Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Umma Gumma Hostel

Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"You'll never guess what happened when I took Lilianna to the grocery store today. I was just sitting in my van, minding my own business when these two gringos came up to my window. In very poor Spanish they asked me to take them and 3 of their friends all the way to Antigua!"

That's probably what Juan told his friends that night (in proper Spanish!). That's right, Mario and I solicited a lift from a random guy in a pick-up truck on the streets of Xela. But don't worry, he was a family man and the 5 of us could easily overpower him if push comes to shove. We'll be the ones doing the pushing and shoving!

The traditional modes of transport were just too extortionate - the tourist shuttle, the long distance bus, the freight vans. Besides, we'd much rather hand over some cash to the little guy (no pun intended!). Once we agreed on Q600 we hopped in the back and got comfy for the 5 hour journey. Mario was "encouraged" to sit upfront to practice his Spanish (a la phrase book) with Juan and his wife. They have 3 adult kids, two of them are married. At one point when Mario felt uncomfortable with Juan's speed he said "Mas despacio, por favor". Juan reassured him that he used to drive trucks for a living and that once he even drove all the way to Las Vegas over 10 days!

Overall it was a pleasant enough journey - we enjoyed the views of volcanoes, villages, shops, people and election posters galore. Juan had the foresight to tie down the canopy BEFORE the daily rainfall started around 3pm. The only other "stone in our path" was in fact, a huge rockslide that totally covered our lane and half of the other. Rockslides are part and parcel of life in a volcanically and seismically active country like Guatemala.

It was scary to think that there was no way anyone or anything could have survived if they were unfortunate to be underneath it. Even scarier is knowing that if we were about 10 minutes earlier... There were so many rocks that we couldn't even establish whether any vehicles were underneath. The earthmovers were on the scene surprisingly quickly. We suspect they rushed over from the construction sites further along the road. They cleared a single lane to let traffic ease through. 

We were back on our merry way and in no time, we arrived safely in Antigua. Some of us managed to nap while others squeezed in some Spanish audio lessons. Mario says that Liliana seemed mesmerised by all the sights along the way that Juan pointed out to her. Apparently it was her first time in Antigua and we were pleased that we inadvertently made it happen.

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