La Mesilla – La Hachadura (Guatemala)
28th July 2021- 19th August 2021
642 kilometres – 7475 meters cumulated ascent elevation, 7704 meters cumulated descent elevation
Pantxika and Fred
Pantxika Goyhetche and Fred Lolliot are a French couple undertaking their next big adventure – a cycling tour of Mexico.
After going up and down hill twice because we’ve missed the Mexican border control we were finally able to arrive in Guatemala. It was an other easy border crossing and we were so excited to be in Guatemala, the eleventh country of our trip, the first border we crossed in Central America with our bikes and after all the stories that we heard we thought it was really straight forward without any sort of trouble. Even the border officer took the time to take pictures for us.
We decided to do an other 10km as we knew there was a petrol station accommodating cyclists. When we arrived we were greeted by Jaime, which is a long distance cyclist as well and in fact his family own the gas station and also the hotel just next to the petrol station. He offered us a bedroom to stay for the night, his mother cooked dinner and we had a really good night together. In fact he told us he was in Colombia when Covid started, planing to go all the way down to Argentina, but as Ecuador decided to close the border with Colombia, he had no choice than returning back home. For our first night in Guatemala, it was a very pleasant experience, in fact it was much better than we could expect. Our impression of Guatemala was already very good.
We left Jaime the next morning and it was our first day cycling in this new country. Everybody was really cheerful and every time we stopped somewhere, people were coming around to have a chat with us. As we were cycling in the mountains, the views were beautiful and we already had a brilliant feeling. At night we decided to stop in a sort of a campsite with a swimming pool. It will be nice to go for a swim the next morning before we hit the road again. We spent the night surrounded by kids, intrigued by our bicycles.
We left the campsite on a Thursday morning, when we looked at the map we realised we had to climb up to 3000 metres. We thought we would need three more days to arrive at our next Warmshowers host Carl in San Cristóbal Totonicapán next to the city of Quetzaltenango. In fact it took us only two days to arrive.
The ride was absolutely beautiful in the middle of the mountains and volcanoes, with coffee trees, corn fields and forest along the way. The more we were getting away from the Mexican border, the more the people started to be shy and not so cheerful as the first day. We were called gringos all the time and We also get caught in a national strike in a small village where we were retained for nearly two hours without the possibility to go through and carry on cycling. The strike was against the President and corruption in the country.
On Thursday evening we couldn’t find anywhere to put the tent so we ended up in a petrol station car park between the trucks. This was not one of our best night we thought but we were so tired we slept like babies.
We arrived at Carl’s place on a Friday afternoon, where we rejoined Anika and Denis, a cycle tourer couple from Germany we’ve met in Albania and stayed with for two weeks in the same building in Sarandë. It was really nice to see each-other again on the other side of the ocean. Carl, our host, is an American guy who has been living in Guatemala for more than thirty years. He is providing a whole house for cycle tourer so we had our own house for the four of us. It’s a big round wooden house set in a beautiful park with flowers and trees he planted himself. There is also a cabin built in a tree at the back of the park where people can stay in as well. Carl was a wonderful host, he has got a massive fruits and vegetables garden and he offered us plenty of them.
We’ve been cycling around, we hiked on top of a volcano as well, all guided by Carl and we were really enjoying our time here. On an other day he brought us to visit a Lake inside a volcano and after that he invited us to a restaurant. We were supposed to stay here only two or three nights but we extended our stay here for few more days
We left Carl’s place a week later, on a Saturday morning, we said bye to Anika and Denis, promising to see each other soon. We decided to take some small roads to go to the lake Atitlan. Big mistake, after few hours we were in the middle of nowhere with no way to progress any further. We had no choice than to go backwards to Carl’s place for one more night. This was very frustrating but a promise is a promise, so we have seen Anika and Denis sooner than we expected.
On Sunday morning we took the main road and we reached the lake in the evening. We had a very long climb but the most impressive was The way down to the lake. We’ve never been down a road like that, the view was stunning but the road was frightening. When we arrived at San Juan la Laguna it was dark and raining so we asked the Bomberos (fire station) if they could accommodate us and they were happy to help us. They provided a bedroom to us, toilets, shower and the use of the kitchen to cook. On Monday morning we visited San Pedro la Laguna, a nice town by the lake, then we took a boat to reach Santiago Atitlan. The view from the lake was beautiful with the volcanoes all around. From Santiago we headed to Patulul where once again we stayed at the Bomberos. The ride was pretty easy as it was mainly downhill all the way down to Patulul. Then we cycled to Escuintla next to the Volcano Acatenango still in activity and we could see the fumes all day long. Our plan was to reach to Pacific Ocean and spend few days there. We stayed with the Bomberos at Escuintla and they were all very nice with us. Making sure we had everything we needed and also offered to use the shower.
Then it was time for celebration, we reached the ten thousand kilometres mark of the trip so we booked an hotel by the Pacific Ocean and stayed there for three nights. We had the impression we were back to our normal life, just spending a holiday with good food and nice cocktails by the ocean. But after the celebration it was time to hit the road again and we left the hotel and the Pacific coast on a Saturday morning heading to El Salvador border.
We had two options, going backwards as there was no road along the ocean to reach El Salvador with a little detour of 75 km or getting on a barge, following a river to bring us to the next available road and rejoin the main road straight to the border. We’ve, of course, opted for the barge and we didn’t regret it as the trip on the river was stunning.
About half an hour journey on the barge, in the middle of the forest watching at the wild life and as we were the only one on board the pilot acted as a tour guide and it was brilliant.
Then we cycle to Chiquimulilla where we knew someone was hosting travellers in his off road Center. When we arrived at the entrance the guard there asked us to wait for the owner and when he arrived he told us we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted, he offered us to use the shower, gave us some cold water and some fruits from his garden.
As we were chatting, he asked if we had our test done to cross the border but we told him a fireman who hosted us few days earlier, told us we could have it done at the border. He was doubting about it so his wife made a research, gave few phone calls and came back to us with the bad news, we had to go back to Escuintla, 60 km backwards to get our test. But when there is a down side, there is always something good happening after that, and they offered to give us a lift to the city on Monday morning as they were going to the capital city so it would be only a little detour for them by car.
We did get our test done on Monday morning, negative once again and good to go to El Salvador border. We came back by bus to our hosts place and the next morning we took the direction of the border.
We arrived at the border at about 12.30pm and that’s when the troubles started (to be continued…)