San Marcos is a pretty lake side town with dual identities. The Mayan community of fisherman & farmers, who have been here since the beginning of their time and the travellers who come here seeking a ‘higher sense of being’. Believed to be a place of special energy San Marcos is popular for practicing yoga, meditation, holistic healing and other spiritually oriented activities. The two cultures seem to live peacefully together, mutually benefiting. We are staying at Pasaj-Cap, a multi unit vacation rental property with camping, just 20 mins walk from the village. Highly recommended on Ioverlander, with all the positive reviews we figured it to be a great to spend a week…..or so…..
The friendly welcome by all the campers gave us a sense of ease inspite of us being so big and taking up precious space. There are 10 vehicles comfortably set up, ranging from a truck like ours owned by a family from Germany, to others living the ‘#vanlife’. A multicultural group from all corners, from Russia to New Zealand, Canada to Switzerland and Germany to the USA. Some are travelling the Pan American highway others are looking for a new place to call home. We’ve been positioned next to the other big rig with 2 kids, so Charley & Jaxon have made friends with Vincent 9 & Marlene 7. They don’t speak English, but again the language of kids & play manages to work itself out.
It’s beautiful here, and the people are wonderful, it’s really nice to meet so many others on the road & share stories with. The view from the truck is straight out at the volcano on the other side of the lake, which is always dead calm in the mornings, perfect for paddle boarding, swimming and jumping off the dock.
Conversations for the first few days were almost all about the Virus, borders closing, economic fears and effects and debates over wether we’ll be able to continue South after all this blows over. After the last 3 vehicles arrived, including Dad & Jen, our host Pierre locked the gates, declaring we are at max capacity approx 45 people on the entire property, our new home away from home.
Thankfully we have good wifi, so we’re able to stay connected. Word has it that all public transport is about to shutdown, nation wide, starting on the 18th. The country is about to be locked down in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, to date we have had one death and 9 confirmed cases. Embassies are advising all people to return home and enter into self isolation for 2 weeks to prevent the spread. The morning of the 17th we take the water taxi to Panajachel (Pana), a larger town 25 mins up the lake, with larger stores. The water taxi makes several stops picking up & dropping people off along the way. Overhearing other travellers conversations onboard we decide to get back as soon as we can, so we don’t explore the town. A quick stop at the cash machine & straight to the supermarket where we meet other ‘Gringo’s’ buying more than normal. With a trolley full of food we to take a tuk-tuk back to the docks & water taxi up the lake. Just in time as the water taxis were shut down at noon, a day earlier that we originally thought. Phew just in time, others from our camp got stuck and had to wait a few hours to get a ride back.
That afternoon tensions were running high, Pierre is on edge and is talking about too many people being here and that we are a potential target for the corrupt authorities to be knocking at the gate with threats or bribes of being shut down. He called a meeting for 5pm, and informed us that he wants to reduce immediately, the amount of people camping by more than half, and that most of us must move into his accommodations, (at a 70% reduction). This doesn’t sit well with any of us, his delivery wasn’t the best so it has been met with resistance, many suspect it’s for economic reasons and closed by saying that this is not an option, move into the apartments or leave! Tempers flare, words are said and several announce that they will go at day break as the border into Mexico is still open. That was at 5pm, and for the next 8 hours our heads spun. Do we stay, do we go, pro’s over con’s. By midnight we’d decided to join the convoy and head to Mexico with the idea of waiting it out there for the next couple of weeks, leaving us options of either heading home or back into Guatemala to continue on. The internal battle between the gut that screamed STAY, or our adventures could be over, and the head that said GO, run for safety, we don’t know how big, bad, or long this could go on for. At 1am we climbed into bed resolving to ‘sleep on it’ and decide in the morning.
5am rolled around all too quickly, my head was still foggy but the gut felt sure, we should stay, Tim was happy with that too. Out the door, wrapped in a blanket to go tell Dad & Jen we’d changed our minds. They were already up, bed packed away and preparing, as planned, to move with the convoy. Ugg, I felt bad telling them we’d changed our minds again. They too were torn with the decision, and were somewhat relieved and also decided to stay. After everyones farewells & exchange of contact info the convoy of 4 vehicles pulled away. At the last moment Victor too changed his mind & decided to stay. Tammy in her heavy dodge van was the last to leave, just as I called out to Tim to help her reverse out, she made a slow slide backwards, slipping on the wet dewy grass, her breaks failed and slowly slid into the back of Bruce! Crunch!! was all I could hear, Bruce rocked but appeared to have held strong. Thankfully Tammy’s van took the impact, her spare tire mounted to the back was munched as were the rear double doors. Had Bruce not been there, she would have probably slid backwards over the edge & killed herself. The convoy left, the gates locked so we reluctantly started moving into the house. Our cosy camp & family was no longer.
To be honest, life in the house ain’t so bad. It’s nice to have running water and a flushing toilet and a decent size kitchen to cook in, not to mention the cleaning girls who come twice a week! The kids are also happy to be in the house, we have four resident gecko’s they have named Crogan, Darcy, Skidder & Julia. They appear each night in the same places on the walls occassionally make that chirpy sound. It’s the scorpions that I don’t like, the little critters scurry along the bathroom floor with their tails up at night and give me the spooks, then again in the kitchen sink in the morning.
Daylight streams into our room at six, Charley’s up first & soon wakes me, we sit & have a quiet cuppa tea till the the rest of the house stirs. A browse of the internet delivers news of gravely increasing numbers in Italy and then Spain. Trump is in denial and not taking this seriously at all, zero leadership, and is making himself look like a total idiot. Meanwhile California is going into lockdown with the message of “stay the fuck at home.” Mexico is ‘business as usual and it looks like Whistler is emptying out and all business deemed non essential are ordered closed. FB is showing pictures of farewell parties on Green Lake of 300+ people infuriating the locals. I’d love to be home for a day to experience all of this. Charley & Jen go off to Yoga at 7:30, i’ve injured my hand doing something stupid & can’t join in. But I can paddle and swim as long as I don’t jar it, 5 days after the injury my palm is turning black & blue. After yoga & the kids 2nd breakfast, it’s down to the lake till the wind comes up around noon. After lunch we get the kids to sit down with some school work before heading back out to play with their friends for the afternoon. Happy hour at 5pm then time to make dinner, and the day is done.
This is the view from the kitchen table, no so bad eh? Once a week we paddle to San Marcos for groceries. Technically we are ‘sneaking out’ which is against Pierre’s rules, but with hungry kids to feed, food doesn’t last long. The dry bags are fully loaded, the eggs are just sitting in paper, if they get wet we’re in trouble, keeping an eye on the time as the paddle back is always into the wind and waves often wash over the top, no wind on this day, makes for an easy paddle.
It’s kinda surreal, while the world is coming undone, we’re keeping calm and paddling on.