Friday, October 1, 2010

DANGER - Gringos driving in Guate

This is a mudslide just above Panajachel. (200+ ft. high)

As many of you know, we took a break from Spanish school this week. We went to a missionary retreat center in Panajachel called Los Buenas Nuevas (LBN). The drive to Pana was nerve-racking because it was rainy and foggy. Guatemala has had more rain this season than they have had for about 60 years. The rain has caused lots of mudslides. The higher in the mountains we drove the more mud, dirt, trees and rocks were in the road. The main highway is supposed to be four lanes (two in each direction). Since many places are covered with mud, the lanes switch back and forth and often go down to one lane each way or 1 1/2 lanes for both directions. It makes for some very tense travel.

We made it to Pana on Tuesday a little after noon. We enjoyed some quiet days of reading and resting. Although, we did take some Spanish to study - we didn't do it. We will probably pay for it on Monday. Anyway, we walked around Pana, had coffee at Crossroads, met some friends for dinner one night. The kids played outside and loved on the neighbor kitty. It was nice to read and relax by the lake. It rained alot on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday evening you could have confused the Rancho Grande Avenida for the Pana River. It had 3-4 inches of water running down the street toward the lake. With so much rain, another mudslide covered the road out of Pana. It was closed all day yesterday and didn't look like it would be open today either.

Thus we had to take an "alternate" route in order to be back in Antigua today. It started out pretty good, but we saw some serious mudslides and had one very tricky crossing. Several places looked like we were driving upstream in a river instead of driving on a paved (semi-paved) road. As we came over the top of one mountain we saw this enormous mudslide across the valley on another mountain. It was probably 100 yards across at the top and 50 yards tall. As we got a better view of it, we decided to try and photograph it. We soon realized the road we were traveling was headed right to it. We ended up driving at the base of the mudslide. As we continued, we came around another bend where traffic was backed up, mud every where, trees in the road, chicken buses coming in the opposite insanity. We had to drive off-road - towards the CLIFF - in order to pass the mud, which was piled higher than the window of our Landcruiser. THEN, it started to rain again.

This is the small mudslide.

This was the BIG mudslide.

This was the SCARY off-road mudslide. 
(I was too scared to take a picture up the hill)

Did I mentioned the road signs? We very frequently see tree branches or rocks used as Bob's barricade signs. Sometimes, they have a large sign with a big arrow. This indicates that you should change lanes and you will be sharing with the oncoming traffic. This is all fine except, the arrow is usually about 3 feet from the space where you change lanes. If you pay close attention, you usually know when you are supposed to start the lane change, but you don't always know when it ends. In addition, if the traffic in the opposite direction shifts to your side, you don't always have warning until there is a chicken bus headed right at you on your side of the road.

Here is the really crazy thing - it took three hours to get from Panajachel to Antigua. It's only 60 miles. The good news is - the Lord was with us, we made it home safely and we are SOOO happy that we bought a 4-wheel drive vehicle. So those of you who drive up and down 75/85/285 - remember your friends in Guatemala and thank the Lord for an orderly method and good signage of road construction and repair.

This is a waterfall and mudslide that buried the road to Solola. 
This caused us to take the "alternate" route out of town.

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