Last night, I cried. I cried because I was angry. I cried because I was frustrated. I cried because I have no control or say of when we get our car back. I cried because I’m still here. Here in Antigua, Guatemala. Don’t get me wrong, comparatively to other people who are suffering fates worse than this I realize that my situation is trivial, but nonetheless, it’s not where I want to be and I have no control over that right now. We have been trying to get out of Guatemala with our car to continue our world trip since April. Since the world closed. Every time we come within a day of leaving, something happens. First it was Covid which closed all land borders around the world. Then it was the car, next it was a hurricane, then again the car, then again another hurricane and once again the car.
For those of you who don’t know, we broke some teeth off of our front differential while climbing the wash of Volcan de Fuego back in September. While we were at El Paredón for a month, we had some friends come and take the front axle to try to source parts and repair the diff. Well originally, the 4.10 parts they found didn’t work. So, we decided that if we had to order parts from the USA, we’d just as well re-gear the vehicle to the 4.88 to give us a bit more power for pushing up the hills that we, at some point on this journey, hope to encounter. Well, when we contacted our friend, he told us that all parts were on back-order for two weeks due to Covid. Fucking Covid. Not only is it ruining lives and killing people, it’s brought industry down to its knees and nobody can get anything they need because manufacturing has all but closed its doors. So, after a three week wait, our parts finally shipped, but then we had to wait another week while it was held up at customs. Customs wouldn’t release the parts until we paid the customs and shipping fee, like the shipping fee from the US wasn’t already paid, but what else were we going to do? Literally it felt a bit like extortion. After paying for that, the parts were brought to our mechanic who was helping us in his off-time, so patience is a virtue, one that I am severely lacking. After getting the parts and beginning to assemble them, they realized that the bearings and spacers were missing from the kit they had sent, so we had to wait an additional two weeks for that. Once all of those arrived and were assembled, our mechanic took it out for a test drive and found slight noises coming from the diff still. So he took it all back out, disassembled everything and took it back to the shop to have the mechanic who set the ring and pinion re-do the entire thing. So, here we are, three months later and still no closer to leaving than we were in September. The only difference is that now, the borders are open, except for Costa Rica (depending on who the border agent is at the time you plan to cross) and we CAN’T leave.
In the meantime, we’re still in Antigua after returning from the beach and spending two months with our friends in Chimaltenango. Our friends were gracious enough to allow us to stay with them while we were waiting for our vehicle to be finished. Well, that was only supposed to last for two weeks, which turned into 4, which turned into two months. I was going crazy being there. It’s been a long time since we lived with anyone and the comings and goings, the noise, the fact that we were urban living… Those things are not things that we’re used to and the stress of not having control of all the stuff with the car was just wearing on us. We lived in the mountains for 13 years before setting out on this adventure. We are not city dwellers, we don’t like noise, we don’t like being in concrete jungles. We thrive in nature. Out in the wilderness in near isolation. That is what we’re good at and it’s what we enjoy. So after two months, we packed up our belongings and moved into another house in Antigua. The streets might be a bit busy, but it’s quiet. The feel is different. Though it’s “urbanized” it is a very colonial town, easy to walk around and surrounded by nature. We literally were able to walk in the first two days of being back in Antigua, more miles than we walked being in Chimaltenango for two full months, even-though we walked to the gym every day.
I love Antigua, don’t get me wrong. One of our friends said it’s like “Hotel California” you can check in anytime you like, but you can never leave. It really feels like that right now and I hate feeling trapped. It doesn’t help that we’re just a few weeks from Christmas and I was really hoping to be spending the holiday in Nicaragua with a tiny Christmas tree and baking cookies for Kaden. Living life on the road presents plenty of challenges and since we have always made the holidays a special time for Kaden, it’s something of a tradition that Kaden looks forward to since none of the rest of our lives are based in any kind of tradition, at least we got to celebrate Thanksgiving.
None of these things really would be a big issue, except that we need a timeline. There is paperwork that needs to be done, insurances to buy, covid tests that need to be taken and only 72 hours to cross borders before we have to get them again. If we stay through the end of December, we will have to renew our visas, and Kaden’s Passport expires in January, so he’s not eligible for an extension, not to mention the Embassy here in Guatemala has been closed since June, and we’ve been trying to get his passport renewed since April. All other embassies in central America are open and accepting appointments for passport services. Why not Guatemala? They are only open for emergency travel back to the US or an emergency passport to repatriate. Well, I’m not doing either of those things. Going back to the US is not on our list of things to do right now. And I certainly don’t want to spend my time in Airports that are germ infested with rampant Rona out of control, where I’ll potentially be in contact with Rona only to be picked up by someone who I might end up infecting. That’s not how I want this to play out. I’m safe here and everyone else is safer if they can limit their exposure to others. Since we’re trying to get into Costa Rica and the borders remain closed, we figured Nicaragua is a good place to get Kaden’s passport renewed while we potentially have to wait until March to cross into CR. Since Nicaragua is part of the CA-4 (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua) you get a 90-day tourist visa stamped into your Passport book, and you only have 90 days to explore all of those four countries on the same stamp. You don’t get a new stamp in your passport to renew your time, you just get the days remaining from the time you first entered any of those four countries, hence our visa run to Mexico back in March. Due to covid restrictions of locking down the borders and grounding all flights, Guatemala and the CA-4 had stopped counting the visa days until the borders reopened and countries reopened, which for us just happened October 1. So, we had only used 2 days in march and our remaining 88 days didn’t re-start until October.
On December 16 we will have officially been in Guatemala for one whole year. This is the longest time we’ve spent in any other country outside of the USA. In that one year, we have moved to more places than we had moved to in 13 years in the mountains and we love that. Every time our view gets a little tiresome, or the grass gets a little too long, we pick up and find somewhere else to live. Moving is a lot less cumbersome when it consists of a computer bag and duffel bag of clothing. Of course it’s all made easier when we have our own vehicle, but walking to the market and asking someone if you can use their truck to move your entire house for $10 is much easier and cheaper than trying to rent a u-haul.
While all of these things mount up and push us to our breaking point, (even the ones I didn’t mention) cry as I might, I know that we have each other and I’m not the only one feeling this way. We (usually) have back up plans and no matter what happens or how hard things get, together we always pull through and I’m thankful for that.
Hang in there guys! Sounds like you’ve been through the wringer. This too shall pass. Our thoughts are with you. And our prayer is that somehow Kaden will still get that special holiday. Somehow I know that will happen because you have the most important thing… one another.