The hotel didn’t work out so well. The guy next door had the TV on loudly all night (we could almost drown it out with the Air Conditioner) and turned it off less than five minutes after we got up. Dachary’s got what looks suspiciously like bedbug bites too. So skip the California Auto Hotel.
There’s a thread on Horizons Unlimited with details on the road from Palenque to the El Ceibo border crossing and on to Flores which we were following. Unfortunately the directions were… less than perfect, but we figured it out, and I’ve added lots of details there if you’re interested.
Before we got to the border we stopped for breakfast (location in the HU thread) as it was going to be a long day and finally managed to convey that we’d take whatever the guy recommended (we’re saying the right words but our pronunciation is apparently crap). As a result we got a tasty fried fish (the entire thing fried) the name of which we’ve both forgotten and some really tasty chicken fingers. The fish was actually better than the fingers and we were first offered crawfish which we weren’t interested in for breakfast. In the end we both liked the fish but figured it would have been much better for any meal other than breakfast. I guess we’d not do well in Japan.
We loved the road to El Ceibo and have both decided that we really like Mexican police. They’ve all be really nice, and we frequently get a laugh out of them at the checkpoints.
The Mexican border was only notable in how inept we were at finding the right building to start in. We were hampered by the fact that the buildings and roads are set up in the reverse order you need them because they’re for people coming in not going out. Also, wonderfully air conditioned buildings… although there didn’t seem to be any running water in the nice clean bathrooms.
Guatemala was our first real crossing in my book. There was never a real question about Mexico. Guatemala though had many of the hallmarks of an adventurous crossing. A building in a truck. A Tuk Tuk ride to get copies of the stamp they just gave you. No electricity for the copy machine when you get there. Generators needing starting in order to turn on the computers to pay for your customs sticker.
It was great.
The ride into Guatemala though… that was incredible. The phrase “rolling hills” was obviously coined here. It’s like God reached down and made rounded mounds of earth in endless sizes and combinations. It’s beautiful. We don’t have any good pictures of this incredible beauty though because we’re idiots. Dachary has some video, though, which we’ll upload someday when we have a good fast Internet connection.
Along the way we saw a boy riding a horse whose head was three times taller than his, many people on bicycles, villages of wooden shacks with half-naked (or entirely naked) children playing in the communal spigot whilst the adults sat nearby, and a number of bicycles with miles to go…
Food turned out to be surprisingly tricksy to find, because most everything that looked like it sold food was actually just a convenience store, and the places where people were gathering frequently didn’t appear to sell food, although there were a number of them with pool tables on the covered porch. We passed by a couple possible food places because we didn’t feel like turning around after noticing them and eventually stopped at a Taco stand in San Diego. The tacos were meh, but the kids were great
The lunch crew
The lunch Crew
The motos though… We so weren’t prepared for that. There are motorcycles everywhere in Guatemala, but it’s not like Mexico at all. In Mexico it felt as if people had motos because they couldn’t afford a car so they all had cheap red Italika bikes, or a Chinese knock-off motorcycle or scooter.
In Guatemala there are some cheap red things and Chinese scooters, but there are also lots of Yamahas and Hondas that were obviously purchased because the owner thought they looked cool and wanted to look awesome on a bike rather than just getting cheap transport.
In San Benito we also encountered our first real moto traffic. Swarms of motos and Tuk Tuks and what seemed to be three quarters of the city was making their way into the graveyard at the same time for someone’s funeral. Some wrong turns, directions, blocked roads, a U-turn with a wave from a soldier, and an stop to look for Lithium batteries for our Spot tracker with an semi-hidden Mall and we eventually found our way to Isla de Flores. (Btw, no lithium batteries. These are a surprising bitch to find.)
You see, we got to thinking after Palenque. We don’t want to have another miserable day of overheated riding. Plus, Tikal appears to be like 30km from Flores. So, getting up crazy early to attempt to beat crowds and sun, riding 30km, walking a huge ruin in the jungle for a couple hours in our motorcycle pants and boots, and then setting out again when much of the sunlight had already been burned… It just didn’t sound a great idea.
No, a hotel… That was a great idea. Drop our crap in a hotel with some safe place for the bikes, take a bus to Tikal and back (maybe read some on the way), then relax again in the evening. That was the way to do it.
Only one catch. There’s only one hotel in Flores with anywhere to park. The Gran Hotel De La Isla. It’s the snazziest place on the island I think, but it has locked gates in front of the garage, and a steel door behind that. You can’t see the bikes and you can’t get to them. Also, an armed guard at the front door. Oh, and fast internet uploads, air conditioning… there was even one of those floor towels that go outside of the shower and a hair dryer *gasp in disbelief*. We’re paying through the nose for it (we think… we’re still not sure what it works out to in US dollars), but we don’t like the idea of leaving the bikes unattended for a day in a place that doesn’t really have secure parking and the sun had set by the time we got here so we weren’t up for going back to icky San Benito and looking through those which were far less likely to have a safe place for unattended bikes.
But the getting of the room was even better. I go in in my gear, long hair out and held back by a Buff and ask how much for a room for two people. It’s pricey but… I ask if I can see the room. “One bed or two?” “One please.” He grabs a key… no, he grabs a different key, and he leads me there with a little swing in his hips. Nice room, on the side with a view of the lake. I’ll take it. He makes sure I notice his long manicured nails while filling in the form, tells me my hair looks “bonito” in my Buff. “Gracias” I reply. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that when a good looking gay man compliments your looks you say thank you regardless of your gender. It’s about the best compliment you can get on them.
I realize, of course, that we probably got the room with the view because he assumed that, being on bikes, both of the people in the single bed would be male. Dachary and I both felt bad about disabusing him of this impression when we had to stop by the desk and ask for the internet password before heading out for food.
Flores, it turns out, is a small tourist town, so the secure parking is even more important, as people don’t feel nearly as guilty about ripping off “rich tourists” I think. But, it also means that it’s a nice place to walk around when hunting for food. There was a heavy American cant to the menu offerings, and I hate to admit it, but the idea of Pizza sounded great to me. I love the flat cows and flat pigs we’ve been getting recently but a little honest-to-goodness pizza sounded lovely, and I was betting that in a tourist town I might find something resembling the pizzas back home, and I was right! Tasty Hawaiian pizza to the sound of a vibraphone and drum band, and afterwards an interminable wait in line next door for a Banana Split.
I never thought I would ever be in a situation where I couldn’t wait to escape the sound of a Vibraphone. Normally I love the sound, but at the end they were playing a carribean sounding some that suspiciously resembled “this is the song that never ends… it just goes on and on my friend…” not in tune, but in that it played the same 8 bars over and over and never effing ended!
We finally got our Split and split to eat it by the edge of the lake before returning to our room. Dachary is passed out beside me and I’m about to join her.