26th May. Monterrey, Mexico.

12th May. Nagarote, Nicaragua.

After four days in Nagarote we had become a familiar sight to the locals and were beginning to understand how the place worked. On our first evening we had been unable to find anywhere open serving food, so ended up buying a tin of pilchards and some beer and having a scratch meal of crackers and tinned fish, the beer was ok though. The following day we could not find breakfast, and so it went on. Eventually we found the two or three places in town that did sell food (comedors), and had several versions of a fish soup which was excellent and fried eggs in the mornings, accompanied by fried plantain and refried beans. Fresh fruit juices were also available and on the last day we found a supermarket, too late by then!

Diana and Stan return from the workshop

Diana and Stan return from the workshop with the chummy repairs complete

The chummy repairs, promised for 16.00 on Saturday, were finally finished at 21.00 and had altogether delayed us rather longer than anticipated. Although not complicated, collecting the parts and putting them together was more work than the mechanic, Milton, had anticipated. Parts included fabricating splints from half round steel tube for the broken windscreen pillars, new glass for both parts of the windscreen, refitting the driver’s door, mending the door latch and straightening the hood frame. The glass was the most difficult, being 8mm thick laminated glass and requiring a curved bottom edge. Two attempts were made by the glass supplier who was in Managua, an hours drive away, before the third fitted. Once complete however the job was well done, the car washed and all the new work painted.

We were up before dawn to leave at 05.15, a good time of the day in the tropics, the light is so very soft and lends everything a slightly fuzzy-edged gentleness. Past newly-released hens and chicks, enthusiastically pecking along the grass verges, the cows trailed their tethers as they ambled towards a place, where they would be tethered to graze for the day. Women swept front porches or scattered water on dusty forecourts to knit the dry ground before it was disturbed by vehicles and passing feet. Agricultural workers on foot, bicycle or ‘collectivo’ trucks were on their way to the fields; a little later, school children, always immaculately dressed, appear walking, catching buses and gathering in the small towns and villages, before school to catch the gossip and buy illicit sweets.

Always a cheery wave from people at the roadside

Always a cheery wave from people at the roadside, even in the early morning

The road was quiet, no big trucks this morning and soon we were approaching Leon. The previous evening when looking at the map I had suddenly realised that Leon is twinned with our home city of Oxford. When traveling into Oxford and seeing the twinning boards, I had often thought of the strangeness of the twinned cities, but here we were entering Leon, Nicaragua. The welcoming committee must have been late getting up for we went through and out the other side without seeing anybody in formal clothes! We did find a very northern hemisphere service area however and I called a halt for breakfast, which was most welcome as we had started without that morning. After coffee, eggs and drinking yogurt we began again with renewed energy and enthusiasm. The outskirts of Leon were dotted with large, anonymous warehouses, some labelled simply “Importation” or “Exports”.

A beautiful morning as we passed Leon, Nicaragua

A beautiful morning as we passed Leon, Nicaragua

We had been assisted in getting the chummy fixed by Lester Rodriguez. During conversation it emerged that he had been part of the Sandinista Rebel movement in his youth, alongside Daniel Ortega, and had at the age of 17 been the government officer responsible for imports and exports. Nowadays he is an officer of the Antique Car club of Nicaragua (ADAN: Asociacion Deportiva Automovilistica Nicaraguense) and spends his time in his own workshop and liaising with the government in Managua on behalf of the car club. His contacts and knowledge had been of considerable benefit to us in fixing the chummy, our thanks to him, to Jorge Katin of the Nicaraguan car club and to George Blau of the Costa Rican car club for pulling out all the stops at short notice.

Horse and cart transport was a common sight

Horse and cart transport was a common sight

The day was again hot, no surprise there then, and we were 120 kms from the border with Honduras, so it was on with the driving boots and head for the border. The chummy was running well and Dusty and Bertie were in good order so we were at

Herds of cattle grazing roadsid

Herds of cattle grazing roadside

Guasaule at the border in about two-and-a-half hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Approaches to the border

Approaches to the border

The by now familiar round of offices began: immigration, vehicle exit and then the reverse procedure for entry into Honduras. This time it was quite quick and relatively straightforward, the road fund license and insurance being available at the border in the same building as Customs and Immigration.

Our route through Honduras was only 78 miles but we could not complete it in one

The distant Nicaraguan highlands followed us to the border

The distant Nicaraguan highlands followed us to the border

day so we were aiming to get as far as Jicaro Galan if possible, which was dependent on the time it took at the Nicaraguan/Honduras border. The countryside was different again, and the built environment had characteristics which made it identifiably a separate country from those we had recently been through. Large herds of cattle moved and grazed along wide verges, often tended by boys on horseback, the houses were less well endowed with durable materials than in Nicaragua and generally there was a feeling of gentle decay and lack of money.

The road improved and so did our nerves

The road improved and so did our nerves

We made good time and the roads were better than reported and so in the late afternoon heat we passed Jicaro Galan and reached Nacaome by 15.15 and decided that it was fruitless to press on and that, with a decent internet connection lacking for some days previously, we could do some urgent planning for the next few days’ travel. We had the names of two hotels in town and stopped to ask a group of locals talking beside the road. The usual enthusiastic reception provided the information that our first choice from the description alone was not too good and that the second was only a further five minutes along this very road! Experience had taught us to be cautious about simple instructions such as this, but on this occasion it proved to be accurate on both counts.

The bored receptionist in this rather elaborate and magnificent foyer, mentioned a price per room which was far in excess of any figure we had thought of. We looked at the rooms, with air conditioning and rather fabulous bathrooms, noted the kidney-shaped outdoor pool, found that there was an on-site restaurant and secure parking and all managed to overlook the expense, claiming to one another that there was unlikely to be much alternative within a reasonable distance and anyway we had research and emails to do.

Plenty of rivers crossed our path today

Plenty of rivers crossed our path today

After a refreshing swim in the bath-warm pool and drying off on poolside loungers, we ordered fresh fruit juice drinks and sat until nearly dusk enjoying some luxury time after the  pleasant but spartan facilities we had endured in Nagarote. We discussed the forthcoming days of travel and the, by now, growing and enthusiastic response from Central American Antique Car Clubs.

I hope this one is not going to be on the road when we are!

I hoped this one was not going to be on the road when we were!

 

 

 

 

 

 

13th May. Nacaome, Honduras.

Departure in the cool of the morning was nearly on time after a delay in getting breakfast at the hotel. We swung back onto the road leading mainly west and wondered what the day ahead would bring, in particular the border crossing into El Salvador.

Blossom of the flamboyant tree brightens the road side

Blossom of the flamboyant tree brightens the road side

 

Roof repairs on a typical village home

Roof repairs on a typical village home

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother and son, walking the cows back home

Mother and son, walking the cows back home

 

 

Quiet roads and distant peaks

Quiet roads and distant peaks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Border approacj through the town streets

Border approacj through the town streets

It is the case that right-hand drive cars are not legal in El Salvador. A special dispensation or license may be granted at the border but is usually for a 24-hour period and the substantial deposit may be forfeited if the time is exceeded. Recently, Eunice Kratky and Guy Butcher had had problems entering El Salvador and then, due to an urgent repair, had been late leaving and endured all sorts of trials, eventually being comprehensively fleeced by border runners and the Salvadorian Customs.

Diana and Stan after visiting the anonymous immigration office to leave Honduras

Diana and Stan after visiting the anonymous immigration office to leave Honduras

During the previous few days we had been in touch with the Car Club in San Salvador and were now armed with some particular advice and the possibility of a special license to allow us a longer stay with our right-hand drive cars.

The bridge to El Salvador

The bridge to El Salvador

Arriving at the Honduran border we were fairly quickly signed out, delayed only by a woman Customs official in a deliberate ploy to get rid of us. Amanda and I entered the Customs Office to get the cars signed out. We had been directed to this Office by Immigration, so we were fairly sure we were in the correct place. A woman behind a desk, the only person in the office, when asked if this was the place we needed, immediately said “No, you need to go to the office by the bridge into El Salvador”. So, confused by the redirection, we walked to the bridge, where a puzzled looking policeman said “No, you need to go to the office on the right”, of course the one we had just come from. We walked back and at the door encountered a male Customs officer, who said “Yes, this was the right place”. Back inside, the woman officer was still at her desk, but now eating breakfast and ignoring us. The paperwork was soon prepared and the cars inspected for numbers. Back at the office with the paperwork complete, I thanked her for her helpful advice and wished her a very special day. Amanda says that the irony was not missed despite the language barrier.

Amanda keeping an eye on the cars as we sought out the Aduana's Offices

Amanda keeping an eye on the cars as we sought out the Aduana’s Offices

Armed military keep at tight rein on border towns

Armed military keep at tight rein on border towns

Now ready for the entry “dance”, the three cars crossed the bridge and drove into some welcome shade under the buildings in El Salvador. We had been working on our technique for paperwork and watching the cars. Amanda and I would first get our passports stamped for entry, while Diana and Stan watched the cars. During the first ten minutes, the often excitable crowds needed to be asked not stand, sit, lean or place babies or dogs on the cars, while questions as to age, value, economy and similar, answered. Then I would watch the cars while Stan and Diana did the same with Amanda in attendance to interpret if needed.

Welcome to El Salvador

Welcome to El Salvador

Then Amanda, Diana and Stan would go to the vehicle entry desk, where it might take as long as a couple of hours to get the cars approved, numbers inspected, insurance purchased, road tax paid and copies of documents handed over, including copies of those of new stamps we had just acquired in the passports, while I watched the cars. Today, I was especially vigilant owing to the potential steering wheel issue. Three Customs officials came out to look, photograph and talk about the cars while I was waiting. I took care to spend time with them, one spoke excellent english, giving them our visiting card and showing them the engines and so on.

Three Aduanas became interested, the boss said no however

Three Aduanas became interested, the boss said no however

 

Waiting for customs clearance

Waiting for customs clearance

After a while their chief also came from the office and had not been there more than a few minutes when he clocked the wheel position. He had a few words with his English-speaking colleague, which I noticed, and then the officer said to me in an apologetic way, “You have a big problem, you cannot enter with this car”. I had been anticipating this occurring and so in a confident manner replied as briefed “Ahh, yes: the law on driving wheel position. It does of course not apply to a vehicle built before the law was introduced, which of course I am sure your chief knows, however the President of the Antique Car Club is at the moment at the Transport Ministry, making an application for a licence for us to enter the country for an extended time”. Hurried consultation ensued, followed by “Do you have this licence we can see?” I explained that it was being sought now and so we did not have it but if he would like to telephone the President he would of course confirm the situation. The Chief shrugged and said to his officer “Well if they are stopped we did not see them” and left.

Relieved, I relaxed and waited for the others to arrive back with paperwork completed. We were not yet out of the woods because whilst most of the “dance” was completed here, this was one of the exceptions to the rule of ‘all in one place’. This time we had to travel about 3 kms along the road before we turned onto a dirt track which took us to an enormous parking lot with a vast open-sided shed and loading platform. Asked to enter a small area in this shed we sat on some chairs, officiously enclosed by strands of wire to keep the chairs in position and to stop one leaving the enclosure, which was guarded by two uniformed guys with shot guns. We waited in the mounting heat as people in uniform came and went through a blackened glass door, each time releasing tantalising wafts of chilled air from the interior.

Eventually, a very pleasant uniformed young man, Juan Navidad, came and gave us a form each to fill in. These forms are invariably mutli-purpose and cover most eventualities from entering by hovercraft or spaceship, through 40-ton truck to private car. To the best of our ability we answered the questions, conferring where necessary and adopting our usual next address in ‘X’ country as Plaza Hotel, ‘XXXX’ town.

This time we were in for a rude shock. Three times the forms came back, this was not filled in, that was not correct, this was now needed and that was to be added. An additional form appeared and as it specifically asked for the wheel position alarm bells rang, not only had we been spotted, but the nameless, faceless official who was dealing with our application had an official runner, who was having to amble to and from the chilled interior office under instruction to torture us further each time! We could not even argue our case in person. Dread thoughts crossed our mind, were we to be undone by this simple expedient?

The vehicles were examined, the numbers were correct, again we waited in the stifling heat, without any refreshment available and without respite of a breeze in our corner of the shed of torture. An hour and a half had passed, we were approaching the previous ‘border crossing time record’ of four hours and all that we knew was that “Your papers are being looked at”.  We met two motorcyclists who had been captured by the same system and we exchanged travel stories for a while, Amanda was able to help them with some of the more obscure points on the questionnaire. Both American, from Texas, Joe and his friend Chuck had been on the road for nearly six months through all the South American countries and were now just anxious to get home to Houston.

We had been advised by the car club, to be at the border at 07.00, which we had and they had confidently predicted that we would be in the country within two hours. Now at 11.15 we looked like missing the arranged meeting outside San Salvador to be led into the city to a booked hotel. Without yet having been able to buy a Salvadorian SIM card we could not let anybody know either.

Finally at about 12.15 the paperwork, typed and printed from our original forms, emerged from the ‘Inner Sanctum’ and to our absolute astonishment it gave a us a clear 60 days to stay in the country! Rapidly we left and without a backward glance got going. We later noticed that, where Diana had conscientiously written ‘Right’ in answer to the question: ‘Location of steering wheel?’, this had been transcribed on the printed form as ‘Left’ and on Stan’s and our form, it appeared as ‘No applica’ (Does not apply).

First impressions of Salvador

First impressions of Salvador

We bought fuel and water for ourselves and after an age of creeping progress came to better roads and began to make more speed. During the afternoon I had another puncture on the same wheel as had previously given trouble. Eventually we reached the

We passed a huge hydro-electric dam

We passed a huge hydro-electric dam

outskirts of San Salvador and called again to our contact Luis Larin, the President of the El Salvador antique car club who had kindly offered to meet us on the Pan Americano and guide us to a hotel of his selection. We had stopped at a garage we thought

Lush vegetation and wooded hills

Lush vegetation and wooded hills

might be easily identifiable, next to an imposingly tall building with a large signposted name and telephoned Luis. He was, by now, on the road and said he was not far away. Several calls later and with darkness gathering, we made contact and learned that the road we were on was no longer the Pan Americano, but had divided a few miles back and we were now on the “Golden Highway” (so named because of the inflated cost of its construction). We then followed Luis and Victor Manuel Martinez in the dark to the hotel, El Meson de Maria, near the centre of the city, very glad of his guidance.

The hotel belongs to a member of another of the City’s car clubs who offered a discounted rate for the rooms and there was a welcoming group of car enthusiasts, there for a meeting. After beer and sandwiches and much talk we parted for the night having made plans for the morning.

14th May. San Salvador, El Salvador.

We had arranged to be ready at 08.00 for several appointments, but first I had a puncture to deal with. Stan had kindly offered to give me a hand and so by 06.30, to avoid the heat, we were in the car park in old clothes to begin the task. Having had a number of punctures on this journey I was feeling confident of doing this in short order. Today, for some reason, I struggled to even remove the tyre from the rim, it fought every inch of the way. After half an hour of frankly amateurish fumbling, the tyre was removed and a nick found in the inner tube. The tyre had to come completely off the rim in order to closely inspect it for another stray wire whisker, but none was found. I fished one of the repaired inner tubes from the spares department and refitted the tyre with the usual bar of Yardley’s Lavender.

The hotel owners one-off custom built body on a VW chassis

The hotel owners one-off custom built body on a VW chassis

After a quick shower and cup of coffee we were confronted with our first appointment, a photographer from the City newspaper, which turned out to be simple. Next was the editor of the bimonthly “Speed” magazine, more photos and some words. By now quite a large crowd of Club members had arrived with a selection of cars, two minis, an immaculate MGA, a Ford Galaxy and a couple of retro cars, one based on VW beetle underpinnings.

Victor's immaculately rebuilt MGA

Victor’s immaculately rebuilt MGA

 

The proud owner and the spotless engine bay

The proud owner and the spotless engine bay

I had promised Luis a ride in the Austin and we did a circuit of local streets. On our return the TV Station crew had arrived

Two Cooper minis attended

Two Cooper minis attended

and spent a long time interviewing club members, getting footage from within Bertie and roadside, as I drove the same circuit and performed slow or fast passes for the benefit of the cameraman. Now many of the Club members wanted to sit in the cars, have photos and generally it turned out to be a proper bun fight and much fun was had by all. All that is except Amanda, being the only spanish speaker in the group, she was co-opted to do the interview to camera and answer questions, which she did graciously but unwillingly, poor her. Later she speculated that the whole item would have been cut because of her performance, which I doubt as she is of course far to modest aout her abilities in these situations.

Amanda and the TV crew

Amanda and the TV crew

Anxious to not be late starting our journey on the day, we had made it clear that we had to leave by 10.30 and at 11.30 we were beginning to fidget to be off. Luis was very conscious of our need to get under way and was instrumental in

Luis ???? President of the Club and his Ford Galaxy

Luis Larin President of the Club and his Ford Galaxy

prising us away from the attentions of the Club members. In convoy with the MGA, Ford Galaxy and several minis we were led out of the city centre and onto the road, north west towards the border. Our profuse thanks and goodbyes were made roadside and then we were back

Leaving the hotel we had an escort

Leaving the hotel in San Salvador we had an escort

to our quiet(ish) amble towards the next border, this time with Guatemala.

 

 

 

 

On the road with MGA and Minis

On the road with MGA and Minis

 

Fast trucks beat us to the border

Fast trucks beat us to the border

 

Flamboyant trees shaded the road

Flamboyant trees shaded the road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The approach to the border was strange, no signs were evident, but we noticed that all the trucks seemed to

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Road works as we approach the border

 

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be facing us as we crossed a vast new bridge. Stopped by an official it appeared that we were now entering Guatemala on the road out of it. Turned back we found an obscure turning which entered a town heaving with hawkers, a street market, blaring music and, immediately next to the unmarked buildings housing immigration and Aduana, some sort of sale going on which involved a man and a woman alternately shouting through a PA system that would have done justice to a ‘Who’ gig.

Fortunately the ‘exit dance’ was soon done and we could pass over the old bridge to the Guatemalan side.

For the first time at a border crossing there were no hustlers at all. The process was simple and straightforward, however it took an age to complete. The very amiable officer could not have been more helpful, but the amount of detail required, inspection and checking now nearly equalled the record. In the same building was a branch of the bank charged with receiving payment for entry, to separate it from the Customs Officer and thereby avoid corruption. This bank could not however change money and so we were instructed to go the money changers for the necessary Guatemalan funds. Nor could they offer the insurance which we were assured they could issue. This was only available, possibly, in the next town about 35 kms away and about to shut in an hour.

Whilst watching the cars I talked to a Health Security Officer, Andy, who was there to inspect incoming loads of fruit and vegetables for insect infestation. I learned that he had been selected with fourteen other people from Latin America to go to Japan for three months to learn the language at the invitation of the Japanese Government. His english was excellent and I enjoyed talking to him about the country and his job.

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First impressions of the road in Guatemala

We decided that there was little we could do about the lack of insurance, other than drive without it, so we got going at about 16.00, several hours after we had been expecting to be clear of formalities. Now we had to decide whether to risk dashing for the Capital or stopping short and risk annoying our reception outside the city. A second factor came into play at this point. Everyone we had asked about the road ahead had warned of the first 35 kms being slow going.

The broken road surface beyond the border

The broken road surface beyond the border

Thus prepared, we embarked on a slow, tedious crawl from pot-hole to pot-hole, round deformed or altogether missing road surfaces. Often forced to stop by oncoming vehicles as they chose our side of the road to avoid the worst on their side, in the end

This hole was about 80mm deep and fast becoming a potential breaker of cars and trucks

This hole was about 80mm deep and fast becoming a potential breaker of cars and trucks

we chose safety and called it a day at about 17.30 in the town of Jalpatagua.

Amanda and I were in front at this point and had been recommended by the helpful customs officer, to stay at a Hostal called ‘Hollywood’ which we spotted and turned onto the parking area, followed by Feisty and Dusty. Stan said that we had been followed by a police vehicle for many miles and he thought we were just about to be ‘pulled’ as we had stopped and thus avoided a possible “traffic infringement” or contribution to a “police ball”, noted by other travellers in Guatemala.

The Hollywood Hostal turned out to be a very good recommendation. Jose, the young grandson of the manager, took Diana and Amanda to buy SIM cards in a Tuk-tuk, “to see you get a fair offer”, the manager leant us her cell phone meantime to call the car club to let them know we were delayed. Then she cooked us supper of pasta, sauce and salad, and had beer in the fridge. Having had a very full and somewhat stressful day we were early to bed and fell asleep to the sound of the adjacent evangelical church having a Tuesday evening service, the happy music lulling us into oblivion.

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Tuk-tuks the local taxis

 

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Unloading the chummy at the end of the day

 

 

 

 

 

15th May. Jalpatagua, Guatamala.

We had breakfast, scrambled eggs, refried beans and fried plantain, Diana’s face has to be seen on these occasions, to be believed. We thanked our hostess for the night, who had a hard time believing we were for real, and turned back onto the road. We knew that only a few miles along we would join a bigger road which should enable better progress. Just as we found it we came to the tail of a queue and learned that this was for major road works and the system was an hour in one direction and an hour in the other. From the length of the queue, it looked as if we might be there some time.

 

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Guatemalan highlands

The usual gaggle of queue hawkers appeared with fresh fruit, nuts in bags, phone charger cords, bundles of cables for electronic equipment and jewellery, all that one might need in such situations. We stood on the opposite side of the road in the

 

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New roads for old

shade of some trees and watched the activities of the crowd. A few buses charged up the wrong side of the single carriage-way and squeezed in at the head of the queue, a few vehicles came the other way through the road works, but otherwise the now extensive line, which disappeared around a corner behind us was patient.

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A town street in Guatemala

Suddenly clouds of blue exhaust gases sprang up along the  parked vehicles and we were off. What prompted this exodus and what signal determined its beginning I have no idea, but we joined in the melee and kept our elbows out to avoid being swamped by the vehicles behind us jumping ahead if more than an inch was left unoccupied.

The road works extended for about 3 kilometres and we met much traffic coming our way and concluded that traffic in both directions had been halted.

We passed gangs of orange-clad figures, bundled up against the fierce heat and beating sun, all happy to drop tools and produce cameras and phones with which to take photos. Further road

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One of the Red Devil buses, high speed death traps

works delayed us along the way and two stops, one for the army and one for the police, both for photos only. In touch with the Guatemalan Antique Car Club, we reached the place nearly on time and were met by Cesar Caballeros, Marco Tulio Garcia

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and his daughter Mercedes. After a quick introduction, and the arrival of two minis, we set off in convoy to Guatemala City and lunch.

There followed the most glorious couple of hours at the Osteria restuarant. Sadly, Cesar had to leave to collect his father, but the three mini owners and Marco Tulio and Mercedes stayed and we enjoyed a very convivial time in the lovely surroundings.

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The Osteria car park in Guatemala City

The parking area is reserved for antique cars and there was already a Fiat 500 and an Alfa parked when we joined with the three sevens and two minis. During lunch, Ariel Perez arrived to say hello and brought with him pictures of a 1933 Austin 7 Opal which

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he bought a few years ago from a New Zealander who had a business in Guatemala. He was surprised to hear that we had covered the whole distance without the use of water pumps or any special equipment, I encouraged him to use the car because as he could see they are really not fragile, fit only for local shopping trips.

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A wonderful lunch in the beautiful garden of the Osteria

Ariel’s family own a hotel in Antigua and he invited us to spend the night there. We were tempted because of the descriptions we had been reading of the city, once the capital of Central America, so after a quick group consultation we accepted the kind offer and Mercedes and her father offered to lead us out of Guatemala city to Antigua.

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Mercedes and Marco

 

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Family Garcia

On the way we passed by the family businesses to collect Mercedes’ dog and say a quick hello to her mother and sister.

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Guatemala City

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The climb out of Guatemala City was accompanied as usual by the clouds of unburnt diesel from poorly maintained and badly abused bus engines

The climb and then steep fall to Antigua went well and on the outskirts we were handed over to a hotel employee on a motorcycle who had been sent specially to guide us to the hotel.

 

 

We said our farewells to Marco Tulio and Mercedes and completed the journey over the cobbled streets of Antigua to the Las Farolas hotel. It was difficult to concentrate on the road as we were constantly distracted by the wealth of beautiful colonial buildings some in a very good state of repair, some in a ruinous condition.

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Cobbled streets in Antigua

The city, a UNESCO world heritage site has a chequered history of destruction and rebuilding due to earth tremors, leading to virtual abandonment in the 18th century after which it has slowly recovered and is now a very popular tourist destination for both foreign and domestic visitors.

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Antigua’s signature volcano looms over the ancient capital of Guatemala

The hotel was quite splendid and we had time to walk around some of the streets, have a drink together before returning at bedtime. Because we had made more progress during the day than anticipated we agreed that we could afford a day to make some adjustments to the cars and catch up on correspondence, forward planning and also have time to further explore the city.

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Splendid churches line the streets

 

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As well as the old administrative buildings

We spoke to Pamela, Ariel’s daughter who runs the family owned hotel, and arranged to stay another night.

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Architectural features abound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entering the hotel car park

 

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An early evening stroll in the streets

 

 

 

 

 

 

16th May. Antigua, Guatemala.

Diana wanted to adjust the chummy brakes and so we started early before it got hot. One of the rear wheels was found to be loose along with the  brake drum. The drum-securing screws were damaged and had to be replaced and the wheel nuts fastened properly, it is a mystery why the assembly had come loose at all. The brakes adjusted all round, Diana used the loose car park surface to gently skid the wheels to check that the pull was even and after a further tweak they were declared fit for purpose.

Amanda and I spent the morning walking around the city and an enjoyable time exploring a former Capuchin Convent, restored with much financial assistance from Taiwan. In the afternoon I worked on the blog and Amanda enjoyed the hotel gardens. Stan and Diana also visited the city streets and in the evening we all went for supper in a courtyard cafe-bar. All agreed that this was a place to which we would be glad to return and explore further.

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The main Plaza at sunset

17th May. Antigua, Guatemala

As we had arranged to leave early, Pamela had suggested that a light breakfast be left for us in a lovely loggia with its sweet-smelling trailing vine and blossoms, which were visited by humming birds. IMG_5537We found coffee and homemade biscuits prepared for us and were grateful for the kind thought. By 06.30 we were wending our way over the cobbled streets and into the early-morning traffic. The climb back to the Pan Americano, although steep, was on an excellent road surface, always a help when climbing in low gears.

A Lolly-Pop lady on the way to work

Leaving Antigua along the lava cobbled streets

Turning north-west again we headed for Huehuetenango, our jumping-off point for the Mexican border. The day was filled with those minor road incidents, none of which was particularly notable, but together made for an absorbing one. There were road works at which large back-hoe machines were sending cascades of earth and sand from the top of 150ft cuttings to be carried away by lorry, loaded by gigantic Cat shovels, three scoops filling a 10-wheeled truck in under a minute. We passed lively towns where all were busily occupied in transactions to do with the huge amounts of vegetables we had seen growing and being harvested in the fields. Cabbage, salad crops, fruits in glowing colours and varieties were abundant.

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Another of those buses

 

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Trucks piled high with salad crops and fruit

Reaching our destination at 16.00, we had identified from a guide book a hotel that seemed suitable for our needs and entered one of the many confusing city centres we had encountered. Fortunately this city had signs to the central park and in the quickly-coagulating Friday evening traffic we eventually managed to find enough space to park and walk the short distance to the hotel.

Guidebooks are curious things, one is often left wondering if the places mentioned have actually been visited or are perhaps descriptions from the imaginings of a inventive typist in some call centre in a far away land. The Royal Palace hotel was no exception to this rule. Reception, which was fairly swish, was dominated by a large flat-screen TV on which a football match was being shown. Opposite this were a couch and several foyer armchairs in which a loud and vociferous group of football fans were watching the action. The dimly-lit desk, glittering  with gold-bright points was occupied by a young woman who seemed oblivious to the noise. She could barely hear our shouted enquiries, but eventually we learned that there were rooms available and asked to see them. On the floor above, rooms were variously not opened because the keys did not work, were opened to find tenants in occupation, had no external windows and all were in the decorative style of 60’s England, gone to seed. The giant, velour bed headboards in brown and gold had seen better days and the heavy red and gold curtains and drapes, deeply-recessed ceiling moulding and badly-concealed fluorescent lights reminded one of a ‘Carry-On’ film set.

Since this was the ‘best’ hotel in town and none of us could face fighting our way through the traffic again we ignored the surroundings, put the cars into the underground car park and booked in for the night. Although we made several forays into town we failed to find anywhere to eat and ended up buying beer at a supermarket to drink with our passable supper in the hotel restaurant, there being no bar. As we entered the restaurant, the only patrons that night, the waitress made the error of switching on the TV and left us with the remote. Her surprise when it was immediately switched off was plainly evident.

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A smoke belching bus pulls out ahead of us and for several  minutes one gets the full benefit of unburnt diesel, nice!

 

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Hill climbing again, second gear and trundling

So ended our last full day in Guatemala, a country which had surprised us with its variety and sophistication. Antigua is lovely and the enthusiastic greetings and welcome we had received everywhere were overwhelming.

Four coffins, are they coming to get us?

Four coffins, are they coming to get us?

Tomorrow, we would make a our penultimate border crossing, into Mexico, making a total of four in five days. By now almost expert at the game we were confident in our ability to anticipate the pitfalls, so went to bed in a relaxed frame of mind. BIG mistake, never underestimate the ability of officialdom to find ways to spoil your day!!!!!

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Local children stare and wonder?

 

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Stan’s own bridge!

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Queuing for road work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thousands of tonnes of spoil, spill down the hillside, removed to avoid mud slides

 

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We reached the peak of the climb at over 9,000 feet

 

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Higher than our first Andes crossing at 9,918 feet in Guatemala

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Huehuetenango, pronounced ‘Wheywheytenango’

 

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A busy northern Guatemalan town

 

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Women in local costume, carry children and goods on their backs in shawls

 

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A boutique hotel in Antigua

 

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Antiguan streets

 

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The main Plaza

 

 

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Restored churches

 

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Still to be restored churches

 

 

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Door knockers

 

 

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Capuchin church

GFFlowers in profus

 

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Capuchin cloisters

 

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Capuchin architecture

 

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The main courtyard, now restored

 

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Ruined churches

 

 

 

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The Farol loggia

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “26th May. Monterrey, Mexico.

  1. Well now, this is a very nice one. No big mends, no big troubles, on schedule and lovely sights, what more could you ask for? I have also fallen in love with Antigua, had not seen pictures of this paradise, very glad some work is being done on these historical monuments of the past. How is Beanie?Hope you haven’t forgot him in a suitcase, Hmmm

    • Transalation:
      How are you, where are you?
      Need anything call me.
      There are friends all along your route.
      Regards to all

  2. Ha sido un placer conocerlos y convivir con cada uno ustedes aunque sea por un momento. Con todo el respeto y admiración a la aventura que emprendieron y deseándoles el mayor de los éxitos en su trayectoria.

    Esperamos que su estancia en Monterrey la hayan disfrutado mucho..!! En esta ciudad dejaron un grupo de buenos amigos.

    Saludos, Israel

    FB: https://www.facebook.com/salas.israel

    • Translation
      It has been a pleasure metting you, living with you all , even if for a moment.With all due respect and admiration to your journey, wishing you all the best on the way.
      Hope you enjoyed your stay in Monterrey, you have left lots of friends in this city, regards Israel

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