Our last stop in Guatemala was the beautiful colonial town and UNESCO Heritage site of Antigua. A city flanked by active volcanoes on all sides that is so beloved by its people that even though it has been flattened multiple times by devastating earthquakes, it keeps getting rebuilt. We actually had an earthquake while we were here, but it was just a little one (by San Francisco standards).
In Antigua you can camp at the tourist police, a compound in the heart of the city for free. It is probably one of the most convenient city camp sites in Central America. We were lucky enough to show up and find Toby and Chloe and Sarah and Hani from Adventures in Skyhorse parked in the campground, along with other overlanders from South Africa, Switzerland, France and Germany. It was a full house and we all had a blast visiting the sites of the city together and blowing our budget in great restaurants and rooftop bars watching smoking volcanoes as the sun went down swapping road stories.
However, what I will now always remember about Antigua is our departure. As we were leaving the tourist police in the early AM to drive the five hours to the Honduran border we caused a bit of a scene. As we were exiting the tourist police headquarters, they raised the barrier for us to pass. There was a rope that hung off the end of the barrier and as we were driving through it got caught on our solar panel and we pulled if forward enough to split the piece of wood the barrier was balanced on. All of a sudden we were surrounded by about fifteen police officers looking at the damage with unhappy faces. Crap.
I offered to give them enough money to get it fixed, but they said they did not want money. What they said after that was confusing (it was all in Spanish) so I went to get Sarah who speaks great Spanish to translate. She said we could not leave until WE fixed it. Sam and I looked at each other in panic, we don’t have the power tools needed to do what we thought they wanted. In fact, nobody was even sure what was needed since the reason the wood split was because it was rotting (which became our problem…..)
Over the next two hours Sarah translated what we were doing as Hani pulled out the Skyhorse tool collection (every power tool you could dream of) and fixed the barrier with us (or for us…) even though they too were planning on crossing a border that day and had a very long drive ahead of them.
Fixing the barrier was a combination of MacGyver ingenuity and patience. We not only had to fix the broken pole but they wanted us to make it stronger, so we had to reinforce it with another large piece of wood. My patience was challenged because what they were making us do was slightly ridiculous in my opinion, but Sarah and Hani were so easy going about it they kept me calm. After a few hours, the barrier was better than it was before and we all left for a long day of driving and border crossings. Lets just say it was a VERY long day. If Hani and Sarah were not there, I am honestly not sure what we would have done. They seriously saved us, such awesome people! I hope we can pay it forward someday.
Just a side note, one of the reasons we all thought it was important to do what the police wanted is that we did not want to ruin this awesome campsite for future overlanders. We had heard that a few months earlier they had stopped letting people camp because a group of overlanders (not sure who) had a loud party and were drinking in the compound outside and the police captian was not happy about it. They had just started letting people camp again. It was important to us that we left on positive terms so future travelers could stay here. They were really happy with the new and improved barrier and we were happy to finally leave!
So when future overlanders visit the tourist police, look at the barrier with the wood bolted to the front and think of us. Also, make sure the rope does not get caught on your vehicle on your way out…….
It never gets boring, I will say that much.