So much happened in our time in the Guatemala highlands, it is hard to figure out which stories and adventures to tell, so here are my favorites:
We drove from Tikal and ended up in a beautiful mountain resort outside Coban, where Sam got a high fever and we bunked down for a few days while he got better. During this time I walked alone into some of the traditional highland villages like San Cristobal Verapaz (I did not bring a camera so no pictures). It was so different exploring alone. Women, especially in Guatemala, are very timid around men, so when I am with Sam (which is always) it was hard to connect with them. But alone they were much more open to me. At one point some boys were calling out to me, and three older women in their beautiful embroidered huipiles and skirts came around me and had me walk with them back along the trails to our camp spot balancing pots of water and soaked corn on their head. There is something so beautiful about the universal connection of women, I will have to explore more on my own in the future.
The road from Coban to Nebaj is stunning, rough and heart stopping at points. A few years ago a giant landslide took out a huge portion of this road, the locals basically carved a new one out of the ruble. It was one of my favorite drives so far on this trip (I took video of the drive, one day I will post it…) However, at the end of it, we had our biggest driving disaster of the trip and perhaps my lowest moment of the last nine months.
When we got to Nebaj, we were trying to get to Acul, a small village which was basically over a mountain range. Our GPS was showing a road, and we asked six different set of locals if we were heading on the right road. They all said yes. The road we were on started out pretty tight, but we just assumed it would get better. Bad assumption.
The road began a steep climb up dirt switch backs and both Sam and I thought (a little too late) that there was no way that we were on a road for vehicles. The problem was, the road got so narrow, we could not turn around and we were already about a mile in. The XP was up on a switch back so steep I slipped down backwards as I got out to see how the hell we were going to get back down this road.
Sam put on the emergency break and got out. We exchanged looks of panic. Sam calmly told me he was going to have to go BACKWARDS down the crazy road we barely just made it up. We had no other choice. It was insane. He asked me to help him make sure he did not drive off the edge, but I was a useless mess. After the first backward switchback we were on 2.5 wheels and almost tipped and I just crumbled in the dirt. I am a pretty strong person, but I just felt helpless and panicked. We were in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Guatemala at dusk and I was not sure if we were going to get out of this mess. We were in deep shit, there is no nice way to put it.
I have no pictures of this nightmare for the blog, I could barley function at the time. Sam on the other hand was amazing. He calmly went backward down the mountain. It took a long time after driving over six hours along crazy mountain passes. Sometimes he had to go back and forth 20-30 times because it was so tight. I have honestly never been prouder of him. He was so calm and confident. He saved us. We got to Acul just before dark with a few deep barbed wire scratches on the side of the XP, but nothing worse. I made myself the stiffest cocktail I have ever had (and that is saying something!) and finally began to relax. The funny thing was, it was such a low for me during the moment, but I was completely over it the next day and ready for more adventures. That night we met two adventurous Israeli couples who we had a delicious family style farm dinner with sharing bottles of wine and travel stories. The fact that we almost ruined our overland rig just hours earlier began to fade.
Ironically, the trail we were on was the HIKING trail from Nebaj to Acul and we hiked it the following day and it was a challenging hike gaining 1500 feet in just 45 minutes. I can’t believe we drove the truck up it…….
So, what have I learned from all this? I now scout out sketchy roads for about a mile before we drive on them. Also, when we ask about roads, we now ask if they are roads for large vehicles, not mules…..