- Aouch! WTF! It’s burning my skin
- What is it, a new bug?
- No look, it’s a mosquito! A fucking mosquito!!!
We left the Mexican Pacific coast a month ago and were eager to surf again. A blogger listed the town of Champerico, Guatemala, as a surfing destination. He described the wave as "a long and uncrowded left point break". We had never heard of Champerico before, but someone on the internet said the wave was epic. So, we went.
There was one road from la Mesía to Champerico. On that day, gigantic trucks transporting tons of sugar canes crossed it both ways. Too large for the road, they clogged every town along the way. Local authorities didn't expect that and traffic turned to chaos. Trucks, cars, tuk-tuks, horses, street vendors, bikes, pedestrians, and two tourists in a van; all condensed in one road, fighting greedily for every inch of space. Impatience turned to aggressivity, then to violence. It was ugly.
We saw the sign to Champerico an eternity later, and turned right toward the coast. We advanced through the long street leading to no town in sight. Exhausted and skeptical, we remained quiet, yet hopeful. There was a gate where a government official collected a fee to access. That was it: Champerico. We made it!
The sight through town was post-apocalyptic. The still and hot air smelled of poverty, the kind that makes old women cling to their purse. There were no trees to be seen or any shade of green. Houses were grey and brown, made of unpainted concrete and metal shacks. Even the wind got trapped. It was close to sunset, yet incredibly hot. The lack of trees and metal roofs had turned Champerico into an open air oven.
As we moved, slowly scanning our surroundings, children elbowed each other for any way to make a buck. One led us to a shady parking spot. Drunks and drug addicts sat on the sidewalks, crammed up on any shade they could find, and stared with envy. We were the only tourists, and soon to be their next attraction. Champerico was morose and desolate. It seemed to come straight from a Stephen King universe, where the world had moved on. We found a restaurant, and the owner agreed to let us park there for the night.
Marco caught sight of a lone surfer walking away. We hurried after him and asked him to join. He was friendly, the only smiling face we saw so far, and led us to the spot. We walked on hot sand, sharp rocks, and slippery boulders. Then, we crossed two dikes before we saw the wave. The blogger was right. The wave was a long and uncrowded left point break.
Accessing the surf spot felt like an obstacle race. And when we finally made it, we found poor conditions bad: onshore wind and choppy waters. I managed to catch a crumbling wave before the current sent me flying. Marco tried after me and got washed away too; the current was way too strong. We left defeated. Hungry for more, we decided to return the next morning. Surfing is better in the morning.
We returned to the van at dusk. Sketchy characters, previously dazed by the sun, rose up like zombies from the sidewalks; the real walking dead. Wherever we looked there were people staring, plotting. We parked La Chichona against the wall to hide from the greedy eyes. Mosquitoes and biting ants kept us company. It was too hot to stay inside, but outside was trouble. We stretched the mosquito nets and tried to find comfort in the heat.
We could not rest. The air itself seemed to sweat. Every time we stepped out of the van for fresh air, the biting ants called us to order. Inside, the mosquitoes were on steroids. It was a special kind of mosquitoes. Not only did the bites itch, but they burned for a while, as if someone held a flame under your skin. We were being tortured, and amount of weed could relieve us. Even marijuana had lost its properties in Champerico. We endured in silence, awake and aware of our misery.
It was the worst night I'd ever had in the van, the worst night I'd ever had period. My only wish was to sit and breathe, without worrying about mosquitoes, biting ants, or prowling drug addicts. Marco smoked his way to oblivion, and managed to pass out for a few hours. I was too scared to do so. After one too many bites, I'd lost it. Fuck the heat, the bugs, Champerico and fuck that blogger particularly! At first light, I shook up Marco and we drove off towards the mountains.
Champerico was a shit hole, more than any city I could remember; the real deal. That wave might be epic under good conditions, yet it was empty for a reason. That blogger omitted to mention everything else: the town, the access to the spot, the heat, the mosquitoes on steroids, basic safety, and so on. After a dramatic experience, Marco and I cursed him on the ride, and then agreed to never trust a blogger as our sole source of information.
Bloggers are full of shit. They reduce places and experiences to a single aspect. That makes their descriptions accurate but completely biased for decision-making. The wave in Champerico was good. Everything else sucked.
When it comes to travelling, word of mouth remains the best way to go.