I bought the Muskox on December 16th, 1994 at Marty's BMW in Torrance California. I paid $9,000 cash for it which included $750 worth of accessories. The accessories I chose were the larger bash plate, the plastic hand guards, a BMW tank bag, and a Thor adventure jacket. I later purchased a set of BMW bags which I still have but chose to leave at home for this trip as I went with a set of Nelson-Rigg Adventure Dry Saddlebags instead. The bike itself is 100% original apart from a K&N air filter.
My original plans had called for me to return to Guatemala after dropping Cole off at the airport, but I was rethinking that whole scenario. To be honest I didn't feel like faffing around with border crossings anymore and Mexico and Central America weren't as cheap as they used to be, plus I had to get back to Canada at some point to get the B&B back up and running. With all these realities running through my head I decided to head home at a leisurely pace instead of going further south only to turn around and rush home later.
We were on our last leg. From Tikal we retraced the road I’d taken 23 years ago and crossed into Belize, caught a nail in the rear tire, crossed Belize, then back into Mexico with not too much difficulty. This time I actually got an import permit for the bike, that didn’t really sit well with me but I'd had dreams of running into that police lady again and losing the bike to Mexican authorities.
Rio Dulce had been a neat overnight. It’s a cool busy harbour town that straddles the river of the same name and has a frontiersy feel to it that I liked. It had been a long ride up capped off with some nasty weather and night riding so Rio Dulce had been a welcome destination. The fried chicken at a roadside stand sealed the deal, it was awesome and as we were the last customers of the day the lady loaded our plates up like we’d just ridden across the continent…then again I guess we had, well almost, Pacific Coast to Caribbean.
During my previous trip in 95 I hadn't dropped down to the Guatemalan Pacific Coast. I had in Mexico and Costa Rica but for some reason had bypassed it here. This time however my son Cole had become very interested when I'd mentioned 'black sand,' so we slated it in. It was a leisurely ride down from Antigua and when we arrived at the coastal city of Puerto Quetzal we headed south following the coastline to Monterrico.
Antigua, Guatemala, is a cool cobble stoned, volcano shaded, colonial touchstone to the past. It's a living museum with a vibrant heart. I'd passed through it on my journey in 95 and had been smitten. I've always been a history buff and Antigua holds a special place in Central American history as it was once the Capital of the Spanish colony of Guatemala which covered most of Central America and the Mexican state of Chiapas. It was founded in 1543 and for over 200 years it remained the capital until the Santa Marta earthquake of 1773 swayed the authorities to move it to present day Guatemala City which was less earthquake prone.
From Palenque it was time to head up into the mountains of Chiapas as we directed 'The Muskox' toward Guatemala. To push through in one day would have been possible but there were a couple of stops along the way we wanted to take in so settled for a more sedate pace. The first stop was Agua Azul, a spectacular series of waterfalls I had visited in 95, that I wanted to show Cole. Unfortunately it wasn't much as I remembered. In fact we didn't even make it to the falls as the crowds were nuts. I couldn't believe how different it was from the relaxing visit I had had there in 95. This time the parking lot was chock full of giant buses and crowded restaurants and vendors were jammed in everywhere between the trees. It was quite disheartening so Cole and I had a quick bite to eat then decided to push on as neither of us were in the mood for the crowds.
From Merida we started our trek towards Guatemala by way of Palenque. There are only so many border crossings into Guatemala from Mexico and as our first stop in Guatemala was slated for Antigua the road through Palenque made the most sense. It was going to be a long day on the bike, around 550kms so we took the toll roads to make time.
Cole had left Canada on the 23rd of December and arrived in Cancun on Christmas Eve so things were busy. Merida has a lot going for it, history, cuisine, Spanish architecture and an atmosphere unmolested by tourism. That doesn’t mean it’s not a busy city, 800,000 people make for some hustle, but it’s a natural fun hustle. With the largest Mayan concentration of any city in Mexico, or Central America for that matter, it was a good place to start our Mayan loop. All one has to do to get an idea of the Mayan people’s journey and Yucatan’s bloody history is explore the Governor’s Palace on one side of the square. It is a beautiful building, but what makes it even more interesting are the paintings inside that depict the arrival of the Spanish and the subsequent plight of the Mayan people as they were eventually conquered and forced into slavery. It is a sobering collection to say the least but one that portrays what happened.
So the prep was over and it was time to pull the plug. The plan was to ride to Merida, capital of the Yucatan in Mexico and pick up my son, Cole, who would fly down from Vancouver during his Christmas break. After a couple of days in Merida we would do a lazy loop through southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize loosely retracing a trip I had taken in 95. That was the plan at any rate.