Hearing about the tranquil beach village of Monterrico, located within a reasonable distance of the El Salvador border, it made perfect sense to spend the night here rather than risk a late night border crossing into the unknown.
Tearing down from the Guatemalan highlands to the Pacific Slope, testing the brakes to their limits, the temperature rose and traditional dress goes out the window, replaced by shorts and singlets. Flickering shadows make spotting the pot holes impossible with the shocker absorbers taking a bit of a pounding.
Much roadwork is being down along the Pacific route as they plan on making this the new truck route that’s easier on the roaring beasts. From Rio Bravo the roads are great except that they’re still working on all the bridges, with this being the only thing that slows our progress. In the distance we start to pass the chain of volcanoes that extends from Quetzaltenango pass Lake Atitlan to Antigua, with ever fuming Volcano Fuego venting it’s anger several times in the distance.
Turning right at Taxisco onto an atrocious road, we had no choice but to take this or turn around and drive back to an earlier missed road at Escuintla. Persevering we avoided almost being thrown off the road by a particularly nasty pothole, arriving at the end of the road hoping to be greeted with a previously read about car ferry. At the dock however all that was spread out before us were some flat bottomed wooden boats, barely standing a foot out of the water. Surely there had to be some kind of mistake.
There’s a board posting the prices and not having encountered a ferry situation like this before, we couldn’t quite make complete sense of the situation with the captain in his rapid Spanish. Driving off we found the police station and entered to enquire some more. Finally starting to realise that there is a car ferry, we return to the dock and upon a second inspection start to comprehend that these boats are in fact the car ferries.
Edging the van on to the wooden boat that barely seems to float above the murky brown waters, sweat wells up on any surface of skin that soon produces puddles dotted all around the neck, makes the brake pedals slippery, the steering wheel is like a face cloth and the last thing we want to hear is the captain tells use to give it some revs. My dear God above, has this bloke got any idea how much crap we’ve accumulated on this trip? That this is our house not just our car on the verge of meeting a watery grave? Apparently not.
Dropping the back wheels on we were amazed that this driftwood built wooden dingy barely dropped an inch! Relieved, most likely due to the coconut rum in hand, we push off and, with a pissy little 15 horsepower outboard motor, struggle to a top cruising speed of half a knot. Relief soon turned to disbelief as back at the dock the distant noise of yelling and whistling came directly across the water to us. Instantly hair on the back of our necks sprang up as though something really bad is taking hold.
Suddenly, and thankfully carefully, the captain turns the barge directly toward the mangroves. Looking back, (we’re sure we still have whiplash) we see another car on the banks waiting for a lift. You’re kidding aren’t ya? No way he’s putting that on with us. A 20 point turn completed to perfection and we’re putting our way back to collect a tiny little hatch back, thank Christ. Back down the river with boats skillfully passing so as not to send a wake across our bow that would have surely sent Porkchop to an early watery grave, we safely and dryly reach the end of the line.
Montericco hasn’t got much to offer, though it’s a nice chilled place that takes an effort to get to, and although it lacks a safe swimming beach, it makes up for it with the tranquil vibe and stunning sunsets. With a lack of van parking and camping facilities, we ended up in a family house with paid parking. Finding that, as usual, the van is hotter than the surface of Mercury we retire to the closet beach side bar for some liquid refreshment. Ending up at Johnny’s place, Sarah’s quickly sold on the oh so cute nightly releasing of little baby turtles that have been dug up in the middle of the night so some company can profit from the little blighters.
We’re positive without a doubt that this is the real reason back in Belize one pissed off green turtle took all opportunities to gain revenge by taking chunks out of unassuming snorkelers. You would be pissed off too if you were cozied up in the womb and wrenched out days before you’re ready to leave the comfort of your shell (ok so this probably isn’t entirely true, but some of the turtles are held in tanks for days in the slow season so the company can profit, working off their energy swimming in pointless circles, which they should be spending crashing through waves to get to the high seas….thankfully it was high season so Sarah feels a bit better about herself).
All’s well that ends well and the aptly christened Captain Tortuga was swiftly released with the rest of the well pissed off and mostly tired turtles, only craving the feeling of sand between their flippers and fresh sea water soaking their little turtle faces. With a name like Captain Tortuga, ours was destined for deep ocean glory, and would soon be sailing the high seas chowing down on an environmentally destroying diet of sea grass, those bloody vegetarians!
Next morning deciding not to fork out the USD25 for the return ferry we take the long road around to the Port of San Jose and to the frontier of Guatemala border on EL Salvador.
Everybody needs to check out Guatemala, but if you’re still not convinced check out more of our pics on Flickr!