Driving the Indy 500 on the Roads of Guatemala: Guat Part 1

Driving the Indy 500 on the Roads of Guatemala: Guat Part 1

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Destination: Guatemala City road trip to Senahu

Date: June 2013

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Bailey at the Guatemala City Airport
Guatemala City, June 2013

(Journal entry from June 17, 2013)

Today Bailey and I woke up early to catch our flight to Guatemala. Our original plan was that Trent would leave the kids overnight up in Senahu and take the buses to meet us at the airport where we would rent a car and drive the seven hours back to Senahu.  Once Trent arrived in Guatemala he realized he was a little reluctant to take the four buses back to the city to meet us. Plus the bus rides would turn a seven hour trip into a ten hour trip. After this realization he decided to hire someone from the town to come and be our guide back to Senahu. Lucky for us this turned out to be Lico a local member of our church and new found friend of Trent.

When we arrived in the city we quickly made it through immigration and customs pretty easily. Then it was time for me to pick up my rental truck that Trent had reserved. That too went seamlessly. When we finally made it out of the airport there was Lico holding a sign with my name on it ready to be my guide.

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The crazy streets of Guatemala City
Guatemala City, Guatemala June 2013

I was quickly introduced to Guatemalan driving which is a lot like Trent drives at home so I was pretty used to being aggressive and sliding through small spaces. The only thing that was new to me is that ALTO (stop) signs are largely ignored and pedestrians never have the right of way.

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A traffic jam on the side of a mountain road deep in the Guatemalan mountains
Guatemala, June 2013

The next seven hours was like playing a Grand Prix video game. Lots of turns, stay close to the inside of the turn, and wind around at relatively safe speeds to avoid hitting the cliff walls or falling off the side of the mountain. Soon the roads turned into two lane highways in which we had to play a version of Frogger and risk our lives passing slow moving trucks with long lines of traffic building up behind. There never seemed to be long stretches for passing so I would honk my horn and pass with caution around bends that weren’t as severe.

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Bailey posing with our truck on a pitstop on the side of the mountain.
Senahu, Guatemala June 2013

If I was to try and give directions it would sound very funny. Drive out of the city and when you see the huge piñata store take a right. Keep going through the mountain highway and when it turns to a two lane highway keep going another hour. Go left toward San Diego, right toward Santa Barbara and at the gas station take a severe right and onto a dirt road that barely fits two cars and in most areas does not! Keep going on the dirt road for two very long hours. When you reach Salama keep going until you hit the paved road. Another hour and a half you’ll take a sharp left which will open up to a great windy road over the mountain. BEWARE of falling rock or boulders in the road! They are everywhere. Soon you’ll come down and abracadabra you’ll be in Senahu.

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This is a mountain range near Senahu where you can see a figure of a man laying down on the mountain range. (his head is on the left and then the chest, belly, legs and feet)
Guatemala, June 2013

Of course along the way there are children running in the streets, many pedestrians carrying either babies in a sling, wood stacks on their backs, or huge baskets on their heads. Watch out for animals of every kind. Most large animals will have a rope tethering them to a tree but the dogs, goats and pigs often do not. You’ll also have to watch for drunks laying on the side of the road, bicycles holding families, and pickups packed to the brim with people. It is a sight that is amazing.

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My car tire after hitting a boulder. Unfortunately, it took a chunk out of the wheel base and cost me a pretty penny once we returned the rental at the end of our trip! Ouch!!
Senahu, Guatemala June 2013

My guide was a great man who spent a lot of time snoozing on and off during the drive but ultimately got us there with no missed roads. I was ever so thankful to have him when I hit a boulder in the road ten minutes away from Senahu and just as it had started to pour down raining. He was so helpful getting the tire change! By the time we reached the city we were soaking wet. Bailey and I were very excited to see the family and we quickly made the Hotel el Recreo our home for the night.

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Clay outside of our hotel in the town square of Senahu
Senahu, Guatemala June 2013

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One of our three hotel rooms at the Recreo Hotel
Senahu, Guatemala June 2013

It was quite the adventure today but ultimately I was proud I made it. I have been relying on Trent too often during our trips abroad. I know Trent wanted to be there for us to greet us at the airport but in the end he reminded me that I could do the traveling and he believed in me. It was a great challenge and I was glad to prove to myself that I could.

Safe and Happy Travels!