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Last Week in GTM


August 3rd, 2016

We are back from Canada/US. It was strange to hear Spanish again but we’ll adjust more quickly this since we know so much more.

Our flights went well – we flew from Toronto to Houston then Houston to GTM City and both were on time, our luggage arrived with us and our cab driver arrived right on time! Better still, Tigger was where we left it with no damage and it started on the first try!!

We went straight to bed when we got to Tigger as it was late and Thursday morning we went for breakfast in the restaurant here at Cabaña Suisa and found the owner to thank him for keeping Tigger safe. We mentioned Fran was going to get some dental work done in the city today and he said, “uh oh – the teachers are protesting today and you cannot get into the city as the roads are all blocked”.  So after we ate, Fran called the dental office and arranged to have the appointment changed to tomorrow and was able to do this all in Spanish!.   Doug worked a bit in the rig while Fran began unpacking and then we headed to Antigua back to the free camping at the police compound for the next five nights – we’ll head into GTM City for her appointment during the day tomorrow, of course and then again on the 10th when the crown will be ready to place.

Here’s Tigger in the police compound with the view of the two volcanoes behind it and a close up of El Fuego and a pic of the one of the compound dogs that adopted us during this stay.

DSCN3611 back in the compound with volcanes in the background

DSCN3612 top of Del Fuego

DSCN3615 compound dog that protected us

Doug did manage to install the instrument panel we had repaired (again) and it seems to be working so we once again have a speedometer, odometer and trip meter. Life is good.

We decided not to take a chance being late for the dental appointment so we left Antigua at 8:30 for an 11: 00 appointment. Now this drive is about 40 kms/30 miles but GTM City is huge and known for bad traffic. It took us the full 2.5 hours! So after a consult, Dr. Rodrigo Guerro at GTM Dental Team, recommended replacing another crown, doing two fillings (one of the ones that had been mentioned) and instead of a third filling in one of the previously recommended teeth, doing an inlay. After discussing this, we decided to go for it as the prices were so good compared to back home. The total bill was just under $1200 USD – it is that much just to get ONE crown done back home. We will submit the bill to the dental insurance and hopefully will receive the 60% on the crowns and inlay as well as 80% reimbursement on the other work.

So after the diagnosis, the dentist took us out for lunch (yes out for lunch) and then Fran spent the next nearly four hours in the chair while he did the two fillings as well as finding a third small one, and prepped for and made molds for the two crowns and the inlay. After five numbing needles, stress in her shoulders and just trying to be patient, she was done but now it was rush hour. We thought about hanging around nearby and waiting it out but decided we’d prefer not to drive in the dark so off we went. This trip took us four and a half hours!   It was raining, traffic just crawled along and so we ended up driving in the dark after all. It took us over three hours just to get out of the city let alone the remaining drive to Antigua. Thank goodness we were familiar with the road and knew where we were heading. Needless to say, Fran did not sleep well that night as the numbing wore off and the muscles were sore for a couple of days.

At the police compound this time around, we met another Aussie couple, Alex, Vanessa who had picked up a few more travelers, two Danish girls (we met Anna but not the other girl) and a Kiwi. We spoke with them briefly and asked them to join us later today for happy hour where we shared experiences and contact info.

Sunday we decided we needed showers and after a morning walk we went back to the hostel we’d stayed back in June for one night. Wi-Fi is good here and the showers are hot! Again, it’s the little things in life right? Doug had a work call on Monday afternoon and the hostel allowed us to hang out until it was over.

Then it was back to the free camping and we spent that afternoon and the next day relaxing and running a few errands before we head back into “Guate” for the dentist.

Doug has been contacted by his company to assist in a pursuit for a project in Southern California and his presence is requested at the end of the month for one full day and again in mid-September. So we have looked at our itinerary for El Salvador and worked out that he can fly out of the capital city, San Salvador pretty easily. We’ll have to find a secure place for Fran, but we have time.

We met yet another Australian overlander today; Chanae is from Adelaide and has been travelling both alone and with her brother and friends on and off in an old ‘80’s van. She went as far as Costa Rica and is spending a month in Lago Atitlan to learn Spanish before continuing north. She gave us some tips and notes on her journey which we will find helpful, we’re sure.

Thursday morning we gave ourselves plenty of time to get back into the “Big City” for Fran’s appointment. We made much better time and had enough to spare to stop at the nearby Walmart for a big shop.

Fran got to her appointment fifteen minutes early but the dentist was not ready yet. Seems they’d had three emergencies today and things were running a bit behind. The dentist told her at 12:30 it would be two minutes but it was another 25 before she got into the chair. The crowns and inlay were placed and instead of getting out of there by 1:30 like we’d hope, we left just after two. We had to decide whether to make a run to the border or stay another night in GTM.

Fran and Dr. Guerro

DSCN3618 Fran and Dr. Guerro

Knowing how stressful border crossings can be (it’s always the vehicle permit that causes so much hassle and takes so much time), we decided to not rush and then end up driving at dusk and into the darkness in a brand new country.

It was a good call; the place we ended up stopping at about 35km from the border, had some swimming pools and showers! The cost was having a meal in their restaurant – not a biggie as you gotta eat right? And the prices were reasonable and bonus: we got to watch some Olympics on their big screen!

So Thursday the 11th, we headed for the border – this was the final day of our GTM vehicle permit so we were cutting it a tad close.  We understand you get fined for each day beyond the 90 days that the vehicle is given (you can, however, renew it once).

So after 2012 miles, one oil change, a steering fluid leak (that turned out to be nothing), a trip home, going both to the Pacific and the Atlantic, we leave this country that we have enjoyed so much and take fond memories with us.  The people are friendly, we especially loved Antigua, Tikal and Semuc Champey  despite the roads, although there were less topes then Mexico.

Adios Guatemala!

Side bar: beers of GTM:  Gallo and Brahva