13 – 17 January: Into the tropical lowlands and the Mar Caribe

After a great time in Panahachel, I stayed a few days in Guatemala City where I took care of business – mostly visas for further south. Then I got on my bike again and headed out of the mountains down into the lush Rio Motagua valley and Quiriqua

13 Enero, Jueves                                Quirigua

I woke up to a very pleasant surprise: a flat tire. Evidently while I was pushing my bike through the bush last night I picked up a cactus spine, the same way I got my other flat. No big deal but I used up my last spare tube. A quick repair job and I was on the road by 8.30.

As yesterday, I started out quick, doing 20 kms in the first hour. Then I started hitting the short up and down stretches. Slowed me right down. Started to get hot. Great. I ate a cheese and cracker lunch on the side of the road at 11.

More pedalling. About 1pm I was beat. Hot, sweaty, just filthy from the road and tired from the ups and downs. Just as I was about to keel right over I crossed a bridge over the Rio Mayuelas. It sure did look inviting. Ah, the water was divine. I washed up then just laid on the rocks in the river bed, letting the rushing water soothe my bod.

Reanimated, I hit the road. Passed some prime territory, notably the Rio Lobo. Pine hills, clear water, not many people, super rich farmland, looked real good. Drank my 7th refresco of the day at Dona Maria. Hope my teeth don’t rot out, but an aqua fria sure hits the spot.

The last 10 kms to Quirigua were a bitch. A five km hill. A slow walk up. But then, ah, what a view. Then, zip, down I went to Los Amates where I found, of all things, a helados vendor. Muy bien.

Pulled into Quirigua at 5.30, nine hours on the road, 94 kms. Whew. I had passed a sign that advertised a Hotel Royal so I rode out there. Two Quetzales a night w/ meals. Not bad.

Took a shower (ahhh) and then went to supper. Soup, rolls, fried chicken, potatoes, salad, tea, jello and a litre of ice water. I might stay here a week! This place is great. I even heard a Freddy Fender song on the radio. Manana, Las Ruinas de Quirigua.

Kms     94                    Total                1209

14 Enero, Viernes                                           Puerto Barrios

Today was chocked full of surprises. Woke up for another great meal. Corn Flakes (Kelloggs, of course) con leche, huevos, fried bananas, café and pan. However, I was soon informed that the 2 Qs did not include meals which were appraised at 1.5 Qs each. So I had to shell out 5 Qs all up. Still a good deal, but not great. In any event, I hopped on my bike, leaving my gear in my cuarto, and headed out to the ruins.

Early morning, Quirigua. The mist from the Rio Montagua obscured the countryside as I pedalled down the earthen road to the archaeological site. I passed a few farmers driving their oxen to the fields for a day’s labor. Soon I was there, only a caretaker disturbed the stillness.

The general layout of the ceremonial center was typically Mayan: two large temple complexes separated by a broad plaza. In the plaza, now a flat grassy park, stood ten of the finest examples of Mayan stele sculptures. The mist hadn’t yet burnt off. A few rays of tropical sun penetrated the green canopy. A mystical air pervaded the whole scene.

I walked around, taking special note of the zoomorphs, or 3-D sculptures on gigantic boulders, called by some archaeologists the most complicated sculptures in the world. Quite a display.

I rode back to the hotel, packed and was on my way at 10am. Whereas I was in desert yesterday, today is jungle. I passed some huge limestone cliffs, some with springs and I partook of the cold, clear agua.

Flat, with a few hills here and there. Made pretty good time. The sun was hottern’ hell and I got a slight burn on my back. Passed the exit to Peten and the Rio Dulce. At Entre Rios I passed some wild species of cannabis. Far out.

Finally pulled into Puerto Barrios at 5 pm. 290 kms on my bike in three days. Not bad. Rode down to the pier and scoped it out. What a trippy port town. Rode to a few hotels, but they were all full. As I was riding down the street I heard someone yell ‘hey Phil’. What do you know. It was my buddies Dennis and Chris from Panahachel. Far out. Chris had a house in Livingston and Dennis was staying at a hotel in town.  We drank a couple of beers and walked over to the hotel where I checked in.

Hit up a shower and then we went out for supper. Had a great steak for 1.30 Qs. After that we hit a sleazy topless (and bottomless) joint for more beers.  Went back to the hotel and crashed out.

Kms 105                      To Date                       1314


Crossed the Rio Dulce on a rickety ferry to Livingston with Dennis (a crazed Vietnam vet) and Chris (a German draft dodger) for more R & R. Couldn’t get a visa for Belize so decided to try to get to Honduras by hitching a ride on a boat going down the Rio Montagua…

Published by Phil Parent

Phil Parent is a geographer residing in Queenstown New Zealand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: