Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 12 and counting...

Yesterday, after another great breakfast (thank goodness) we headed off to Tapachula Mexico which is about half an hour from the Guatemalan border. Had a perfectly good drive with Old Red still running without a hitch (still haven´t had to add any oil). We went on a side trip to visit the waterfalls at El Chiflon, which were absolutely fantastic. I´m sorry but more technical difficulties are preventing us from posting pics or video, but hopefully we can do this tomorrow from Guatemala City, which is that day´s destination.

So yesterday all was going well until... We had to drive a steep and winding road over the continental divide and were talking about how we should just make it in the daylight when we rounded a corner and all traffic was at a dead stop. Rats - probably a wreck or construction to slow us down a bit. After sitting their for a while we found out there actually was a Zapatista protest blocking the road about a kilometer up from us. No way anybody could pass. First it was talk of a 30-60 minute delay, then 3 hours, then noon the next day! We knew there was a town close by so went looking for a hotel. I don´t know how this town rates to get on the map, but it was definitely a one horse town that was also missing both ears and its tail. Found the only hotel and we were NOT going to stay there. So off we went to the local gas station mulling over our options, such as driving about 7 hours around the mountains to get to Tapachula. While topping off the gas, we were chatting with the attendant about our situation. He says there is a road (dirt with no signs) around the protest and since by now it was quite dark we said thanks but no. Well, he had a buddy hanging around who said he would be our guide for 100 pesos. I gladly accepted, knowing that I would have to be on my guard to spot a potentially dangerous situation. Off we went up a narrow windy paved road, and much to our comfort soon found ourselves in a convoy of others who knew this back way. Then a hard right to a nasty narrow dirt road for many miles. Dust so bad I mostly couldn´t see the road ahead and actually had to use my wipers to clear the windshield! Still, we were in the convoy and felt reasonably safe. It was a really slow drive, but all of a sudden it got even slower; traffic came to a halt. One by one the cars in the convoy crept over this bridge with all these guys hanging around- Zapatistas! So our turn came. Turns out all they wanted was extortion to the tune of 50 pesos for us and another 50 for our guide. I think they use this money for the matching T-shirts they were wearing. We paid, they lifted the cable blocking the bridge, they were friendly and we were relieved to see no weapons. Still a bit unnerving (especially to my mom when she reads this) but a hell of a story...

Went over this really BIG mountain very slowly in the dark and made it into Tapachula about 4 hours later than we expected, which was kind of ok because it was not a town you want to spend much time in...

So this morning another snafu. Got up early after not much sleep to get to the border to transfer title to the truck. Drove the half hour to the border and all these locals came running after us. Turns out you have to cancel the papers we got upon entry to Mexico and guess what - can't do that at the border! So this one guy climbs in the back of Old Red and off we go to Tapachula again and then some - had to cross town and get out of the city on the far side to find a checkpoint where they did the paperwork. Then back to the border where we passed through the Mexican checkpoint no problem and wound up kind of in a no man's land between border checkpoints. And here we still sit, after being here all day. Apparently this sort of title transfer takes some time - LOTS of time. We managed to show up at the busiest time for this sort of thing so now we are paying the price. Instead of staying on beautiful Lake Atitlan tonight in Panajachel, we are now staying at the border. Hopefully we can get on the road early tomorrow but right now who knows...

If you are following this blog or are a first time visitor - don't forget that it's not too late to donate to the wonderful group of doctors that we are travelling to Guatemala in support of and get a tax deduction for 2009! Just click on this link: www.lampcharity.org/donate - it's realy easy. And thanks for everyone's support.

Hopefully pics and video tomorrow...


  1. Dear ones--I think we were reading while you were writing--the display took a big pause after Tapachula, and then the border adventure appeared after I finished sorting the stuff on my desk. What a couple of days! I do hope you get some good scenery between the border and Guatamala City, not to mention a good bed tonight. We're always glad to see that you are OK, and gladder when you've seen a beautiful sight or a celebration.

    You might be able to make a $ or two with a guidebook to border-crossing.

    Love, Mom (Dad, too)

  2. Holy f***in sh*t! That kind of fun is tooo much fun! Tomen una cerveza! Una o dos mas! O seis mas!

  3. ..and did anyone ask if you had enough beer? Just don't get a flat tire. Asi es Mexico y centro america. Cuidado.
    from, scritch's side-kick

  4. Another cloudless cold day here--18.5 degrees when we got up. Hope you are warmer, and safely in bed in a comfortable Guatemalan hotel. Bless you both--Love, Mom

  5. Hey Don,remember me?? We met in January this year on a fishing trip. I work at Las Vertientes here in Guatemala. I recently found out about your odessey in "Old Red" so I had to check out your Blog to see how it was going.

    First of all I have to say: Congratulations on such a nobel cause, you trully are a very cool "gringo". Not many people I know would give a truck away to charaty, even more, one with such sentimental value. So I just wanted to tell you how proud I am to have met you, and hope all went well on your travel.

    I hope you post your progess soon, because Im eager to know how it all ended. Hope I get to share a few Gallos with you soon.

    Your freind,

    Alvaro Fernandez