by Maria Ruiz
Maria shares with KRL not only some interesting history stories from her family’s past, but also some fun travel stories, many of which like this one includes her dogs Sherman Shatzie.
“Oh my God, what’s that?” I yelled, as the cab of the motor home filled with steam.
“Oh f…” answered my husband, as our motor home came to an abrupt stop, landing on a slant in the middle of nowhere!
We had entered Guatemala thirty five days ago with a thirty day visa. On day twenty-four, we visited a market several miles from Antigua where we were camping. Then Ted, my husband doubled over, turned white and sat down. An hour later he felt well enough to drive us back to Antigua and to a doctor. The doctor felt he had a hiatus hernia and recommended he visit a colleague in Guatemala City. We left Antigua immediately and headed off.
Once in the capital city, we needed a place to park the motor home, a problem compounded by the fact that we were traveling with two small Schnauzer dogs. Luck was with us when we found a small pension with a fenced in parking spot where we rented a room, ran an electric cord to the RV and settled in. Ted made the appointment, scheduled the operation and I counted off the days to our visa expiring.
Everyone and everything we read said that immigration would not issue any extensions and the fine for overstaying would be huge. Ted’s doctor tried to get an extension, his lawyer tried too, but no one could do anything. We started hitting the ATM’s to get the money to pay a large fine, but our bank limited us on the amount we could withdraw in a day.
On day thirty-three, Ted was released but needed a couple of days rest to recover. Day thirty-five and we took off from the city. We followed the smoothly paved highway toward Honduras, but three miles from the border, the pavement ran out. We had been driving at about forty miles per hour and were trying to slow down when there was a fork in the dirt road. Ted took the left side which unexpectedly went up a mound of dirt. The RV tilted to one side, the engine bounced off the motor mounts and cut the water line, filling the cab with steam and settled, never to move again until we had some major work done.
We were in the middle of nowhere–no traffic, no houses, and no people! We had always heard that no one should ever camp outside of a campground and here we were with nothing in sight. Then we saw a man coming toward us, over the dirt mound and straight for us. Was this the end? Were we going to be robbed? Or worse? He tried to talk to us but spoke no English and our Spanish was very spotty, but by using sign language we did communicate. He tried to tape the water hose but that didn’t work, then he said he’d hike to a small village and get a tow truck. He waved goodbye and we waved back, both of us unsure if we’d been understood.
A couple of hours later he returned to tell us that since this was Friday evening, a tow truck wasn’t available until Monday, when he’d go and get one. We had no choice. We were stuck here until someone could send a tow truck, but our generator worked and we had all we needed.
All day long we saw people come up to the road and sit down, staring at our RV. When I took my two miniature Schnauzers out for a walk, people clapped. We had attracted a crowd and I wondered what they thought of us. We found we were on a bus route, but not all got on the bus. I guess we were the most interesting thing for miles around. Darkness settled in and we could spot at least a dozen house lights within a couple of blocks from us. The thought of being robbed was ever present. At least fifty people knew we were there and our little dogs were too small to be any help.
Monday, our little Indian man showed up to tell us he was going for help. Hours later he returned with the tow truck. The men pulled the RV off the slant and back on the road where we found we could drive it. We tipped (generously) the man who helped, waved and drove off.
Behind a tall fence at the mechanics place, we were hooked up to electricity and water, and we waited three days for the parts needed to be shipped from Guatemala City. We were now a week over our visa and had visions of not having enough cash to pay immigration.
We drove down to the border, taking another route that was miles longer, but the road was paved. We stopped at the gate separating us from Honduras. A guard pointed to the office where we presented our passports. A uniformed man started counting on his fingers when I asked “Is there any discount for being in the hospital?”
He said “Can you prove you were in a hospital?”
I nodded and ran back to the RV. When they discharged Ted they gave him a file with all the photos of his gut from his mouth to his stomach, in full color. I grabbed the file and all the receipts from the hospital and ran back. I laid the file down on the desk, opened to the photos. Immediately guards grouped together, all pointing and speaking quickly as they traced the photos from start to finish. When they got to the end, they began calling other men over to see them. Everyone was laughing. In fifteen minutes they closed the file, stamped our passports and said “No charge. Thank you for visiting Guatemala and have a safe trip.”
Our trip there was over and we entered Honduras for more adventures.
Check out more of Maria’s travel and history articles here in KRL.