Monday, April 13, 2009

We Heart Guatemala´s Police

We were originally going to bike around Lake Atitlan (poor photo on the right of a volcano at sunset), but after gathering information about the road conditions (serious ups and downs) and safety concerns (potential bandits on the south side of the lake), we decided to hitch a ride on a boat.

In Panachel, we ran into Jenna, who runs Jenna´s B&B. Her daughter wrote a book, “Our Atitlan,” with local kids about life on the Lake. I really liked the book – it had fun content and a really good design. You can buy Our Atitlan here on

So up till this point, we had occasionally passed the Guatemalan police. They were usually on the side of the road in their black pickup trucks, or perhaps standing outside the local equivalent of a donut shop. Their usefulness? Debatable.

Until now.

Now, the Guatemalan police are our HEROS.

On a serious climb out of Panachel from Lake Atitlan, we heard a funny pop. A few kilometers later, we heard another pop. Gene, practical guy that he is, realized that something felt funny and stopped. It turns out that we had sheered two of the steel ball bearings of the rear hub in half. (We generate a lot of force when both of us are pedaling hard). It was dusk. The police passed us as we were walking along the road (one of the road we heard was dangerous after dark). They stopped, turned around, and picked us up (Gene road in the back, holding the bike), and not only drove us to the next town, but then on to their outpost in the middle of the woods. We camped behind their tent. They brought us a jug of potable water and were very friendly (we reciprocated by feeding the sentry on duty dinner and cookies). They have a LOT of time on their hands. The next morning, they drove us to the next town, right to the bike shop. We took them out to breakfast. We now wave at each and every Guatemalan police truck with a hearty smile.

It took a few more hours to get the right ball bearings, and even then Gene had to do some adjustments. Eventually we got to back on the bike and made our way down the road to the highway (sweet, blessed, graded-climbs-and-descents highway), through Chimaltenango, and into San Andreas Ixtapa, a little town where we have been volunteering for MayaPadal, an organization that recycles bikes into machines such as a corn grinder, blender, and water pump.


Drew Ross said...

Steaming brakes and now ripping the hub in half? You guys are obviously a little too hardcore.

David Ross said...

Funny how some of the best adventures start with something going wrong!