A close call, a GPS fail and a major traffic jam…Guat next?

Back down to El Retiro to collect our backpacks we made a beeline for the return collectivo to Coban which was due any minute, then we waited and waited for one. Time was passing, the day getting long in the tooth, as us and two other couples started wondering if we’d missed the last of the transport out of town, knowing that 2pm was usually the last one back to Coban.

Old LAnquin Church.  Lanquin, Guatemala.
Old church in Lanquin, where the congregation were singing a Spanish hymn to the perfect tune of Simon & Garfunkles ‘Sounds of Silence’

Our ride finally arrives at 2.30pm, we’re loaded in, and the driver starts to leave, only to realise one member of the Austrian/Norwegian couple is still outside trying to load the second of their bikes onto the roof. Soon enough we were trundling back down the hill through town with a German couple that had just arrived but forgot to get off in Lanquin (easy mistake…we almost did the same as the bus goes in a circle around town with no defined bus stop and nobody telling you to get off).

Chicken on a Bus.  Lanquin, Guatemala.
Live luggage on the minivan from Lanquin to Coban

Bikes loaded and the German couple dumped on the roadside, we wound back up the hill, dozing in and out of sleep until three kilometers out of town we were side swiped by a small truck!!!! Jolting Sarah awake she was slammed into the lady next to her while Matt had the side of the van rammed into his shoulder.  The driver of the other car was well drunk and claiming that it was our drivers fault. Out of nowhere around 40 people appear on the road and surround the two vehicles, popping up out of the surrounding villages to enjoy the afternoons entertainment.

Side swiped by a drunk driver.  Lanquin, Guatemala.
Close call on the drive back from Lanquin, lucky we didn’t take Porkchop with us!

This goes on for 30 minutes until Matt pipes up and points out that the drunk driver had clearly been on our side of the road, as he’d driven through a patch of mud before the impact and then back onto his side of the road, evident by the dirty tracks he’d left on the tarmac. He too must have had a dislike for tourists as the impact was right at Matt’s window and continued back past the only three western couples on the bus! If it wasn’t for us stopping him, the truck would have easily plunged off the road and down into the valley below.

With only a slightly jarred shoulder, stiff necks and the locals giving their thanks to god, we safely arrived back in Coban, were driven past the bus stop and dropped off at the panel repair shop, leaving us with yet another unforeseen walk, this time with our packs on. We finally made it to the park gates at closing time and promptly slumped onto the bed and fell into unconsciousness. With peace and quiet wrapped in a blanket of darkness we were far removed from Coban town centre and the constant truck horns blaring through the night.

Guatemala.
Lanquin, Guatemala

Up at sparrows fart for the journey to Antigua, it wasn’t long until another climb up in to the mountains this time complemented with a totally impenetrable fog.  Barely able to see more than five meters in front of us, we began to write off the prospect of making Antigua that day.  Luckily enough the cloud cleared just in time for us to reach another mile stone, 30,000kms!  On top of a mountain pass in the middle of nowhere we pulled over and celebrated hardcore with a packet of chips each.  Rock n Roll.

Major milestone in the Guatemalan highlands...30,000km!
30,000km milestone in the Guatemalan highlands

Blissfully cruising along after passing the small mountain village of Tactic, we couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic. The white wooden fences following the roadside along with the winding valley’s foggy green hills made us feel like we were back in the Okanagan Valley in Canada, taking the familiar drive from Big White ski resort down to Kelowna. As we were discussing this a big bright yellow American school bus comes flying around the corner, and we definitely felt like we weren’t in Guatemala anymore!

Enjoying the view in the highlands
Enjoying the view in the Guatemalan highlands

Making the decent in Guatemala City after some long, steep and windy hill climbs and descents, we were confident of the route through, though the lack of any helpful signage began filling us with doubt.  With a GPS that only showed the main roads on a slightly off path location, we both saw the correct turn off fly past us as passed over the bridge and our intended route to Antigua. Awesome. Now if you’ve driven in Guatemala City you’ll know that it’s a nightmare if you miss your turn off.

Cutting laps in Guatemala city...you can bet we didn't fight about THAT all morning
Cutting laps in Guatemala City…no, we didn’t argue about getting lost at all…not once…all day…

Now jammed in traffic 1km past our turn off, with no other choice but to stick it out, we were entertained by a rambunctious roadside sunglasses vendor, who swapped us some good luck necklaces whilst Sarah scored a pair of aviators for USD$2.  Lost for 1.5 hours and having to make a massive loop, we were back on the right track, though this time HUNGRY!

Hearing so much about Pollo Campero, the Central American equivalent of KFC, it had eluded us since our arrival, even with all the locals telling us ‘it’s everywhere’.  Finally off in the distance, mingled with the other fast food giants, the happy looking chicken is offering a warm welcoming smile.  Pulling in and getting a 2 piece combo with drink, fries and salad, the taste buds weren’t left amazed and with the inflated prices we drove off unsatisfied, finally on the right road to Antigua.

For more photos Flickr has everything you need!

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