Updated: Dec 7, 2020
My time in Antigua was a lot of fun, ending up relaxing a few days longer than expected. I enjoyed spending time with my new friends from Canada and while they are waiting for paperwork I decided to escape Antigua for a couple of days. The time at Casa Elena was great, relaxing and a lot of fun.
The combination of belching diesel chicken buses, enclosed streets and residual volcanic ash, combined with the constant rains and moisture, did a hellacious number on my sinus and allergies. They'd gotten so bad I felt a trip out of the area was the only solution, so I decided to visit the BMW dealer in Guatemala City to look around and then continue east towards Rio Dulce for a few days then return to Antigua. I'd been told Rio Dulce was a pretty area and it didn't appear too far away. Canuck Charlie texted me that he had arrived in Guatemala and was coming to the Guatemala City BMW dealer the same day, but we missed each other. Charlie also booked a stay at Casa Elena, and since I'd left my old room was now available. I told him about Jules and Christine's experience and knew they'd enjoy connecting.
The maps showed Rio Dulce to be about 200 miles and 3.5 hours from Antigua, but based on my experience so far, I figured it would be 5 hours. Getting out of Guatemala City was horrible as expected, but the road north finally opened up and the scenery was great, caught in glances between trucks and highway issues.
The roads quickly deteriorated however and miles of trucks became the norm. I spent much of the ride in the oncoming lane passing miles of crawling traffic and pulling off onto the oncoming shoulder to let traffic by. It culminated in a 1 hour stop for road construction. I'd ridden past a huge traffic jam and finally made the front where I sat with a couple of other motorcyclists in the heat. My accomplice gave me a piece of candy and a thumbs up as we sat there.
In my rearview mirror - better attitude than me!
Finally, the workers came up to move the barricade and we started up in preparation to get moving again. What I didn't expect was the reaction when the barricade moved. From behind and around me, it was like the start of a motocross race. Pickups and motorcycles took off in a cloud of dust, cars fishtailing and spewing gravel wildly. It was a flat out race and pure madness and there was nothing to do but try to beat the insanity so I cracked the throttle and raced to get out of the gravel spraying bedlam of vehicles, barely beating out an angry driver in his pickup truck. It was crazy and as I said before, the Guatemalans here drive hard.
I got ahead of all the traffic and using the big 1200cc engine to it's max, blew through the construction, dust and rubble on the road for miles.
I'd already been on the road for a few hours when I had to grab something fast to eat, as I knew there was no way I'd make Rio before dark and the impending storm cloud ahead. Amazingly there was a Burger King, and though I rarely eat at places like that, the burger and fries were dang good and lifted my energy. I know, Burger King? It was fast is why.
Ahead loomed a black storm cloud and fading daylight. Despite my best efforts, the sheer amount of truck traffic and seriously deep potholes kept the pace slow and I was getting worn out from the constant concentration. I rounded a curve and was instantly in a monsoon shower. It came so quickly that by the time I got off the road to suit up, I was completely drenched. I got a rain jacket on but I just gave up on the rest. I sat under a tree for a bit, as the sheer white rain poured and poured. Daylight was fading and I had no idea how long the rain would last, so I decided to push on. It was a scary scenario, because the wheel swallowing potholes now were invisible, filled to the road level with water and the heavy rains laying a sheet of water on the road. I rode slowly trying to spot the potholes which would easily swallow the front wheel of the moto. Subsequently I've read that Guatemala is infamous for the deep corruption of its highway department with money being shoveled into the officials accounts rather than used for repairs. Never have I ever seen such horrible road conditions and it bears witness to that corruption.
It's generally true that rains come in the afternoon, but here the roads and traffic are so bad that the delays push you into the afternoon rain, no matter what your plans are.
I could barely see in the rain and felt the insanity of what I was doing, but I didn't want to be doing this in the pitch black of night either. After about 30 minutes the rain lightened, but my boots were now filled with water as well as my jacket arms, and underwear. The rows of trucks never ended as the darkness finally came. Rain was heavy, then light, and finally disappeared completely. I rolled into Rio Dulce well after dark, pulling into a gas station under the suspicious gaze of a 12 gauge pump wielding security guard. The shotgun wielding guards are everywhere in Guatemala so I'm used to them, however this guy made me uncomfortable. He watched me intently for the entire time I was there trying to find a hotel on my phone.
By the time I finally found one, rode a few miles in the dark on a dirt road to find it and paid an exorbitant rate, it had been over 8 hours for a theoretical 3 hour ride. Riding here is very tiring and you cannot relax in any form. I spent the next few hours trying to dry out gear around the room and get my head cleared. But hey, it's adventure right?