Antigua to Palenque, part 3

Back to Mexico today to clear Guatemalan permit and explore a bit, and I’m anticipating the familiar buzz of riding alone on a bike I love into experiences I can’t imagine.

Julio and I set off early to swap rear tires in Huehuetenango. My new rear TKC80 (which is a fab handling tire for the HP2) is loosing tread at an incredible rate and no way will it make through the next few weeks. It looks like I’m going to have to resign myself to the Heidenaus (which I don’t like) The good news is my old Heidenau is on Julio’s bike. And he has a new set waiting for him. So we’re set.

It takes a while to find a shop that can do the swap. In fact it’s two shops. One to  pull the wheels at, and across the street another to swap tires. Now with, say, TKC’s, we could do this ourselves. But try removing and reinstalling a Heidenau in a hurry, which we are. And anyway, we’re both in our 50’s, nearly over really, and at this stage wouldn’t do it if we had a choice anyway.

Then Julio and I gas up at the junction of CA1 and say our goodbyes. He’s going south, me north. An incredible guy. Basically, if you’re doing a RTW for the first time, you need to find one of these guys per continent, and your set.

Bye Julio

I’ll be crossing the border with only a day to spare. My bike permit runs out on the 14th. Technically the border, which can be a nightmare, should be a breeze. The normal procedure is:

1) go to Guatemala immigration

2) go to Guatemala aduana (customs). Clear permit

3) go to Mexico immigration

4) go to Mexico aduana. Get permit

I can skip 4) as I still have 3 months left.

It’s a couple of hours to the border and we pass through a canyon. I’m focused on getting through as soon as possible so don’t stop for pics. The border at La Mesilla. If chaos is a problem for you, don’t do this stuff.

Crossing into Guatemala took two hours, which is considered good. Today, crossing into Mexico takes 40 minutes. Incredible. I change all my Quetzals and Dollars into Pesos with a money changer and manage to get only partially screwed, based on rates quoted me the night before.

And we’re off by 1:00 or so, headed for the jungle. Julio has warned me that maybe this isn’t the smartest move at this time of year as it’s very hot and very humid. Actually over a few weeks he’s told me this three times. But I reckon, hey, I’m Canadian and OK with weather extremes, in theory and in Molson commercials, so let’s give it a shot. We want to see monkeys.

After a few more hours through dry, desolate countryside we arrive at yet another farm house style place about 20 miles east of La Trinitaria. The last gas stop for a while. The whole gas issue has been bothering me. We have a 6 gallon extended tank from HPN but Lucinda’s devours fuel at a crazy rate. She’ll go between 180 and 220 miles total. We have auxillary bladders which I’ll need soon enough. The Rotopax system is the way to go but Lucinda says no way are you bolting those things on me.

Anyway a great place to stay

Then it’s off again on a route that follows the border for a while past some lakes

Love the lunch stops

At the typical roadside stalls

Then, as soon as we’ve entered the forest around the lakes we leave it and then it’s almost perfect quick riding through gorgeous rolling ranch land

With some sketchy sections

Over the day we’ll hit five military check points because we’re running mostly along the border. Only one lets us through untouched. All look in the tank bag, three the duffle and two, damn it, in a pannier. Mostly all they want to do is pass the time, chat and satisfy their curiosity about us. About 30% of the time they’re looking at stuff, the rest is asking you how big your bike is, how fast it goes, but mostly they want to check out the GPS.

(Sorry if a lot of this stuff was covered back in the previous Mexico ride, but I have a fast WiFi connection for once and I’m going to make the most of this rare luxury by covering some ground)

Then the vegetation becomes thinker, the land more convoluted and we start regularly passing over rivers

Beside mountains, obscured by mist

Through tunnels

And over more rivers, this time bigger, badder and bluer. Lucinda goes *whoa*

After maybe 100 miles of this we descend to the bigger slower San Pedro river at Las Guacamayas

After a bit of hassle in the local town we find the road to the cabins and check in. Nice. Not cheap, about $60 for half of this but it’s an ecological destination of some importance

And immediately ask if it’s safe to swim in the river (crocodiles) they say yes and in I go and don’t come out for a long while. That’s because the temperature has been rising for most of the day. It’s beyond hot and humid, it’s shocking. 43C, 109F and 100% humidity. I’m a wreck, exhausted by the last 100 miles of this ever worsening oven.

I’m supposed to be staying an extra day to get a boat up river to see the monkeys. The thought of staying here is freaking me out, but I realize I’m more than a few days ride out of this, heading north and I can harding reverse course, so  decide to sleep on it and consider things in the morning. But I don’t sleep, it’s impossible.

In the morning a couple of big monkeys on the other side of the river are making this huge and scary, but cool, sound


There are monkeys about ten days further down the track again so, weak with the heat, I take off early for another spot to hide about 120 miles away. I get there and it’s more of the same. I can’t breath. So I take off again, this time to Palenque, another 150 miles away. It’s going to be a long day.

Out of the jungle the humidity drops a bit but the temperature stays hot. The road is bad

More of this stuff

And onto a hot plain, the cattle huddling in the shade

An escarpment starts to our left and we follow it for maybe 50 miles

Then the trees are back and the road, called HWY 307, deteriorates even more. I get bored with navigating the potholes and just give her more gas


And we eventually arrive at our destination.  Mexico is beautiful but it has dumps like Nanaimo too. Palenque is one of them. I cruise through, running on fumes, looking for gas


Then out of town again to the road to the ruins, which apparently is my best bet for somewhere quiet to stay overnight and we find one within a few minutes. Lucinda’s grateful, she’s had a hard day

The temperature is down to the high 90’s but the humidity, being in the forest again, is back to 100%. When will this heat end? Nothing cooler in sight for a long time. But we’re covering ground and love it here anyway.

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