Friday, January 29, 2010


The rides all the way through Guatemala came fast and sweet, with the longest waiting time about 20 minutes, we were just flying along!
The four days that we spent there were quite eventful, we have to say.
On the evening of the first day we were walking out of Flores, looking for a spot to camp out for the night. The problem was that the road was lined with a tall concrete wall complete with turrets on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other, with signs haging all over saying that it is a military base, do not pass! We didn't like the idea of an armed soldier waking us up in the middle of the night, so we kept walking. After about an hour or two, we came up to the military base itself, a few buildings and a guard-post lined with sand bags. We asked the soldier if we could camp for the night at the base. He said he had to go get his commander. The commander turned out to be a stubby man with a rank of a mayor, who spoke broken English and some very fast Spanish. The first thing that he did was write down our names and nationality and present us with a Guatemalan flag patch which we think we'll stich onto one of our bags one day. He, in turn, could not give us an answer, because he had to ask his commander, too. Luckily, he was going to see him in a few hours to give his daily report, and he said he will ask about us, too. So we had nothing else to do but sit on our bags, observing soldiers marching to dinner with plates and cups in hand and others walking around with big and most likely loaded guns. After some time, the mayor returned, telling us that the permission was granted. He invited us to have dinner with him and wished us a good night. We were certainly relieved and had a refreshing and sound sleep.
In the morning we woke up bright and early, had a coffee with the mayor and wished him farewell. Half an hour later, we were already riding in the bunk of a tractor trailer, bound for Guatemala City. The trucker was a happy dude, honking at every girl he saw, listening to loud Spanish tunes and chain-smoking all the way. There was also a guard in the cab with us, he carried a pistol on his hip and said very little. We stopped a few times, one time to sell some diesel out of the tanks to some pirate-looking lads and the other time we stopped right in the middle of a very tall, two-lane bridge. The trucker really wanted us to enjoy the vista, so we all got out of the truck, the trucker pissed into the river far below, we snapped a few photos and were on our way again.
The day before we have heard that there is an active volcano nearby, where you can see the lava flow. That surely sounds ecxiting, so we went to see Vulcan Pacaya, near Esquintla. We slightly miscalculated our finances though, so when we got to the turn-off to the volcano we discovered that we only had enough quetzales for a bus back to Esquintla. Oh well, we thought, we'll just quickly go see the lava and be back in town before dark. What we did not realize was that we had to hike 8 kms up the hill, and also pay a tourist fee. The hike was enjoyable, we passed through two villages with no sewer system and when we arrived to the parking area we were met by a machete-wearing man, who asked us for a very steep entrance fee. We made surprized and tired face expressions and said that we just walked up this very hard and hot road, are very tired and are completely out of money! The tactic worked and we were allowed to continue up what now became a steep trail. At the top, the weather was much cooler.
The forest ended and we could see the lava fileds, the main crater puffing smoke and the secondary one oozing a little bit of lava. The lava was not flowing in rivers that day, it was mearly weakly spitting out of the secondary crater, sending some red-hot stones down the slope, a few hundred meters away from us. We enjoyed the sight for a few moments, and went back. On the way down we met a local guide who made his living by taking rich or lazy (or both) tourists up the trail on the back of his horse. He was very friendly with us, we chatted for a bit and he took us to an excellent spot to camp out for the night.
The next day we woke up feeling a bit hungry, we had no fuel in the stove to cook, so we decided to go back to Esquintla, get some cash out and eat. Ha! Little did we know that the multitude of Guatemalan banks do not deal with debit OR credit cards! We tried five or six of the banks, with no luck. The hunger was strong now, the day was hot and we were pretty close to panicking. There was one last hope: on the other end of town, the is a bank that MIGHT help us out. With our last strength we reached it and hallelujah! it worked.
Later in the day we caught a ride with gringo Bruce and his Guatemalan wife Adelia who invited us to come to their house and spend the night. We gratefully accepted and went with them, 20 kms off the main highway, on the dirt road between the never-ending sugar cane fields. When we got to the house, it was full of people, may be around 200, all the family, gather for the funeral of Adelia's grandmother. That night we had some beers with Bruce at the near-by village store, played checkers with a grandmother who kept saying "Ai, ai, ai, Santa Maria!" every time she lost a piece and had long conversations with Juan Jose, a very smart 12 year old who spoke very slow Spanish so that we could understand. We set up the tent while 30 kids followed our every move, giggling that we will sleep in this very small thing. They have also never seen a gringo with long hair, so it took some time to explain to them that in Canada it is so cold that long hair is necessary, and all Aboriginal people up North have long hair to help protect their heads from the cold.
In the morning we loaded into Bruce's car again and followed the coffin-carrying SUV back to the main road. The very first truck stopped for us, and took us almost to the border with El Salvador. There was a low-clearance bridge on the way, so we had to go around it on some dirt roads, again sugar cane everywhere.
Now we are in Salvador, and today was unfolding pretty good. The first ride this morning took us to a volcano-warmed river (the water must have been 25C) so we could have a bath and then bought us some coconuts, and we drank the milk with a straw.
Honduras and Nicaragua is next, and we are still loking for the map!


  1. now this sounds like the jasper trip, messed up, unplanned, with weird shit happening on the way. good luck amigos, i miss you :)

  2. Thanks guys, we promise to retell the stories to you all sitting by a kitchen table somewhere in Quebec, we are rehearsing all the time!

  3. but first you'll tell all the stories... by the kitchen table sitting somewhere in Santa Clara. :)

    You guys simply rock!

  4. Now I know how it feels when it's only you and your suitecase (backpack) in the whole world :) Very addictive feeling :)

  5. What what what? Tell us, what happened? We are intrigued!

  6. He moved to California last week!

  7. Oh, that! Yes, we´ve heard. We thought he hitch-hiked somewhere!