Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monterrico to Chiquimulilla. 105 miles
There had been much discussion about the border crossing. We had intended to cross at La Hachandura which would put us on the coastal route (CA2) through El Salvador but had been told by many people that a bridge before the border was washed out, so our backup was through Las Chinamas, which is actually supposed to be the quietest crossing since no commercial vehicles can go through there. But first we had a problem. We need propane. In the motorhome, our cooking and hot water is via propane and because of the huge fluctuations in electrical voltage we also keep the fridge/freezer on propane. We have ran into people who have burned out their refigeration units by using electricity. The closest propane plant is a detour back to the city of Escuintla, the problem is, no-one can give us directions to the propane facility. Oh well, another driving in a busy city adventure. Just as we were arriving to the city, the most torrential storm started. Big rigs, trucks and buses pulled into gas stations and we followed. We had already been told there was nothing to do but wait it out. In the meantime we made a quick sandwich for lunch and studied our maps and tried to get directions. Everyone is helpful and everyone has their own idea as to where the propane facility actually was. After about 30 minutes we were back on the road. Well, sort of! The main street we were driving on is now a river. Some cars are stuck. We follow a bus - remember if they can go, so can we - and manage to get through. But to where? We go down road after road with no idea if we are even in the right direction. Finally..a McDonalds. Tom pulls in. He is going to get a quarter pounder and hire a taxi to lead us to the propane plant. The rain has relented to just a steady downpour, Tom gets his junk food fix (plus a cheeseburger for Winston, who is now estatic) and has found not only a cab driver but one who speaks Engish and knows where the propane is located. Our sun is shining, at least metaphorically. We follow the driver to one place that does not have any propane and then to another which does. He volunteers to wait for us and then take us to the correct road out of town to the border. After spending about an hour and a half taking care of us, he accepts the 25 quetzales that he had originally quoted and we pressed an additional 10 quetzales for everything else, a total of about 4.50. He didn't want to take the extra money, we made him. He just wanted us to tell everyone that Guatemalans are a kind, helpful people. By now it is almost 4pm. and we still have a long way to go to get even close to the border, but the sun is now shining, literally so we press on. By 5:30 we are at the crossroads of the turnoff to Las Chinamas. There are quite a few gas stations and we know we need to start looking for a place for the night. Darkness falls around 7pm here. We pull into one and inquire about the borders. After checking out the RV, they assure us that there is a bypass from the bridge that will hold the motorhome. No problemo. Oh Lord, here we go again! We will leave the decision for morning. There is a 24 hour market, similar to our 7-11's by the gas station and we decide to spend the night there. No sooner did we pull in than the gas station attendant came up. Do not park here. It is not safe. Go to a hotel or elsewhere but not here. Tom and I look at each other. We are tired. We head up the road one way and turn around. We go back towards Escuintla where we had seen more gas stations. At the first one we pull in. It is open. There are two attendants and an armed guard. Perfect. "Can we park for the night?" we ask the guard. No problem. And when we requested if there was an electrical outlet to plug into, he showed Tom where to run the power cord and water was close by. Fantastic. We thank the guard, tip him 20 quetzales (about $2.50) for his trouble (he was thrilled!) and after walking Winston, we nestled in for the night for tomorrow is our crossing into El Salvador.