ANTIGUA, Guatemala – There is something undeniably cool about motorbikes, cobbled streets and rock ‘n’ roll. Combine all three and you have one of the most exhilarating ways to explore Guatemala’s most popular tourist town: driving through the pueblos of La Antigua Guatemala, on the back of a trike, with The Rolling Stones blaring from the speakers.
I started my adventure at CATours’ own Motocafé with a strong cup of coffee and a quick briefing of the morning’s itinerary from company owner, Dave Drudge.
CATours has been specializing in creating tailor-made motorbike tours of Guatemala and beyond since 1999, offering adventurous travelers everything from driving up volcanoes to overnight beach trips and excursions across Central America.
I was to be chief passenger for the day on the newest addition to the fleet of 13 motorbikes: a fierce looking, two-person, orange trike, a three-wheeled motorcycle. Perfect for those who aren’t brave enough to take the handlebars themselves, or who simply want to focus on the beautiful vistas rather than the passing traffic, the three-wheel bike gives you the luxury of being chauffeur-driven by the tour group’s experienced instructors, leaving you free to snap away at the stunning scenery you pass.
Englishman Drudge bought the rare bike, which is from the United States, on eBay two years ago. After flying up to West Virginia from Guatemala to collect it, he spent two weeks driving it back through the U.S. and Mexico.
“My first stop after leaving Charleston was Memphis, Tennessee, then I drove to Lake Charles, Louisiana, on to Texas and then all the way to Matamoros, Mexico,” says Drudge, who has been riding motorbikes since he was 15 and has taught thousands of people in Guatemala how to do the same.
“I stayed there for two nights and for the first time on the trip I had to buy a road map. Mexico made my eyes open; I’d been there before, but never noticed it in this way. On the trike I felt like some kind of alien. From now on I knew that I stood out. Not that the trike wasn’t noticed in the States, but it just didn’t attract the same kind of open-mouthed stares.”
Dave and I set off from the center of Antigua, southwest of the capital, into the surrounding indigenous villages, meandering along open roads against the backdrop of Volcán del Agua while accompanied by a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. After about 15 minutes we reached Santa María de Jesús, a Sacatepéquez village in the foothills of the volcano, and stopped off to explore the area and purchase fruit in the local market.
The next part of our journey took us out past women doing their laundry in the central pilas, and onto the cobbled streets of another small community, San Juan del Obispo. Our third dismount was in the colorful calles of San Pedro Hueltas, where we visited a church and an indoor market before heading back to Antigua through the dusty back streets of Guatemala’s famous cowboy-boot-making village, Pastores.
Without another tourist in sight, driving a Yamaha 175 DT, a Honda 200 CTX or sitting on the back of a trike, you gain a rich insight into Guatemala “off the beaten path.”
While novices can purchase a series of beginner lessons before heading off, more experienced riders can grab a helmet, a map and an instructor and explore some of Guatemala’s roads less travelled.
The CATours team organizes half-day, full-day or even fortnight-long tours from Antigua to as far afield as Costa Rica and Panama. Find them online at: http://www.catours.co.uk/guatemala.html.