The Road to Guatemala
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Charlie and I were both tired from our time in San Cristóbal, mainly due to the upcoming religious Festival. At all hours of the day there were constant fireworks, not your average Black Cats but extremely loud booms like a 44 Magnum. In addition, for some reason a marching band seemed to walk past our window multiple times throughout the night. 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 7 a.m. and randomly throughout the day.
No complaints about the hotel, as it was nice and reasonably close to the plaza. The consistent rain put a damper on the usual lively town but we still enjoyed it... other than the experience in Chamula which dogged Charlie's mind a bit. It didn't bother me long, because I'm not afraid to publicly admit that I was more than willing to throw Charlie under the bus, and not only that but I would have paid to have the bus washed, the tank filled and personally served complimentary beverages to the passengers. Just kidding Charlie...
That evening we went for soup and explored another plaza, watching traditional dancers practicing no doubt for a festival performance. A few steps away four teenage boys practiced breakdancing to a boombox at the gazebo. The contrast of the two performances encapsulated Mexico.
The next day of leaving came early and I was a crabby arse trying to load the bike. I'd rearranged a few items to gain another quarter inch of space but my improvements were for naught as I still had to practically sit on the case lids to close them. My lack of sleep was showing.
After an expensive and decent breakfast in the hotel, we rolled the bikes out of the secured parking garage into a beautiful, blue sky day.
Our routes were the same for a few miles, but Charlie's plans were for a different destination and he peeled off north for Palenque while I went on to Comitán. I told him not to worry about the famous Chiapas blockades, but to let me know how much they charged. I also suggested he not take a picture of them :D
After parting ways, I took in the beautiful scenery and blue skies. The temperature was about 60 degrees. To my right and left, fields of corn and small huts with smoking chimneys covered the hillsides, lone farmers tending to whatever they tend to. On the roadsides women and children herded goats and carried bundles.
It was green and lush, but with pines and no tropical plants. The elevation was around seven or eight thousand feet and the small villages I passed through featured women in indigenous dress. The feeling that I was truly entering a foreign land settled in.
After so much time in Mexico including my previous trip a few months earlier, I had deleted my plans for Palénque and was ready to hit Guatemala. I decided to take the short ride to Comitán which is about an hour and a half from San Cristobal and a similar distance to the Guatemalan border. The bike and I had just seemed to be warmed up and in the groove when the town slid under my wheels. Entering the Centro I was a little surprised to find a picturesque town with a beautiful plaza. I'm not sure what I was expecting since I had no idea about the town, but it was nice, clean and pretty, complemented by the bright sunshine, blue skies, and white clouds. More importantly, it felt good and friendly.
It didn't take long to find the hotel I'd Googled the night before, and I was in the quaint, quiet, colorful little place by 11:30 in the morning. The parking area for the bike was in front of the room and the gates were closed in the evening. For 250 pesos, about 14 USD, the simple room and Wifi was all I needed.
The little hotel was empty, with a cool breeze blowing through windows and across the porch where I sat checking messages. In no time at all I couldn't stay awake and fell across the bed, door and windows open, with the rustling curtains from the cool wind and distant traffic sounds the last thing I remember.
About 3:30 I heard a WhatsApp message ding on my phone. Charlie had checked into his place in Palenque, having passed through a few blockades on the way but with no issues. I dragged myself up and walked into the town center, exploring a few blocks and the plaza looking for a late lunch. People were very friendly and smiled which felt good.
I parked my tush in various places to people watch and relax, small children running up to me out of curiosity, their parents smiling and waving. I watched and listened as a large drum band played outside the cathedral. People do what people do, couples on benches kissing, mothers and daughters holding hands as they walked, teenagers smoking cigarettes and texting as they awkwardly tried to impress the other sex. Girls giggled and old men walked with canes as the daylight slowly waned.
I sat on the edge of a fountain listening to the band and smiled at an old gentleman next to me. He smiled back and began a conversation in Spanish. Though I did not understand him, the few words I picked out seemed to be where I was from and my age. He had a very difficult stutter but we still communicated a while. He finally left with a big smile and a wave.
I wandered about in the dark a bit before hitting the room to get my documents in order for the next day's crossing into Guatemala.