24 August, 2012

Day 50, 367km: Western Guatemala

The night before at my hotel in Coban I looked up the itinerary for the next day. I wanted to see Antigua Guatemala (the ancient capital) as well as Lake Atitlan and spend the night in Panajachel nearby the lake. That was an ambitious route and it would take me to Guatemala City's northern suburb.

I wrote down the itinerary on my notepad and soon enough I had two full pages.
Started reading them and realized I would without any doubt get lost.
So I looked for an alternative, and thank god there was one.

OpenStreetmap is a project that creates and provides free geographic data and mapping. Geofabrik and OSMMaps (among many others) then do the job of converting this data into Garmin exploitable maps.
That saved me.
So because I can't buy maps on your website, Garmin, I have now found a source of free maps. Guess there's an upside to everything.

The road alternated between 2 lanes
four lanes
and "make your own lane"
Sights like the one pictured above always amaze me. Can you imagine there used to be a massive hill, standing where there is now a road?
I can imagine the meeting the road building team had.

Engineer: So we were going to go this way (points finger on the topographic map and indicates a hill) but there's a hill so we've come up with this other route (points finger towards a nearby river canyon). Of course it will require a bridge to go across the 532m span between both edges of the canyon at the narrowest point. Our team has done the calculations and...
His boss, interrupting him: For fuck's sake, just remove the hill.
Engineer: Remove, sir?
Boss: Yes, remove. You take it and move it. Now leave my office.

Antigua Guatemala
I was in Antigua Guatemala around 4pm, the city was very nice. All paved roads with little shops and hotels. Very peaceful and beautiful. Stopped there for a coffee (sadly there were no terrace!) and was back on my way.

Antigua Guatemala
The GPS indicated 56km for today's final destination. Piece of cake, thought I.

Well first there was this
Oh boy I was wrong. First there was rain, the cloud pictured above didn't spare me. Then there was the cold, the temperature dropped to 12 degrees or so. There was also my 19,000km tires reminding me in every curve to take it very easy. And lastly there was the fog on every hilltop.
Add to this the Guatemalan bus drivers who are the worst I've seen this far and that makes for an interesting drive.

Oh and at some point the GPS jumped from "36km remaining" to "76km remaining" (although I can't really blame free maps). So that changed what would be an arrival an hour before sunset to an arrival just before sunset.
Icing on the cake, my front lamp decided to die just as it started getting dark. Let me tell you the last 30km of single lane, narrow winding Guatemalan mountain road under the rain with only the high beam lamp were exciting. I wasn't carrying any spare front bulb, I will certainly get one in Guatemala City.

Still, very nice little towns along the way
Shortly before sunset my destination was in sight, Panajachel on the coast of Atitlan Lake. 

Found a hotel there, unpacked all my stuff. I started the day with a bad case of sore throat and the last few hours under the mountain rain didn't help at all. First time I ordered hot water in a restaurant, I felt like an English in Asterix. This and a soup. I had no voice at that point and crashed into bed shortly after 9pm, hoping a good night of sleep would make me fresh and healthy again.

Buenas noches,

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