Ruins and Rust: Texas to Patagonia, AND BEYOND, in an older 4runner

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Another month has passed along with another long period of silence on our end. We've since crossed several borders and it's hard to believe how much has happened since we left our little bubble of peace in Lake Atitlan. For the sake of consistency, our story will pick up where our last broadcast left off, but in regards to our 4Runner.

Of course, if you get impatient and once every month or two isn't enough for an can keep closer tabs on us with Facebook.

Apparently when folks head south, once they get to Guatemala, the miles really begin to add up and it's typically time to replace a few things. Toothbrushes, book lists, maybe a timing chain. The 4Runner was starting to misfire terribly since we left for El Salvador and our wedding was quickly coming.

I decided now would be a good time to let someone else do the work and cross my fingers that the rig would be waiting for me after the wedding. Luckily, fellow travelers Home On The Highway and Capitol Southbound had already been in that boat, so we followed their recommendations for a mechanic in Guatemala City.

Driving in Guatemala City (or any capital south of the border) can be a little intimidating. Take the typical mishaps of driving in Latin America, Guatemala's lack of useful signs mixed with plenty of nauseous one-way boulevards, a notorious reputation for crime, and you've got a giant bowl of scary spaghetti to get lost in. The very thought of driving through Central America's largest city is enough to put any tough-guy Clint Eastwood into the fetal position, sucking his thumb. No problem though, we had been practicing for this…couldn't be worse than Mexico City right?

Even though I had studied several maps of the city and I already had the GPS dialed in for this little venture, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried for the drive to the mechanic's shop in Zona 8 (see: sketchy-ville). You see, my first time driving into the capital was to meet with my sister, brother-in-law, and my 4 month old nephew when they flew in for our little side-trip to El Salvador. Sure we got really lost before we up with them, but at least I had the best navigator in the world helping me thru every wrong turn (I'm referring to Shannon of course, not the GPS). Only this time I would be driving solo, while Shannon entertained the first of our guests who were starting to arrive in Antigua for our wedding.

Of course the 4Runner battled me every second of the drive. It was like dragging a spoiled child to the dentist to get all of their wisdom teeth pulled. Knowing fully well that we're too cheap for proper anesthesia, this was going to hurt, and the 4Runner was kicking and screaming the whole way in protest. I didn't even think that I would make it to the top of the first hill as I left Antigua…but like a broken horse, the 4Runner eventually submitted and miraculously dragged me all the way to Guatemala City in a fit. I was amazed when I realized that I didn't get lost in the city once, and I even made it in decent time, though I was hardly able to break 45mph the entire drive.

I met with Adrian of Krazy Kustoms, and I was glad that we had found him to work on our baby. Not only was he a nice guy, but he seemed passionate about his work. We chatted for a while and I got to know him, and I felt at ease as I handed him the keys to our home. So what do we do now? I suppose I just sit back and enjoy the fact that several friends and family have come together in Guatemala just for our little wedding. This should be no problem while some stranger manhandle's our little girl right? Right?

Last edited:

Ruined Adventures

Expo Poser
Volcano climbs and eruptions

After our last wedding guests left town we still had some time to kill while the 4Runner was getting some surgery. We met a couple of fun German backpackers, Fabian and Puck, while hostel-hopping and they had convinced us to tag-along on a day-trip to climb Volcan Pacaya. It was less than $9 usd per person, and we were tired of worrying about our vehicle, so we were game.

We didn't realize we would be part of a large tour, but we still enjoyed the short 1.5 hour hike up this active volcano. The tour guide was in his sixties, but he was built like a 25 year old. He said he makes the steep hike twice a day, 6 days a week.

The guide's dog was following the whole day too. We named him 'Black Fred', in honor of Guanajuato Fred, because this dog was obviously a badass too. He climbs volcanos every day, what does your dog do? Lick himself to sleep?

It was funny to see a mini gift shop at the top of the volcano, allegedly selling "Lava Jewelry", but no one was there and we didn't see any molten gems on display. We did get to see some interesting thermal vents and Shannon even climbed inside. Then the tour guide roasted some marshmallows using the heat from one of the vents, the typical volcano tour photo op.

Fabian has been carrying around some traditional liederhosen around Central America, for an "art project" he's been doing for university. He takes a photo wearing the liederhosen in random places that you wouldn't see in Germany. So we talked him into bringing the liederhosen. At the top of the volcano, he snuck behind a rock and changed for us. It was a good laugh, and everyone enjoyed the irony.

Unfortunately they try to sell all the tourists on taking this trek, even some who physically shouldn't. A woman with hip problems was told that the hike was "easy" and she would have no problems. They offer a horse ride to the top for a small fee, but there was no option for the slippery walk back to the bottom. The poor thing seemed to be having a terrible time, but luckily she had some nice German boys to help her down the volcano.

For more photos of Volcan Pacaya, go to our Facebook page.

Later that week while we camped at the Tourist Police headquarters, the Antigua area made international headlines. The nearby Volcan Fuego had been more active than usual, and we were fortunate enough to see some eruptions. Over 30,000 villagers were evacuated to the southwest of the volcano, but luckily we were safe in Antigua since we were to the Northeast, even though we were only 6 miles away.

It was very doomsday looking, but the locals all just continued with their day, so we followed suit. From our campsite at night we could even see the lava pouring down the side of the volcano, with an occasional eruption. It was a powerful display to witness and I feel lucky to have been there at that time. It's also a humbling experience, knowing that one minute we can be living our every day lives, the next minute we could be running our asses off while 10,000 degree lava chases us. Just a friendly reminder to take stock of what you have, and of course it's never a bad idea to sacrifice a virgin for the sake of the villagers.