For some reason I’m in the habit of waking at 3am, it could have something to do with that gin & tonic and going to bed early. Opening the computer I spent an hour editing photos before falling back to sleep till half six when I woke to the sound of a tuk-tuk passing close by.  Peeking out the window I saw a woman with her two kids and the family laundry get out and make their way to the water for an early start on the mornings work of scrubbing clothes in the lake.  

Surfacing a while later with my last, delicious, cup of Tetley tea, (am kicking myself for not getting a box of 300 from Costco before leaving Vancouver).  I do have 2 more boxes of Irish Barrys tea which will carry me for the next 3-4 months.  Outside the truck this morning there was several fresh ‘deposits’ left in the night, somewhat human like, but with hair mixed in…..omg what the….?  We were completely puzzled for a some time until a bunch of roaming pigs passed by….I think we found the culprits.

Over the next couple of hours more women & children passed by with laundry carried in baskets on their heads.  We must be camped on the edge of a village close by & this must be their primary water source.  It seems to be a social gathering place too as the women are chatting, the younger kids are playing & those old enough to scrub clothes do.  It’s just sad to see the amount of garbage they leave behind, the shore line is covered with plastic and it doesn’t phase them at all to leave behind what they do. I was lucky with my timing, when I took the kids down to wash, we were looked upon with great curiosity and amusement. It seems like the women have the lake during the day and the men in the evening, as just before dark there was a steady stream of men arriving by foot or motorbike to bathe. It’s probably been done like this for generations and will continue to do so. It’s just amazing how many people still live without indoor running water.

We rolled out around 10am after the kids finished their painful travel journal entries from yesterdays visit to Tikal.  Getting them to do their journals is like pulling teeth.  Charley stares at her blank page for a good 20 mins before writing the date!  Her attention span is that of a goldfish.  Jaxon is equally painful, whining, complaining, twitching, fidgeting, thirsty, need to pee, have to do this, have to do that & why do we have to do this dumb journal anyway?!  The 30 mins worth of work takes 2 hrs every time, but it’s important so I put my patient mummy hat on and coax them to focus.  

Leaving the lake the gate keeper asked for Q10, we didn’t argue and happily paid ($1.80 CND), and we were on our way.  After much debate we set course for Lanquin, all reports said that it’s a 3hr slow drive over a steep, bumpy, unpaved road that winds through the jungle covered Western mountains.   Feeling adventurous, we turned off the pavement and started the grind.  In 4 low we very slowly bumped along the 65 km road at 5 km/h.  We were going so slowly Jaxon climbed on to Tim’s lap and drove for a while. Three hours passed, progress was slow, but it’s given us a great look at the surrounding country side and saw for ourselves just how beautiful this country is.   Along the way we were stopped by the village men we had read about, with rope across the road blocking the way.  They peacefully asked for Q100, money, food and or anything, one guy asked if we had a set of headphones for his music to pass.  The fee was for the road maintenance & repairs.  There was evidence that a 3 meter section had been worked on, but Q100 was rather ambitious.  After talking to the guy we gave him Q10 & a cold coke.  He was happy with this and let us pass.   We were stopped two more times.  The next we gave the more insistent men Q10 a candy, granola bar & a pack of cigarettes.  They also asked for Q100 and bread.  The last couple of men also asked for Q100 showing us the road work they’d done & exclaiming how hard they worked.   By this time we were talking so fast, telling them we’d already payed and that we had nothing left to give.  My Spanish was rather crude, but they seemed to understand my insistence and let us pass.    

So reports were not joking, the road was very rough and steep in places. More than once Bruce was rocking so much, I was sure everything in the cupboards and fridge would be all over the floor, thankfully they weren’t. 65 km’s is a long way when you’re crawling along. We passed through a series of completely isolated villages that are dotted in amongst the jungle or clinging to the side of a mountain.  Steep lands have been cleared by hand, cattle grazed on the hillside, crops planted wherever possible and houses built in the most impossible places. I don’t know how people sleep with their house precariously propped up on stilts in such earthquake prone country. There are electric wires strung along the road, so some houses do have power.  Laundry, again is hung on bushes, rocks, roofs, slung on stretched lines and barbwire fences.  Men are hauling heavy loads of cut wood, stone, or crop lashed together on their backs. Children run to the road, wave and call out for money, women too walk on with heavy loads upon their heads.   Passing a school we see kids playing football in barefoot on the rubbish filled, hard and uneven soccer field.  Goal posts are hand made from branches and the ball is well worn.  

One village we passed by had a parade of brightly coloured Maya costumes performing traditional dances once used please the gods. Among the ancient Maya, dance was an essential component of many rituals. Dance performances were complex events, combining body movement with song & instrumental music. Through these performances, the sacred world was visualized and dancers acquired supernatural powers.

Finally we hit pavement dropping down into a very busy village with narrow streets.  We are big and there’s no missing us, but still people drive towards us knowing that it’s going to create the jam that it did.  Carefully we inched our way forwards, checking every step to make sure we don’t hit anything in front, below, behind or beside.  Our calculations were nearly perfect when we heard a bunch of yelling.  Shit! we had clipped the front corner of some guys van with the very back corner of the the camper box, grrr!  Don’t need this right now, so we pull forwards to where we can park.  The owner of the vehicle was a man in his mid 30’s looking, his friends and half the town had all gathered around to watch.  We talked a while and apologized sincerely, Tim offered him an unopened tube of epoxy glue.  He claimed it was an expensive part to replace and that Q500 would ease his troubles.  I thought here we go, no need to anger these people, time to negotiate.   I explained as best I could that we’d been held up for payments on the road all the way along, that we’d given all we had, that we were tired, the kids were hungry, and that the road we’d just driven was exhausting.  That the glue cost us $20 USD and that it would more than fix his plastic piece and that if he wanted money that we would have to go to Coban, the city to the bank when it opens tomorrow.  They seemed to understand and agreed to give the glue a try.  We thanked them, and was on our way.  Relieved to be on pavement and having solved a potentially difficult problem.  

The next 8 out of 11 kms to Lanquin were also paved.  Descending further down into the valley on the old original road that is now under construction.  The government is widening the road, good for drivers, not so good for the people wanting to live a quiet life.   Before long we were blocked by heavy road building equipment we sat for 15 precious minutes as the last light of day slipped away, knowing the campground closes the gates at 6pm. We missed getting in by 30 mins.  So tonight we are parked up at a gas station, Q50 for the night that has clean toilets, hot shower, free wifi, level parking, trampoline with net for our kids to expel the days worth of energy on and an armed guard.  It’s a cooler temperature and not a mosquito to be seen.  A nice piece of luck at the end of a long rumbly day, we poured a stiff drink.  

Tomorrow we’ll head out to see what’s said to be the most beautiful place in all Guatemala….