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Bad bandidas

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Bad bandidas


We say goodbye to our host family in San Pedro La Laguna and then hop into a small boat across the lake. Goodbye school, the small family, the bandits of the mountains.

The next destination is Antigua, very close to Guatemala City and not far from Lake Atitlan. We are on the lookout, the idea that a bandit may arise teases us. The winding road offers magnificent views of the lake and we find out a little further a limestone mine. The white walls look like a primitive palace. It is cool and galleries are lost in absolute darkness. If we had not biked only about ten miles, we would spend the night here.

San Pedro la Laguna - Guatemala

We reach Antigua the next day and decide to stay there for the night. Former capital city with cobbled streets and colorful facades, it hosts a myriad of churches half collapsed due to an earthquake in the 18th century. The event was ultimately beneficial because the government decided to change the capital to Guatemala City. Antigua was able to keep its charm and colonial style and slowly change into one of the main touristic place in Guatemala and linguistic center, hosting hundreds of spanish schools.


Searching on the internet to decide what comes next, we discover that there is an active volcano near us. We have never seen lava or sniffed vapors of sulfur, it sounds like a good idea and we leave in the direction of the shortest path without worrying about the slope or where we will leave the bikes to climb the last kilometer by foot. We must first climb a 500m rise with a nice slope of more than 10% to Santa Maria de Jesus. We notice more and more slogans, painted on the rock or on posters, they say “Together against violence”. It reminds me of the bandidas we haven’t met at Lake Atitlan, but we take it easy because the road is much more crowded than there and nobody is warning us. A police car has overtook us without saying anything, so it must be safe.

Santa Maria de Jesus is on top of the hill, end of the climb. The locals seem unsympathetic here. It happens sometimes without any real explanation, and we do not pay attention.


After the village, the road quickly turns into dirt road. The tension rises, but once again we comfort ourselves when we see all the locals walking on the side of the path with the wood they just cut. The bandits do not wander on busy roads. Greg is in front and quickly a white van comes between me and him. It is dusty and it forces me to take a little distance. They stop a few hundred yards away, a guy gets out and tells me to slow down. He is in his fifties, is not armed and other guys are at the rear and at the front of the truck and they look ok. He explains that there may be bandits on the road. Once again! He mimics me a gun, but all speak at the same time I do not understand anything. They will follow us in the truck, that’s all I got. He tells me to pass by and I find Greg, waiting for me, filming me, to whom I give the good news.


We rush, trying not to slow down the truck, then after a while we realized that the truck is no longer following us. The road is quiet, too quiet. Where are the guys with their wood? Too far to turn back, we continue, forcing the rhythm, staring to the paniers that have the bad habit of falling when there is too much vibrations. I try to comfort myself, thinking of San Pedro where we pushed our bikes and nothing happened.

On the inside of a curve, a movement in the forest draws my attention. I see a man. No, both. Black face. No, hooded. Armed. Shit, they have guns! Adrenaline explodes, I completely release the brakes but I have to keep a close eye on the road. A stone in front of my wheel and I’ll fall. They yell at me, something in spanish, with their guns pointed in my direction. Everything happens in a second. Two seconds later and I’m already far, yelling at Greg who doesn’t hear me at all “Watch out there are guys with guns! “. He has already seen them, but they have had time to reach the road. There are about twenty yards between him and me.

Greg: I was in my thoughts when I see a guy going straight to me, the gun (I think) pointed in my direction. My first instinct is to shout “ Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! ” as to say “ you dumb ! You scared me ! ” I need a second to really realize that this is not a joke, and I accelerate like hell to escape. And they shoot two seconds after I passed them, I lower my head !

Alex: I hear a bang. One to two seconds after, a second, this time followed by a dry sound of an impact close to me. If the second bullet was for me, where is the first ? I turn my head around constantly trying to see Greg as long as possible, tracking any indication confirming that he has been hit. At that time he also surpassed the two attackers and we pedal like madmen. I turn around three to four times before being reassured. We continue to hit the trail until the adrenaline drops. I think we cycled about two kilometers before we stopped.

Greg stopped in front of a sign announcing a vineyard. He wants to hide away and get help. I can already imagine the bandidas running after us and I am more inclined to continue to cycle down the mountain. We finally choose the vineyard. A panier falls. I pick it up and we keep going downhill. We see a truck, then two, then a large house that looks like a castle. Joy, civilization, help! No sign of man, but three German shepherds keep the house and start barking at us. Not bad buggers and they quickly wag their tails and let us go through.


We look at the house and then start cooking after half an hour. It is 1pm and all these emotions have given us an appetite. The owner chose that moment to make his appearance. We explain the reason for our presence on his lawn with two stoves and he immediately leaves by car to go get the police. He returns 20 minutes later, followed by a black truck of the municipal police. We finish eating and then load the bikes in the back of the truck by folding them quickly to fit the car. They bring us to Palyn, 15km further, slightly trespassing the law prohibiting them to get out of their jurisdiction, still in this small dirt road.

The volcano tour is canceled. No more small roads today. We will stick to the main road for a while, and it’s time to laugh at this story. Tomorrow we will cross the El Salvador border, also known to be dangerous. For us, there will be a border between us and our attackers, it feels good.

The drivers sleep as they can in the huge line of trucks before the border

In such situations, it is often recommended not to show up any resistance and not to try anything. But the primary biological reflexes just took over the clever reflexion. Everything happened so quickly that only our legs responded present at the time, which for once was beneficial.

L'affreux, le Thursday April 2nd, 2015

Faites gaffe les gars.

Alex, le Thursday April 2nd, 2015

Plus qu’avant, c’est sur !

Ah et malgré la date de publication de l’article, ce n’est pas un poisson :)