Día 4: It was difficult to leave Utopia but time for the next leg of the trip. Our goal that day was Flores (an estimated 8hr drive), yet I had a gut feeling it would be a much more challenging day.
When we arrived at the secret haven two days prior with an annoyingly broken chain, we were greeted by an older German guy who happened to work/volunteer at the hostel. Thankfully he had the toolset to sort us out. So at 7am we rocked up to the bike ready to ride. Silly us, it couldn’t be that easy. The bike would never start on it’s own nor it’s kick start which left me pushing the bike to get it going. Utopia was at the bottom of a steep hill and it took almost 45mins, two local workers, and myself to start that thing and get it up the hill. Then of course I got to walk up the steep steep hill. Out of breath and happy to overcome obstacle one, we were off! Back to the rocky, now muddy from the all-night storm, we were moving with no sign of chain falling off.
Then the front tire popped. Then we fell off the bike. Straight on to rocks. Twice. Luckily we were barely moving due to the pinchazo (flat tire), and only ended up with some nasty bruises. At the time the locals were walking to the maize fields for work, carrying their large machete-like swords, while their children and wife followed along on their way to school/work. Many saw our disastrous downfalls and hopefully for them it was an entertaining way to start their Monday morning.
At some point I got off the bike and walked with the laborers. I had a lovely 20min chat to a 28yr old local. He had four niños and has been married for eight years. The younger boys snickered at the sight of us walking in to town. We split ways as I found Ed at the center of the square and we headed to the mechanic.
50 quetzales ($7) and an hour later the bike was repaired hopefully for the last time and we made the long ascent back into the highlands.
Somewhere in the next two hours, the back brake stopped working. Frustrated as the bike failed us again, we opted for a side-of-the-road break and much needed stretch. Buses, trucks, rickshaws passed us and suddenly a motorbike similar to ours stops in front of us and offers help. He pulls off his helmet and to our surprise he’s another westerner (the only other one we ever saw on a moto the entire week on the “highways”). Chris from North Cali saw a blonde sitting on the side of the road and knowing this was rare stopped to make sure we were ok. Then he said, “wait, I’ve heard about you guys.” We were confused but laughed and he quickly explained. A few days after our departure, he rented his bike from the same shop in Antigua and when asked for advice what roads to take, they told him about our whirlwind of a trip and said maybe you’ll cross paths. Guatemala isn’t huge but as the map shows below it was pretty unlikely that it’d happen, yet here we were the middle of nowhere chatting with Chris.
Thankfully he knew bikes more than us and he was able to fix our brake temporary (and at least show us how to fix it). He was heading towards Belize (east) as we continued on towards Flores in the north. We rode together for an hour or so, ending up in the same small town because Ed and I missed the non-existence sign to the “highway” 10km back. Chris also had a map so we whipped it open to make sure our directions were clear and said our goodbyes. (And I forgot to mention at some point I lost our maps at Utopia so we banked on locals leading us the right ways).
At some point the sun won. It was dark and said to be dangerous to drive in the night and we weren’t close to our destination. When stopped at a police check to cross in to Petén, the officials suggested a larger town 20kms ahead. We arrived to find the city loud with music and full of street carts. Ed unknowingly parked in front of a taco truck and I immediately ran over. Best tacos of the trip (I still drool when thinking of the pico de gallo). I think I thanked the guy 5 times before leaving in search of a hostel. That night we realized an ongoing theme. If our day started shit, it’d end well. If it starts great, it’ll end shit. And yes those tacos made the entire 10+ hr disastrous journey worth it.
More to come.