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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Savant

Guatemalan Road Adventures

Updated: Dec 7, 2020


Where else can a 60 mile trip on a "main" road take 4 hours, cross a mudslide, then boulders and rubble across the road up high in the mountains, while dodging 999,999 potholes in rains and clouds, and then a river crossing because the bridge was washed away???


Okay, since the maps indicated roughly 60 miles and a two hour ride from Panajachel to Antigua, I took my time loading the bike, taking pics with the hotel staff of giggling girls and guys wanting to sit on the big BMW.

I had contacted Casa Elena in Antigua as suggested by a friend and had a room waiting there. I stopped for a coffee and croissant downtown, shooed away vendors except for one lady who told me I was beautiful and wanted to know how old I was, before heading off for Antigua. I'd finally gotten my GPS working by reinstalling the OSM maps I'd uploaded back in Texas, and voila, I had maps of Guatemala!

Heading up the street, I was redirected by traffic cops into the market area and to a street that was torn up. I followed traffic and alternate route signs that led me back into downtown. I even talked to a couple of policemen who indicated following the signs. It seemed the detour was just a cyclical loop so I finally bailed and looked up a bypass through the streets that got me around the jam and onto the main road again.

It led up into the mountains quickly and steeply, and after a few miles I stopped for a landslide, obviously from a huge amount of water off the mountain. There were some government observers there, observing, and I stopped briefly to ask if it was from a quake or water. "Mucho agua!" was the answer as they took pics of the bike with their cell phones.

I went on around the corner and found that most of the debris had washed away but it was about 100 yards of shallow mud and puddles, two guys standing amidst it and waving. Whatever they were doing I have no idea as the waving made no sense, but I stood on the pegs as the bike slid a bit in the slick mud.

From there, the road climbed steeply into the mist with severe switchbacks, potholes continuous and constant. As I got higher and higher, the road worsened to the point I began to wonder if somehow I'd been "Garminized", but my app agreed with the route so I continued forward. About that time the sprinkles began to get heavier and the road slicker. The views were stunning with heavy greenery and steep valleys. I kept going until the road was only pieces of blacktop at times, twisting its way uphill. Debris falls of rock and mud covered the road in spots, with just enough room to get the bike through by squeezing near the edge.

At this point I was convinced I had missed the main road, but continued. The rain came and went. As I descended into a valley, the blacktop road disappeared into greenery, the asphalt broken and gone. The only option was onto a dirt road that led down to a small river. From there I could see that the main road and bridge crossing had been washed away in a flood. I took it easy crossing the water, about 16 inches deep or so, and was glad I did as there were some big rocks lurking below. Being alone I didn't relish the idea of dropping the big Beemer in the water.

River crossing done, I was on pavement again for long time, averaging 15-20 mph dodging potholes. I've never seen roads in such bad condition but I figure it's preparation for further south.

The rains hit again and my leaky jacket leaked again. The GPS said I only had 30 miles to go but it was slow until I finally got onto a concrete highway with big trucks and their muddy spray. Eventually the rain died down just about as the road came to a stop in a major traffic jam. The GPS said 7.4 miles to my next turn and we were going nowhere. My only option was the narrow shoulder which I gladly took. It was a non-stop ticket, but I'll tell ya my butt was biting the seat as my bars were about 6" from the semi's on one side and dead even with the edge of drop-off ditch on the other.

I rode the entire 7.4 miles on the shoulder between the big rigs and the ditch. I'll admit to closing my eyes and gritting my teeth multiple times as it seemed the bars would clip a truck too close to the line. The drivers here are definitely hard and aggressive, racing to keep you from passing them, cutting you off and generally cutting no slack whatsoever. I was fully expecting one of the rigs to purposely swerve and knock me into the ditch but it didn't happen.

I had to laugh because my "60 mile cruise" to Antigua turned out to be a butt biting, pothole mania, rain soaked, river crossed, mudslide slippery, landslide dirt and rock day. I was wet and tired after the four hour trip!

Guatemala, if this is an indication of the roads, it might take me a bit longer to get through than planned...

But I'm absolutely loving it!

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