Guatemala: One Time Just Isn’t Enough
At Motorcycle Adventure Guatemala in Antigua, Grant and I rent two Honda Tornado 250s for nine days. The company offers great-looking tours, but we opt to save the money with a self-directed tour.
Guatemala is a relatively small country. It’s less than half the size of my home state, Michigan, but with much more diverse terrain. It often seems like it’s impossible to see enough of a country, but with nine days and the willingness to put in the miles, we set off to tackle the three very diverse regions of Guatemala.
Stage One: Semuc Champey
Not long after we arrive in Guatemala and shortly after all the talk of the ruins passes, we notice travelers and locals mentioning a magical place in Lanquin called Semuc Champey. Its main claim to fame is a river charging down a valley that disappears and runs underground before spilling out from a large cave into a wider, slower river. Aboveground, there are a series of crystal-clear pools connected by cascades and natural waterslides
But first we have to get there and for us that means using Google Maps to download the route on my iPhone. The one downside is I don’t have a phone mount for the bike, so stopping at major forks in the road becomes common. With better planning this can be avoided, but hey, we want an adventure! After taking the wrong turn twice, we stop for a look at the map, conveniently next to a taco stand. They are serving up my favorite: Mexican-style tacos al pastor. Two dollars later, we have lunch and some verbal directions. This is when the trip becomes real and my broken Spanish comes alive.
We head north on some twisty roads to take us to Cobán, the major hub before remote Lanquin. The bikes are only 250cc and Antigua is already at 4,500 feet, so needless to say they are slow. With even more elevation to gain, we are riding them like we rented them, which might explain the random lurches we are experiencing. Regardless, it feels great to be on a bike again in a foreign country, riding mountain roads. It’s 75 degrees and getting warmer as we have now crossed the pass and are descending into the valley. A small creek with large boulders runs underneath a bridge as we pass by. With the temperature increasing, it is too perfect not to stop for a swim. Life is good. It’s moments like this when everything just comes together that I try to soak in the good as much as possible.
A jump off the rock and a short photo shoot later, we check Google Maps and hit the road. One of the hardest parts of traveling is planning the route and picking where to stay for the night. It was clear that getting all the way to Lanquin was going to be difficult. We would get there at night, tired, and missing beautiful scenery. Cobán is possible to get to, but that would mean the next day we’d arrive too late to take a tour of Semuc Champey. We decide to pick a random village and enjoy the evening exploring it.