We’ve been in Guatemala for about 10 days and want to tell you about it as our experience here is really unique and different.
Some things in our habits changed since we’ve restarted our journey and crossed to Guatemala.
We’re trying to stick to backroads.
We’ve always preferred quiet roads as opposed to quick highways even though it means extra kilometres and climbs but now we do cycle a lot on dirt. Dogs can run with us and we meet just few motorcycles and trucks with cows. Backroads of Guatemala are wonderful. Type 2 of fun. You enjoy it after completing the activity. It’s painful, it’s messy but it’s very alive and raw. Also the people living in tiny aldeas (villages) are different from the ones living by the main roads. No yelling of gringo, no uncomfortable staring. We greet everybody and they smile, sometimes they come for chat. Few days there were howler monkeys jumping from tree to tree right next to the road.
There’s a certain amount of uncertainty taking these backroads. With our setup with the trailer we can’t go just anywhere really as a regular bikepacker potentially could. Last week we had to loop back to the highway because locals told us we will drown in puddles of water (the trailer will take the water in as it’s lower) if we continue. But it’s still worth it. The quietness, the wildness. We probably feel even more secure on these backroads than on the mains.
We don’t wild camp in Guatemala.
There are few reasons why we don’t wild camp in Guatemala. It’s for security purposes when we were advised not to hang outside after dark as well as for the landscape around. The country around the backroads has been full of fenced pastures so far. It would be difficult to find well hidden spot here. So every evening we ask in a small village or at a farm if we can camp there.
Differences between the shelters in Guatemala we slept in
We’ve already noticed how different life is for people in Guatemala, compared just between them, not dared to compare it to European standard.
- In front of Agroveterinaria shop of Don Julio – house from bricks, actual toilet, flushing with water from a bucket, electricity. This was Don Julio’s vacation and business house, he lives normally in Flores. Pick up truck parked at the house.
- In the dining room (imagine room with table and two chairs and some shelves with food, nothing else) of a pastor’s house next to the church – house from bricks, outhouse. No car or motorbike. Electricity.
- Next to a “house” of indigenous family in the middle of nowhere – imagine shack, no floor, just hardpacked soil, no toilet, no outhouse, doing their business in the surrounding monte (field). Little electricity from solar panel, no means of transport. Julio, Maria and Jorge were really hospitable, willing to share everything with us, Maria made us some tortillas to take with us.
- In front of Jorge’s “house” by the road. Again more like shed, no running water but they had a well, outhouse with only two walls :). No electricity, no means of transport. Jorge was 29 and had 4 children with his wife.
- By the house of little shop and comedor owner, who gave us a hand when Tom’s bike broke and was unrideable. Big, spacious house, running water, flushing toilet, electricity. Pick up truck and motorcycle.
You can see, there’s a lot to take in. But in general, regardless of “wealth” of these people, they were all very helpful and interested in us, our gear and our story. With Julio’s and Jorge’s family, we felt like in a reality show when they really closely observed our meals preparation, preparing the tent and questioned the value of different gear. Sometimes it felt outrageous to tell them the true value as we could only imagine, how absolutely ridiculous price tag that must be for them.
We miss wild camping though. Few nights ago, we saw a big orange something peeking from between the branches of the tree. Realising it’s the moon coming above the mountains, we really felt sorry we can’t just be alone somewhere in nature, being able to fully immerse within. Also, we don’t have much time to do our stuff, like writing blog posts or editing pictures, because of course we engage with the families as a small thank you for their hospitality. And we offer them our meals, so they can experience unusual comida (food) for them like curried sweet potatoes for tacos or quinoa made tabbouleh style.
Nature of Guatemala is stunning but the trash is everywhere
From lowlands of Petén to the highlands, it’s all very beautiful. Tikal ruins, town of Flores. We’re totally in love with Guatemala from this point of view. Unfortunately, the amount of trash is similar, if not bigger than in Mexico and they deal with it in similar pattern. Burning.
Stray dogs… our leitmotif of this journey
The state of street dogs is probably worse than in Mexico. All very skinny, most of them scared. They only run after us if they come from the houses and are in a little pack. People are very uninterested in them and absolutely don’t know how to read dog’s behaviour. When Lolo runs and jumps happily around them, wagging his tail, they think he wants to harm them. No wonder the dogs have the life as they’ve got here :(.
Overall, we love Guatemala already. The big mountains, we are entering now, are a magnet for our Tatras souls. Even though it means pain and suffering on the bike. We’re so full of it, that we’ve put together this short video of first impressions of Guatemala, so you can see it all in action. Enjoy and support us on Vimeo or YouTube by subscribing to our channels.