Sunday, 27 December 2015

T for Tourism. A for Adventure

We'd chatted over our sumptuous (?) Christmas dinner and decided that we should head for Semuc Champey, allegedly one of the highlights Guatemala had to offer. The only accommodation we could find was for the night of the 26th, so, we were on the move again.
"Rapido, rapido" our hotel owner shouted in a whisper. Why was she whispering? We were the only guests in the hotel... Also why was she telling me to Rapido when it was her who'd made us late by taking forever to cook a breakfast pancake?
We were hurried onto the bus as the bikes got tied onto the roof rack (what again?). It was 5.55am. Merry Boxing Day.
The 2 hour drive was gorgeous. Mist laid in the steep jungle valleys, glowing orange as the sun rose behind it.
By 8am we were bundled off the bus and transferred into our African Safari style 'shuttle truck' that would bounce us down a rough track over the mountain to our des res digs.

"You can't put your bike there, it's blocking the water bowl for the dog" was our greeting. Well, morning to you as well!
We were well and truly back in the land of the 'processed tourist'.

So, we did what we were supposed to do, paid out £5 entry fee and duly paid homage to Semuc Champey, or in other words a river complete with turquoise tinge and some waterfalls. Now I don't know if it just that we've seen too many places like this or it was just our fellow tourists who spoilt the whole experience but I have to say, despite the obvious beauty, we were a bit underwhelmed.

We decided to 'split the gaff' (is that cool hip speak?) the next day.  After a luxury lay in, 7am saw us loading the bikes back onto another roof rack for the bouncy, rough ride back out to the main road. 
The idea was to ride the continuation of the lovely road we'd been on the day before. We had about 60km of rolling countryside to cover so envisaged no real issues. The fun started within a few metres, not before a quick 5 star breakfast though.

Roadworks had left a not so lovely road covered in marble like gravel. The sun was hot, there was no breeze and the climb was steep. Could this get worse? This certainly didn't seem much like the continuation of the lovely road we'd missed out on the day before.
It did get worse, much worse.
By lunch time we'd only covered about 18km. The road, although extremely scenic, was bloody awful to ride on.

"Tarmaco?" (yes, before you snigger, that is how you say it in Spanish). We had various answers ranging from 3-5km, 15 and a 25. B@llocks, this was hArd work.
We pulled over to hide in the shade of a church. This was the first village we'd seen and there'd barely been a vehicle pass, and when when did it was full to the brim

We were hungry and there was no food around but luckily Mel managed to talk a shop owner into opening up so we could at least buy some water. We discussed our options. We had 3. Ride back - no way. Wait for a vehicle - not very inspiring or ride on in the hope one would come along. When the village idiot turned up and started eating our peanuts like a monkey in a zoo we took our cue to leave.

Riding on the broken, rocky surface was really horrible. Mel's been riding a mountain bike which hasn't been great on the roads but really helped her here. It was the opposite for us. Our skinnyish tyres (700x28c for the nurds) slid about all over the place. The front panniers slowed our steering and the drop handlebars made braking & general control much harder. Going downhill was actually worse than going up. Thank god a truck came along. We bundled in and for £5 between us he took us about 8km until he turned off. Back to it then.

By about 4pm we turned a sharp corner and knock me down with a soggy tortilla, tarmaco! Sublime, super smooth tarmaco. The best we'd ridden on anywhere in Guatemala. The road wound its way through jungle and farming land. A village came into view. The kids crowded round again as we devoured dry bread rolls and bottles of coke.

With renewed energy we rode on. Up some much more sensible climbs and back down the other side, swooping down gently though the jungle.

By 6pm we arrived in the town of Fray somethingoranother, luckily know as Fry. Hotel, shower, pizza, beer, bed. 

A great fun (I think that's the word for it) challenging and rewarding day. One that makes you smile as your head hits the chopped foam pillow and your tired body doesn't sink into the rock hard mattress. Ah, bliss....


  1. Certainly looks like mountain bikes might have been the better option in hindsight mate. Looks right up my tarmarco though :)
    Mel got to have her swim at last eh?

  2. Think I was almost as glad to read about that tarmaco as you must have been to see it! Great end to a tough day! Sleep well xxx