The Beast suffered quite a bit from the corrugated roads in South America: every rubber attachment in the undercarriage was either worn out or completely gone. Because of all the play, the wheels were impossible to align. Adriaan had to steer to the left when braking, and to the right when accelerating. But fortunately there are more Land Cruisers in Guatemala, so front wheel bearings, a steering axle, stub axle couplings, wishbone and stabilization couplings, shock absorbers and brake pads were easy to find. In two and a half days a garage in Guatemala City installed everything under Adriaan's watchful eye.
After repairing the Beast, we headed to Lake Amatitlan south of the city and on Sunday to Antigua. Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala, has been partially destroyed by the various earthquakes. It is a city with a Spanish colonial feel and a tourist attraction. It looks like Spain. Even the number of Europeans is 'right'.
The Beast ascends the volcano Pacaya without any strange noises and with new confidence. The last part towards the top (at 2550 meters) over solidified rock we cover on foot. From several craters comes a sulfurous vapor. Guides roast marshmallows on sticks above the craters while we enjoy the (umpteenth) unique sunset. A little later we unfold our tent near the guardian of radio antennas at 2100 meters.
A number of Guatemalans speak to us about the danger of being robbed in lonely places. This makes us feel less comfortable. When we climb the Agua volcano with the two of us, we see heavily armed police in several places. Some of them walk with us for a while: (Guatemalan) tourists have been robbed here. When the summit becomes foggy and we notice that we can't get back to the car before sunset, we turn around. The slope of the volcano is very fertile ground; numerous farmers work the land there.
Fortunately, in small, high-altitude villages, there are no towing services. When we get back to the car we see that there have been road works today on our earthen parking lot. All the soil around the car has been dug up - the excavator had time off earlier this afternoon because The Beast was in the way... We are staying at the higher ground of the village electrician and already have a super view.
I guide us to Lake Atitlan. It is a crater lake, at an altitude of 1500 meters, surrounded by three volcanoes and twelve villages named after the twelve apostles. We arrive in San Pedro La Laguna. Afterwards, we read that our route is covered by several travelers only under police escort because of armed robberies in the difficult, unpaved terrain. We don't notice any of this...
In San Pedro, some streets are so narrow that The Beast can't fit in. Adriaan becomes a master at backing up. Traffic signs (of any kind) are rare, so Adriaan sometimes drives against the traffic.
There are so many - semi-permanent or not - tourists here that the place is nicknamed 'gringlandia'. We make a boat trip to Panajachel on the other side of the lake. A small town with a long street full of stalls with textiles, souvenirs and restaurants. We end up in a store where young children sit behind a sewing machine making straw hats. I finally buy a sun hat, which is called sombrero here.
The narrow streets and absence of accommodation we also experience in the city of Quetaltenango where, after three hours of driving around looking for a hotel, we give up and just before sunset we reach the thermal baths of Fuentes Georginas (well outside the city).
In the morning there are a few birdwatchers at the entrance but otherwise we are the first to take a bath. About ten baths of different temperatures, five of which are hidden in the lush vegetation of the jungle. It is enjoying the silence and nature.
Adriaan wants to stick his toes in the Pacific Ocean before we go back to Mexico. The coast is 'only' an hour's drive from civilization. We find an address on iOverlander, it turns out to be a place at a beach restaurant at a laguna. The restaurant has the loudest jukebox in the entire village. Despite the noise we decide to stay. Chickens, chicks and pigs walk around freely and feed themselves with leftovers.
On Sunday, we drive to the next town on the beach, which we picked out from a satellite photo, for which, because of the various rivers and lagoons, we make a detour of 120 kilometers. Eventually we end up on someone's private property (without a jukebox!). The space around the car is raked clean by several villagers. The three daughters of our host family and some of their neighbor girls follow us closely.
We are not allowed in the ocean because it is too dangerous (for them?). They escort us to a nearby lagoon where we play innthe foot-deep water and ride a small boat. Unbelievable that their parents would just hand over five children to strangers and allow us to share our food with them. On behalf of several parents, we are then handed ceviche and shrimp with garlic. Finally, son Joshua brings two live crabs that are immediately cooked and taste delicious. It was a relaxing, pleasant Sunday afternoon. However, when the girls are back on post at 6:30 on Monday morning, not allowing us a minute of privacy, we decide to leave.
After several attempts we end up in a bungalow park where Adriaan repairs the sagging bottom of the tent and I polish all the RAKO bins. A short break after a few intense weeks.
We are glad we ended up in Central America thanks to the necessary repairs to The Beast. It is not on our itinerary (Mexico - Alaska) but this coincidental detour has been an enriching experience.