The Ups and Downs of Guatemala

Guatemala mountains

We spent two weeks in Guatemala which included two rest days and three sick days. Our time was positive overall, but being sick can turn an amazing experience into one which is highly average. The biggest surprise was how mountaneous the country is. When planning the trip, we factored on most of the big climbs being in South America. Well let us tell you, the Guatamalans’ grading skills lack a certain refinement and finesse (we don’t think “grading” is a thing here). The views were beautiful and grandiose, and in this sense very difficult to photograph. Dan would often stop riding to take a photo, only to realize it was far too vast and there was no context for the photo. We definitely found the countryside to be stunning, but enjoyed being in the present more so than photographing it.

Guatemala view

We passed through numerous small towns, many of them were hubs for the surrounding Mayan communities to sell their goods. There and on the marketplaces in each town we could fill our tummies in a very affordable way (we could easily eat lunch for $1 per person) whilst trying new things, such as delicious deep fried plantain batter balls (that’s a mouthful) which were coated in sugar and cost about 10 cents each. However, be aware of food poisoning. We tried to stick to food that was prepared in front of us to be sure of its freshness. On average we spent around 55 Guatemalan Quetzal (7 USD) each day for both of us on food.

Accomodation (aka hotels, we didn’t come across backpackers or the like) was very inconsistent in cost. Ranging from 8 to 22 USD for a private double room. Overall the quality is pretty basic but it’s really just a place to sleep anyway. Also, some towns had no budget accomodation which forced us to take a more expensive option but there is no way of knowing before you arrive (most hotels can’t be found online). Camping isn’t prominent here, we came across a few campgrounds however they were not in suitable locations. Also, wifi is pretty uncommon. A few places have it but it’s slow and the signal cuts off quickly due to the fact that the buildings are all concrete. Internet cafes are common though and very cheap.

No matter where you go, there are people everywhere (so are dogs, horses, and cows). Everyone we met was friendly, and after our one sketchy encounter at the border town of Melchor, we had nothing but positive experiences. Things always get uncomfortable when you’re asked how much your bike costs so we would usually try and find ways of avoiding the answer. As we barely touched any tourist areas, most places charged us reasonable rates instead of the inflated “gringo” rates. Nonetheless, it’s worth trying to barter as light skin is sometimes enough for the price to be doubled on the spot.

Our bikes are holding up well after 1350km. No issues so far other than Dan’s rear hub coming loose. Thankfully we found a bike mechanic with a cone wrench and a friendly fellow fixed it in a jiffy for a bargain price of $1.50.

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