We had a plan. It was aggressive, as our plans often are. It would require a fast car, sharp navigation, and an early start. Melvin, the car guy, had different plans so our early get away went a little pear-shaped from the get go. Melvin arrived with our rental forty-five minutes late and shy one permisso for Guatemala. We would have to follow him back to San Salvador to pick up the additional paperwork and fork over 25 USD.
We tried to leave Bahia del Sol several times only to discover Melvin racing across the parking lot due to another spot of forgetfulness. Each time I had to pull off a narrow access road so that traffic could get by and each time I did, someone would start beeping at me. I was having enough trouble dealing with the strange touchy brakes and an accelerator pedal that at my slightest suggestion was about as progressive as lighting a stick of dynamite. I find this an unfortunate combination in close proximity with walls, curbs, shrubs, and other cars. Beep-beeeeep. There it is again but I still can’t tell where it’s coming from. It’s more of a meep-meeeep than a beep-beeeep. Oh there he goes again. Apparently Melvin just remembered he was forgetting something else so it’s pull over to the side of the access road again, meep-meeeep. Who? What the… I think it’s me! I must be bumping some secret horn button on the steering wheel. How embarrassing. I resolved to be more careful.
We had to gas up as we entered the out-skirts of San Salvador and having no clue which side of the little white XB Cube (LWC) had the gas fill — maybe this has happened to you — we decided to entertain the patrons of the Puma gas station with a spot of close quarter maneuvering. Around and around we went trying to aline the little white Cube with the correct gas-fill side adjacent to the correct pump. Meep me meeeeping at every turn. It’s like the damn thing has a mechanical version of Tourette’s syndrome. I swear it isn’t meeee.
Next stop was the rental office where I had to meep-meeeep into a tight car park. After I finally got the LWC quiet, Melvin shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry. We don’t know why it does that.”
Things were, let’s say, quite relaxed at the office but eventually papers were produced that state that we have permission to go to Guatemala. This was not the quick start we’d hoped for but with a little perseverance we felt that we could still make Copan Ruinas before dark. Everyone warned us that under no circumstances should we drive in the dark.
I can’t explain Central America’s fondness for speed bumps. They aren’t doing their cars any good, I can vouch for that, but they are everywhere, massive, rarely marked, and unpainted. My strategy was to follow somebody and as soon as they were catapulted up into the air I’d hit the brakes. Hard! M. was also given the additional responsibility of yelling SPEED BUMP! fortissimo if she thought she saw one coming and I’d throw out the anchor. This strategy worked most of the time but often even creeping over some of these behemoths the LWC would bottom out half way across, and usually to the accompaniment of meep-meeeep. Not much of a horn really, it must be worn out.
M. did her usual stellar job navigating but there were several detours and with the sparse detail of the offline Google maps we were uncomfortable with any kind of an alternate route. When we were turned back at a police barricade for their election party we meep-meeeeped the whole way around. It’s a testament to the El Salvadoran personality that most of the people just thought “ah, more crazy gringos. Let’s wave at them and maybe they’ll stop beeping at us.”
The roads were paved at least and the mountainous switchbacks were lots of fun. SPEED BUMP!…BAM! meep-meeeep. Ok that was a little fast. We really needed to press on regardless if we’re going to get to Copan in the daylight and we still have two border crossings to do.
We knew we were approaching the frontier with Guatemala as soon as we saw the mile long solid stream of trucks parked nuts to butts waiting to cross the border. It was difficult to know where to go or even park but there’s no way I’m waiting in that line so far away from the office so we just wandered right up to the gate and a guard motioned where to park. The cheerful LWC meeped him too. It was all rather straightforward compared to clearing in with a boat. It’s just a matter of finding the correct line to stand in and smiling even when you really don’t feel like it.
Aside from the randomly placed speed bumps we seemed to be making good time and when signs started to direct us towards Copan we thought we might still take in the small Copan Ruinas museum and maybe a drive-by too.
I fell in love at first sight. Steep narrow stone streets with restaurants, hotels, with a town center square and even the worthwhile town museum was still open.
We found a hotel by getting utterly lost and pulling over to contemplate our life choices and a guy walks over and says, “Are you looking for a hotel?” Why yes we are. How much? Twenty five USD. Where? Right beside you.
Much meeping ensued trying to squeeze the ever meeping LWC into their courtyard car park. Home for the night but first dinner at Twisted Tania’s and if we can find it fast, two-for-one happy hour. I’m beginning to like this Honduras thing.