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.
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.