Puerto Cortés – La Lima

T Puerto Cortes to La Lima
My host in Puerto Cortés left early for work, and my co-surfer left for Belize with his motorbike. I was all alone and could relax and just take it slow all morning, which was much needed!

furball
I woke up with this little furball sleeping on my bed.

Then I learnt that my next host Ana Lucia, living in La Lima 74 kilometers away, had volleyball practice in the evening, and I had to arrive by 4pm. I felt stressed, because I didn’t get going until noon!

Was I really going to make the whole distance within 4 hours?

road from puerto cortes
I had forgotten that I used to avoid biking during the hot midday hours, because it had been cloudy and rainy for several days. But of course today, the sky was clear blue! The sun combined with the initial steady climb of the highway made me exhausted already within an hour.

But after that, the landscape leveled out and it turned out to be a very easy route, except for all the big trucks that insisted on driving very close to me. Minutes and kilometers flew by!
puerto cortes straight road

At 3pm, I didn’t have much distance left to bike, and I stopped outside a Pizza Hut for their free WiFi, to brag about my accomplishment. “I did all 74 kilometers in less than 3.5 hours!” I planned to write on my blog.

I had avoided the center of San Pedro Sula, because it’s considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Wikipedia explains it in a funny way in its tourist section:
“It has a cathedral that was built in 1949. Besides that there is nothing else unless you want a bullet to the head.”

la lima
I did bike through La Lima though, which is quite a cute town that also happens to have a Western Union office, which I will try to get money from tomorrow. I haven’t had any money for two days now, so it’s about time!

The last stretch was out in the country again, and my Google Maps app didn’t even show the road! (I will complain another time about how the app is lacking a lot of roads compared to, say, the Facebook map.)

football field
I had been told to look for the second house next to the football field. I was getting close!

And then I found them, standing outside their gate, just as the clock turned to 4pm. I don’t know what had happened to my estimated 3.5 hours (there was a lot more traffic and streets to navigate though), but 74 kilometers in four hours isn’t bad either!

I said hello to the parents who only speak Spanish, but the two daughters went to a bilingual school, so they speak English perfectly! Or well, almost perfectly. 🙂 🙂

They live in a wonderful old wooden house, and the whole family is working with banana transportation. They taught me things about bananas.
bananas
In Honduras, these are called platano, banano and manzano.

Then we went to their volleyball practice, and it was uh… okay! I brought my kindle, so I could keep myself entertained.
volleyball

All in all, they have been so nice and welcoming! I will tell more about that tomorrow, because I will stay here for a while.

Puerto Barrios – Puerto Cortés

S Puerto Barrios to Puerto Cortes
The first 15 kilometers to get back on track were peanuts except for a bit of uphill just outside the city. I had felt it was mostly slightly up when going the other direction, and I had been right. Well felt, Fredrik!

Just a few kilometers on the road towards the border, there’s a motel called Hotel Escorpión, and out of curiosity I went in to ask for the prices. They charge 125 Quetzales per room, so that might be an option if you want to bike 30 kilometers less, especially if you’re two people!

I also stopped at a motorbike repair shop and had my handlebar screwed tighter. It had gotten dangerously loose lately. He didn’t want any money for it.

Straight road
After passing a few buildings, there’s just a long well paved road; a surprisingly calm one.

Palms
The road continues through enormous amounts of African oil palms and banana plants. A big sign said Chiquita. How nice that some American company is making profits off of land in other countries.

Coming storm
With two kilometers left to the border, the clouds got threateningly dark again. Luckily I only got a little wet, as it didn’t pick up for real until I was under the roof of the immigration building.
immigration rain

I’ve traveled a lot, and as far as I can remember, it’s only here in Central America that they have fees to cross borders. Greedy people! At least it’s only 30 Quetzales to enter Honduras, so it’s not too bad.

Immigration went smoothly, barely any people there, and I was officially in Honduras before noon. I changed my last 40 Quetzales for 126 Lempiras, and waited for the rain to stop so I could continue my journey.

Honduran road
There, this is Honduras! Looks the same as Guatemala.

I had planned to rest and eat by the border, but somehow, none of the small eateries seemed inviting, or manned. I just kept biking and biking.

CuyamelSuddenly I had arrived in Cuyamel; the town where I had planned to make my first Western Union withdrawal in the country. I only had 42 kilometers left to get to Puerto Cortés, and it was not yet 2 pm! Biking has become a piece of cake!

Unfortunately there was a power blackout in the whole town, and I couldn’t get more money. But I sat down at a small eatery and got a big meal for only 60 Lempiras! (About 2.5 USD)
Honduras seems to be even cheaper than Guatemala.
fried banana
I ended up getting this typical northern Honduran dish. Rice and beans (called casamiento), chicken and tajadas, which are super tasty fried bananas. I want more of those!

I must say the entire road from Guatemala to Puerto Cortés is an easy distance. Long, but constantly good roads and no uphill to talk about.

Omoa
I passed through the coastal town Omoa and saw cozy little beaches (that I didn’t take a picture of for some reason) along the road. I thought of taking a break and swim a little, but decided to keep going and reach my new couchsurfing host.

And I arrived in Puerto Cortés! It’s a big city, but easily navigated. To reach the center, you have to pass one of several bridges.
Bridge to Puerto Cortes

I found the house of my host, but she didn’t show up, so I went to a park nearby and got free WiFi, but she didn’t reply!

It was getting dark, and the bugs were getting frikkin’ annoying. I was waiting at that park for more than an hour, and she didn’t answer.

bugs
I entertained myself by taking bug slapping selfies.

It had gotten dark, and I couldn’t wait anymore (I had already been asked for money by men with alcoholic breath, twice), and I decided to go back to her house. Maybe to shout her name and hope for the best?

Just as I arrived, a man shouted my name! I was confused at first, but it turns out that he’s another couchsurfer, and that my host had not replied because she was at the gym!

And so, I finally got inside and could take a shower, and when our host came back, we went to have some traditional baleadas (big tortillas filled with beans and other things, not unlike what I ate several times in Guatemala).

I had survived yet another day!

Couchsurfing people
Why on the floor? I don’t know. It was for the blog!

Rio Dulce – Puerto Barrios

R Rio Dulce to Puerto Barrios
My legs still felt tired in the morning, and it was hard to decide if I should continue my trip, or stay another night to get fully restored. The rain didn’t help to motivate me.

But after relaxing up until noon, and the sky getting blue again, I decided to get going after all. 77 kilometers should be doable before sunset despite starting late!

Rio Dulce stretch
This distance starts with 15 kilometers of very long straight road with not much elevation, and no civilization either. But after reaching the village Buenos Aires, the road gets more hilly and varied, with small houses and stores spread out along the road.

dusty road 1
After that, the road gets frustratingly bad, and since I’m still paranoid about getting another flat tire, I biked very slowly. Adding to that, all the passing trucks make the air very dusty. My eyes hurt and I felt sand between my teeth. Worst experience so far!

dusty road 2
Can you see that cloud of dust? It wasn’t nice.

After a few kilometers it changes to a super nice and newly paved road, but it’s also constantly uphill… I was no longer sure which one was better.
uphill
It doesn’t look like it, but this is the start of a very long uphill section.

After a lot of sweat and suffering, I reached the top of the hill, and bought a bag of freshly diced pineapples (only 3 Quetzales!) from one of the many pineapple sellers hanging there. I wish I had taken a photo, but I was too tired to think about that!

After that, it was steep downhill again, and it was a lot of fun! It almost ended too soon, as I reached the end off the road.
puerto barrios road split
Here, you can turn right to go south towards Guatemala City (there are supposedly some impressive ruins along that road, but I felt like I had seen enough), or left, which goes north towards the Honduran border, and Puerto Barrios.

Comedor Jennifer
There’s a Texaco gas station in this area, but their meals were around 35-45 Quetzales each, so instead I stopped at a small local eatery and had a tortilla with beans (they’re quite common in this area, tastes a bit like Swedish pancakes) and a delicious melon shake for a total of 20 Quetzales.
Tortilla con frijoles
I rested for an hour (watching the Disney Channel with the owner’s kids, or whoever the kids were), and then I was ready for the final 47 kilometers!

more curvy road
This entire last distance is quite pleasant, some ups and downs, but nothing too demanding. A light rainfall cooled me down just the right amount, and the hours and kilometers flew by

As I passed the road that goes to Honduras, I felt bad. Though it’s only an additional 15 kilometers (well, 30 kilometers since I have to go the same way back tomorrow), it felt like a waste to go in the wrong direction!

I kept my eyes open for cheap hotels along the road, but no such luck. I asked a bunch of old women by the road, and they said that I can stay at the nearby church for only 10 Quetzales! But when I went to ask the church, they said no, it’s not a hostel! I wonder what the deal was with that…

Puerto Barrios Trucks
I finally arrived at Puerto Barrios, and it felt like the end of the world, where all the trucks go, and then turn back again.

It’s definitely not a touristic place, as I couldn’t find any hostels in the area on the internet. I did read that there are some if you ask around though, so that was my plan.

hospedaje
Just as I entered the city, I saw the sign “hospedaje” on a building, and stopped to check it out. There was a whole bunch of people sitting there, hanging out, and they said that they have a private room for 50 Quetzales! No WiFi though, but I could borrow from them in their house. I’m part of their family now, they said!

“Sounds good,” I answered, and told them that I’d be back later.

I wanted to see the city while there was still sunlight, and also see what other hostels were available.
Puerto Barrios wide roads
The city turned out to be a real city though, and felt endless to bike through! The roads are huge, and the smaller market streets were busy even as the sun was going down.
Busy Puerto Barrios

I reached the water, part of the small Caribbean coastline that Guatemala is in possession of, just as the sun was setting.
Puerto Barrios sunset

It got dark quickly, and I stopped at a few hotels and asked for their prices. They were around 65-75 Quetzales, which is not bad, but none of them had WiFi! I decided to bike back to my new family and stay at their place.

When I returned, they had no rooms left! But, since they were impressed by my biking trip, they said that I could stay in their house! It turns out that they were having a family gathering, and that’s why it was so busy there by the entrance.

I felt quite odd, standing in front of all these strangers, telling about my trip, and then coming back from my room now and then to ask for the WiFi password, the bathroom, a blanket, etc! But it was an experience! I don’t think they’re used to non-Guatemalans, and they were very curious.
Hostel family

Now I’m gonna get some sleep, because I will continue across the Honduran border tomorrow! I know I’m traveling at a very fast pace these days, but I have a new friend in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, that I want to arrive to as soon as possible, so I can rest a few days there!

Let’s hope this border crossing will go well.

San Luis – Rio Dulce

Q San Luis to Rio Dulce
I just realized that there’s a big difference in temperature here in Guatemala compared to the Mexican and Belizean coasts. The bananas stay in much better shape even after a long day of biking!

Also, it gets a little chilly at night which is welcome, but this morning, my swim shorts and exercise shirt (which I always wear when biking and then wash when I shower upon arrival) were still not quite dry!
I think it’s okay though, I keep being chilled a little longer before starting to sweat.

Because of the lack of WiFi, I went to bed early last night and set the clock alarm to 6:50, to get going early this time!

Yeah right. I didn’t leave the hotel until 9am. Was so sleepy…

rollercoaster road 1
The road here is a lot of fun to ride, twisting and turning through the vegetation, mostly going downhill. It’s hard to take a picture that does it justice, but I tried.rollerocaster road 2
And doooown, just like a roller-coaster!

It’s usually very narrow though, so big trucks and buses sometimes pass dangerously close.

During one of the steepest downhills (I was going full speed!), a big bug crashed right into my forehead. While confused and distracted, I wasn’t looking at where I was heading. But when I did, I was a millimeter from driving off the road, which would have ended very badly! Luckily I managed to turn back to the road, but it was probably the closest to an accident I’ve been so far.

Oh, and also a few minutes later when I looked behind me for some reason, I wobbled a little just as a motorbike passed me, and we almost crashed into each other.

After that, the road Gods decided that they had tested me enough for one day.

Half-way to Chocon, there’s a long steep hill, and I wasn’t able to climb it without starting to walk. I still need to improve, it seems! (Just needed to pointed this out, in case you’re biking the same distance some day in the future. Be prepared!)

Before Rio Dulce
When nearing Chocon, the landscape flattens considerably, and gets a lot more monotonous. And I started getting hungry. I had passed a few eateries along the road, but had decided to go all the way to Chocon to eat and rest there.

But no town ever came. I took up my phone to see where I was on the GPS. I had already passed it! And my stomach was now screaming.

Eatery near Chocon
Luckily there’s an eatery 6 more kilometers south, and I stopped to have a big good lunch for 30 Quetzales, plus 5 for a half liter citrus drink.
Chocon food
I was reading a little in the restaurant after I had finished eating, and I dozed off again, just like yesterday! Is this really exhausting me that much?!

I continued my journey at 2pm, and the rest of the distance was pleasant, with more downhill through forests, save for a few uphills. There’s an especially long one with 15 kilometers left to Rio Dulce. This one has lots of people walking about, and I felt the pressure to get all the way up without having to walk. Would have been lame if I failed, but luckily I made it!

Maybe Rio Dulce
I crossed this river and wondered if it was Rio Dulce. Would I bike too far again?

Then came this quite busy village, which is apparently the Rio Dulce village?
Rio Dulce Village

And then I reached it, and let’s just say you can’t miss it:
Rio Dulce
It’s a huge bridge over a big big river! The view was great. I stopped at the top to take a selfie. (Also look, my new baseball cap is now introduced to the blog!)
selfie on bridge
There was a cute girl hanging there at the top, and I asked her to take a picture of me:
On Rio Dulce
Then her friends came rushing over, and wanted to also be in the picture! It was a little crazy. (They also took many pics with their own phones.)
Selfie with girls

Today, my plan was to stay the night with a couchsurfing host. He actually lives on his boat, and it seemed like it would be a cool experience.

I had passed the bridge and started looking for his location when I came across a hostel right next to the water, called Hostel Backpackers.
Hostel Packpackers
It was really pretty (the dorm is inside that green building), and only 30 Quetzales per night! I realized that I was tired and not really feeling at all like being social, and was indecisive for a while;

Stay with a dude on boat but have to be social all evening, or pay a small amount to get some privacy?

Bridge from Hostel
View of the bridge from the hostel.

The sun was going down quickly and I wanted to swim before sunset, so I made the decision to stay at the hostel! Not as cool of a story, but hey. Hey.

See the guy sitting by the water in the picture above? He turned out to be a friendly Spanish guy, that I ended up joining to have some cheap food with (big tortillas with beans for 14 Quetzales) in the village. So much for not being social…

I also bought my typical bread and bananas for tomorrow.

When I came back, I asked for my pillow and sheets, and they said it’s 15 Quetzales extra for that… Oh well, 45 Quetzales is still a very good price. (About 6 USD.)

Poptún to San Luis

P Poptun to San Luis
I slept well, and could finally see where I had ended up in daylight. Finca Ixobel is not a farm, at least I don’t think so. It’s more like a vacation place, the perfect spot for family events and the like.
Finca Ixobel
I see no animals (except for a dog and some horses here and there), but they have a lagoon nearby where you can swim, a garage (they oiled my gears and it works so much better now!), a restaurant (a little expensive), a ping-pong table, and activities like going to some caves, rivers, horse riding etc. Those cost money though, and I decided to get going after lunch.
Finca Ixobel Laguna 2
The lagoon, which I assume is man-made.
Finca Ixobel Laguna 1
I had a swim, but it was very cold!
Finca Ixobel road
Now that the sun was out, the road to and from the farm was not as scary anymore.

There’s a girl I’ve talked to online, named Sulyema. She lives in San Luis, which is only 20km from Poptún (a good shorter distance, considering the tiresome 115 km from yesterday), and she had hoped to host me as I passed through.
Unfortunately it turned out that her dad wouldn’t allow it, and she had errands to do out of town on this particular day.

I asked if she knew any cheap hostels nearby, and she said she would take care of it, and pay for me! I said that’s way too nice, but she insisted! She felt bad, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I wondered if she was just playing with me, but I decided to trust her, and started biking towards San Luis.
San Luis views
Tragic things I’ve biked past on the road so far:
Many dead dogs
Many dead cats
Many dead birds
Two dolls (I wonder what the story is behind those.)
Many half living butterflies and other big insects

And today, I was driving past what I thought was a branch, but it was a living snake! Almost scary. It could have bitten me, since my foot was only a few centimeters from his head.

During the first half of this distance, I planned to write that this is a wonderful distance, almost constant downhill. I thought of making a drawing like this:
drawingdownhill
But then suddenly came what felt like this:
drawinguphill
I actually managed to get all the way up without walking, but I had to take a break at the top, and I wrote these words you just read.

San Luis views 2
San Luis wasn’t far away now, just some beautiful mountain views and mostly downhill again.

San Luis
The town was located on the side of the hill, steep and quite busy little streets. But when I arrived to where my map said the hotel was, it wasn’t there!

I kept asking people, and they kept pointing further downhill. I kept worrying that I would go too far, and have to head back uphill again!

more san luis road
Finally I saw a sign for Hotel Prados del Sol. 2 kilometers left! This hotel had also turned out to be outside the city.

I arrived, said I had a reservation, and wondered if I really had one or not.

And success! I was in their database!

Thank you, stranger from the internet! 🙂

Hotel Prados del Sol
I got room 20, a private room with TV and private bathroom, and swimming pool outside. Such luxury! (I figured out that it costs 70 Quetzales for one person, so if you’re nearby and tired, it might be worth it.)
Hotel Prados del Sol pool
This would have been paradise if I were still a kid!

After I had a swim to relax my legs, I realized something disastrous…

Their WiFi isn’t working today!

I asked around, at the restaurant nearby, and people, and nope, just no internet here.

Eventually, the owner let me use his phone as a hotspot, and I managed to upload this blog post, and now I’m done for today! Time to check out their restaurant.

Tomorrow is another long day, as I’m going 85 km to Rio Dulce. We’ll see when I have the ability to write about it.

Flores to Poptún

O Flores to Poptun
Tire update:
Yesterday’s ride with a newly patched tire worked well, but at the end of the day, I felt like the tire was a bit soft, so I tried to use my pump a little.

The pump broke, and all air went out.

I spent too much time trying to get at least a little air into the tire (with a bit of help from a friendly Chinese girl), so that I could reach a store to buy a good pump, but it was hopeless!

In the end, I just started walking with the bike, even though it would surely take an hour to reach the hardware store where I was supposed to meet the guy from yesterday, who’d give me a good pump mouthpiece.

Suddenly a guy in a house by the road offered to help! I said sure, and he brought out a pump. Very friendly!

Then he offered to take apart the bike to check for holes, but I declined because I didn’t want to take up more of his time. He insisted though, and the next minute my bike was disassembled on the street, and he was dipping the tube bit by bit in water to find a leak. We couldn’t find one though!

He put it back together, and I said thanks and shook his hand, and he looked… very disappointed? I’ve kept wondering about it. Did he want money for his favor? I felt bad about it, but he was the one who had insisted, so should I really pay him then? I don’t know.

I could now bike to the hardware store, and I met up with the guy from yesterday. He was surprised and said he didn’t expect me to come back.

He hadn’t brought anything.

I just bought a new pump and hoped my tire wouldn’t break again before I had bought the correct type of mouthpiece on the way!

Nice Guatemalan roads
The first 48 kilometers were simply pleasant, and not tiresome at all.
El Chal
I stopped at El Chal; a larger village, but seemingly without any hostels, so you have to bike longer than this in one day! It had become noon, and I decided to take a break. I had a small lunch (8 Quetzales for a sandwich, 10 for a banana shake) at a small restaurant.

I tried reading my brother’s latest draft of his book, but I kept dozing off! My dorm mates were partying late, so I hadn’t gotten much sleep. Now I was exhausted.

Then I was woken up by loud thunder! Suddenly a rain storm had appeared, and this one lasted longer than usual; almost an hour.

rain storm
I was very happy to have been indoors already when it happened.

Around 3pm, the rain stopped, and I headed out on the road again to do the second half of the distance before it got dark.

Hotel y Comedor Sabana
With 38 kilometers left until Poptún, there is a small hotel with private rooms for only 50 Quetzales! If it’s gotten late or you’re exhausted, this is a good place to stay, but they don’t have WiFi! Before I learnt about that, I was considering staying the night there, but now I had to continue! For the BLOG!

The final stretch was mostly wonderfully downhill! A pain to go the other way though, I’m sure. I also learnt that standing up pedaling is much better for me when going uphill. Feels like less effort, and is five times faster!

Around 4:30pm, my bladder reminded me that I had not peed since 7:30am. I stopped and peed off the road while looking at this view, not another soul nearby:
Pee Break View
It felt like a fancy piss.

Poptun
I arrived in Poptún at 6pm, and was impressed by my legs. I had biked more than 100 kilometers in one day, and they still kept going.
3x10 tacos
Got a 3 tacos for 10 Quetzales deal (you could add pineapple to them, which I did), and I bought the usual bananas and water at a supermarket. It was quickly getting dark, but I assumed my hostel would be in the city anyway.

Wrong.

When checking the location more properly on my phone, it turned out it was south of the city. Several kilometers! So once again I found myself biking in darkness, but this time I was smart enough to use the flashlight on my phone to see at least a little bit.
Dark highway
It was still really dark though.

After a while, I saw the sign that said Finca Ixobel, 1km. That was my destination! It pointed to a small dirt road. It was even creepier than the dark highway, and it felt like something out of a horror movie.
Dark dirt road
This is seriously as far as I could see while biking. It was cool.

I kept wondering if I had gone the right way at all, and what kind of place this was! I opened the Google Translate app to figure out what “finca” means.

It means farm!

And sure enough, I arrived at buildings (it was hard to see what they were really like in the darkness), and a guy greeted me and took me to what seems like a barn!
Barn dorm
I’m the only guest and I have the whole barn to myself.

It’s a great place though!

Good mosquito nets, WiFi reaching my bed (well occasionally), no fan needed since it’s quite chilly when the sun has gone down, and the showers are so well planned (it takes too long to explain what I mean), and I got hot water from solar panels when I took my shower!

All of this for 50 Quetzales per night.

They also have food and activities, but I haven’t checked it out yet. Maybe I should stay an extra night and explore this place properly tomorrow!
My home
My current home.

 

El Remate – Flores

N El Remate to Flores
Two more nice things about Hotel Doña Tonita in El Remate:
1. It gets quite chilly in the early morning, like at 4am. Their blankets are not super thin, so it was nice to wrap myself properly and feel cozy.
2. The view is nice when waking up. Though is requires that you went to bed early and feel rested when it gets bright, around 6:30-7am.
morning light
After an exhausting previous day, I woke up in a good mood. It got even better when a bicycling Spanish guy was also staying at the hostel (actually in a tent outside it), and he offered to help fixing my tire! A nice British guy also helped, a little.
helpful people
The Spanish guy was doing a very impressive journey, started in Spain, going by boat from island to island in the Caribbean, and had since then taken a similar route as me through Mexico, Belize and now Guatemala.
He plans to continue all the way to Argentina though! That’s hardcore.

He was impressed by my trip too though, because it’s so simple and spontaneous, and that I go with such a crappy bike! (He had proper equipment for these kinds of trips, and I certainly don’t.)

Since it took quite a while to fix my tire (he also adjusted the gears and oiled the chains), it had gotten too late to do the 115 km to Poptún. I decide to take a slight detour to Flores, 32 km from El Remate, to stay one night there and then go 100 km tomorrow instead!
guatemala road
It seems like I made the right decision! The distance was super nice. Foresty, good road and it felt like mostly a slight downhill.

It did start raining hard for a few minutes, but it passed quickly.
hiding from rain
I hid under some trees for the worst to pass.

I arrived at Flores way faster than expected. And wow, I was initially so surprised by the city. It was really clean and modern for the first time since I landed in Cancún, weeks ago. It had malls and McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, and it could have been the US or even Sweden!

motorbikes in guatemala
Mopeds/Motorbikes are very popular here, even in El Remate. You see both men and women using them as the main means of transportation.

There was also a big hardware store in the area, and I went in to see if they had a better pump than the useless football pump I bought when starting the trip. The employee I talked to was super helpful, said that I just need a better mouthpiece for my pump, and that he actually owns(??) a bike store in the next city.

He offered to bring one to work tomorrow, so that I can pick it up as I pass the same store again tomorrow morning, when heading to Poptún! Awesome!

As I continued biking towards the hostel I had booked online, and I realized I had been fooled about the city’s appearance.
Flores
The “modern city” turned out to only be modern at that specific shopping area, but the rest was typically simple and run-down! Some parts turned out to be a bit more busy though.

Then I reached the bridge to Isla Flores, and the city changed appearance once again, to something very idyllic and cozy!
Isla Flores
It’s a tiny island with colorful little houses and a pretty view.
Isla Flores 3
It’s quite the touristic area, but well deserved.
Isla Flores 2
My hostel, Hotel Mirador del Lago, is right by the lake, and the internet is good for once! Finally a blog update that didn’t make my head explode.
View from Hotel Mirador del Lago
Although very cozy on the outside, the dorms at this hotel turned out to be cramped and quite dirty, but for 50 Quetzales (Plus 20% fees in Guatemala if you booked anywhere online, so if you’re brave, go without booking and save a buck), you get what you pay for.

Money update:
With only 115 Quetzales left, it would not be enough for my remaining days in Guatemala, so it was time for yet another Western Union affair.

And boy, was that a pain, and why am I not surprised! There are many offices here, but some had just closed when I arrived, some seemed to have been closed for months, and when I finally found one that was open, it turned out I didn’t have the required transaction code, and had to leave to find WiFi to get it.

And this time they took even longer than the first time I used Western Union in Guatemala. Lots of required phone numbers, computer tapping, signatures, questions whether I’m single or not, and what education I have. I was also not allowed to use my phone in there, so it was extremely boring.

I really hope they’re more relaxed in Honduras!

El Remate and Tikal

In the morning, the hostel still hadn’t gotten the electricity back, and I wondered how sure my friends and family were that I was dead.

But I had no time to worry about that, because today I was going to Tikal; supposedly one of the most impressive Mayan ruins!

along peten itza
I left the hostel with just my bike, money, phone and camera, and went back to “civilization” (since the hostel is a bit outside of town), along this very pleasant lake-side road.

Not sure I’d call it a town though. More like, a couple of stores and some expensive restaurants along the road, since this is very much a spot for tourists wanting to visit Tikal.
el remate
This is seriously the “town”.

I had a vegetable soup (35 Quetzales) for breakfast, bought a couple of 33ml water bags (1 Quetzal each) and bananas (also 1 Quetzal each), and started waiting for a microbús to pick me up.
(For reference, 10 quetzales = 1.4 USD)

It’s 35 km to reach Tikal, but I had heard that it’s mostly uphill, so I was hoping to bring my bike in the van, and then bike back once I was done.

The bus was 40 minutes late, but luckily there was a French couple waiting with me, and we were small-talking to make the wait shorter. They were impressed by my biking adventure, and warned me about Honduras.

Also luckily, the van accepted to put my bike on the roof for only 5 Quetzales, with the price per person being 25.

I forgot to take a pic of it, but it looked kind of like this:
microbus

After several stops to drop off locals, pick up boxes, drop off rice, etc etc, we arrived to the park after an hour. True chicken bus!

There’s an entrance where you’re required to pay 150 Quetzales to pass (quite expensive, but what can you do), and it’s quite far from the actual archaeological site, about 17 kilometers of mostly downhill!

This was not what I had been told!

I made the decision to later try to get a ride back to the payment office, and then bike home from there instead.

tikal map
You can pay 20 Quetzales for a map, or take a photo for free. I assume it’s allowed.

And now the ruins!
plaza mayor
This is a seriously cool place! Not just a few ruins, but an actual lost city! When standing on top of one of the pyramids, you see others pop up here and there above the tree line. Quite amazing!temples in distance
The place is quite large too, and you will spend a lot of time hiking through jungle to reach the main pyramids.
jungle walk
The tallest pyramid stands 47 meters high, but there are all kinds of buildings to be found here. The latest one was built in 800 AD, but this overgrown one was built already in 300 BC. Tikal was a main Mayan city for hundreds of years!
grass giant
More pictures:

jungly ruins

me by small ruins

A sign said that there are lots of monkeys in the area, some even try to drop poop on humans walking below.

First I couldn’t see any of them at all and was disappointed. Then finally!
monkey
Monkeys, monkeys and more monkeys!
monkey 2

monkey 3
Also these animals:
animal

It was time to head back to the hostel. But I didn’t have much water left (it’s for sale around the area at very high prices, and I don’t want to encourage that), and I had been walking all day, climbing those pyramids.

So I went with a microbús all the way back instead of biking.

So sue me!!

(Seriously though, I wouldn’t recommend bringing a bike here. You’re not even allowed to take it into the park.)

people waiting
Tourists waiting for the late buses. Mostly European couples.

I got on a fancier van this time, with air-conditioning and only tourists. The driver wanted 50 Quetzales, but I said I only had 30 left, and he agreed.
getting on the van

In the evening, I checked the menus for all the restaurants (mostly burgers, pizza and pasta for 40-90 Quetzales, how authentic), and settled with street food. A torta for 13 Quetzales is my preferred price range! I got two.

Now for frustrating things:
1. The electricity and WiFi is back at the hostel, but the internet has been super slow, and it’s taken hours of trying and retrying to upload all the photos for these two new updates. UGH.
2. My mosquito net is broken, and bugs keep coming in
3. I have a couchsurfing host in Poptún, but it’s 115 km away. Not sure I can do that in one day… I’ve asked around, and there are no hostels on the way!
4. I managed to prepare for it mentally anyway, I set my clock alarm to 7am, bought a 3.75 liter water bottle, bought a new baseball cap for 25 Quetzales, and then…

…I got a flat tire, again.

I kind of wanted to just throw the bike into the lake and give up!

The good news is that the hostel owner said we can go to a guy tomorrow at 8am and fix it, for just 5-10 Quetzales.

So okay. I will try that tomorrow. Sigh.

San Ignacio – El Remate

M san ignacio to el remate
I left San Ignacio at 11am (it was cloudy, so there was no rush to avoid the midday sun), and though hilly, it only took 40 minutes to reach the Guatemalan border.

xunantunich
The Xunantunich ruins are located halfway to the border, by crossing this river, but I skipped it. There are more impressive ones in Guatemala!

I had 95 Belizean Dollars left to exchange, and by searching online, I had found that they were worth 345.5 Guatemalan Quetzales. I also found comments saying that haggling for a 5% fee would be doable, so I was set to get 328 Quetzales for my 95 Belizeans.

But nope. When asking around outside the immigration building, they all offered only 285 and not a dime more. So much money lost!

I stood there for a while, not sure what to do, but decided to not let them get their way. I went through the immigration fast and easy (It costs 40 Belizean Dollars to exit, no charge for entering Guatemala), and a guy on the other side offered 300 for my 95. Still not a great deal, but at least it was better, so I accepted.

Pro-tip: Avoid changing money at borders, just plan ahead and use up what you have!

And have a credit card with you. Credit cards are good.

crossing to guatemala
A river between Belize and Guatemala.

I was now in Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala. Because I lost my credit card in Mexico, I had once again sent money to myself through Western Union. This time proved to be more problematic than expected:
1. As usual, the Western Union locator website is way off, and it took a while to find the office in the town.
2. I needed two phone numbers from Guatemalan contacts since it’s my first time withdrawing in Guatemala. And I had no numbers at all!
Luckily there’s a plaza with free WiFi nearby, and I managed to get a few numbers from Couchsurfing.com contacts. It’s good to make online friends!
3. They were extremely picky, and I had to sit in their freezing office for more than half an hour while they were tapping away on their computers. They asked me to write my signature twice, and compared them carefully to the signature in my passport!

So suspicious, for the value of 60 USD!

Finally I got my money, and I went back to the the “plaza” (an unusual one because it’s actually inside a building), and ordered a nachos and quesadilla combo for 15 Quetzales (about 2 USD) to calm my screaming stomach. Because I was starving.
quesadilla y nachos
Lots of food, though not much vegetables included, just a few squares of tomato.

Bought some water and juice (6 Quetzales!) at the supermarket, got my tires re-pumped for free at a bike repair shop again, and got going around 2:30pm.
nice guatemalan roads
This first Guatemalan part might have been my favorite so far! The roads are finally nice again, and there’s so much beautiful scenery and life. Occasionally it reminded me of a Legend of Zelda game, with little houses on the hills, women washing clothes in the lake, pigs, cows, horses and chickens running around along the road. Very idyllic!

After 20-30 kilometers came the greatest physical challenge so far. A loooong steep hill. I admit I had to start walking after a while, especially because my lowest gear is not working. I need to fix that when I get the chance.

After walking uphill forever, sweating and breathing heavily, I finally got up and sat up on my bike. Only to see that another equally steep hill came right after the first.
More walking.

And then of course it started raining. Luckily not too much, but once I got up from hills, I was met by this sight:
guatemala dirt
For no reason, the nice road turned into dirt road!
guatemala dirt 2
Let’s just say I got very muddy.

I had to bike very slowly, but after a kilometer or so, proper road came back again.

After that, it was mostly downhill, but the uphills were slowly killing me. A particularly big hill (surely not that impressive compared to other hills in the world) with 10 km to go made scream out an “ARRGH” as my last bits of energy was consumed.

I had expected to arrive by maybe 5pm, but once again, the sun went down on me, and it got very dark. To be fair though, the sun sets very early here, before 7pm.
Peten itza sunset
Sunset over lake Petén Itzá.

I biked through the tiny village, but as I got closer to where my hostel should be, it got near pitch black again! I wasn’t sure if I had gone the wrong way or what was up.

In the darkness I saw what seemed like candle lights and a human, and I asked where Doña Tonita is. “Right here,” he replied!

Turns out they had a black out, and I was lucky to have found it at all!
candlelights
Candle lights lighting up the stairs to the bathroom.

So far (I’m still in darkness though), I really like the place! It’s only 50 Quetzales per night, and the dorm is above the restaurant, just a straw roof and open sizes. The beds are big queen sized beds equipped with mosquito nets.

I watched the latest Game of Thrones episodes and went to bed at 10pm, unable to update the blog or tell anyone I’m alive.

I hope you weren’t worrying too much!!

Update:
I suddenly realized that my fancy Playa del Carmen baseball cap is gone! I had put it in the bike basket when I arrived to the town, and it must have fallen out.
RIP HAT

Belmopan – San Ignacio

l Belmopan to san ignacio
My new Belizean family (I think I’ll miss them!) gave me a ride to the closest bigger city Belmopan (the third largest in Belize, but still not even 20,000 inhabitants), we said farewell, and I could finally continue my journey.
farewell
Since I hadn’t biked in more than a week, today’s distance of 42 km was a comfortable one to get back into it again. It has more hills than ever before on my trip, and I’m still not sure what I think of it. During the longer uphill parts, I wish it would stay leveled at all times, but when it’s downhill, I go “woooo, this is totally worth it!”
up and down
Doooown. And then up again.

Other than that, I have absolutely nothing interesting to tell about the ride. It was pleasant and took less than two hours to reach San Ignacio.
bridge to san ignacio
To enter San Ignacio, you have to cross this bridge.
bridge crossing
It was a little tricky to bike on such a narrow path. But I refused to get off to walk!

I was now in the closest town to the Guatemalan border, and I checked in at a hostel named Acropolis Maya Hotel. I noticed I’m close to another country, because the prices are much lower here! In most of Belize, you basically have to pay 45-50 Belizean dollars (2 BZD = 1 USD) for one night, but here I got a dorm bed for 25.

The strange thing is that even though I asked if they had a dorm and he said yes, he took me to a private room with two beds! I’m still wondering if someone else will use the second bed, but I’m hoping not.
Either way, a good deal! (And I’ve already paid, so there won’t be any unpleasant surprises tomorrow!)
Acropolis Maya Hotel

I haven’t explored the town much, but it’s built on hills, and wherever you go, you’re walking (or biking) either uphill or downhill. I’ve heard that there are many adventurous things to do here, like kayaking, visiting more Mayan ruins, and more.

I’m continuing to Guatemala tomorrow though, so I just took a walk to buy some groceries, and that was it.
san ignacio sunset
At least I got to see this amazing sunset.