Sometimes things happen for a reason. Other times, they just happen out of pure spite.
Dios: Your face!
Richard: Well that’s a bit mean
Dios: I meant when the Mexican border bitch told you to piss off back to Guatemala. And then you said ‘what you going to do, call the police?” Brilliant. What was her reply again?
Richard: Urghh! I don’t know why we have to go through this. She said ‘yes I will call the police’
Dios: That’s right, wonderful! If I had eyes, they’d be welling up
Richard: Mine can do that for you. So what did I do to you, exactly?
Dios: Oh don’t be so melodramatic, I’m just messing. Your trip until Guatemala was fine, right?
Richard: Well Ecuador was a bit shit actually, and that motorbike incident in Paraguay
Dios: Ahh piffle. Anyway, your car arrived in Guatemala didn’t it?
Richard: Well, yes. The agencies lied to me and it cost me four times more than it should, it arrived five days late, took a week for documentation, and the shipyard broke the radiator, handbrake and stole a load of tools
Dios: Should have paid more money to put it in a shipping container
Richard: I did!
Dios: Yeah, I know! I am such a kidder! Anyway, got a surprise for you. You know that Mexican/Guatemalan border, the one you’re scared of because of the drug running and stuff?
Richard: Is the surprise that the border only opens from 9 to 5? Because I read that already
Dios: Well yes, 9 to 5, but on both sides. 5pm in Guatemala is 6pm in Mexico. Oh, and you’ll need a bank guarantee for the car, at an actual bank at the Mexican side, not just a credit card swipe
Richard: But surely if I enter at one side they’ll let me through on the other?
Dios: Ish. The passport office is open until 6pm. Guess when the bank closes?
Richard: Erm . . . same time as the border closes?
Dios: Ha! Good one. No, it closes at 5pm in Mexico, which in Guatemalan time is 4pm
Richard: But that would be ridiculous! If I just make the Guatemalan border before closing at 4.40pm then . . .
Dios: You’ll be stuffed because although Mexico will stamp your passport, they won’t let you come in with your vehicle. Hilarious! Haven’t told you the best bit yet - I’m going to take a photo of you on this one – guess when the bank will open?
Richard: Well it’s Sunday now, so Monday morning?
Dios: Tuesday! I know, right! Ha ha ha Your face!!! So with Mexico refusing you, you’ll have to stay in that dodgy Guatemala border-town. Course on your way back through from Mexico the Guatemalan border will be closed so they will be pissed off at giving you a re-entry, and won’t give you documentation for your car
Richard: Hang on, so if I do get back across the Guatemalan border and try go anywhere else . . ?
Dios: You’ll be arrested for flaunting the rules of not having the right paperwork. Oh, and guess where I’ve put the nearest bank? Half an hour drive away! I had a good chuckle at that
Richard: Jesus Christ! I mean, sorry . . . but this is mental!
Dios: Did I tell you about the border town? It’s brilliant, you’ll hate it. No phone reception, electricity goes off at 10pm until 8am so no air-con and it gets absolutely steaming at night! Also, piss poor wifi, ants in the rooms, and remember you don’t have any money to pay for it anyway!
Richard: You’ve completely shagged me!
Dios: That bank bit was a stroke of genius. Anyway, got to dash, I have some puppies going to an orphanage on Christmas Day that I want to accidentally euthanize. Sleep well, fu**er!
I’ve always loved the rain, especially when some kind of schadenfreude is involved. And lo, as I happily trudged through the Mayan ruins at Copan amidst a belting storm and looked across to a Park Ranger being paid to make sure I didn’t try to wrestle a two-tonne stone tablet into my knapsack, I enjoyed myself very much.
I’d come to Western Honduras from El Salvador via local ‘chicken-buses’, tiny hi-ace type mini-vans weaving through the countryside crammed with people – mine at its peak packed in 22 adults and 4 children. They are, to put it rather mildly, extremely cosy. My route took me through San Pedro Sula, 2016 Murder Capital of the World it says here, like they won it in a pageant. I confess I saw nothing to necessitate clapping on my rubber underpants, and yet was saddened to hear that friends recently living in Copan on a coffee farm had their lives threatened and subsequently left pretty quickly. Incidentally, soon my travels take me to Mexico, Kidnap Capital of the World – 2013, if you were wondering. Continually I read on forums the same wonderful lines: “It’s perfectly safe! I’ve driven it lots of times, they’re very friendly . . . don’t drive at night” I love that addendum, like it’s the most perfectly normal thing in the world. “The air is perfectly safe, just don’t breathe it in!” said no one. Yet this part of the world has a historical whiff of danger about it, so back to school I go.
The Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilisations have been interesting to see, although often what differentiates them escapes me. The spelling helps, admittedly. The Aztecs came to the fore about the time when Asia was battling the Mongols and Europe was burning Joan of Arc, whereupon the Mayans existed for almost three millennia until the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. I say existed, the Mayans, as far as I can tell, still exist – they were simply assimilated into society, there are still plenty of Mayans about (or Indians as I heard one refer to herself). The Mayans were philosophers, architects, traders, scientists, mathematicians, astronomers and builders of cities. They also developed the solar calendar and advanced written languages, with over twenty different dialects that are still spoken today. The Aztecs on the other hand loved a human sacrifice, most notably of their conquered enemies they would take to task with the war-like invention of the atlatl. Yet they weren’t just butchers (bakers and candlestick makers), they were craftsman, sculptors and aqueduct builders too, which does get lost a bit amongst the blood thirsty bastardsness - the Aztec Priests would cut their prisoners of war from stomach to the throat and rip out their still beating hearts. They only survived about 100 years until Spain’s Cortes invaded, which to me sounds like a welcome invasion considering the alternative.
Whilst the Mayans and Aztecs inhabited Central America and Mexico respectively, the Incas covered vast swatches of western South America about in about 1200, collectively an area several times larger than both the Mayans and Aztecs territory put together. Human sacrifice seems to have been pivotal to the Incas too to quieten the odd blaring volcano, but the Incas also had quite ridiculous traditions of skull-drilling and skull-shaping too to produce cone-heads used to differentiate those of noble stature. Could have just worn a hat. They could build though, with their walls still standing today in many cities. They were expert irrigators and assimilated tribes rather than wiping them out entirely - the skull-shaping originally came from another tribe, the Tiwannaku). Yet the Incans were especially advanced: there was a government, nobility and social classes; human rights; no slave system; raised taxes; had metallurgy and sanitation; constructed temples out of granite which must have taken bloody ages; and yet achieved all that without the wheel or pack animals (llamas and alpacas don’t heave ploughs or 30 tonne stones). Everything was pure man-power.
Whilst the Spanish invasion saw off much of the civilisations, the Incan one is particularly interesting, primarily because Macchu Picchu was never found by the Spanish during their conquest, and yet was completely abandoned mid-build. There are granite blocks still being carved. And yet I have to say, it is quite refreshing coming to a continent and the British not being the bad guys. This is nice. In fact, in some countries like Chile we’re the venerated heroes helping countries claim their independence from the oppressors. Go Britain, it’s not often I get to say that! Apropos of my British roots . . . two tonne stone tablet, going cheap, would look nice in a museum or rockery. Offers?
A new low. It’s rare I’ve been so depressed that I’ve had to eat at McDonalds, but there it is. I have a knack, apparently, for always finding the odd silver lining despite wading knee deep in a fountain of faeces and foregone failure, and so I will put a brave face on the last week of turmoil. ‘Turn that frown upside down!’ they said. All right, let’s do it!
Belize, packed with white silken beaches and breathtaking coral reefs, welcomed a Reed eager to traverse the length of this Caribbean paradise. A holiday from a holiday. Well, that was Plan A. Plan B or F was gaining intimate knowledge of a toilet and a sink, which I’d pendulum between with severe food poisoning. I like the colour green as much as the next man, but it is quite astonishing just how much green can discharge from the human body, and at such velocity! No wonder why The Hulk is so angry. But it’s all positives: ripped abs from the constant retching; impressive weight loss; and when I finally lumbered out of bed on a Wednesday, five days had zoomed by – hullooooo, time saver! There I was, burdened by choice of how to spend my week when the hard work was already done. Huzzahh!
With Izzy’s imminent arrival on the good ship Winner (yup, that’s her name) in three days’ time, I abandoned Belize the next day with a heavy heart, and a light belly. A nice hotel with a pool on the Guatemalan coast seemed just the tonic to further my recuperation, which was ironic considering tonic was probably the one drink not consumed at a reggae party held outside my own private villa until the wee hours. Reggae being my 153rd favourite type of music, sandwiched behind Chinese Opera and mating badgers, I considered this a lucky omen: the following days would surely be better. I mean, they had to be. I had three companies to pay lots of money to and needed to do it in a single working day. Oh, and in cash. That sounds like a foolishly hard task, Reed, how did that happen? Well . . .
I ended up in this sodding nightmare chance to expand my learning horizons because my Australian bank, over a two-week period, consistently confused two business days of effort with TEN business days. They confirmed this to me on the on the fifteenth phone call – yes, really - just before the reggae started. Still, an easy mistake to make (again and again and again) and far from being a burden, gave me a chance to test my temperance and new ways of linking swear words to form one profoundly long insult like some kind of Tourette’s ridden filthmonger caught in a timeloop. I have become quite adept.
Blessed at spending a long weekend in the most inconsequential port town I’ve ever encountered has its advantages, namely no obstacles of distraction such as joy and merriment. With fun being expunged from the calendar, Guatemala’s Puerto Barrios had some surprises up her sleeve as I harried from one bank to another to finalise payments. And I like surprises so it was like a mini birthday in a way. Unbeknownst to me and my shipping agent that has lived here all his 42 years: not all ATM machines are able to process bank cards with microchips (introduced in Europe in the mid 1990’s and present on all of my bank cards); ATM withdrawals are limited to $250 per day per card; banks don’t let you withdraw money directly from the teller; and most banks can only receive Western Union transfers, not send them. Oh and apropos, Western Union chose today of all days, the one day in my life I tried using them, to close their on-line systems worldwide . . . surprise! If my resolve was slipping, at every cross roads I appreciated encouragement from the shipping agencies informing me that Izzy would be impounded and fines accumulated for any further delay to payments. By the way, said my shipping agent casually, here’s another bill for an amount you hadn’t forecasted for, can you pay that now?
With new-found depths of gratitude, and first-borns promised to be bequeathed as slaves, an angel of a friend rallied to settle the last payment of the day when disaster loomed with avarice. All bills finalised, shipping unaffected, a triumph achieved through sheer bloody mindedness and a lot of fossicking. The day was saved!
I then receive a text message on my phone: “Boat still in Honduras, will arrive a day later”. Sonofamo&*er#@%king^*@tbagsh$*forbrains!$#%tard! I wonder if McDonalds is still open?
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here