Tag Archives: Guatemala City

Huehuetenango to Antigua, Friday, 2 November 2012, Day 122

Lago de Atitlan

For some reason I am always getting lost on exciting towns this time the cause of the problem was my GPS. Last night I had swopped my North Americas maps for South America maps what I had forgotten was that for some reason Garmin have no maps available for Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua and the South America maps only start at Costa Rica so it looks like I will be flying blind for the next 3 countries. I knew this but and I was going to do some research closer to the time well it looks like I have left it to late as usual however not to many roads here and if I keep heading south I should be fine 🙂

So my GPS only has the odd main road on it for the moment and when you type in a town in this instance Antigua it comes with the message go to CA01. Which is fine but where the hell is the CA01 as road signs here are non-existent. So the plan is to try and find a sign for the road to Guatemala City, which I finally find, and as a celebration I pull over into a nice roadside café and order breakfast fried eggs beans and some other unrecognisable vegetable to me (was never any good at veg) cup of coffee and a newspaper. Excellent service probably because I am the only one in the place.

Excellent Breakfast

So after a relaxing breakfast and with a vague idea where I was going I hit the road again. Scenery still very pleasant not to hot and when I hit the CA01 this turns out to be a quite well maintained duel carriageway that twist and turns through the mountains. Turning out to be a good day and the good news is that the speed bumps are still around however there are not as many of them as in Mexico on this stretch.

Roads are empty and twist and turn through the mountain I am enjoying watching and following the colourful chicken buses. Old American School buses painted all sorts of colours. They never seem to stop I was watching a couple and one slowed down to pick up a family it never really stopped a bloke jumped out picked up the kid and practically threw him on the bus and returned for grandma. So that was a family of 3 was loaded in a blink of the eye and I am certain the bus never came to standstill. Another bus I was following through the mountains I spotted a chap on the roof tying down the luggage and after he had done that he climbed down the ladder at the back of the bus opened the door waved at me and entered the bus. So what so amazing about that you all ask Well this was this was all done at 90km an hour plus on a seriously bendy bit of road with the occasional speed hump thrown in for good measure. For all this I had ringside seat and I was loving it.

I finally pulled into Antigua at about 4pm purely by luck not judgement and after having to stop a couple of times to make sure I was on the right road as mentioned very few signs here. I headed for a language school I had found on the Internet and before I knew it I had signed up for 5 mornings of 4 hours of Spanish lesson and 7 nights staying with a local host family.

So with that sorted I then followed one of their staff Marta on her Motorbike to the host family house through the streets of Antigua. The roads in the town are atrocious cobbled and not very well cobbled so it was difficult to keep up with her then she disappeared up the a hill and into a very narrow alley which my bike with all my luggage on could just about fit through I did take a large chunk out of the wall though oops.

We made it to the house and waited for the son of the host to turn up and the next fun and games started as he suggested I put the bike in the back yard as it would be safer there the problem was that the backyard 60cm plus higher than the road there was a ramp but this was at a weird angle and then a tight gate. Somehow he persuaded me to do this so after unloading the bike I went for it crawling up the ramp trying to keep one foot on the ground on the road then jump with the other foot on to the pavement and negotiate the gate well there’s is another set of undies ruined. Fortunately Sergio was also helping on the balance front and we got her parked safely in the back yard. I have no idea how I am going to get my bike out when I leave!

So I have a nice room in a nice house overlooking Antigua and the volcanoes surrounding Antigua and I will be here for a while and I am looking forward to it.

The house is owned by Cornelia an elderly Guatemalan lady and is run by her housemaid Irma. Not quite the homestay I was expecting, as there are 2 other girls a Canadian called Hayley and Dutch girl called Wendy as well as an American couple called John and Jerry. And I nearly forgot a mad little puppy called Duar. So quite a full house but very pleasant. Dinner was served at 7pm and it was us 5 eating which was quite a shock for me as I have not really talked to anyone for a couple of weeks and here I was surrounded by people and a lot of talking. After dinner we all headed into town to a bar where we met up with some more people so I guess I am in the right place for meeting and talking with folk but it is strange as I had got out of the habit. A very enjoyable evening I got in quite late and have to be up at 6.30 am as breakfast is at 7 am and I have my first Spanish lesson at 8 am which I am also looking forward donde es la baños and all that bring it on.

The Ramp! and Marta

Not sure how I will get my bike out !

Advertisements

Antigua to Copan Ruinas, Monday, 12 November 2012, Day 132

Bye to my Antiguan Home and Hosts Cornelia and Irma and whatever the dogs real name is Muchas Gracias

On the road again I have not touched the bike for a good week and I needed to get it out of the garden which was concerning me as considering how difficult it was to get in but getting it again was lot easier which was a relief. I had breakfast with the new batch of students, as there had been a change of guard over the weekend and then packed the bike and slowly hit the road. Tata Antigua it was fun 🙂

First thing I did was get some USD from the ATM for the upcoming border crossings and filled up the bike just outside the city and I was heading into the hills towards Guatemala City and it was only about 8.30am wow never been away this early before!

As mentioned before my GPS only has very limited maps of Guatemala so I had brought an old fashion roadmap and it was weird not knowing exactly where I was and with the Garmin I had plugged in my destination but it never seem to be on the route even though I knew I was so was just like a computer game trying to keep the route on the small screen entertaining and frustrating at the same time. I was in Guatemala City in no time and then got lost trying to cross the city as I have said very few road signs and a temperamental GPS so I got across by good old fashion compass bearings. I missed a lot of turnings or if I did like the look of a turning so added a few more miles to the trip by sticking to the main roads. Enjoyable day even though I was bit concerned about the hassles awaiting me at the border.

Guatamala City

Driving along gorgeous scenery not sure how far away the border is I am in the middle of nowhere no one around considering this is supposed to be a major border crossing or maybe I just made that last bit up as to be honest because as usual I had not got a clue.

I finally hit the border at 1.50pm was directed to a parking lot and then to the first kiosk. Parked the bike and a couple of money changers turned up with huge wads of money I am not sure why it is but they always have loads! Enquire about the rates and they give me them as usual a low rate so I tell them I will get back to them after I cleared Guatemala Customs as I know what the rate should be and I am going to get as close as that as possible with some haggling later.

  • As mention is was 1.50pm so of course I had arrived bang on lunchtime so the customs official did not turn up till 2.10pm so me and about 5 lorry drivers and a security guard just hanging around waiting. I put my helmet in front the window of one of the kiosk so when they opened it knocked it of and fell to the ground so a bit of commotion but it broke the ice. After the 5 lorry drivers who where there first it was my turn bit of a joke about the helmet then to business. They wanted 3 copies of
    • Driving licence
    • Bike Papers
    • Passport
    • Guatemalan Temporary Import Papers

Bloody ridiculous as I had given them copies when I came in but nope they needed more. No problem as I had copies except the Guatemalan Temporary Import Papers so sent the photocopy building. 3 copies so that’s 3 QZL only have a 100 QZL bill okay no problem no charge! Back to my new girlfriend at the first kiosk as I have all the documentation. We then go and check the VIN number on the bike and at the same time being hassled by some creepy guy asking if I need accommodation in Copan Ruinas. I have a joke with custom chica about this and then back to the kiosk for the filling in and updating all the forms. Well in the end they only needed 1 copy of the Temporary Guatemalan so had 2 spare. My theory is it’s a nice little earner on the photocopying front but this time no score with Philly.

  • So bike is out of Guatemala so now me so off to immigration. Hand my passport to the guy he does his stuff and then says that will be 10QZL. My response in my new Spanish says that’s not normal in a stern voice and he says did I pay to get in and I say yes and he says that’s fine and I can go so he saves face and I do not pay and no I did not pay coming in either so another little earner for the customs guys who try it on all of the time.
  • So me and the bike are out of Guatemala next change some money get a reasonable rate for my QZL but they will not move any closer on my rate for USD and MXN peso rate is a joke so I change my QZL to HNL and will try my luck on the Honduran side for the rest

So bye Guatemala like the last time I was here I really enjoyed myself 🙂

Honduras is a complete new country for me, and the first one of what I hope is many on this trip. I had read multiple horror story’s about this border crossing so was planning for the worst case scenario in reality it was quite straight forwards and it seems quite legitimate what I had to do and pay and I got official looking receipts and proof of payments with values signatures and stamps. I had learned all the vocabulary in my Spanish lessons so was ready and challenged everything I felt was dodgy in a firm but polite respectful jokingly manner.

  • So 200 meters from Guatemala to a modern looking building which was Honduran Customs. I was approached by money changers and they are offering the same rate as on the other side but I manage to squeeze a bit more out of them as they claim they are loosing on the deal. I do not mind paying a little over the odds at times like this but I am not going to be screwed so knowing the rates and playing the field can help in reducing the odds in your favour. I change some USD but no one is shifting on the MXN peso so I hold onto these.
  • First immigration for me that is USD 3.00 with a big sign saying this but I challenge it anyhow as I thought that is for exit only but I pay and I probably be charged on the way out as well
  • Next to get the bike imported nice bloke came out to see the bike he did not check VIN number and or number plate just looked at it and then back to A/C office to the paperwork. He opens with the price HNL661 or 36 USD seems reasonable and I insist on a receipt signature and stamp on this. He also needs 3 copies of
    • Driving Licence
    • Bike Registration Papers
    • Passport
    • Guatemalan Import papers!

So as mentioned had all of these except only 2 Guatemalan Import papers and I wanted to keep one of these for my records so he sent me off to get copies of this and I argued this was ridiculous and in the end he only got my one spare one so no copies purchased here either. All the forms filled in manually on paper and this is slow then after this filled in on the computer with one finger typing so this also slow. Whilst this was going I noticed an envelope where the money was going to put in and quite clearly it said HNL 135 for Consejo Hondureno de la Empresa Privada so I again challenged the 661 again and he goes and gets another one he has done before and there are 2 charges 135 plus 525 for Forma 9A-1 and charge for admin so that is the 661 so as long as I have receipt stamped and signed I am okay with this.

So after matey boy had filled in the forms and the another one had put it into the computer of to the bank next door to pay then back to finish it all off. I got all my paperwork together shook everyone’s hand and joked about being a pain in the arse and said goodbye to my new friends and went back to the bike. A bit of a panic when I got back to the bike as I could not find my passport so back to the office to see if I had left it there nope but it was in my trouser pocket not the usual place for it so panic over more jokes with the custom guys who think I am of my trolley but I do not care as I am in Honduras.

Final hurdle completed and I check out  at the gate and it is only about 10km to Copan Ruinas my home for the night so the above exercise had taken 2 and half hours the joys of travelling 🙂 its just like work.

New home another kerb to negotiate and a bar to drive though

Bike safe and sound hiding in the bushes!

I had been giving an address of a Hotel called Viavia run by a Belgium biker called Geraldo so I headed straight there as it was getting late. I could park the bike in the courtyard for safety, which was excellent but meant driving it through the bar and up another high kerb. But no problem as Geraldo did all of this for me so I was settled in a nice hotel nice bar and restaurant in a new country tired but content. I grabbed some food at the bar Nasi Goerang mmm lekker fresh lemonade chatting to an Interesting Canadian chap called Paul who was a fire-fighter in the Canadian bush in the summer and a ski guide in the winter and who travels in between so a pleasant evening watching the Monday football (American) I was not much company as I was totally wacked from 9 days hard studying in Antigua long border crossing as well as 300km on Latin American roads so I was pretty gaga. A sleep into tomorrow and then to the ruins yeah 🙂