As soon as I can, I’ll update you on my one year trip. I’ve decided to leave everything behind and spend real time with the people that matter the most in my life: my wife and three children. This is my story, I hope it will inspire you to create yours.
You can read my previous “On the road” articles:
- On the road #1
- On the road #2
- On the road #3
- On the road #4
- On the road #5
- On the road #6
- On the road #7
- On the road #8
- On the road #9
- On the road #10
- On the road #11
- On the road #12
- On the road #13
Date: from October 20th to November 7th
States/Province traveled through: Mexico / Guatemala
As I’m writing this on the road, we are finishing an exquisite two weeks on Lake Atitlan. It is funny how I was first afraid to cross the Mexican border and then, I was quite anxious about getting into Guatemala. Their borders have more of a reputation, and I was anticipating this moment. But before this, let me tell you how San Cristobal the Las Casas is incredible…
Days #138 to #155 I almost died
As we arrived in San Cristobal, we had 6 hours of driving in our bodies and we started to feel a little tired. We turned in circles for about 20 minutes and we can’t find the trailer park. I decide to stop and start walking around. After a few minutes, I found out the trailer park doesn’t exist anymore and that I have to find another place to stay. I end-up in a super expensive parking lot (okay, super expensive meaning $27 CAD per night 😉 ). There is a washroom combined with a shower, that is worth the look! We will not take our shower here… hahaha!
We decide to park anyways and head for the Centro which is less than 5 minute walk.
The city feels safe and the more we walk toward the Centro, the more we are charmed by this pleasant and relaxing city. There is a very smooth vibe where lots of Europeans are chilling taking a coffee or having a beer on the many terraces. We end-up in an Italian restaurant hosted by Alessandro, self-proclaimed the “Cheeseman” as he is making his own cheese.
Since our parking lot sucks but the city looks amazing, we decide to stay the next day and explore the city. We left around 7 am and came back to our rig around 10 pm. Walking through San Cristobal the whole day left us with an impression that we know the city well. There were several small coffee shops (where I drank the best latte I’ve ever tasted while my children were playing dominoes), small boutiques and amazing architecture. We finished our day with a great glass of wine on a beautiful terrace. Definitely, San Cristobal is worth the stop!
Unfortunately, we had to leave the next day to get closer to the Guatemala border. We stopped at this amazing coffee place and then, we hit the road for a “resource-finding day”. Time to fill up the water tank, the LP gas tank, find a few more propane tanks for my BBQ and finally end-up in a Pemex Gas Station 6 km from the border for a “good” night of sleep before the big day! We felt surprisingly safe in the Pemex at night. Was it because the guy at the pump was super sweet or because there is a police officer with a shot gun sitting right besides our RV? I dunno 😉
As we wake up for the big day, my daughter started feeling sick. This wasn’t exactly what I hoped for right before crossing the border! Plan A was that my daughter was going to come with me for the paperwork. It is always better when you have a cute kid right besides you ;-). So we had to go with plan B, Caleb! This little 4 year old monkey helped us cross the border with a bunch of smiles and laughter. In fact, only the first guy at the Mexican immigration was quite unpleasant. Maybe that’s because he thought he would scam me by double charging the tourist card (in your face, I had kept my receipt!!!).
The Guatemala border took us less than 45 minutes to cross. Everybody was super pleasant and even the immigration boss was drinking beer at 9 am. Once we crossed the border, we entered a small city called La Mesila. I felt like a king, cranked-up the volume and start singing in my car… until I heard a big “bang!”… Damn it…the back of my awning hit a truck’s mirror. I stop on the side, my awning is broken, there is a big metal pole hanging in the wind… A pick-up stopped, it’s the truck owner’s friend. Yikes… I fix my awning pole with duct tape (probably the most useful thing in the world!) and take a walk to see the truck owner. Lucky for me, I have the tool to repair his mirror. I better do it fast as a police car just drove by. My heart stopped, but the police officer doesn’t even blink and keeps going. The Truck owner is trying to get some Quetzales out of me… I’m tired of fooling around with his mirror and see an opening to get out of this mess. Seven bucks? That’s a deal! Phew! We are finally on the road again.
The road from La Mesila to Lake Atitlan is quite boring. You pass 200 small villages with each of them have at least 4 tumoulos (speed bumps). So that makes 800 speed bumps before we turn right and exit the “highway” for the “road to hell”. A friend we met in Mexico told me about an incredible place on Lake Atitlan, but I would just have to be careful with my brakes… It can’t be that bad, right? After all, I got my training driving through the National Park and I just have to drive slowly in 1st gear. Everything will be smooth… yeah right! Have you ever figured that dropping 1,800 feet elevation within 3 km makes it a hell of a dangerous road? 1st gear? If I’m not pumping the breaks as hard as I would give CPR to my mother to save her, I’m off the cliff and we all die. It is so bad that I must stop 3 times to let my brakes cool off. A disastrous nightmare would be a kind word to describe what I’m living. After my heart stopped beating and my legs are numb as I pumped too hard on my brakes, I finally arrived in a third-world village where I look like a UFO. I drive slowly, I only have 3 miles left before reaching my destination. We are almost there, I’m coming… NOT! There is a celebration in the village. You know, the ones where they put grass and flowers on the ground and make art with it? Yeah… the one you can’t drive on with your big American rig either! It’s now 5 pm, we are driving since 9 am and we have to wait in our car for 3 hours the time it takes to finish their celebration. I’m ballistic. I get out of the car, and realize I’m about to lose my bike rack. The road was so terrible, I’m missing bolts here and there. The whole thing is about to give up its life. Since I have all the time in the world, I decide to take off my bikes while crying. I’m just dead tired. This whole event turns around as a kid comes by to talk to us. He likes my son’s bike. I look at my wife, we both cry and we give him the bike. You will never see a kid smile like that. I know the bike is worth a month of his father’s salary here… Crazy world.
We finally arrived at Pasaj Cap, our campground. Tired, exhausted, burnt… I couldn’t appreciate the place. Mind you, it was dark and I didn’t care. That night, I barely slept. I was frozen by the thought that I have to go back up, climbing (literally) this mountain with Freefall… mission impossible.
But then, I woke up the next morning, climbed up the hill and looked back. Here’s what I saw:
Yeah… we have landed in paradise. Literally. To be honest, it took me 2 days to admit that we found one of the very few place on earth that could taste like paradise. The weather is perfect (around 25 at day and 14 at night), the view is incredible, we can swim in the lake (we even did a “jump in the lake contest”), take fruit from the trees and visit as many villages as we want through a taxi boat or a Tuk-tuk (their 3 wheel taxis). There are hammocks everywhere we can use to relax and the host, Pierre, is simply amazing. He gets everything we need in a heartbeat and he even sells shrimps and red snapper along with wine to make great suppers.
We will decide to spend 2 weeks here. We took our time to visit and explore San Pedro, go to its market, visit Panajachel (not the most interesting city) and did a small hike in the jungle. We spent time in the small village nearby (San Marcos) where we ate a pizza from a small wood oven. Life is simple, it has slowed down a lot and we appreciate every single moment. The people are smiling at us, they stop us in the street to chat, we feel incredibly welcomed. We finally bought our hammock, we bought 4… our house will be filled with them!
The decision of slowing down even more was a great idea. Instead of visiting a bunch of places, we decided to do a few places, but to establish ourselves for a while. We are leaving today for Antigua for 2 days, and then we will stop for a week in El Salvador. We are getting closer to Costa Rica, everybody is anxious to get there!