- Look! The police
- Maybe they can tell us how long this shit goes for
- I’ll pull over, hide the joint.
We left Champerico, an authentic condensed shithole, before the first light. Marco and I had heard a lot about lake Atitlan. John, the explorer we met in San Cristobal, had stayed three months there. "That place is magical", he said. We didn't research it but being in the mountains, the temperature would be cooler. It was enough.
Lake Atitlan is surrounded by a chain of mountains and three volcanoes. We stopped at a gas station for coffee, fuel, and the ceremonial morning poop. Then, we headed for the town of San Pedro.
As we climbed, the air cooled down. The road through the mountains is steep and secluded. It winded around like a giant concrete snake and despite the elevation, the concrete was in good shape. La Chichona roared as we rose above the clouds. We pierced the mist and peaked at the trees down below. The view was grandiose, a whispering sea of green and grey. We took a break, turned off the engine, and listened to the sound of silence.
The magic ride lasted three hours. Then, the road turned to a Sahara obstacle race: no more asphalt or flat ground. It became an uneven dirt road, punctured with large holes and enough sand to cover a tennis court. We could risk getting stuck, or drive back down to Champerico.
How long did that dirtroad last? We did not know. We needed to be patient, to assess the situation with a clear and calm mind. No matter the challenge, it could be broken down into tiny bits. We had to tuned down anxiety, breathe, and be patient. Marco started rolling.
He lit up to the sound of "Crystallized" by the XX, and I started on. Balance was key: I had to drive fast enough to avoid getting stuck in the sand, yet be able to avoid potholes. We were walking on eggshells, stopping and recalculating after every obstacle. At the next turn, we saw two bodies leaning on a motorbike.
They were Guatemalann cops, a guy and a girl in their early twenties. Both were short, chubby, and adorable in their tight black uniforms. They were on patril; that dirtroad was infamous for robberies. Cars get stuck in the sand and become easy preys to mountain bandits. The young duo kindly offered to escort us until the main road. We couldn't believe our luck.
The man jumped on the dirt bike and started the engine. His boots barely touched the ground. Then, his colleague managed, with great difficulty, to hop in behind him. They drove ahead and stopped often to wait for us. I was high, slow, and negotiated every obstacle with great care. Going up and down that dirtroad felt like riding a camel.
The cops parked on a steep hairpin curve and waited for us. When we reached them, five minutes later, they started again. The girl threw her rhino leg over the seat before the guy turned on the engine. She landed roughly on the first try this time. The bike stayed still for two seconds, then began to lean. Time froze. The policeman's expression was priceless. He knew.
In a desperate attempt to keep balance, he wiggled and kicked but his legs were too short. They fell in slow motion and landed in a loud cloud of dust. Their beautiful uniforms turned yellow and their face white with embarrassment. I grinded my teeth. Marco looked down, trying not to laugh.
They got to their feet, shook off their shame, and tried again but the bike wouldn't start. Something had happened in the fall. They called another police patrol to the rescue. In an attempt to lighten the mood, I offered them an escort. They politely declined, trying to save what was left of their dignity.
The situation was too ridiculous to keep a straight face. We had a joint in the ashtray while being escorted by the police, who needed their own escort. Formalities disappeared. We chatted with the young police officers, cheered them up and wished them luck. On the next turn, we saw the comforting asphalt. We had made it, with style!
We resumed our way down to San Pedro, light-hearted and grateful. Under the clouds, we glimpsed at the deep blue of the lake, and smiled.
Karma smiled back.