Dennis wasn’t very complimentary about the coffee plantation, yesterday, but I have to say it had a great little coffee shop and did an excellent cappuccino.
We weren’t very happy in the morning as there was no water in the shower or toilets. We thought the plantation had just turned it off. After he grumbled at one of the poor girls doing the cleaning, one of the English speaking guys told us it was a problem with the whole village.
Well, things have really turned pear shaped today. When we went to leave we were advised we would have to be escorted out as the gate needed to be opened for us. The President has ordered all tourist attractions, businesses and non-food shops to close. The plantation usually does tours, but they are no longer allowed to do so.
Once on the road we have around 250kms to go to get to camp Pasaj Cap on Lake Atitlan. Sarah has been WhatsApping us and urging us to come quickly. The campsite is full and the owner, Frenchman, Pierre, is turning other campers away and is anxious we are not going to arrive. 250kms in a day doesn’t seem much, but we are unprepared for the difficulties we will face.
At the first large town we come to, San Cristobal Verapaz, we are stopped by policemen wearing face masks. Communication is a problem with our limited Spanish and their lack of English. Goggle Translate once again comes to our assistance. They want to know where we are going. We tell them we have a reservation at Pasaj Cap at Lake Atitlan. They have a chat among themselves and then tell us we have to follow them. They escort us through the town. We are not allowed to stop. They take us out to the far side of the town.
After this the road deteriorated seriously and we were on an unsurfaced section. Rough and steep, so progress was slow. Sarah keeps messaging us to find out how we are progressing and urges us not to stop for lunch.
We reach a town called Uspantan, still with 190kms to go. Every time we get into a sizeable town the Sat-Nav and Maps.Me get confused. They want to take us the wrong way down one-way streets. We’ve lost our way somewhere and find ourselves on a very small, rough track. After a few miles we stop, as we are not convinced we are going the right way. A van stops beside us and we ask if it is the way to Chichicastenango. The driver shakes his head and points us back in the direction from which we have come.
Once back in Uspantan we find the right road. We have wasted time here. The road surface varies. Some isn’t too bad, some is potholed and terrible, some very steep up and down and everywhere there are speed bumps – here they call them tumulos.
It is 2.30pm and we still have 150kms to go. We stop for some lunch and a break. It is tiring being jolted all over the place and constantly having to watch for tumulos. Sarah is getting anxious, but we are determined to make it.
As the afternoon progresses we find better roads but we have two large towns to go through and wonder if the police might stop us again. We are in luck and although they have a good look, they don’t stop us.
What is concerning is the reaction of some people. They pull up their shirts and cover their faces or grab a handkerchief when they see us. They are obviously afraid. We are foreigners. Are we bringing in the Coronavirus?
At about 6pm when the light is fading we reach the CA-1. The Pan-American Highway. A dual carriageway. We are flying along. We have to take a left turn, which we miss. Luckily we are able to do a U-turn in a garage.
The road heading down to Lake Atitlan is very fortunately paved. At first it is slow again, due to so many tumulos. By now it is almost dark. We can see the lights of the villages by the Lake way down below. Our navigation systems give big, red exclamation marks, warning us of danger. There is a mist coming down too. Sarah says it was just as well we could not see where we were going. The descent was terrifying. The steepest road, with the most tight hairpin bends I have ever experienced.
We arrive in the village of San Marcos, where the campsite is located. We check with a policewoman that we are going the right way. In the dark as we leave the village, it seems as if we are in the middle of nowhere. Soon a large wall with a closed gate greets us. This is our destination. Sarah has told us to give 3 short rings on the bell and they will come and let us in. Pierre has already gone home.
We were greeted by quite a community of “overlanders”. All pleased we had managed to make it. With us, 13 vehicles. Americans, Canadians, French, German, Kiwis, Swiss and Brits.
We were exhausted. A quick dinner, a large g’n’t, then we went to have a chat with Tim and Sarah. What developments will this crazy scenario bring tomorrow. Worrying times.