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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
We’re up early and get set for another big day of driving. Our opposing maps combined with the general lack of quality road signs means the 400 km to Antigua might take 10 hours – we really have no idea. Gas here costs about 28 Quetzales per gallon or around $3.50 USD / gallon. It’s a little strange to see gallons being used, as everything else in the country appears to be metric.
We make excellent time and having Kate to navigate across the top of Guatemala City helps immensely. After a quick lunch break in the big city we move on and roll into Antigua in the early afternoon. We heard about free camping in the Tourist Police compound in the middle of the city, so we head straight there and make it our home for a few days. It’s nice to know we have armed guards patrolling our free campground
I’m really surprised to see Tyler’s beat-up Subaru sitting in the lot and I’m told he’s around the city somewhere. I haven’t seen Tyler since La Manzanilla in Mexico months ago.
Our campground is right next to the main market so we wander over there to buy a few odds and ends we both need. We start out on the outskirts looking through all the junky stores before moving into the middle and getting throughly lost in the endless identical fruit and vegetable stands. The Mercado De Artesanias, a market just for local artists, is right next door and Kate’s eyes light up as she almost runs from store to store perusing the goodies on offer. I’m pretty sure she buys two of everything, to the point that she has to buy another bag to carry it all home.
I’ve heard the Cerro De La Cruz, a lookout above the city is really worthwhile and our guidebooks say it’s not safe to go without a free Police escort. I end up climbing on the back of a motorbike with a Policeman and we zip across the city and up the mountain. The lookout is pretty good, and the ride up and down make it great fun.
In the compound are quite a few “overlanders” – people driving across continents like myself. I’ve been meeting quite a few lately and have been thinking a lot about vehicle choices. On one hand there are people that are totally dedicated to their chosen vehicle and have enough spares and knowhow to go around the world ten times. Others are driving vehicles they barely know the name of and carry no spares or tools at all – they rely completely on local mechanics. I like to think I fall in the middle somewhere and it’s really fun to see how everyone is doing it differently.
Here in Guatemala American made vehicles have become exceedingly rare and have been replaced by makes and models I have almost forgotten about since leaving Australia. Everywhere I look I see Toyota Landcruisers & Hiluxes, Mitsubishi Pajeros & Mondeos, Range Rovers & tough looking Mercedes off-road machines. Almost all are diesel.
I’m told the further south I drive the rarer American cars will become.
We really enjoy wandering around the streets of Antigua, poking into stores and eating cheap meals. We’re in a bookstore when we feel an earthquake strong enough to make everything in the store sway and rattle for a solid five seconds. A few people mill about in the street afterward, then resume their daily lives.