Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Utter madness

Easter is pretty much everywhere in this world not a time to be on the road. In Guatemala, where traffic on normal days is already pretty bizarre, Easter is utter madness. On days like these there are two kinds of drivers on the road in Guatemala, the ones that can't drive and the ones that don't care. Having travelled through Mexico and Belize is not enough preparation for what they do on the roads in Guatemala during Easter, as we found when we went further south.

I'm not sure what the requirements are to obtain a drivers license in Guatemala but a safety course is certainly not one of them. Maybe a slalom is part of them… it would explain the way they drive…! Riding down a main road south, the only road we could take, was at times bizarre.

The scenery was amazing, especially the first bit coming out of the mountains. The night had been pretty cold, refreshingly cold actually, but as soon as we left the mountains the heat surrounded us like a blanket. The lush green forests where the Quetzal bird still seems to live made way for dry brown landscapes. 
When we stopped for a drink and a chain lube session a Guatemalan did its utmost best to sell us slices of water melon… He made quite a show of it and would not take no for an answer. Jeanette tried to explain that watermelon slices don't go all that well on a motorcycle, so he offered us the whole thing instead…! After trying to sell his watermelons to anyone that came past for half an hour without any success he left moaning and groaning that no-one would buy his beautiful watermelons. 

Further down the watermelons made way for coconuts, then oranges and mangos. Unfortunately the mountain-people with their traditional clothes and way of life also made way for modern life… When filling the tanks at a petrol station we were greeted with insane loud 'music' belting out of huge speakers… Why? No idea but it's one of the things we have somehow become used to. It's never really quiet anywhere in this part of the world.

We stopped for a hamburger at Burger King… actually we stopped for air-conditioning and internet. We had already seen heavily armed police everywhere and are quite used to armed guards everywhere too. Having two of them just to guard the Burger King parking area was new to us too though… One of them made it his job to guard our motorcycles… with a massive shotgun! Hmmm. We were so surprised that non of us even made a photo of it! The local supermarket thought it was a good idea to hire a DJ to attract customers. The DJ brought his 1000 Watt amplifier… no idea why.

The last part of our route seemed to have suffered earth-quake damage as big sections of the road simply dropped away, no warning signs just a drop of half a metre or more… The many topes in Guatemala are almost all of the extremely high and sharp variety. I had wondered what would happen if we'd miss one, today we found out when we saw a car by the side of the road on top of a tope with a broken axle. The car had been there for a while too… it was jacked up and supported by rocks!

The end of the day was going to be a free camp spot… We're not keen on them anymore as 99% of them are parking lots. In this case we hoped against our better judgement that this one would be ok as there was nothing else around. Arriving at the hotel/restaurant we noticed the dusty parking area and our spirits sunk two miles below sealevel. For some strange reason they were renting out pushbikes too… riding a bicycle on a road full of Guatemalans… Why would you? Next to the bicycles we found an ostrich… What kind of place is this I wondered. I went to the restaurant to ask for camping options and found very friendly people… who didn't speak a word of English. Still, they seemed to understand what I was looking for and didn't say no… We were sent to the football ground next to the pool…? Bicycles, an ostrich, football ground and a pool… I was seriously beginning to wonder if this was Guatemala's version of Disney World. We asked again at the swimming pool and were met by someone who was totally surprised with my question… Then someone gave me the impression we had to follow him… no idea why, who he was or where we were going, he drove onto the football field and said in broken English we could camp there! On the football field! Not only that, which football field is lined with Mango trees?

We could use the toilets from the pool and even found they had Wifi…! The charge for all this was, niks, noppes, nada! Sometimes the most unexpected happens in the most unlikely places!