“It’s going to be a great day!” That was what wifey said as we drove out of our camp and onto the main highway heading south from Coban Guatemala toward Guatemala city and eventually into Antigua our destination for the day. It had started off pretty good too, I’ll admit. We had slept in the parking lot of a hotel off of the highway. Parking lot does not do it justice though, it was a gorgeous garden. and we had been lulled to sleep the night before by rain on the pop top. Pulling down the drive toward the highway and making a left should have resulted in a decent wait for traffic to clear, but it was clear both ways so we turned with not so common ease.
The first hour of the drive was gorgeous. A curvy tree lined road with a mix of palm, pine and coffee. It was green and lush. The asphalt was smooth too with hardly a pothole. It seemed like every 100 meters there was a nursery selling every type of tropical plant and flower and tree. It’s funny how so many of the plants in these nurseries are the same as the ones they will sell you at places in the states as house plants and you will try as hard as possible to keep them alive yet never see them get as big or as bold as they do here where they are naturally occurring.
Hour 2 was a decent of about 4000ft. Gradually the tropics gave way to a desert landscape with dead scrubby bushes and the occasional cacti. The cool mountain air turned more humid and then hot and then a little hotter just for good measure. The vegetation withered. By the end of the second hour we had reached the bottom of our decent and were sweating. Not just because of the heat. The road had gone from good to bad as well. But we were happy and really excited to start the climb around the next bend.
Around that bend we went and the climb started but a mile later abruptly stopped. Being stuck in a traffic jam in Guatemala has an extra level of difficulty and danger that you don’t see in the states. A two lane road does not remain two lanes for long as every truck, car and moto begins to jockey for the front of the line. The most bold are the busses and semi trucks. Without hesitation they will pass on any side they wish, drive head on into oncoming traffic and then press their way back into line only when absolutely forced to, forcing others to bend at their weight. The SUV’s do the same but at increased speed and the motos zip and weave through the whole mess. This started to wear our nerves after a while especially added to the heat and probably some hunger as well. For an hour and a half we inched forward bit by bit on a clutch burning incline of a road. Fortunately through most of the wait Vega napped.
Finally we cleared the construction that was the catalyst of the whole mess, we were moving again. But it wasn’t long before we hit Guatemala city and landed in another traffic trap as if it were 5pm weekday in LA. All of the same trucks, busses, cars and motos puttered along. It is a testament to rigid emissions standards to be stuck in a Guatemalan traffic jam. We couldn’t roll the windows up due to the heat but having them down felt poisonous. This too eventually passed though, albeit after another hour and a half.
We thought we were home free, only another 30 min to Antigua! For the most part we were, traffic was flowing, and temperatures were cooling. The last 4 miles into Antigua is a steep decent on a one way two lane road that is well paved. Well paved but dangerously steep. Again standstill traffic! Stopped in traffic like this nose down left me constantly picking out which pole, house or guard rail I would aim toward if the brakes suddenly decided to stop working (we had replaced the lines by some guys in Campeche Mexico in a junk yard). It was a break burning decent rather than a clutch burning ascent. 45 min later we passed the bus that was sideways on the road and facing the wrong direction (Later that night it started to rain a bit and the oil and gas that collected on the road all the day earlier created an intensely slick situation for several other drivers).
Finally 6 and a half hours after starting we arrived at camp. Normally I think this is where the writer would describe how all of that was terrible but to have to do it with a screaming 2 year old in the back seat created exponential stress. Well our child rules she did great. She sang, she read books, she talked to her babies and at one point put her left hand on time out for hitting little baby. The drive was horrible all told but could have been much worse had she been in a mood. The downside of this was that arriving at camp tired from the road, sticky with dried sweat and hungry as hell she had all the energy in the world. First order of business for us was food.
While traveling we have definitely preferred being in nature. When we do get into the cities it is shocking at first, even small to medium cities in central America have a frenetic energy that does not sit so well after a hellish drive. Antigua was the same. Eventually after multiple days and actually multiple visits we have fallen in love with the place but that night it felt crazy. We plopped into the first restaurant we walked past (usually a terrible idea but this time it worked out ok) and ordered some pizza for V and some chicken for us. Vega was crazy energetic, wanting to run around and get into everything, darting up the stairs or out the door, and neither of had the energy to do anything about it. She is also currently in this stage where she wants her babies to talk to her. This means that one of us has to hold baby and pretend to make it talk to her. This is actually not so bad when you feel like doing it but this night neither of us did and she would not shut up about it. During our wait two little kiddos approached begging for money. You get used to this after a while, it is the same here as it was in Asia. Generally we don’t give money to children as it is never known whether they need it or are being forced into begging by their parents. Usually we try and just engage them and that almost always results in smiles, money or no.This time the younger wanted to stay and talk to/play with Vega. The older girl was however all business, and when it was clear we were not going to give she tried to usher her sister away. At first it was by pulling and then by hitting, it was pretty sad and the more we protested and told her not hit her sister the meaner she got. It was sad hearing her being dragged away from the restaurant crying. Some of the crying was normal for a child who just wants to stay and play and some of it was because her sisters abuses probably hurt.
Finally the pizza came and she settled a bit we took turns eating and feeding her, then marched back to the safety and solace of out van.
There is nothing a great nights sleep can’t cure and our frazzled nerves needed an antidote to the day we’d had. So, the sun being down and all got us as excited as our road weary selves could be. Time for pajamas, milk, stories and BED!
I HAVE TO POOP! She said it louder than she normally does and with a bit more urgency. Fortunately for us we have the porta potty (best $100 ever). I jumped into action, dropped her drawers, sat her on my lap so I could get them all of the way off, (we were just going to do pajamas after anyway) and then sat her on the toilet. As she sat there on the toilet not pooping I thought to myself, “man I really need to clean out this toilet, it stinks” and “why is she taking so long she seemed like she really needed to go?” and then again ”it really stinks!”
The answer to all of my questions sat smeared across my shorts and leg. She was taking so long because she already went and it stunk so bad because I had shit all over me.
I was done, I’d had my limit. I wanted to scream. At her. It wasn’t her fault of course but I could barely breathe. As a parent it is easy enough to check out of your emotions at these times and do what needs to be done, in this case clean up myself and her and I did. But when all of that was done I was boiling and it boiled out… “I want to go home! I want to sleep in my Bed! I want a shower every f-ing night!!!!!!!
Living in 70 square feet can be a challenge for sure but there is a certainty in either van life or regular life. You will get pooped on, and pooped on after a very long hard day.
I whined like a little baby and my wonderful wife kicked me out of the van effectively putting me on time out and read stories to my daughter.
Sorry folks no photos on this post. Sorry not sorry.
OK just on...