By Anna-Claire Bevan
There is something undeniably cool about motorbikes, cobbled streets and rock and 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, on the back of a trike, with The Rolling Stones blaring from the speakers.
CATours has been specialising in creating tailor-made motorbike tours of Guatemala and beyond since 1999; offering adventurous travellers everything from driving up volcanoes to overnight beach trips and excursions to the country’s picturesque lakes.
I started my adventure at the company’s own Motocafe with a strong cup of coffee and a quick briefing of the morning’s itinerary from CATours’ owner, Dave Drudge.
I was to be chief passenger for the day on the newest addition to the company’s fleet of 13 motorbikes: a fierce looking, two-person, orange trike. 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 U.S.A., over eBay two years ago. After flying up to West Virginia from Guatemala to collect it, he spent about two weeks driving it back through The States and Mexico.
“My first stop after leaving Charleston was Memphis, Tennessee, then I drove to Lake Charles, Louisiana, onto Texas and then all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. 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 had never been noticed in this way.
“On the trike I felt like some kind of alien. From then 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,” says Drudge, who has been riding motorbikes since he was 15 years old and has taught thousands of people in Guatemala how to do the same.
Dave and I set off from the center of Antigua and into its indigenous surrounding villages: meandering along open roads against the backdrop of Volcan Agua whilst accompanied by a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack.
After about 15 minutes we reached Santa Maria de Jesús, a village in the foothills of the volcano, and stopped off to explore the area and purchase some fruit in the local market. The next part of our journey took us out past women doing their laundry in the central pila, and onto the cobbled streets of another small community, San Juan del Obispo.
Our third dismount was in the colourful calles (streets) 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.
The unique thing about CATours is that here you are the one in charge – driving yourself to such touristic destinations as Lake Amatitlán, Lake Atitlán and Monterrico beach, stopping off when you want and for how long you want.
Without another tourist in view you can gain a rich insight into Guatemala ‘off the beaten track’ on a Yamaha 175 DT, a Honda 200 CTX or on the back of a trike.
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 organise half day, full day or even fortnight-long tours from Antigua Guatemala to as far afield as Costa Rica and Panama and for every booked tour they make a donation to a local charities.
Anna-Claire Bevan is a British journalist based in Guatemala City. She writes about political, environmental and social issues for magazines, newspapers and websites in the US, the UK, Guatemala and Spain. Anna originally set up her first blog Vida Latina as a result of her travels in Latin America and frustrations at the lack of media coverage that this area of the world receives.