Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 18 - Santa Elena to Antigua Guatemala

600 Km ride today, but we left late, thinking we could get there before dark.  Decided on the secondary road since it was a shorter distance but the same amount of  time.  There were only 2 roads to choose from: the main route where all the buses and transports travel or the secondary route.  Asked a lot of locals about this secondary route and we got varying answers from, 3 hrs and fine to 10 hrs and watch for bandits.  It was in fact 10 hrs, no bandits but the road was amazing!  From 1500 m (1 mile) above sea level and 32 Celsius (94 F) to 2200 m (7000 feet) and 16 Celsius (62 F) through mountainous vegetation.
Video through the mountainous rain forest road.

The first part was nothing great but a nice ride.  Lots of villages with the people going about their business.  

This is where the ferry "docks."

We were told there was a ferry crossing but did not expect what we ran into!!  We arrived to a line of cars and big trucks waiting for the ferry to cross the narrow river, 10 min max.   

 Two of the 4 Evinrude outboards under the palapas (thatched roof).
Bus passenger drop off.

Passenger ferry.

Passenger ferry.

Buses were on the right where they unload their passengers who then hopped a boat to the other side where they picked up another bus.  

 Front of the line.

At the edge of the ferry ramp.

Slamming on the brakes!

We proceeded to the front of the line waiting for the ferry on this dirt road.  There was no dock for the ferry, it simply ran aground, dropped the ramp and loaded.  We went on first, followed by maybe 4 or 5 cars and the center was reserved for the 18 wheeler tanker (carrying palm oil).  This is where it got interesting.  With the tanker on, the ferry was basically grounded and the outboard motors were not powerful enough to pull it away from shore, especially with the weight of the tanker.  So .... the tanker backs up until the trailer wheel is over the edge of the ramp, the driver floors it to the other side of the ferry, about 30ft and locks up its wheels just before his front tires reach the front edge of the ferry, hoping the momentum would drag the ferry off the bottom.  Three tries and we were floating to the other side.  Wow!

Off the ferry and on our way.

One of the villages along the route.

Same village.

For any motorcyclist that has been to Deal’s Gap, this road in Guatemala was 400 km (250 miles) of Deal's Gap (non stop curves for you non-motorcyclists wondering what is so great about a road) but throw in villages, dogs, cows, people, speed bumps (called Túmulos in Guatemala) pigs, potholes ... you name it.  Rob and I just about had pork for supper, we both almost hit the same pig!!  The scenery along the road was incredible.  People washing their clothes in the river, kids swimming, women dressed in their indigenous clothes walking along the road carrying loads of wood, clothes, babies, machetes, all with smiles.

We ended up riding 3 hours in the dark, part of it through Guatemala City.  What a place!  The main thoroughfare seemed safe enough, but glancing at the side streets as we passed was unnerving.  Dark, grimy, vacant alleys that seemed to meander into nothingness.  

The road through the mountains to Antigua was 2-lane and jammed with all kinds of traffic, so, very slow going.  The road was horrible, very rough, pot holes, broken down vehicles.  Note:  when a truck breaks down they don’t use flares and signs, the build a fire in the middle of the lane as the first marker then any one after that is a bundle of branches.  We came across one of these bonfires as we rounded a bend.  This was on the main highway into Guatemala City!!  We arrived in Antigua around 9 pm and found a hotel for 10 USD per person for the night.

Another road video clip.

1 comment:

  1. RT,

    you know, if you and RobC keep aiming for pigs on the road, you're going to have the animal rights activists down there P.O.'d at you...