostel I was looking for and asked if they had room. It was at a perfect distance but just felt weird everyone speaking English. Needing to shower and eat I met some of the others form the hostel and arranged to join them for dinner. It was nice to have company again and to be in a new country that spoke English was great and I couldn’t wait to explore..
Here I was in yet another country and I was excited at what lay ahead. Looking back over the last three weeks left me with fond memories of an ancient land packed full off history and myth. Today it still felt like it was stuck in time but in a beautiful way. The people were so warm and friendly, still holding onto their culture that seemed to shape them and under the surface bind them together. Riding through or even walking through come to that I was always welcomed with a warm and welcoming smile that made me smile. So many people are scared of this area of the world and yet I have found it be one of the richest.
There are of course dangers in the big cities just like any other city around the world but with active volcanos, colourful towns, lakes surrounded by steep green sided hills and picturesque village and a warm and welcoming population why wouldn’t anyone fall in love with such a place.
I leave Guatemala happy I had paid it a visit and one day I may return but for now I am left feeling content and looking forward to a country I know little about and always thought was dangerous. Having met others that had visited I now know I was ill informed and excited about my next country Belize number 35!!!
Thanks for reading xx
Currency:Approx £1=11.35 Quetzal
Number of days in country: 22 days
Total distance cycled: 637 miles / 1,025km
Running total: 28,265mls /45,478 km
Total altitude gain: 15,940 metres
Running total: 447,010metres
Altitude gain per mile: 25.02 metres/mile
Totals from Ushuaia Southern tip of Argentina/ South America
12,372 miles/ 19,906 km total alt gain 253,206metres