The plan had been simple. Drive to the beach. Lounge around the pool all afternoon. Drive home. That’s it. That’s all we wanted to do. Not a complicated ordeal.
It should have been a breeze. It should have been a relaxing day
It should have been a lot of things.
But what it ended up being was something vastly different from what it should have been.
A 2 and a half hour drive became 6 hours.
A decision between going straight or turning left had consequences of epic proportions.
It became a day of small victories. Of battles fought and won. We waged a heroic fight, and eventually, overcame all obstacles. We may have lost our sanity, I may have messed up David's last day in Guatemala, my muffler may never be the same again, but by golly, we made it to the beach.
We didn’t let the protestors stop us. No! We charged on. Damn them who say driving into oncoming traffic is dangerous. We didn’t care! We were determined to go to the beach, come hell or mobs of Guatemalan protestors.
And who cares that our directions left a lot to be desired. I’d made the same drive just a short 4 months prior while sitting in the backseat of someone else's car. Surely the details that were left out of the directions I could make up for with my excellent memory.
It also didn’t matter that my cell phone lost service 45 minutes out of the city and I lost my opportunity to call people for better directions. And no need to tell David of that fact. I didn’t want to make the poor guy worry about it. Besides…everything had been easy since we passed the protestors. How bad could it get? We'd be sitting on the beach in a short 2 hours and then I could tell him that I had no way of getting us any help if, by some crazy turn of events, I had gotten us lost in southeast Guatemala.
So, I pressed on, without good directions and no way of getting better ones. When we passed the sign for the turn off to Escuintla, I took it. I don’t know why, and less than 5 minutes had passed before I realized I probably shouldn’t have. But oh well, we had Escuintla on one set of directions, so I figured at worst it would add 30 minutes to a our trip.
30 minutes. Big deal. Who cares about a lousy 30 minutes?
We kept trucking along. By then, we knew for sure we were following the “longer” route on the directions, but still eventually finding all the right cities. The Guatemalan countryside was beautiful, Jack Johnson was “La da da da da da da da da-ing” on the radio, and I was still feeling fairly confident that we were heading in the right direction. Not totally confident since I knew we were taking the longer route, the route I didn’t know, but I was still trusting that we were going to make it.
It all began to unravel during the Taxisco fiasco. On our directions it said to turn left to Taxisco and go to La Avellana. Once again, sounded simple but ended up being impossible. We drove straight though Taxisco without seeing any kind of sign for La Avellana or even another road. It was a small town with only one main road coming through it. Having no alternative, we took the road leading out of Taxisco, even though we had no idea where it was going to take us. After about 10 minutes, we passed through a small village. Checking with our map (THANK GOD FOR THE MAP), we realized we were heading straight for EL Salvador. Now, had we had our passports with us, that would have been a viable option. Sadly, sans passports, it just meant we were going in the wrong direction. Determining that we made a left when we should have made a right, we pulled a quick U-ey and turned around to head the right direction.
Or so we thought.
Actually, once we passed the road we had made our "mistake" at, I began to get a funny feeling. While one patch of open countryside is not readily identifiable from another patch of open countryside, I had a bad feeling that we'd already been here before. I consulted David (who I later figured out doesn't pay a bit of attention to landmarks, signs, or buildings while driving) who disagreed and didn't think any of this looked familiar. Left with no alternative but to keep driving, I kept on going. After another 20 minutes or so, I think I may have let out a loud "SHIT!" (I'm not absolutely positive that shit was my expletive of choice at the moment, but you get the idea.) We had just passed a sign for the Guatemalan Drive-Thru Safari. I am not sure what a drive-thru Safari is, but I was quite certain we had passed this exact same business an hour ago when we were still looking for Taxisco. Some how, we managed to just make a huge circle, and were now heading back to Escuintla.
It was at this moment that I was almost gave up. I was feeling horrible about wasting our morning. I felt stupid for not calling someone for better directions before we got on the road. I had no clue how to get us to the beach and I was beyond frustrated. I think it was at this point that I started apologizing every 5 minutes or so.
That was probably pretty annoying for David.
We ended up back in Escuintla (I think), where we found a road that was headed for Puerto San Jose, which we knew for a fact was on the coast. Road CA-9. It was supposed to be our salvation.
Like so many things that day, it did exactly what it was supposed to do but only in some kind of sick, twisted way. It got us to San Jose, yes. But it was this horrible road that was in the process of being repaved. At least, that's what all the signs said. However, it looked like it had been unpaved for a very long time and was going to remain that way for a while yet.
The worst part about this road wasn't the bumps and gravel and general malaise of the road...it was the brief stretches of intact paved road that totally messed with your head. You'd reach one, and think perhaps that the worst was over. From here on out it would be smooth sailing and San Jose was just minutes away. And then BAM! the asphalt would end and you'd be back to driving 15 miles an hour, dodging potholes and goats and trucks overflowing with sugarcane. It did this over and over until I couldn't handle it anymore and let David drive.
Eventually, we did make it to San Jose. And EVENTUALLY, we made it Iztapa. I think maybe I have blocked out this part of the trip because I don't remember how we did it. I just know it involved turning around a lot on a narrow, sketchy looking road and eventually asking the guard to Aqua Magic to help us. By then, I didn't care anymore. I'd given up hope that we were going to make it anywhere before sundown. I began thinking about how to get back to the city without having to go anywhere near CA-9 again.
But somehow...we found the dirt road that took us to the ferry we needed. Once we made it to the ferry, I knew we were going to make it. One left hand turn, 20 kms and we were there. Oddly enough, I wasn't very excited. Relieved? Yes. Excited? No.
But I think the day had taken it's toll on me by then. It was almost 3 o'clock--6 hours after we had set out for the beach. I still felt horrible that all of this had happened. I know we tried to make it sound better by saying that at least we got a good story out of it, but I still think I would have chosen the short, direct route over the good story. But only because my actions had involved other people. I can go back to the beach anytime, but this was David's chance to hang out on the Pacific coast of Guatemala and I kind of messed it up. Yes, we made it eventually, and we had a good time spending 3 hours hanging out by the pool and in the hammocks...but it was only a fraction of how good the day could have been.
But OH WELL. It's still a good story. And not a day I will soon forget.
Setting Sun on the Pacific Ocean