We left Tikal and the jungles of Petén cycling south towards Río Dulce. We cycled through a town by the name of Poptun and just south of town, upon recommendation stayed at a place called Finca Ixobel. This place was heaven. Amazing food (like great vegetarian eggplant dishes), cheap camping and a great atmosphere with large grounds and a little lake to hang out on and go swimming. This place also all operated on the honor system and had the best group of people. It wasn’t just tourists, local Guatemalan families also vacationed here.
Camping at Finca Ixobel, wonderful spot to set up a tent.
The lagoon where you can sit around and chill, go for a swim and is totally secluded.
To our surprise we met up with a family of five from France traveling by RV for three years. We had originally met them in Playa Santispac back in Baja, Mexico and were super surprised to see them at the same campsite in the middle of Guatemala. Here’s their website if you’d like to check them out: http://familledesrev.com/Blogdesrev/. We recouped at Finca Ixobel for a few days and kept heading south in the scolding, humid heat.
The flat roads of Izabal.
We then reached the popular sailing destination of Río Dulce where many sailors along the east coast take shelter and moor for the hurricane season in the sheltered river waters. To access anything up the rive is all by boat, there are no roads and life takes place out on the water, by launches and little tiendas on stilts in the water. We loaded our bikes in the front of the launch to take us up the river to another eco-hotel recommended by the people at FInca Ixobel.
Bikes loaded in the launcha to take us up river.
Along the way we were accosted by children in dugouts selling wears from the sea; conch, and turtle shells and dried starfish. It was heart breaking to see these creatures dead and for sale. An unsustainable practice of eco-exploitation, luckily no one in our boat purchased anything but brought great awareness that this type of exploitation still happens. These families need money to put food on the table, but there must be a better way to go about it.
Girls selling goods along the river. Sadly these goods consisted to conch shells, dried sea stars, and turtle shells.
River life, a tiends along the banks.
After about an hour traveling up the river, stopping to see the old fortress outside of the town of Río Dulce, the mangroves and the small villages scattered along the banks of the river we arrived at our destination, Finca Tatin. Another epic place that we stayed right on the river, great food, honor system, safe place to keep our bikes and wicked staff. They had an amazing rope swing off the dock that dropped straight into the warm river below and was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon. They had kayaks to rent which you could paddle within a few hours up the river to a mangrove manatee reserve where Mike and I spent the day bird watching and geeing out. And if you follow the river seaward through the cascading canyon you end up in the amazing Garifuna village of Livingston, which is only reached by boat where we spent another full day and paddled back before sunset.
Cute little hut at Finca Tatin in the middle of the jungle.
Seagulls and terns take off as we pass under the bridge on our kayak to Livingston.
Our time in the Río Dulce area was amazing but time was running short, the first time on our trip as we had friends meeting us in Copán Ruinas, Honduras that we had a ways to cycle yet to meet up with them. We always plan a little conservatively, leaving a days’ leeway to make sure we get to our destination with time. Fortunately we had planned on this right before meeting with our friends Paul and Claire as we had some brutal climbs and 40+ degree weather outside of Chichimula. Climbing through the sweltering heat with no reprieve left Mike and I taking shelter at one of the gas bars stations along the way. We found a table in the shade and downed copious amounts of electrolyte drinks, potato chips (for the salt) and made frequent trips to the bathroom to douse ourselves in water to cool off. We were both suffering from heat exhaustion but Mike got the worst of it. Once we finally arrived in Chichimula Mike was passed out on the bed, sick to his stomach and had no strength. There was no way we’d be on the road in the morning.
He thankfully recovered with another days rest, and another valuable lesson learned on the road about the importance of hydration and cycling in hot climates.
Just crossed the border into Honduras and headed up the last 2 km hill before descending into Copán.
The cross over from Guatemala to Honduras was surprisingly easy, we even received brand new 90 day visas. Something we weren’t sure if we’d get, as Honduras is part of the Central America Four (CA-4) that issues a 90 day tourist visa for all of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Relieved, we started cycling up the hill towards Copán Ruinas, about 11 km’s across the border and were greeted by some representatives from Tourism Honduras that created us with maps, towels and other trinkets as a ‘Welcome to Honduras’. It was a warm welcome indeed.
Within a few kilometers of climbing we defended the rest of the way into Copán Ruinas and found our way to the guest house we had booked and arranged to meet our friends from home at. We had just rolled up and checked in, we started to make our way to our room when two familiar faces had greeted us. It was great to see our dear friends and a nice reminder that this world is truly small!
Over the nest few weeks we played tourist along with our friends checking out the famed ruins in Copán, then onto Comayagua (the former capital of all of Central America and a quaint colonial town) for the Semana Santa (holy week) celebrations, the brewery at Lago Yajoa, the Garifuna village of Trujilo, then onto the Bay Islands of Útila and Roatán. It was a whirl wind as we started to travel by shuttle rather than cycle everywhere, time went a lot faster but it was so good to be with friends.