Our family is known for having at least one crisis on every family trip. I have a friend who calls them Cheryl stories.
These crises range from a sandstorm in the Sahara , to arriving in a tiny village in Peru late at night to discover our hotel room taken to the volcano fiasco in Guatemala. These are the imperfect travel moments that our kids relish and retell. These are the ones that stand out and make us laugh; after they are over.
We were in Antigua, Guatemala. Check guide book. Follow book. (well not really) The beginning of the going wrong part.
Walking, looking for the tour company recommended by our guide book, we get side tracked; in fact completely derailed. We just don’t know it yet. A guy comes up and says he does tours to climb the Pacaya volcano. We think he sounds fine, looks fine, why not go with him. This is Mr.El Barco.
Next morning, after a lot of waiting, Mrs.El Barco shows up to say they overbooked and we need to go the next day. A little put off, we agree; uneasily.
Next morning, we actually go. The van is full of gringos; of the much younger and robust variety than us. Jammed on top of each other, like cattle being sent off for slaughter; we are at the mercy of the tour “leader”, a term loosely used.
Upon arrival at the base of the volcano, all erupts. Touts galore vying for our attention scream, gesture and push to get us to take their horse up the volcano. A horse? We paid to walk up this thing and that is what we will do. Jade is younger, 12, and a little out of sorts. We think it is the chaos; maybe the competitive feel set by our fellow tour members: the who will outrun the others to get to the top first. We don’t know.
We begin to climb. We are at the back. It is not looking good nor feeling good. Jade says she feels sick. I look at Chris and question. We have only just begun. We head back to the base. We look for the El Barcos, our stellar leaders who brought us here. This is how it goes down.
Hello. Our daughter is sick. Is there any chance we could get a lift back to town?
Oh I see. Well how long will it be until this is over and we can return?
About 3 hours or so.
Well, as you can see, our daughter is sick. Could we stay in your van while we wait?
What?!!! Looking around, there is nothing to sit on but some rocks in the open sun.
Lawyer me steps up to the van, supremely irritated. I set off a Spanglish stream of words and they relent. Not too happily.
Jade and I creep into the back of the El Barco van, a little nervously. Not feeling wanted; the El Barco clan continues on with their morning fiesta listening to their (not appropriate for 12-year-olds) English music, gorging on fried chicken and ignoring us. Drafting an evil TripAdvisor review in my head, we sit and wait forever… or so it seems. Us in the stinky loud van and Chris on the rocks; separated but together in misery.
Finally, the gringos return, announce nothing but fog so overall a non-event for all.
Relieved to be returning to hotel sweet hotel, Mr. El Barco, drunk on greasy food and pop, blows a tire going down a hill.
Now the waiting is left to the side of the road. And everyone is less than pleased. Not just us. I greedily anticipate many lousy TripAdvisor reviews as a result. (travel revenge… not a pretty thing)
The El Barcos finally deliver… as we enter our hotel room. Walking through the door, we replay the El Barco fiasco/fiesta and the laughter begins. Imperfect can be funny; when it is finally over.
(Cheryl and her daughter will be moving to Egypt in August where more El Barcos await, or otherwise known as Cheryl stories.)
Do you have an imperfect travel story (an El Barco of your own) that you would like to share?