Le Francais in Antigua
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
So the French Canadian couple who'd been robbed at Lago Atitlan had arrived while I was walking around the town. Christine and Jules were very friendly but definitely shaken from the experience. They had left the little town of San Pedro on the south side of the lake on the way to El Salvador, when two men wearing black masks and hoodies ran out on the road in front of them with guns. They stopped and the guns were put to their heads while the robbers searched their pants and jackets. One used a machete to slice open Christine's rain suit and steal her wallet. They also took the tank bag which had her cell phone, medicines and other things. The story is long and involved, but they were glad to be safe and were planning to cancel their trip to south America and ship the bikes home to Canada. They'd also had a bad experience at the border of Mexico and Guatemala, and after the robbery they had decided to forget their trip south.
Incredibly, there is a helmet cam video on YouTube of a couple on motorcycles being robbed in the identical spot on the road between San Pedro and Antigua. It is most likely these are the same two robbers that held up Jules and Christine.
Christine, who spoke English, and her husband Jules, who spoke only French, went in search of a new phone and to fax some information for replacement documents. I went in search of the mercado and boy did I find it. Antigua's mercado is like nothing I've yet experienced. Acres of everything in the world, stuffed into tiny, dark, narrow passages one can barely squeeze through. It was a maze and I have no idea how you'd ever pick a vendor or two in the place, or even find them again. I got overwhelmed and had to find my way out.
Pictures cannot capture this market!
Yes, even empty bottles and cans are for sale!
As I wandered quickly down a side street, I heard someone shouting my name. I didn't stop, assuming it was for someone else but the voice got more intense. I turned around and walked back a few feet, only to find Greg, the American guy I'd met briefly at the La Mesilla border, behind a barred window. He was in a small gym working out and had seen me walk past the window. We chatted a bit, but man that threw me hearing my name being called out in a foreign city.
My heart was warmed as always, seeing how much Texas has influenced the world. They even built a replica of The Alamo here.
When I returned to Casa Elena, the couple were playing with their new phone and downloading maps.me to be able to use it as a GPS. One of the bikes had a flat front tire so we pulled it and swapped in a new tube. Doesn't sound too interesting but when you consider that I don't speak French and Jules doesn't speak English, we both defaulted to trying to communicate in Spanish. Since neither of us really speak or understand Spanish, it was even more interesting. I defaulted to a "Marcel Marceau changing a tire" routine which seemed to help. Unfortunately the tube got pinched and we had to use his 2nd spare tube.
I told his wife Christine that I was having enough trouble with Spanish, and now having French thrown into the mix had really tossed a wrench in it. Jules will say something to me in French and I answer in baby talk Spanish. Somehow it feels satisfying though, as if I'm having a real conversation in a foreign language.
They're still waiting for paperwork and trying to get credit cards, etc., unsure if they'll stay on the road. Gail, the ex-pat overseeing Casa Elena while Harvey and Diane are gone, and I took them out for dinner and we had some laughs and good times. She and I determined to make them laugh and enjoy some things since they were so burdened from their experience. Once they have had a few days of rest and to clear the shock, I hope they will continue their journey. I stayed a couple of extra days to hang out with them and offered to ride with them if they chose to continue on their journey. It is very hard to explain, but Christine and I felt instantly like brother and sister and Jules and I felt like like family.
One thing I've enjoyed here are the variety of cars. In Mexico there are plenty of new versions of vehicles we don't get in the U.S., but here there a lot of older vehicles, lots of simple 4x4's similar to Daihatsu and Trackers, old BMW cars, and apparently all the old Isuzu Troopers flew south to winter in Antigua and never returned. Lots of cool old diesels around the town.
And of course, the coffee. Man is it good, smooth, and plentiful :D