Central America is HOT

We knew it would be hot in Central America but forgot how hard it is to ride a motorcycle in crazy traffic in 100+ degree heat. To save space Deby and I both decided to only bring one pair of riding pants. We booth choose our waterproof KLIM pants because we knew much of out trip would be at higher and cooler elevations in South America. In direct sunshine with high temperatures and just as high humidity wearing those pants was like having our own personal sauna on our lower bodies.

We left La Ceiba relatively early and it was already 90 degrees as we loaded the bikes. Then an unexpected thing happened, we started gaining elevation and it cooled down!

Maybe it was the heat or because I was tired but I didn’t check the elevation along our route on the Pan-American highway. Right from the start we climbed and climbed. About 5,000 feet it was much cooler. I didn’t remember high elevations in Guatemala so we decided to keep rolling and not stop to put on an extra layer under our mesh jackets. I was sure we would start descending into the heat at any moment.  It didn’t happen, 5,000, 6,000, 8,000 and eventually almost 10,000 feet in elevation, crazy. It was down to 63 degrees and we were cold but not ready to dig our our warmer clothes. We decided to grit it out with our only compromise being to switch on our heated grips.

The roads were not too bad and we had fun riding fast on the new curvy blacktop over the mountains. Guatemala is famous for the chicken busses. Old US school busses that were shipped down and used as public transportation. They are elaborately decorated and crowd the big cities. They drive like crazy, everyone knows to look out for them speeding and careening down the roads. They stop for a nano second for passengers to jump off while someone who climbed out the back door onto the roof tosses down their luggage. It’s a true spectacle watching the process. I took a picture of this one at a gas station.

It still retained the Blue Bird manufactures symbol but I’m not sure if that was original or added. I couldn’t figure out the year but it looked older than most of them.

Somehow, we decided a good days ride would be 138 miles to lake Atitlan, a popular stop for most people visiting Guatemala. Although the distance was less than a tank of gas, it still took us about six hours to get there with various stops. We decided to pick a hotel a little way from the busy tourist town of Panajachel that looked good on Booking.com. This time we lucked out. We ended up at Jenna’s River Bed and Breakfast, a series of yurt style cabins perched on the steep slope of the hill overlooking the lake. We didn’t even have our boots off before we asked if we could stay two nights which we did. Here is the view from the deck of our cabin.

I forgot what a magical place lake Atitlan was. The lake is a giant volcanic crater similar to Crater lake in the US. It’s surrounded by perfectly shaped volcanos with some of them still letting off steam. We played crazy 8’s on the patio sipping cool drinks as the sun set behind the mountains directly in front of us.

Not much to complain about in our cozy cabin with a simple outside kitchen, we felt like this was the perfect place for a well deserved day off.

At 5,000 feet the weather was not too hot and even a little cool at night, we didn’t complain. We spent our day reading and catching up on my blog while the hotel washed all of our really smelly clothes for $10 USD, a bargain. We met some fun people staying there including a couple from Alaska that were full of stories about Alaska life and their extensive world travels. Fun hanging out Ginger and Ron.

It was Monday when we left and we hoped some of the weekend tourist traffic might be better, it wasn’t. Refreshed, we slogged back through and then took a route to the coast that was recommend by someone at the hotel. It was one of most awesome, newly paved lightly travelled mountain roads yet and for some reason neither Google or Garmin seemed to know about it. I was really glad I asked about our route ahead of time. We climbed up to around 7,000 feet and pulled over for a few pictures. Here is one of the last views of the lake before we dropped down towards the ocean.

And yes we dropped, in 30 miles we descended 6,000 feet into the hot tropical temperatures soon getting to the 100 degree mark. For the next 80 miles we tried to stay cool by taking breaks, drinking lots of water from our hydration backpacks and standing on our pegs to catch a little breeze when possible.

We had a hotel booked in a small beach town called Montericco. The online directions weren’t really clear how to get there and all we had was GPS coordinates that didn’t seem accurate. We left the main highway and turned down a smaller road that led us to the coast. A left turn had us riding along the coastline passing through small towns for about 20 miles looking for our beach front hotel. It was very slow going. We were hot, tired, thirsty and sick of jumping over topes in what seemed like every 50 feet. We finally came to the last turn down to the ocean and we stopped. As far as I could see it looked like two ruts in deep sand. That can’t be right? I rode ahead a little ways and asked someone about the hotel, he wasn’t too sure. Maybe turn down the next road? Arrg, we both turned down the next road and it was just as bad. Now, my motorcycle friends reading this will know, it is not a bit of fun trying to maneuver a heavily loaded full size adventure bike in a deep sandy rut. Even worse when it’s over 100 degrees at the end of a long day and we were tired. Why did we even try? Why didn’t I ask Deby to wait while at least I gave it a shot? After a short discussion that included the phrase, “how hard can it be?” we decided to give it a shot. Big mistake. We dog paddled the bikes (riding while sticking our legs out to basically “walk” the bikes in the sand) for what seemed like a mile but was probably only half that. The “road” was a dead end. Exhausted we both just stopped wondering what to do. Deby did fantastic getting her heavy bike through it but I could tell she was just as tired as I was.

As usual, wherever you find yourself in Latin America, no matter how remote,  someone came by. A woman who looked like a grandmother and two grandchildren riding a quad with nice appropriately big tires for the sand. They looked at us like we were crazy, dressed in winter clothing, riding stupid big overloaded motorcycles in the deep sand. She actually looked a little concerned. I asked about the hotel and she didn’t know anything about it. She thought we would have to go back to the highway and go back to the first road that I was reluctant go travel in the first place. Then she said follow her, the next road over would be better. She jumped on the quad and left while we went back to dog paddling looking for the “better” road. It wasn’t. It seemed like it took forever to dogpaddle past a school, small town and some sugarcane fields before we made it back to the highway. I probably should have taken pictures but I wasn’t really in the mood to capture that particular occasion. So now what? I said forget it, I didn’t care if we lost our deposit on Booking I was giving up on that place. With no other ideas presenting itself, we took the paved road another mile into “downtown” Monterrico. The road ended at the waterfront and we just stopped nearly in the middle of the road and took off our helmets to look around. Here is a screenshot from Google street view of where we stopped while wondering what to do.

Some teenage kids rode up on bicycles asking if we needed anything. I asked about the hotel and they seemed to agree that would would have to return to the highway to the sandy road and it might be there. Of course, this was all in Spanish so that is what I think they said. I asked in Spanish if there was another hotel, of course! There is a really nice beach resort nearby. Ok, I didn’t care. I said we would follow him if he could lead us on his bike. He looked at me funny and then said ok. We got on the bikes and literally rode about 20 feet to the blue building you can see on the upper right of the picture, that was the hotel, Hotel Delfin. Someone came out to greet us and assured us there was a room and directed us to park in their garage. The kid was hanging around watching and it seemed clear he wanted a tip for his assistance. The hotel worker watched as I handed him a 20Q note. I commented that I appreciated his help, the hotel worker thanked me and told me that kid was his nephew.

We upgraded to a room with AC which ran the cost up to around $50 USD but we didn’t care. When we checked in we met the owner who spoke good English with an European accent. He helped us get settled and setup up a bar/restaurant tab. We were both hotter than hot when we went in the room, cranked the AC and worked at pulling off our plastic sweat pants. Deby opted for the shower first and we joked about there being hot water as she climbed behind the curtain, after a moment she yelled out, “only one knob!” That answered that question, so I opted for the pool. I took one look at the pool and under normal circumstances there is no way I would jump into such murky water but I didn’t care. I dove in and immediately cooled off in the lukewarm water.

Ok, truth is, we’ve stayed at worse and the people were all really nice and helpful. We ate at the beachside restaurant which was really good and had a nice walk as the sun set along the volcanic black sand beach. I took one picture of a family and their dog on the beach watching the sunset.

We slept good in our air conditioned room and woke up refreshed. Actually, I was up at 6:00 AM and since the Wifi was pretty good I took my laptop to the restaurant and typed my last blog post while they brought me continuous coffee refills. Not bad. Still, I wasn’t typing fast enough and by 9:00 it was already 90 degrees as we started packing.

Tuesday, January 23 was going to be a border crossing day. I picked Monterrico because it’s close to the El Salvador border. For some reason we were almost ready to leave when I thought I should check Garmin, Google and other apps I have for the route. They all said to ride 20 miles back the way we came through the small towns and zillion topes back to the main highway. I couldn’t believe it, arrg, not happy. As I paid my bill I asked the owner about the route recommended by my great technology. He took one look and said no-way. Why wouldn’t I take the ferry, he asked. Huh? Here is a screenshot from Google Maps, do you see a ferry?

He directed me to the ferry terminal a few blocks away that would take us along the river to the town of La Avellana. Wow, once again, good to ask the locals.

Well, I suppose “ferry” is a relative term and I suspected this is what it would be.

We had to back the heavy bikes up a “ramp” onto what was basically a flat bottom boat with an outboard motor. For some reason we were important enough to get our own barge. Maybe it was because we probably paid more than anyone else travelling this route. It was less than $10 USD so I didn’t care.

On our way down the river, it was very scenic with tons of birds. It was hot, closing in on 100 tropical degrees but a cool breeze on the water helped.

The other boats seemed to be way more loaded down with cars, trucks and motorcycles.

It was fun watching the other boats go by as we all had our cell phones out taking pictures of each other.

The whole trip took about a half hour and easily saved us nearly two hours of hot riding. I wish I would have known about the ferry on the way down.

We reached the border crossing into El Salvador at almost exactly noon expecting the worst. The Guatemala side was full of chaos as we fended off the fixers and money exchangers and actually figured it out for ourselves. I won’t go into detail but there is a lot of time waiting in lines, getting copies made and moving between buildings. It took us about an hour to get out of Guatemala and another hour to get into El Salvador. All in all, a rather quick process. I must say the El Salvador side was very easy and professional. Everyone was really nice and there was hardly any chaos entering the country. By 2:00 PM we were on our way. I only took one picture worth sharing during the relatively straightforward ordeal, these motorcycles were parked under a tree near the aduana office. It was a reminder not to park our bikes in any one place for too long around here.


Again we didn’t have much of a plan for what was next. I found out the data plan I purchased for my cell phone didn’t work in El Salvador so we couldn’t find a hotel on booking, Google or any other apps. It’s amazing how addicted we can get to that technology. We would just have to do it the old fashioned way, the same way Deby and I did it 11 years ago with Keith, Dave, Michael and Jim on what was called MotoRaid II. (Click the link if you really want to know more about that trip). About 4:00 we were again, hot tired, thirsty and ready to stop. We entered into the bigger coast town of La Libertad that seemed busy with lots of topes, traffic and trucks spewing bellows of black exhaust smoke ( I should probably write more about that sometime). We rode slow looking for places to stay. A kid on a motorcycle at a stop recommended a place with a big sign but we never found it. Finally, something caught my eye that looked decent from the road so we pulled in. Immediately Deby and I had the same reaction…… we had been there before.

Yep, we stayed there 11 years ago on MotorRaid II, Hotel Sante Fe in La Libertad. Here is a picture of an armed guard watching over our motorcycles at that hotel 11 years ago.

I think we were even in the same non-descript room off of this second floor walkway.

At least maybe there was hot water? Nope, only one knob in the shower again. Actually, the water isn’t cold either, it’s sort of luke warm and was a refreshing way to rinse a day of sweat off our bodies and wash out our sweaty undergarments.

We had a couple of beers and walked on the beach to watch the sunset. I remember I wasn’t that impressed with the hotel 11 years ago and this time was not much better, maybe worse because now the rate was $120 USD. Wow. He said we could get a discount if we could leave by 8:00AM. What was that about? I said no but we ended leaving at 8:30 anyhow to beat the heat and prepare for another border crossing.

I checked the heatmap on my phone, the blue dot was our location, not much relief in sight.

I think I’ll stop here. Ahead is leaving El Salvador, entering and exiting Honduras and crossing into Nicaragua where we are now for a few days. You can always see where we are by clicking HERE or the tab on the top of the page labeled Live MAP.

Lots more heat, adventure and ferry crossings to come.

Thanks for following,

Donn and Deby





5 thoughts on “Central America is HOT

  1. Way to go guys! You had the heat and we got a little rain that cooled things down. Great update.

  2. I can’t even believe you have the energy to write yet another great adventure story!

    Enjoyed every picture & the adventure that went with it!

  3. This was great reading . I’m glad your adventure is going well. Deby’s riding skills have always amazed me.
    I’m also glad that I’m to tired and old to want to do what your doing..

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