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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Savant

Guatemala to Honduras! Not.

Updated: Dec 7, 2020


I woke up to a sunny day and a beautiful view of the river from my room. The sun was out and the intense humidity was already uncomfortable when I went to load the bike. I'd intended to go to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, but after the long previous day in the intense heat I decided I'd had enough of humidity and rain. Tropical storm Nate was already dumping on the region and none of my gear, clothes or shoes have been dry for weeks.

Charlie had arrived at Casa Elena, and he, Christine and Jules had decided to ride together. I was very happy to hear that my new friends had decided not to give up their trip, and riding with Charlie would be beneficial. My plan had been to ride back to Antigua to travel with them, however they and Charlie had decided they were taking the main road into El Salvador. My original route was to visit Copán, Honduras and then cross Honduras to Nicaragua, bypassing El Salvador to avoid an extra border crossing. Border crossings in Central America can be real nightmares, and I had no desire to go to El Salvador. Copán, Honduras was nearby, so I let the Three Amigos know I would meet them in Nicaragua rather than return to Antigua. My maps showed approximately 100 miles to the El Florido border crossing and the Honduran town of Copán with its famous Mayan ruins.

The day had started bright with beautiful blue skies, however it wasn't long before the rain began to fall. At 10 in the morning the temperature was already 95 and trying to find a spot to get off the road and suited up for the rain just didn't happen. I gave up and accepted the fact that my ride and gear would be soaking wet. The rains appear so quickly that it's impossible to keep swapping gear in that short of time and then 10 minutes later be baking in heat and sunshine.

The rain let up fairly soon, however the traffic didn't, until I made the turn for the 30 mile road to the border. It turned out to be a beautiful ride, the road twisting and turning up to a high ridge along the top of the mountains. There were no trucks, only the local traffic which was few and far between. The blue skies and sunshine finally allowed me views of spectacular scenery. I stopped on the road side to take a few pictures and eat a power bar since I'd skipped breakfast. Cars and trucks passed slowly, honking and the people waving. One motorcyclist coming from the direction I was headed waved, then looped around, came back and parked next to me. He began speaking to me in Spanish and shook my hand, then began talking about the road ahead indicating that a landslide had occurred, but also demonstrated the width and that a motorcycle could cross.

The little devil on one shoulder kept saying "Awesome, go ahead!" and a little angel on the other kept saying "This might not end well". I listened to the little devil, fired up the bike and continued on.

The road was in good condition considering, and I was really enjoying the twists and turns and spectacular views. I passed through a few small villages and saw evidence of major rains, with piles of rocks partially obstructing the road, banana trees having slid down in mud piles, water and mud running across the road and more.

A rare bit of color in Guatemala

Groups of Brahma cattle covered the road in sections, some herded by an attendant and others simply loose on the road. Brahma seem to be the choice of cattle here, as I see truckloads of them in my hours of road time.

There were some areas of road erosion, but I passed a small group of parked vehicles and pulled up to the scene ahead of several parked trucks, military and police officers. I could see where the mountainside had slid away under the road and there only remained a narrow portion of blacktop.

Taking the dirt road around, there were some officers who indicated I could go ahead, but as I got to the bridge two officers in black told me to stop. The main dude indicated that I couldn't cross, but shortly after an old man and some others began pointing up over the mountains. The officer came back and indicated that I could go ahead and around to Copán. Everyone seemed to agree, so I went ahead and rode across the narrow remains of the road. It was wide enough for pedestrians and hand trucks ferrying supplies over.

The road continued up to a fairly good-sized town, which twisted and turned so much that the GPS got confused. I worked my way up and down the super steep streets, and I'm not kidding about super steep, out the other side of town. People definitely were surprised at my presence, and a slow dribble of vehicles coming from the other direction seemed to confirm that the road went through.

It wasn't long before the blacktop became dirt with major rain ruts. It was very bad in some places and I began to question whether this was a good idea. It was the first real off-road workout I've had on the bike on this trip. The Heidenau's were great in the shallow mud and gripped like glue in the dirt. Love these tires!

It was getting harder to believe that this was the route to the official El Florido border crossing. Several times I stopped and walked ahead, having learned years ago about getting a big GS turned around at the bottom of a steep muddy hill. I pushed on in the heat and crossed several mud debris areas. It culminated in a long muddy downhill with a river crossing at the bottom. As I sat looking, a 4 x 4 Toyota pickup full of people came down the hill behind me and I watched him cross to see the depth and softness since it was apparent a lot of water had come through recently.

I got the bike through the rushing water and the soft stuff, to the gaze of the onlookers in the truck. They did not smile and were intently trying to figure out why this big gringo was on such a small road in their territory. I passed the truck and worked my way up some pretty steep hills with a lot of loose gravel and ruts. My GPS said that the main road lay one mile ahead and I was elated after working so hard in the heat. The road improved slightly which seemed to indicate it was nearing another main road, then got worse and turned steeply downhill. Halfway down I saw 2 ladies washing clothes in the water running through the ditch. From where they were, the road went downhill steeply and I decided I better walk it first. I managed to get the bike angled in such a way that I had somewhat of a chance of getting turned around if necessary. A few steps down the hill and to my disappointment saw the last bridge completely washed away. There was absolutely no chance of making it the last mile. Had I been able to, I only had a remaining 10 miles to the border crossing.

End of the road señor!

I walked back up the hill and see-sawed the bike back around, watched intently by the two expressionless ladies washing clothes in the mud red water next to me. My only choice was to head back through all the obstacles, crossing the river, mud and dirt track once again. The heat and hard work had taken its toll and I was getting tired.

Passing all the incredulous chickens and people again, I finally made it back to the initial landslide bridge. As I rolled across towards two officers, the female one turned to see me a few feet from her. It was such a shock she almost jumped off the ground. I will never forget her eyes and face at the utter shock of seeing a huge guy on a huge GS rolling towards her. Other than an alien, this was the last sight she ever expected. I laughed out loud.

I waved at all the policeman and soldiers who'd watched me go past an hour earlier, who whistled and waved back, then continued on back down to the town and the main highway. It was now 5 pm and my 100 mile trip had taken me seven hours only to go back to a new starting point, which would mean heading much further south and then coming back up to Copán on a different road.

I was tired, dehydrated and hungry. Stopping on the side of the road to assess what to do next, a young lady and guy walked past. Suddenly the girl spun around with a huge look of surprise and a smile. She ran over to the bike shouting "mil doscientos! mil doscientos!" She was truly elated at seeing a BMW 1200 Adventure and seemed to know a bit about it. What a shock.

In broken English she said "I never see in person!" I asked if they would like to take a picture but she acted sad and indicated she didn't have her phone. I motioned to them and then pulled over to safe place, pulled off my gear and pulled out my phone. They were excited and she had a blast getting her picture taken on the bike, then with my jacket on which almost touched the ground on her, she was so small. They walked away excitedly chattering about the bike and I texted the photos to her phone... with an immediate response from her esposo wanting to know who I was and how I knew her.

By this time it was 5:30 and I was completely beat, having spent the entire day trying to go 100 miles. I grabbed a hotel in Zacapa, which showed to be about 60 miles from the border, tomorrow's destination. When I left my hotel this morning I only had to go 100 miles, yet seven hours later I still have 60 or 70 miles left to go.

Guatemala, where every day is an adventure!

#Copán #Landslide #Photography #BMWR1200GS #Adventure #Travel #Guatemala

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