Crossing the Border at Las Chinamas from Guatemala to El Salvador

I was feeling a bit better now, still a sore throat, but after 2 weeks in Antigua it was time to cross the border at Las Chinamas into El Salvador.

As I was getting ready to leave, I could feel some anxiety. After 2 weeks I had gotten comfortable in Antigua. My daughter said that for most it takes 2 years to get comfortable in a place. But I guess when you have been traveling for a year, hopping from place to place, 2 weeks is a long time. However, as I started to ride, the anxiety disappeared.

It was a long ride to the border at Las Chinamas from Antigua. I had thought about staying a bit closer but didn’t find anyplace I liked.

Las Chinamas Border Crossing

I spent the night before I left studying the border as I normally do. This relieves any anxiety I may have and helps me recognize where I need to go.

Guatemala El Salvador Border Overview

There were 7 steps to cross the border. The first 2 were on the Guatemalan side of hte border.

Guatemala Las Chinamas Border

Guatemala Border

I rode up to the border and went under the canopy to the middle of the building. I was immediately approached by money changers who I just ignored for the time being. At the middle of the building there are glass doors. Right inside to the right is immigration. They stamped my passport and gave me a small piece of paper that I tucked away so I didn’t lose it.

The 2nd step was to go to Customs to check my motorcycle out. I continued through the glass doors to the other side of the building. The Customs office is to the right at the end of the building. There the customs woman took my passport, drivers license, motorcycle registration and my motorcycle entry permit. After a few minutes she walked with me to my motorcycle, removed the sticker from mGy windshield, and headed back to her office. A few minutes later she handed me the cancelled entry permit and I was done!

All along a money changer had been lurking around me. When I got back to my motorcycle I pulled out the few Guatemalan money I had left and he gave me $10 US in exchange. The currency for El Salvador is US dollars.

El Salvador Las Chinamas Border

The el Salvador side of the border wasn’t quite as easy.

I crossed the bridge and on the other side was flagged down at a small building on the right.

Bridge to El Salvador

mexico-border (9)

Here I would do steps 3 and 6.

After waiting for a bit a man came out and handed me a form to fill out. It was all in Spanish. I figured out most of the stuff but left a lot blank. I then handed the form back to him with my Passport, Drivers License, and motorcycle registration with a copy of each.

After a long time, he came back with everything and checked my VIN. He had completed a new form with all the information I had given him. He kept asking “electronico” but I had no idea what he meant by it. Eventually he just stopped asking ha ha.

Another man came out and I followed him across the street to complete step 4. I didn’t have to do much for that. He sat at his computer and was entering data from my documentation. He asked if I had a copy of my cancelled Guatemalan entry form to which I said no. He made a copy for me. Like the guy before he asked “electronico.” I had no idea what he was asking for. Finally a gentleman showed up and said “e-mail.” AHHHHHHH ok … now I get it. I printed my email on a form, signed a couple of things and I was done with Customs.

Step 5 was Immigration which was pretty easy. It was just down from the Customs office.

Another Motorcyclist

As I was heading back to my motorcycle at the small building by the bridge, A young guy with a big smile came up to me and put out his hand. I was a bit taken aback until he spoke in English and said he was riding too. Turned out he was from Argentina and riding a Chinese bike to Mexico from Argentina.

We exchanged some info about my upcoming borders and road conditions. He suggeted I do the 2 borders in Honduras on the same day as they were a pain. He said it would make a long day but worth it.

It was pretty cool meeting another biker. I haven’t met as many as I thought I would. When I got back to my bike, sure enough, there was his.


Last Steps

I was almost done crossing the border. I handed the guy at the small building my stamped passport and the form completed at the Customs building. He checked it and said that was it!

I got on my bike and about 25 metres up the road I was stopped. It was hardly worth putting my helmet on. The immigration officer there looked at my passport and took that small piece of paper I received from the Guatemalan Immigration. NOW I was free to go!


I planned on stopping at Ahuachapan for the night where I had booked La Casa de Mamapan hotel. It wasn’t too far from the border.


When I booked it I said I needed secure parking for my motorcycle. The secure parking was the lobby of the hotel!

The problem was getting my motorcycle in there. There were several steps to get through the door.

The people at the hotel made a ramp, but part of the ramp was just a piece of wood the would give way every time I gave some gas to get over it.


Finally, a group a boys who were watching all this, came up and lifted the rear of my motorcycle over the piece of wood and onto the ramp made of a long piece of wood. A little gas and I was through the door and into the lobby.


For the rest of the evening people were coming by and looking at this huge motorcycle in the lobby of the hotel ha ha.

There wasn’t much to see in Achuachapan. I found a Bank of Nova Scotia to get money. And ran across a cool crepe place where I ordered a couple of strawberry smoothies. Then called it a day.

My Route for July 10, 2017


Waiting for my Motorcycle to Heal in Guatemala City

For the next week I waited for my motorcycle to heal in Guatemala City :-).


In the morning I would go to Bavaria Motors to check in to see how my motorcycle was feeling :-). We are working on her the “Dr.” would say.

With that it was off to the Starbucks at the Oakland Mall to work on posts and answer emails.



The Starbucks here had a daily special for 25 Q or about $4.60 Cdn. That consisted of a small coffee and a bagel or a ham and cheese croissant. Considering the prospects of my mechanic bill I was in a saving money mood. Plus I knew that on Saturday I would be at a restaurant to have a few beers and watch the Champion’s League Final. So I was saving for that too.

By late afternoon I would have finished a post and it was time to hit the Oakland Mall.

Oakland Mall

This mall is huge and ultra modern.

oakland mall

oakland mall 3

oakland mall

oakland mall 2

Oakland mall train

I wasn’t expecting this in Guatemala. You know how you have visions of certain countries? Often they are wrong. Like me and Guatemala. Yes there is a lot of poverty here but also lots of modern conveniences too.

The mall also had a big restaurant court for those with money.

oakland mall restaurant court

oakland mall restaurant court 2

And a regular fast food court for those who don’t have lots of money … like me 🙂

So I would hit the Panda Express everyday to get my vegetables and a cheap meal.

panda express


Comfort Hostel

After Panda Express I sometimes would hit the market and then home to the Comfort Hostel. The Comfort Hostel wasn’t really a hostel. I had my own room and washroom. It was basic. But the people were really nice!!! Even if I didn’t always understand them. A couple though spoke English.

The Comfort Hostel was over my budget, but as I found out, Guatemala City is expensive. At least compared to Mexico.

I would spend the evening and night, watching TV, reading, and cleaning up my stuff.

This went on until Friday.

The Motorcycle Bill

On Friday Bavaria Motors emailed and said my motorcycle was ready. I braced myself as I walked there. What would the bill be?

When I arrived my motorcycle was waiting for me. It was beautiful! All cleaned up and repaired.

Now the bill. As you may recall, they originally gave me an estimate of 28,833.48 Q or about $5338 Cdn.

The bill they gave me was for 18,594.25 Q or about $3,442 Cdn! About $2,000 less!!! I was soooo happy. Still a lot, but this fit into my budget. Here was the breakdown:

1) Change of the front rim – 650 Q or about $120 Cdn
2) Replacement of front brake pads – 150 Q or about $28 Cdn
3) Change of my front left turn signal bulb – 50 Q or about $9 Cdn
4) Washing of the motorcycle – 0 Q 🙂
5) Change of the front forks – 800 Q or about $148 Cdn
6) Rim – 6,000 Q or about $1,111 Cdn
7) Rim weights – 9.84 Q or about $2 Cdn
8) Turn signal bulb – 19.26 Q or about $4 Cdn
9) Shock absorber oil – 214.41 Q or about $40 Cdn
10) Shock absorbers – 1,792.50 Q or about $332 Cdn
11) Shock absorber retainers – 329.71 Q or about $61 Cdn
12) New front tire Continental Trail Attack 2 – 1,571.02 Q or about $291 Cdn
13) Shampoo – 1.41 Q or about 25 cents Cdn
14) Support Tubes – 7,006.11 Q or about $1,297 Cdn

They had made a few changes from the estimate to lower the cost. First, they got me a used rim that actually looked pretty good. Second, instead of replacing both forks, they just replaced the bent tubes.

As I rode my bike home I had a big smile on my face. The ride and wind felt wonderful. Plus … I made it! From the side of the road totally discouraged with a broken motorcycle by Lake Atitlan, to riding home on a shiny fixed bike in Guatemala City. I made it! Kind of a confidence builder.

My Location from May 28 to June 2, 2017


Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua was one of those places I was really looking forward to as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

UNESCO on Antigua

UNESCO describes Antigua as:

Built 1,530.17 m above sea level in an earthquake-prone region, Antigua Guatemala, the capital of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, was founded in 1524 as Santiago de Guatemala. It was subsequently destroyed by fire caused by an uprising of the indigenous population, re-established in 1527 and entirely buried as a result of earthquakes and an avalanche in 1541. The third location, in the Valley of Panchoy or Pacán, was inaugurated in March 1543 and served for 230 years. It survived natural disasters of floods, volcanic eruptions and other serious tremors until 1773 when the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town. At this point, authorities ordered the relocation of the capital to a safer location region, which became Guatemala City, the county’s modern capital. Some residents stayed behind in the original town, however, which became referred to as “La Antigua Guatemala”.

Antigua Guatemala was the cultural, economic, religious, political and educational centre for the entire region until the capital was moved. In the space of under three centuries the city acquired a number of superb monuments.

The pattern of straight lines established by the grid of north-south and east-west streets and inspired by the Italian Renaissance, is one of the best examples in Latin American town planning and all that remains of the 16th-century city. Most of the surviving civil, religious, and civic buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries and constitute magnificent examples of colonial architecture in the Americas. These buildings reflect a regional stylistic variation known as Barroco antigueño. Distinctive characteristics of this architectural style include the use of decorative stucco for interior and exterior ornamentation, main facades with a central window niche and often a deeply-carved tympanum, massive buildings, and low bell towers designed to withstand the region’s frequent earthquakes. Among the many significant historical buildings, the Palace of the Captains General, the Casa de la Moneda, the Cathedral, the Universidad de San Carlos, Las Capuchinas, La Merced, Santa Clara, among others, are worth noting.

The city lay mostly abandoned for almost a century until the mid-1800s when increased agricultural production, particularly coffee and grain, brought new investment to the region. The original urban core is small, measuring approximately 775 metres from north to south and 635 metres east to west, covering 49.57 hectares.

Central Park

The center of historic Antigua is Central Park. I spent a lot of time just sitting in the park watching people.



It was only 4 blocks from my hotel, Hotel San Jorge.


The first thing I noticed as I wandered around the park and adjacent streets was that there was a lot of English being spoken! The place was filled with tourists. And this was even the slow period for tourists.

The other thing I noticed was a lot of western food chains: Wendy’s, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, Domino’s, Papa Johns, and Burger King. No Starbucks though 🙁 ha ha. However, all these were discreetly situated and displayed within the town. No gaudy signs.

Volcán de Agua

Where ever you walk in Antigua, the predominant feature is the volcano, Volcán de Agua.


Of course when I was there is was mostly covered by cloud.

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

One of the two main structures bordering Central Park is Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. It serves as the headquarters of the Guatemala Institute of Tourism, the Antigua Tourism Association, National Police and the Sacatepquez Department government. Also …. during the afternoon rain the roof over the arches provides shelter for those in the park. And in the night the same roof provides shelter for the homeless.


Antigua Guatemala Cathedral

The other major structure bordering Central Park is the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral.




According to Wikipedia, the original church was built around 1541, but suffered several earthquakes throughout its history, and the first church building was demolished in 1669. The cathedral was rebuilt and consecrated in 1680. By 1743 the cathedral was one of the largest in Central America. However, the devastating 1773 Guatemala earthquake seriously damaged much of the building, though the two towers at the front remained largely intact. These have undergone restoration work, and the cathedral has been partly rebuilt.

Santuario Arquidiocesano del Santo Hermano Pedro, Templo de San Francisco el Grande

I spent some time wandering to other parts of the town as well. Above the low buildings I could see various churches. So I went to see them. One of them was Santuario Arquidiocesano del Santo Hermano Pedro, Templo de San Francisco el Grande. It seemed to be a hub for church goers, weddings, school etc.





On my way to the Cathedral I spotted another church … not sure which one it was 🙁


My Time in Antigua


You know I really didn’t do much while I was in Antigua. Went for my coffee in the morning, sat in the park, walked around, and sat at the hotel. It was nice though.

Anyways, I decided to change things up a bit by riding out to Lake Atitlan to meet Brad, who I had met in Oaxaca, for a ride around the lake. That turned out to be a day I will never forget … for all the wrong reasons … I guess for some good reasons too … NEXT POST! 🙂

My Location from May 24 to 27, 2017


Great Views, Bad Roads and a Protest

Today ended up being a day of great views, bad roads and a protest!

Leaving the Hotel

My usual practice it to leave whenever I get up and get ready. No alarms 🙂 Alarms remind me of work and answering to the schedule of others.

Before I left the Hotel Tiosh Abaj I walked down to their waterfront to take some pictures.




Now it was time to ride around the other side of Lake Atitlán.

Great Views and Bad Roads

I was anticipating the roads to be much as they were yesterday – paved with topes and some potholes. Well, the first few kilometers were. Then it hit. The paved road turned into washed out dirt. Obviously it had rained hard and now the remnants of rivers ran down and across the road. I kept say to myself, “don’t drop it, don’t drop it.” I suppose I shouldn’t have been focusing on the negative. As the road went up hill and turned it just became worse.

Was I even on the right road? The map showed this as a major road. I was encouraged when I was a number of cars also taking the road. However, the cars were all over the road just like I was trying to find the right line. This made the blind corners dangerous. A few times I have to navigate to the very edge of the road as a car took a blind corner wide.

As I entered the towns along the way the road would become paved. Phew! In one town, I can’t remember the name, the main road was blocked for a market. I went around and my GPS was saying to go down an unpaved, narrow, potholed, dirt road in the town. Surely this couldn’t be the way to a major center like Antigua where I was heading. I stopped and asked someone and they said yes, that was the way to Antigua. I should have taken pictures of the roads. But I was took focused on getting through this.

I did get some pictures of the views I passed though 🙂






Eventually, I made it back to where I started to go around the Lake. This highway was a major highway and really nice. I could finally relax as I rode the last leg to Antigua. All of sudden I encountered a long line of trucks. Immediately I thought of my time just outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, when I ran into the same thing. That time it was teachers blocking the road in protest. I was hoping that wasn’t the case here.

I weaved my way around the trucks. Many of the drivers were sitting under their trailers eating. That wasn’t a good sign.

I was approached by two women who told me to turn around. I ignored them.

Finally I reached the front. Yup, it was a bunch of protesters blocking the highway.

protest 2

A couple of police officers approached me. One spoke a little English but left. I tried my best to converse with the other officer. He didn’t speak any English. I reached into my tank bag and gave him an Abbotsford Police shoulder flash that I had been carrying.

Others would saunter around my motorcycle looking at it. My bike is huge compared to what they ride.

I thought about just coasting around the protest kind of stealthily. There was room to do that. But I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the protesters or cause any unnecessary problems for myself. So I waited.

protest 3

The clouds/fog rolled in and I thought just maybe the protest would end. It didn’t.

At one point, on the other side of the protest, a group of motorcyclist riding what looked like to be Harleys, approached the protest. They revved their engines. Immediately, people came from around the protest to form a solid blockade against them. It was a stand off. The Harleys were rebuffed. They turned around and roared off.

All of a sudden there was commotion. People scattered. The protesters ran to waiting buses. The police blocked all the traffic. Cars started honking horns. The police officer who I gave the shoulder flash to waved me to the front. With the wave of the police officer’s hands it was like the start to an Indy 500 race. We were off! I raced out front.

It wasn’t long and I was in Antigua and safely resting in my hotel.

My Route for May 23, 2017


Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

After some research that said Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, was a university town where students frequented coffee shops, I decided to spend a few days there. It sounded relaxing! I like students, universities and coffee shops 🙂

Hotel Hamilton

I chose Hotel Hamilton because it was close to the main plaza, it was highly recommended, and it was below my budget! It turned out to be really nice. The room was basic but the TV had a couple of English channels.


The compound was very secure for my motorcycle.


The grounds had nice green grass and a roaming rabbit.


And there was a little outdoor lounge where I spent time on my computer and relaxing.


The Streets of Quetzaltenango

After walking around the city I really didn’t see it as a university town. It looked more like an industrial town to me with little pockets of peace.





Parque a Centro América

The main place of peace was the Parque a Centro América. It is the main plaza in the historic center of town.



Of course the church, Catedral Del Espiritu Santo, is the main building bordering the plaza.




But the whole plaza lacked some vibrancy. I think it was because there were no patios around the plaza where people could gather, eat and drink, and watch people. The closest to this was a bar where I had to look through a gate.


Just up from the plaza was another little refuge, the town theater.


Guatemalan Police

My big entertainment one afternoon is watching the police check a bunch of young people gathered in the center of the main plaza.



Coffee Shops

One of my rituals is to find a nice coffee shop in the morning for breakfast and to work on posts and answer emails. The only thing around the main plaza was Cafe Barista.


It is a chain coffee shop that attempts to mimic Starbucks. A poor mimic I might add 🙂 It was OK but I just didn’t feel comfortable there.

Tripadvisor recommended La Chatia Artesana. It was a bit of a walk from my hotel but I didn’t really mind. It was a good opportunity to explore the city more.

When I first walked in I thought huuuummmm …. not really my kind of place.


They didn’t have the chocolate croissant I wanted 🙁 So I ordered fruit and yogurt instead. Probably a better choice anyways.

When my fruit and yogurt came it was huge … and very delicious!


Now I was hooked ha ha. The staff turned out to be really nice and for the rest of my time in Quetzaltenango, this was my go to place for my morning ritual.


I really didn’t see any good restaurants for a single person in the city. For me that usually means there has to be a patio or good people watching or some sort of entertainment. I don’t like sitting in a closed in restaurant by myself with nothing to do.

There was street food, but I’m not much of a street food person. A bit of a cleanliness freak I guess ha ha.

So I decided to go cheap with fast food restaurants.

I saw something in Quetzaltenango that I haven’t seen since the US …..



The place was PACKED with locals. Hard to believe actually. But I guess they want to be part of western culture rather than take part in their own taco culture.

The other fast food joint that was packed was McDonalds. The one by the university was big and had the ordering kiosks. The place was filled with families, people in suits, gatherings …. very popular.

I hate there a couple of times too.


The longer I stayed the more Quetzaltenango grew on me … my morning coffee shop … the hotel … the roughness of the streets all ended up to be nice. When you spend a few days in one spot it starts to grow on you 🙂 You start to experience the rhythm of the town. But it was time to leave.

My Route to Quetzaltenango on May 17, 2017


My Location from May 18 to 21, 2017


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