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Honduras & Guatemala – kindred countries? — Guatemala City, Guatemala

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Guatemala City, Guatemala

16th January 2013

N14° 37.944′ W90° 30.775’

There are few opportunities to camp in Honduras and later we found the
same in Guatemala, so we stayed at the Los Arcos Hotel in Esteli (N13 05.625
W86 21.354). Not a nice town, spread out along the main road, and except for
its impressive, well lit church with a big service happening when we arrived
there was little to grab the eye. We couldn’t find the hotel to start with. But
it had a good car park, nice rooms and a pleasant restaurant for breakfast. We walked
all over the town that evening looking for somewhere to have supper, but couldn’t
find anything that looked OK so went to bed hungry!

Next stop was at La Frontera Hotel (N13 38.103 W86 28.740)in the even
less eye catching town of Ocotal. The hotel itself was in the throes of major renovation,
so we were almost the only ones there. There was excellent guarded parking
however – always a drawcard for us – a little restaurant for dinner, and dodgy wifi. The rest
of town was seemingly very short of hostels etc and none with parking. Not a
nice place to walk. This was to be our last town in Nicaragua.

The border crossing from Nicaragua to Honduras at Los Manos was not so bad
as we had expected after reading the experiences of other overlanders. Total
time for us was just 2.5 hrs. It cost us an extra $5 for a “helper” to assist
with getting the paperwork done in the right order which was on balance good
value. The Nicaraguan side was easy and quick, the Honduras side just loads of
paper and the formalities expensive. One needs to have plenty of cash on hand
in Lempiras or US Dollars to pay for it all.

When we finally got moving again we were on the lookout for corrupt cops
just over the border checking for seatbelts, triangles, reflector tape on the
car etc which others had warned us about. But maybe their methods had been too
widely publicised by the time we passed through as we never saw a sign of them.
The road was not great to start but got better nearer the capital Tegucigalpa, then
very good and two lane from then on. However many Honduran drivers behaved in a
very stupid and irresponsible fashion, often attempting crazy overtaking just like
much of south America.

We passed through and did not stop in the capital Tegucigalpa (see more
later about this city’s appalling safety record), rather heading for the small
town of Zambrano about 35 kms to the north of the city. There was supposed to
be a pleasant place to spend the night just ouside Zambrano called Caserio
Valuz (N14 16.428 W 87 24.974).

It took a bit of finding a few kms along some rough cobbled streets and
then a dirt road out into the country and when we finally found it discovered
that the owner Jorge was back in the capital and only coming home later. But
one of his staff got him on their cell phone and we agreed a somewhat pricey $50
US for us to stay in the little casita (cabin) near to the main house which had
even more expensive and nicely furnished rooms. Jorge didn’t seem very keen to
let us camp near the casita, so the casita it was. The house was very Spanish
inside and out, every corner stuffed full of bric a brac but somehow it seemed
to “fit”. The rural surroundings were
pretty and peaceful and Jorge turned out to be good company when he eventually
arrived, speaking very good English. Just one other visitor was staying there,
a young backpacker all the way from Argentina.

Next day after we set off from Caserio Valuz we suffered what might have
been a bit of drama with the car. Heading uphill on the main road the engine
suddenly faltered momentarily and a quick glance down to the instruments
indicated a slight albeit brief rise in coolant temperature. As soon as we
could I pulled over and on popping the bonnet
(north Americans read “hood”) found that the coolant level in the
expansion tank was well down. So with care I dribbled in more water and whilst
the engine was idling had a look around for a possible leak. Nothing seemed
untoward so we drove on slowly, only to find less than an hour later that the
coolant level had again dropped, albeit not quite so far. It was then that I
noticed some orange coloured spots on the underside of the bonnet on the
passenger side. The orange colour was from the antifreeze in the coolant and it
looked as if water droplets had been blown up and back from the fan. So we had
a really extensive look for the source of
the leak, but where was the question. Luckily, I always make sure I have a
little phial of some magic muti called ProSeal in the car, a product first made
known to me by Steve, the Service Manager back home in Cape Town at LR
Services. We continued topping up with water and a little antifreeze until our
next overnight stop where I could have a better look at what was going on.

Along the way we stopped for a while in the older part of Comayagua.
After parking in its lovely old plaza we visited its church which contains in
its tower the oldest working clock in the Americas. After a brief walk around, an
ice cream and getting more photo copies of important documents to show traffic
cops and the like we headed on to our next overnight stop.

This was to be at Finca Las Glorias (N 14 57.056 W 88 00.344) on Lago
Yojoa, not far from the town of San Pedro Sula (another candidate for the unsafest
city in the world – see below). We initially checked out the D&D Hostel a
bit further around the lake which attracted us as it also had its own artesenal
micro brewery! But on arriving there we found no place for us to park and camp
and the dorms and hostel in general didn’t really grab us, so it was Finca las
Glorias for the night. It was an odd place, presumably once solely a finca or
small farm but which subsequently had been turned into a sort of lakeside
holiday resort. Those from the UK will know what we mean if we equate it to a
sort of Butlins! We were consigned a spot to camp far from the main centre of
the place next door to a somewhat run down and forlorn timber conference hall
surrounded by neglected orange trees. It cost us 200 Lempiras for the night
(about R85) which wasn’t much but the cold showers and the loos were filthy. A
saving grace was free wifi but only in the resort’s restaurant some way away from
our campsite. It was quiet (after the kids on quad bikes had left us alone) and
safe. Sadly, like so many other similar places we have seen and stayed at the
facilities were in an advanced state of disrepair. Why is hard to fathom. The
resort’s nice pool complex was a good example – broken tiles, pool lights
hanging into the pool on their cables, the changing rooms looking like a
battlefield with so much stuff broken and litter all over.

But at least it gave me the opportunity to try and solve the car’s
cooling system leak. I slowly added
about half of the contents of the phial of ProSeal to the expansion bottle with
the engine hot and idling once the level had been brought back to spec. Wonder
of wonders it seemed the ProSeal had soon done its job as every time we stopped
thereafter to check the level it hadn’t budged a millimetre. Nevertheless, it
would be foolhardy not to track down the original leak and fix it properly
which we will do at the LR agents in Guatemala, the nearest ones to us. I
suspect a union connection in a hose below the plastic shroud behind the
radiator. We’ll see. Those sort of
worries we don’t need….

Next stop was to be near what is probably Honduras’ main drawcard –
Copan Ruins. The ruins site is just outside the town of the same name, Copan
Ruinas. It was a nice drive getting there from Lago Yojoa through mainly rural
countryside with few towns of any size. Being a major tourist destination means
the town tends to be pricier than normal but on the flip side offers more
choices of accommodation. Still no campsites, so it was hostels or similar. Our
first choice was Berakah Hostel (N14
50.414 W89 09.321) but that night they were full up. However, the kindly
manager Fernando walked us down the street to the nearby Carrillos Hotel (N14
50.453 W89 09.306) which for $20 pn did have space as well as excellent if
tight off street parking, rooms with hot showers, wifi and TV, and all at hostel prices. The only thing it
couldn’t offer was a kitchen or restaurant.
We stopped there for the night and then next day moved into the Berakah
once they had space for us. They also had wifi and a very rudimentary “kitchen”
but no parking, but our room was fine and Fernando a great host. At $2 more
than the hotel it would seem to be not quite such good value, but we were happy
there. We spoke briefly to both Mark and Sarah on Skype busting in on their
conversation, but the connection our end wasn’t good so soon signed off.

Copan Ruinas is a pretty village, at least the central part which has
obviously benefitted from tourism income. It has attractive, all cobbled,
narrow streets which keep the traffic down to walking pace which is a definitive
plus. There is a nice plaza where one can get a fair bite to eat at one of its
street vendors. There are of course some good looking restaurants too and we
checked out a few for a later supper, one managed by an Italian from Catania in
Sicily, home of our dear friend from Botswana days, Ignacio. The ice cream from
a local Kobs shop was pretty good too.

We drove out the short distance to the site of the ancient Maya ruins, a
Unesco World Heritage site, to see what it was all about. The entrance fee was
a stiff $44 for the two of us. Between AD 250 and 900 the Maya people lived
here. And then for reasons that are still not clear the site was abandoned, the
jungle encroached into the old stone buildings and it lay lost and forgotten
until the time of the Spanish conquest of the region. Work on renovating the
site after centuries of neglect and natural wear and tear only really got going
in the 19th and 20th centuries. Sadly a large part of the
site including several buildings were lost due to encroachment by the then
adjacent Copan river. In the 1930s the Carnegie Institution managed to
permanently divert the course of the river away from the site preventing
further damage. Even so, Copan is enormous and its surveyed area is almost 25 square kilometres! This makes it
second only in size to Tikal in Guatemala amongst the known Maya era ruins so
far discovered. Its stellae (relief sculpted rock pillars) are indeed
impressive, but most enthralling of all is the massive Hieroglyphic Stairway which when first uncovered in
the modern era was severely damaged. But it then underwent major restorative
work and is now covered, necessarily but sadly by an ugly canvas cover to
protect it from further weather damage. An environmental and climatic
monitoring station is now in place to keep an eye on the weather and
environmental conditions that can do further damage to the ancient structures.
Today there are many trees that have encroached on the site; in some ways they
add colour and balance to the overall appearance, but their root systems can
clearly be seen to be undermining many of the old stones that form the massive
construction. It sure is impressive and thought provoking. It will be
interesting indeed to compare it to Tikal when we get there. An annoying
feature of our visit to the ruins was the Nikon camera’s battery running flat
before we were ready to leave: it sure would be nice to get hold of a spare
battery somewhere but everywhere we try we get shaking heads. Batteries for
other cameras, but Nikon? Non senor. Weird.

Whilst in Copan Ruinas town another check on the car’s water leak seemed
to show that all was well. However, this later turned out not to be the case as
we were to discover in Guatemala City when the reason for the coolant leak came
to light.

But we were to be close to another and nastier type of drama whilst we
were in Copan Ruinas. In what sounded like a family vendetta of Mafia
proportions a man was shot dead in one of the streets leading off the Plaza
only some minutes after we had walked down it. We were in a shop talking to a
local guy who told us what had happened and he implored us not to go anywhere
near the spot as the police were there plus a large crowd and he felt it still
a dangerous place to be. So we took his advice. But it sure was a wake up call
and we were reminded in short order that Honduras is a nation of gun toters and
as a result can be violent.

Sadly, like some of its neighbours its residents still have much to
learn about refuse disposal. The sides of most roads in the region are
frequently strewn with litter and rubbish. So sad in a country with such nice
people and otherwise lovely scenery.

We had an excellent if pricey dinner at Nia Lola restaurant in Copan
Ruinas one evening. Contrary to earlier reports on the place the service was good
and the waitresses add interest by balancing beers and customer’s meals on their
heads when bringing them from the kitchen.
700 lempiras for a meal is not cheap though!

We checked into Berakah Hostel (N14 50.414 W89 09.321) for one night at
$22pn incl. wifi. Parking was on the street but apart from the shooting of the
guy in the street earlier the place seemed reasonably safe. The “kitchen” was
just a two plate stove and a cupboard and a plastic bowl for washing dishes. Fernando
the manager was very nice and helpful with local info. We made our own breakfast,
but could have theirs for $2. Early in the day we spoke briefly to Mark & Sarah
on a poor Skype connection (local bandwidth is not good in this region as a
whole).

We bade Copan Ruinas goodbye and set off for Santa Rosa de Copan, firstly
driving back to La Entrada then a turn off to the SE and Santa Rosa. Along the
way we as usual met some pretty stupid drivers and motorcyclists doing daft
things even when the road got wet from a brief and hence dangerous shower. We
had seen virtually no rain for several weeks. The potholes got worse and worse,
the locals throwing dirt in some and expecting payment for doing so. It seems
that road maintenance rates pretty low on the government’s priority list in
these parts. Along the way we were overtaken by two helmetless youngsters on a
motorbike and an ambulance belching black diesel smoke going flat out. Glad I
wasn’t in the back….

Santa Rosa turned out to be not a patch on Copan Ruinas although it
sported all cobbled streets, but no sights and few places to stay or eat. We had
been recommended by Fernando from Berakah Hostel to stay at Karolina Boutique
Hotel (N14 45.921 W88 46.741). It took some finding in the maze of old streets,
but it was cozy and spick and span clean and had parking around the corner for
free on a secure and guarded lot. Breakfast was included and we had albeit slow
wifi all for 600 Lempiras or $30. Whilst in Santa Rosa we had hoped to pay a
visit to one of the local cigar factories and do a tour to find out all about
cigars and how they grow the dreaded weed. But the cigar factory tour was not
available which was a major disappointment and had been the main reason for
coming here. We walked around town briefly but it frankly had little to offer
so we found a Chinese restaurant for dinner with huge helpings of chow mein and
chop suey a la Santa Rosa and indistinguishable one from the other!

On the subject of food we are seriously looking forward to not having to
eat bread with sugar in it. The only bread
without sugar seemingly is a baguette, otherwise all loaves and rolls are
sweet. It just doesn’t work with savoury items like meat or Marmite. And that’s
more cause for worry – the Marmite is just about exhausted. Heavens knows when
if at all we’ll be able to buy more. Anyone got any ideas????

The MS Office version on our laptop is about to expire and I’ve been
trying to raise Andrea at Ripleys in Lima who sold it to us to get a licence
key to activate it. But e-mails to their head office in Chile trying to contact
her have gone unanswered. I think she installed an unauthorised copy on our
laptop of their corporate version of Office. Naughty girl, and if she did get
my e-mails she’s probably now too scared to respond in case she gets fired for her
undercover doings!

No news from LR Club San Salvador re: the permit to get our RHD drive
vehicle into El Salvador so we will cancel entry and go direct to Guatemala via
Esquipulas border post. Chris & Janet have told us by e-mail that they also
are not doing El Salvador as they need more time in Mexico. Sadly therefore I sent
an e-mail to Jose Mario at the San Salvador LR Owners Club to say sorry about
change of plan re dates etc and thanks for trying to get the permit earlier.
Thanks anyway Jose Mario.

Then it was on to the Guatemala border on well surfaced tar roads but with
lots of potholes in the western part of Honduras, some big and extremely dangerous.
The border was fairly easy but the bank there was closed for lunch for over 1
hour where we had to pay for our temporary import permit (Guatemala does not
recognize our Carnet de Passage as is the case for much of central and north
America). Insurance we do not needed as ours covers us for Guatemala.

After hanging about waiting for the bank and finally clearing the border
we aimed for the closest place in Guatemala to stay for which we had info which
was Ranchito del Quetzal (N15 12.929 W90
13.155) in the Biotopin Reserve area just south of Purulha. It was a long and
tiring drive and got there just before dark by rushing along, fortunately on a good
main road.

Andrea, Julio and her Mum who own the Ranchito were lovely people and made
supper for us at 40 Quetzales each plus a beer. Our cabin was 200 Quetzales for the night but a bit damp. The hot shower was
of the “on and off” variety. There was no wifi but it is a lovely spot nestled
amongst the lush green vegetation of
this attractive, hilly region. We didn’t see any Quetzals, the country’s
national bird. But little Andrea showed us pics of one to make up.

We re-plannned our route to take in Antigua to the south (a “must see”
town) going first to Santa Cruz Verapaz on a nice main road. So we were totally
unprepared for what followed – a horror “road”
from San Cristobal Verapaz westwards for about 80 kms, very rough, in places
muddy, average speed 12 kms/hr. We were stopped at a makeshift barrier just
after getting onto this track and asked to pay 25 Quetzales (about the same in
Rands) towards cost of improving it! We were given a ticket but doubt the money
will end up in the right hands. Then when we got back to tar again we
encountered frequent and terrible speed bumps wherever there were any houses or
people, some less than 100m apart. These damned things ruin driving rhythm and
puts much stress on the car – brakes, suspension, clutch, gearbox. And the
driver gets pretty frustrated too as the navigator will attest! Finally we joined
the Panamericana in the late afternoon, went the wrong way for our intended
night stop at Lago Atitlan and had to turn round and retrace our steps. Then it
was back onto rough tar and those damned speed bumps again for the road down to
the north shore of the lake, with a steep downhill to Hotel Vision Azul (N14
44.846 W91 09.813) which we knew had a place to camp.

Hotel Vision Azul has a nice setting looking across at no less than 3
volcanoes on other side of Lago Atitlan. There is a grass camping area next to the
lake with wifi from the hotel plus use of a room with a hot shower and loo all
for 50Q pppn. But the whole place is a bit run down, the hotel when we were
there completely empty of guests, just us and 3 other overlander vehicles, two
from Germany, one from France. The local birds were very musical, some sounding
like a cell phone ring!. The water in the lake is probably polluted slightly as
what looks like a sewer pipe runs into it near our campsite! On show are great
sunsets across lake most evenings with the volcanos backlit by the glorious
russet sunset colours.

The town of Panajachel was just 10 mins walk away down a steep hill. It’s
very touristy, with lots of craft shops and eating places. We bought more rum,
now our staple tipple (with coke as Cuba Libre). A good lunch was had in a lakeside
restaurant we being almost the only people there, not many tourists around but perhaps
due to there being too many places catering to tourism? The result = many going
bang? Diana walked back to town later to get our laundry done on the same day and next day to buy a machete for our German
camping neighbour’s wife whose birthday
was coming up and didn’t want her to see it! He never paid us for it! We spent
3 nights there. On the last day we felt an earth tremor whilst doing the blog
at our camping table and noticed the car rocking too! We met Dillon, originally
from Sri Lanka now Switzerland, on his BMW motorbike travelling solo around the
world heading south but short of cash! He was thinking about building a pontoon
boat powered by his bike motor to take him from Panama to Colombia. Crazy, told
him to contact Sym from Gypsy Moth (we can guess his response too!).

From there we drove eastwards to the old city of Antigua, once the capital
of Guatemala. On more than one occasion en route there Dillon, our Sri Lankan
motorbike overlander friend, bombed past us on his way to Antigua and beyond.
He had GPS but no maps, either on the GPS or in paper form he had told us
earlier, so probably spent a lot of time asking for directions which in the
cities at least usually results in getting lost anyway!

Our first night in Antigua was spent amongst the old ruins of a part of
the town flattened in the massive 1976 earthquake and never rebuilt. The site
is now part occupied by the Tourist Police who allow camping amongst the old
buildings and overgrown undergrowth. There were extremely primitive showers
& loos, the whole place in a mess, with abandoned cars and motorbikes all
over the place. The Tourist Police came over to us asking for money just after
we arrived yet the payment system is supposed to be donation based. And they
were asking ridiculous amounts compared with what the existing overlanders on
site from France and Canada were paying for longer stays. We decided to move
out next day to the Yellow House hostel in town . We paid the cops 25 Quetzals
and suggested they clean the place up a bit if they wanted more. Before leaving
we chatted with a French family driving their smart and comfy looking RV southwards
from Quebec and another couple who had sold up their home and purchased a big
“gas guzzler” American pickup truck with a monster V8 up front which was towing
their huge 4 wheeled caravan. They were regretting their decision as they had
found it simply too big (and probably costly) in which to travel around central
America. It did beg the question: do these guys not do their homework
first?…….. But it did reignite
our occasional longing for a slightly more roomy and “easy living” vehicle. But
then again, we can go places with our trusty 4×4 the RVers cannot even think
about. Can’t have it all.

We got our exercise walking the town, seeing so many old buildings in
ruins as a result of the ’76 earthquake including most of the churches. Yet there
are still many lovely old houses, cobbled streets and the happy, colourful Guatemalan
people. Antigua is the big drawcard for visitors to Guatemala so as expected
there were many, many tourists around, especially from the US and Canada. Three volcanoes overlook the town, all of them
close to 4000 metres in height, and one of them, Volcan Fuego, has been active
since the 60s, although whilst we were in Antigua it didn’t show any evidence
of being so. We did wonder if we’d feel another tremor or see the volcano
erupting a little!

The next day we moved into Yellow House Hostel (N 14 33.647 W 90 44.225)
near the centre of the old town and what a nice place it was too. They put on a
truly great breakfast included in the
price of 190 Quetzales per night for our room (about the same in SA Rands) and
we had wifi. Parking for Jambo was just around the corner in a secure hotel car
park. Whilst there we as usual met several others travelling around Guatemala
and central America including Shaun & Lindsay Barclay, the first South
Africans we have met since meeting Kobus from Life Remotely and his wife and
brother in law in Banos, Ecuador. We also made the acquaintance of a retired
marine Captain from BC in Canada who used to work on the BC ferries. And then a
couple came up to us for a chat, also from BC and wanted to know all about our
trip. They insisted we call them for a bed etc when we get closer to their home
in Vancouver. Compared with the many
Germans, French, Americans and Canadians we have bumped into on our travels
fellow South Africans are indeed thin on the ground. But then our Rand just
doesn’t have the buying power of the Euro or the north American Dollars.

From Antigua we took a cross country route for the short hop to the
capital Guatemala City which we didn’t really want to go near, but a much
needed oil change and lube service was needed on the LR. I would normally do it
all myself but access to the transfer and main gear boxes to drain and put in
new oils is near nigh impossible. The engine oil and filter change is easy, and
the diffs the same, but LR make getting to the two boxes as hard as possible.
Great design guys! Also I wanted to hang onto my meagre supply of spares for
when we got to the States and Canada where diesel Land Rover Defenders don’t
have much if any service support.

The few kms to Guatemala from Antigua took us several hours, mainly due
to the very twisty and undulating roads and having to negotiate hazards along
the way such as totally washed out river bridges requiring fording the river.
Another reason for not driving one of those Yankee palace on wheels affairs
with their low ground clearance and big overhangs at the rear.

There is just the one Land Rover dealer and service centre in the whole
of Guatemala and it’s in the capital. We had e-mailed them in advance to ask if
they could accommodate us for the work we needed and had received a prompt and
welcoming response in the affirmative, and in excellent English too! Transequipos
SA arelocated in Zona 1 of Guatemala City (N14 37.727 W90 30.664) and turned
out to be a highly professional and helpful bunch, especially the delightful
Ewald Kaehler, their after sales manager who took us under his wing. Apart from
his excellent English which always makes life a lot easier especially when
discussing technical stuff like car components, nothing was too much trouble
for Ewald. In addition to the car it turned out we also needed to deal with a
completely unrelated problem and Ewald went to a lot of trouble in trying to
help in resolving this. The copy of Microsoft Office that the reseller had
installed on our new Lenovo laptop in Lima, Peru turned out to be an
un-activated copy of the reseller’s corporate version and as a result would
soon cease to work 100%. My efforts to contact the guys in Peru had proven
hopeless so to securely maintain our blog copies and Outlook database entries
safely on the laptop a solution was needed. And being in a big city like
Guatemala City presented the obvious opportunity to do so. Ewald made lots of
phone calls for us, spoke with his own company IT specialist at length and
offered all sorts of possible solutions, all of which were right outside his
ambit. That is real service and I am
truly grateful to him for his efforts. Thanks Ewald! As it turned out the only
solution was to download and purchase a new copy of Office from Microsoft and
install it on the laptop which is now all working 100%, thank heavens.

Amongst the items I asked Ewald to get his guys to check on Jambo was
the source of the coolant leak. Initially, even with pressure testing the
system, the origin of the leak could not be located. But Ewald persisted that
they keep looking and sure enough a very small but nevertheless potentially
damaging leak was found on the radiator. The plastic side of the fairing that
surrounds the radiator was too close to the core of the radiator in its mounted
position. With the more or less continuous vibration experienced on south and
central America’s roads and tracks the plastic had worn a small hole in the end
of the radiator matrix which had started the leak. The ProSeal I had added
earlier had stopped the leak for the time
being. But the chances of the hole being worn bigger was very real and that
could have been very serious. A new radiator was one option (at about $300!)
but our one could be repaired for less than half that so out it came. The
workshop also replaced the all important and critical serpentine belt that
drives all of the auxiliaries under the bonnet. A swop of the wheels to
maintain even tyre wear and a computer diagnostics check completed the work.
And yes, as usual, and in line with LR’s outrageous prices and rates it cost a
bomb. But Jambo is our sole means of travel and for much of the time our house
too….

Ewald warned us in no uncertain terms that Guatemala is ranked the 4th
most dangerous city in the world. The “honour” of holding 1st place
is Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, which we had wisely as it turned out
driven straight through earlier. 2nd place is held by San Pedro Sula, also in
Honduras and which we were close to but didn’t enter. 3rd spot goes
to one of Mexico’s cities apparently. And we’re heading that way…. It seems
that Johannesburg back in South Africa “cannot compete”! So with Ewald’s
warning ringing in our ears we took to the streets of Guate as the locals call
it with much trepidation, and ONLY in daylight. Whilst the LR was in the
workshop for 3 days we were staying in the Hotel Ajau (N14 37.944 W90 30.775)
just a few blocks away to which Ewald took us in his orange G4 Discovery on our
first day. From then on we left all our valuables locked in the hotel room’s
security box, popped just a few Quetzales in a pocket for lunch or whatever and
slowly and very cautiously ventured
forth on the busted pavements of this completely uninspiring, smoky and obviously
dodgy metropolis. But apart from the many fancy 4x4s with all blacked out
windows on the streets we saw no signs of the apparently heavy criminality of
this town. Ewald told us that a few years back his company had (knowingly!)
sold lots of Range Rover Sport models to Mexican drug lords who had moved in to
the country and ousted the local guys from their hitherto lucrative hangouts.
It is generally accepted that in this country with high levels of poverty and
unemployment anyone driving any half decent car is making money from some form
of corrupt practice….

The Hotel Ajau was a rather nice “old lady” of a place, with very
friendly staff, and all spotlessly clean and showing off its aged tiles and
lovely woodwork with pride. The only small niggle we had was that its little
café had a somewhat limited menu. It was either chicken or various forms of
eggs for dinner AND BREAKFAST! So the many Macdonalds and Burger Kings around
the city and in walking distance sucked us in for lunch on a few occasions. We would
have liked to sample some of the street vendor’s food too, but when one sees
how they prepare it and where, amongst the exhaust fumes of the filthy old red
busses that ply the streets caution rings a loud warning bell….

Sadly, carrying and using a camera on the streets of the capital is very
much a no no, so apart from some pics of the Railway Museum, once the city’s (but now defunct) railway station, which we walked around one morning, we have no
pics of Guate. To be honest we won’t much miss it!

 

About Panamericalandy

Starting with the original London-Sydney Marathon in 1968 driving 10,000 miles in 10 days the bug for overland travel (at a much slower pace!) bit hard. We've driven throughout much of southern and east Africa in a tD5 Defender, then changed to the recent Puma version and first drove Cape Agulhas in South Africa to North Cape, Norway in 2009/10. Now engaged on another long one from Ushuaia, Patagonia to Deadhorse, Alaska over 18 months. The two of us travel alone for much of the time but inevitably meet other overlanders along the way and much enjoy swopping stories, info, fun times and others.We live in Cape Town, South Africa. Is there a nicer city to call home?

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