The Road Less Traveled

Dec 10, 2012 View Comments by

I like to get off the beaten path when traveling on my motorcycle. Over time I have realized that this is easier said than done. The world certainly has a lot of people in it, I think it’s up to seven billion now; so when the road forks, I tend to take the less traveled route. This time I’m in Guatemala on my trusty 2006 Husqvarna TE610. I am staying in Flores at a backpacker (hostel) with plans to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal next. Tikal is a typical touristy place to see with very tall ruins reaching high above the jungle canopy. It’s absolutely beautiful and a must see in Guatemala. Before I go, though, I find out through a hostel worker that there is a town 14 miles north of Tikal called Uaxactun. It also has Mayan ruins, but on a much smaller scale. Some are being cleaned up, but many are still covered by mounds of dirt and trees. Once a week a bus takes the trek into town, which is how the locals get supplies and are connected to other areas. Sounds like a great place to visit.

Uaxactun has a rustic “hotel,” which is basically a couple of 8×8 sheds made from rough cut lumber. No electricity inside, water outside from a spigot. During dinner at the only restaurant in town, the girl working tells me about a place further north called Dos Lagunas. She says it’s beautiful and there is a crocodile that lives in a pond. Always looking for a more remote part of the world to explore, this sounds perfect for me to check out. The next morning I top off my tank with gas out of random plastic jugs, fill up my water bottles, and buy some cookies and bread. I should be okay for a few days. I have no idea what to expect at this next location, or town, or whatever it is.

No one in town can tell me how far away Dos Lagunas is or even what exactly it is. I do know one thing for sure and that is I hope I don’t have any bike problems. The trail out there is rough and rarely used. Who would live out here? I’m expecting to find natives in loincloths. When the trail isn’t mud pits, it’s over grown with grass and weeds. After a few hours of slow going, and having second thoughts about the brilliance of what I was doing, I come to a clearing with what I call a cabin and a pond.

Dos Lagunas turns out to be a ranger station that houses four men. These guys come out here for two weeks at a time to be a presence in the area. They are here to discourage poaching and to help stop drug trafficking (the Mexican border is only a few miles away). Although I’m not supposed to be bringing a motorized vehicle into this national forest, they take me in for the week. In fact, it is hard to leave them. I sign a guest book and look over the few past visitors. Most were scientists doing research. Only one of the men speaks a little English. Apparently I am the only white man in the last year to visit. This is success. Throughout my stay I earn my keep by going out with the guys to do chores. We walk the donkeys through the jungle, find a suitable tree, and chop all the branches off for the donkeys to eat. We use machetes to trim back the jungle from the path leading to this place. We teach each other new words and I show them videos and pictures that I have taken on my computer. I document the whole experience. Inevitably, I soon need a way to charge the batteries for my camera gear. Normally, I can charge my stuff off my bike when I’m running it down the road, but I need all my gas to get back out of the jungle. The cabin has a solar panel powered radio to keep in contact with town. I wire the cigarette lighter that was on my bike to the panel and it’s actually strong enough to run my invertor to charge my batteries. This photo isn’t beautiful or exciting, but the story behind it is all that and more.

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About the author

Commercial fisherman to pay the bills. Adventure Rider for the smile on my face. Documenting it all as proof that anyone can live this dream.