Semuc Champey, Guatemala: Day 4

IMG_5452

Player 1: “I raise you Albania roads and Costa Rica roads.”

Player 2: “I’ll take that bet and raise you Guatemala roads.”

Player 1: “I fold.”

All remaining Players: “Fold.”

Player 2: “Even before you see the river card?”

Player 1: “Yeah, of course, if you are raising Guatemala roads, you must have a pair of aces in the hand!”

Point: Holy Guacamole!!! Guatemalan roads are terrible whether paved or not! I am in the Pothole Capital of the world. The only thing Guatemala has more of than potholes are tire repair shops! Tire repair shops and, perhaps, speed bumps! You don’t need the speed bumps Guatemala. No one has or will ever increase their speed above probably 20-30 kmph. They can’t! And isn’t a speed bump just an inside out pothole anyway? Why don’t you take the asphalt/tar/concrete/whatever and pour it into the potholes. Better use of resources..I’m just saying.

IMG_5456So what does this mean? Especially given the curvaceous mountains, the many switchbacks and the fact that more than half of the trip from Panajachel to Semuc Champey is really just driving through a rock quarry? It means that when you map your route either on maps.me or Google Maps and it says 133 miles that doesn’t mean 2.3 hours or less like it would in the states. In our case, Carla and I walked to the docks at 6:30 a.m., paid 25 quetzales to get back to Pana by boat, paid 200 quetzales for our bus ticket to Semuc and left Pana at 8:20 a.m. We arrived in Lanquin at 7:30 p.m. and after only one flat tire in route. Only one! We were blessed (and in more ways than one which I’ll explain later).

Hear me: If you are prone to motion sickness, this is when you are going to need your Transderm patch aka Scopolomine. It’s a life saver for me as it made it possible for me to travel around the world whether in boats, planes, trains or automobiles whereas before I had it I could not. I took a pre-scop ferry from Mykonos to Santorini Greece once and wanted to jump overboard – that’s how bad it used to be for me. But now, as you know, I do everything and go everywhere because of the Scopolamine. Get your doctor to write you a script and fill it before you leave and take it with you wherever you go. PS you don’t feel drugged and sleepy like with Dramamine or other OTC drugs. The patch is amazing. If you don’t have any then peppermint candy and gum, sip on a sugary drink, eat some bread or other carbs, lay your head down if you can (preferably on a hot guy’s lap) and/or try to get the front seat. And AC or windows down or whatever you have to do to get air on you including riding on the top of a vehicle or boat etc (wouldn’t do that with a plane though!) I guess you can also stare at the horizon as so many people suggest but that never worked for me.

So back to the story….essentially 13 hours after we began our journey we made it to Lanquin where there was someone from our hostel, Utopia, with a pick up truck (standing room only) to drive us the remainder of the way to Semuc Champey which took about 45 mins maybe more. Really cool yet a bit nuts bouncing around for 45 minutes in the back of a pick up standing room only. Cool in part bc you are under the stars and for us the new moon and surrounded by mountains you cannot see because it is dark (only new not full moon).

Here’s what I didn’t know before I got on that 20 person shuttle bus:

I saw our driver Julio take his hat off and rest his forehead on the steering wheel for about 60 seconds before we pulled out of the gas station and while I know it is none of my business, it tugged at my heart so I had to ask: “Did you just pray?” “Yes.” he said. “I prayed that I may get all of you safely to your destination.” At the time I thought he meant that we don’t wreck or slide off one of the many cliffs or have bus trouble but given Julio is a bit of a crazy driver and exceeded at times the 20-30 kmph, it seemed like a strange prayer i.e. perhaps it should have been “I pray to get them there despite my horrific driving.”

Turns out, this was not what he was praying for. But before I tell you I want you to keep this one thing in mind: Awful things happen sometimes and can happen anywhere even in your own country. There is no denying this. And there is no denying the prevalence of bad things in some countries over others but this generally is because you don’t hear about it in some countries like you do in others. (Perhaps because, like in New York or other western places, it happens all the time so it is less newsworthy.) Just because this time it happened in Guatemala doesn’t mean that Guatemala is a bad place or is inhabited by bad people. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Guatemala is filled with lovely people and is a lovely place. Most travelers that come here like it better than perhaps other Central American countries.

Now with that in mind, a 20 person shuttle bus used by only tourists leaving Antigua and headed to Leon, Nicaragua never made it there. Three “thugs” pulled along side the shuttle shooting guns and ran the bus off the road. The driver was tazed and the thugs drove the bus into the bush far from the roads, bound the feet and hands of the passengers behind their backs with their shoelaces. Their faces shoved into the rocks and with the recently fired hot muzzles of their guns to the back of the heads of the male tourists, the men savagely raped the girls and without getting into details did many more terrible things to the girls and forced them at gunpoint to do terrible things to them. The male tourists were absolutely powerless as they were forced to witness this depravity. This went on for hours before it ended and they were left for dead out there. Fortunately, one of the Australian female victim’s binding had come loose during the ordeal and she was able to free herself and her boyfriend and together they freed the others. They hiked until they found a road and with it some help. All passengers survived despite the nightmare they lived through and are safely at home with their families facing an uphill battle towards recovery. As a victim of horrendous crimes such as these, it’s hard to believe you can be made whole or at least almost whole again and learn to use these things to help others but I am and I did. I pray for this outcome for these people as well. I pray they resume their dreams of travel and don’t let the bastards win. I’ve learned they can take your body and your possessions but they cannot possess your spirit. Don’t let them.

Also, it is my experience that 99% of the people in this world are good, kind, helpful and generous people. The one percenters can go to hell but they don’t represent a country or a race of people and while I can’t explain why they are here or why these things happen I still believe that they will never win. They can’t. There is just too much good in the world and we must turn our focus towards that.

That’s all for now with lots of prayer, love, light and blessings along with some tears from Semuc.

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