While recording the movement of the sun, moon and stars, they couldn’t have known. Building temples to the gods and shrines to their leaders, they couldn’t have imagined. Living amongst thousands like them, in a world full of daily rituals slowly shaped over hundreds of years, they couldn’t have possibly predicted…that a traveler from the future would climb one of their prized monuments and take a stupid selfie with his magic image and communication box.
Tikal – Guatemala
We’re on a temple in Tikal, sharing a flask of rum, looking across the tree tops, and yes, we took a selfie. Howler monkeys press play on their T-Rex sound boards and Mayan temples poke out from the canopy like icebergs of the jungle. Pairs of parrots fill every tree and I find that they’re annoyingly loud, albeit pretty. I decide, once again, that Tikal is my favorite Mayan site.
We entered the park early enough to avoid paying the “sunset” surcharge, but late enough to discreetly wander until dusk. It’s perpetually hazy and the horizon covered in trees so the sunset is more so a dimming of the lights over the jungle.
At sunrise, we walk back into the park from our steamy camp. We’ve brought our coffees but the heat would make a cold beer more appropriate; no iced frappuccinos around these parts. On yet another temple, we sit and watch a spider monkey swoop towards a tree of howlers and prepare ourselves for the primate battle. Disappointingly, they respect each other’s branches and carry on without incident. There are few people in the park at this hour but one climbs the steps to our perch and ruins our peaceful hideaway…jerk. She notes that we look happy and asks if we’d like a picture together…I guess she’s ok. An instant later she is falling and I jump to help. These “steps” are terribly steep, almost 1-to-2 tread to riser, and I picture the worst. Luckily she catches the ledge and her camera takes the worst of the fall…no Mayan sacrifices today.
We spend hours walking the grounds, drifting in and out of my daydreams about the past. I wonder how well or poorly our own stories will be interpreted in the future. What will they romanticize? What will they mock? I’ve found this kind of thought to be a good exercise in judging how we’re doing as a society. Will our bigotry, addiction to wealth, wastefulness, etc. be as absurd as we find the lifestyles and rituals of past civilizations? I can hear them now…“They used seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, water, and their time and resources to maintain “yards” of grass which produced nothing of substance and were merely aesthetic!” Well Mr. Future Man, look no further than the backyard BBQ, cornhole and slip ‘n slides to find your ‘substance’ and then shut your robot mouth. 😉
After Tikal we decided to camp across the water from Flores, Guatemala. Our friends Amy & Guy and Beat & Betty caught up and we all made plans to head towards Coban the following day. As we pulled up to the river crossing we could see Beat & Betty were already on their way; it’s difficult to miss their sweet blue rig.
We were the first in “line” for the next boat so we pulled to the side, parked and waited for the ferry to return. Once the metal ramp skid onto the rocky bank the vehicles began to unload. Note the size of the front left, and front center vehicles in the picture below.
This is important because each of these two vehicles drove off the ferry and passed our truck without coming within 10 feet of us. Now take note of the second vehicle in the center row on the ferry. The one with “Renegado,” meaning renegade, on his windshield. This low life squirt of rat diarrhea departed the ferry heading straight towards us, held down his horn, and smashed into the back of our one and only home. Maybe someone pissed in his coffee that morning. Or maybe his wife left him for the manager of a KFC when he’s a die-hard fan of Pollo Campero. Either way, Jenna and I were suddenly being dragged backwards. The impact lasted only a moment, but the “did I just get punched in the face?” realization took a while. We looked at each other, simultaneously shouted “did he just hit us?!?!” and jumped out of the truck.
The aluminum frame, that prized element and bedrock of these Four Wheel Campers, was torn apart and mangled; oh hello anger. I’d like to think I put on a good show, but imagine I came across as crazy rather than intimidating. Picture the silly gringo running up the rocky hill, screaming angrily at a truck full of cows in his t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Even in the chaos I remember thinking “this is gonna hurt and look really stupid” when I realized I had to kick off my sandals to stand a chance of catching up. As I got close I caught eyes with the driver in his side view mirror but was surprised and befuddled by his unwillingness to stop the vehicle, conversate with the yelling pale guy, and pay me for the damages. Instead he hit the gas, drove around the stopped traffic and kicked gravel in my direction. I’m still not sure what I expected to happen if I caught him…”One cow and an apology and we’ll call it even!”
With the enemy out of reach I turned around to the scene before me, reminding myself to breathe. As I began my barefoot walk of shame down the hill, the cars in line drove over my sandals and around our injured home. The road-side vendors watched out of the corners of their eyes so as to avoid getting involved, but not miss the drama. Jenna stood, hands on her hips, staring at the wreckage. What ensued was a learning experience.
The municipal ferry policeman saw nothing and wanted nothing to do with our situation; same with the onlookers. Some man, drunk and holding a beer, was apparently the liaison for “el jefe” who wouldn’t get out of the car to talk to us. I had mentally taken down the cow truck’s license plate only to find out, several conversations later, we were somehow missing a number; an unfortunate game of telephone. We were told repeatedly, “This isn’t the U.S.” and “What do you want to do??” The reality was that we weren’t in the U.S. We were in Guatemala, land of the uninsured driver, chicken buses, crazy roads and Mr. Renegada.
Amy & Guy arrived shortly thereafter and offered their assistance (Thanks Guys!). It was really nice to have someone on our side, but there was nothing to be done and we decided it best to head back to our previous camp spot. The owner spoke English, it was familiar and the nearby town would provide us the opportunity for repair parts.
Our drive back was in the same direction as the Renegade’s getaway and we eyed each pull off and gas station for his rig. Back at camp we finally let our guard down, tempered our emotions with a bottle of wine and agreed that it could have been much much worse. We were both physically safe, the truck hadn’t been damaged and the camper was still functional.
The following day I pulled apart the damage and covered the camper in tarps..yay rainy season. The support screws had ripped straight through the now twisted aluminum tubing, the welds were gone, the siding was torn, and the wood split. Due to the twisting and bending of the aluminum there seemed to be no way to force the frame back into place. Cue my favorite problem solving method: Pull up a chair, crack a beer and stare.
Three beers later I found my solution and we took a panga (small boat) and then tuk-tuk to town to find some support brackets. A tree would provide the vertical bracing and our truck jack would provide the force…voila!
We ended up taking eight additional tuk-tuk rides looking for aluminum angle to cover the corner, but had no luck. For now, duct tape decorates a portion of our camper and adds some character. We won’t be able to remove the camper from the truck since there is not enough structural support, or even a jack bracket, but we hope that Four Wheel Campers will cut us some slack when we get home for repairs. All those Four Wheel Camper pictures we’ve been posting have to count for something, right??
So we got into a little accident. It wasn’t our fault. The other guy was a…not nice person. It’s gonna cost us quite a bit to fix the damage. And maybe we missed out on Semuc Chempey because of all this. That’s where the negative stuff ends. Our Four Wheel Camper may not be the prettiest ol’ gal anymore but she still does exactly what we need. We’re still on the road and we’re still together, happily. We’re still living a life many dream of and there’s still so much more to come.
But with all due respect, f@ck you Renegada.
So sorry guys. I know how stressful that must be but so glad everyone is okay!!
Thanks Bryan! We self-medicated with wine and everything seemed to work out. 😉 Hope your build is going well! We look forward to seeing the end result!
Gotta say…you guys rock! After such a shitty situation you recovered very well and were a great example for us when we ran caught up to you a couple weeks later. One of our biggest regrets is not spending more time with you two. Keep on keepin on!
You’re so nice! 🙂 Thank you for the kind words. We’re hoping if we move slow enough through Colombia you guys will catch up…maybe!? Hope you enjoy your holidays! Merry Christmas