There is irony in the essence of the path which we have recently joined. Since our departure from Mexico our route has coalesced with a massive human migration venturing predominately from North to South. Our entry is analogous to a pair of geese finding their place within the massive flying V as the collective body inches toward it’s destination. Such is life on the “Gringo Trail,” a living body of travelers in ones, twos, threes and larger, hailing from countries of primarily Caucasian composition and certainly of economic vitality. This migration is set against a backdrop of an inverse composition with impoverished countries populated by citizens of a complexion much more qualified for the Central American sun. The two sides along this path interact in commerce, conversation, and occasionally community. Our entry into this ecosystem has been unique given the fact that our overland travel is conducted by way of Beckey, our 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser versus more pedestrian forms of transportation. As friendships with fellow travelers met in hostels or at surf breaks are conceived, Beckey has been a galvanizing force to foster lifelong relationships instead us simply collecting an array of new friendly, but distant faces on our social media news feeds. It’s her preferred form of travel that is starkly absent of internet connectivity but flowing in the presence of one other that allows relationships to grow. Conversations arise organically amidst those along for the ride and are distinctly human in nature providing a forum for sharing what the eyes have seen and the heart has felt.
The experiment began in Northern Guatemala at a hostel aptly named Utopia built in entirety from surrounding raw resources. Local workers cut virgin tropical timber with massive chainsaws shaping logs into everything from tables to load bearing cross beams. The resulting swirls from the rough saws sit deep across the wood grains as if they were an artistic piece providing a raw connection to the surrounding indigenous community. A few kilometers away from Utopia stands the breathtaking waterfalls of Semuc Champey linking a cascading series of crystalline pools hemmed by dense, vividly green jungle foliage. In the same day one lounges in and leaps from one pool to another there is also an opportunity to tour the caves which help feed the entire system. Carved by endless streams of filtering water these limestone caverns require a local’s knowledge and a single lit candle to navigate safely. The easy laughter stemming from our primitive nerves and awe of complete darkness echoes simultaneously within these craggy confines until once again we are met by the light of day.
The word “experiment” is used as we neared our departure from Utopia because three quality Australian chaps we had met were interested in traveling with us to Antigua. Having only journeyed as a pair to date, we were unsure as to whether we could accommodate their backpacks, guitars and rowdy Aussie attitudes in confines of the Land Cruiser. But we were willing to give it a shot and woke at first light to pack, strap and arrange bags in a process that only weeks later would become a predictable routine. An hour later we were bumping down the road toward Antigua albeit with less spring in Beckey’s shocks than usual. The kilometers clicked past with the boys from Melbourne as we swapped colloquial slang phrases, music groups and opinions on global happenings, we were hooked and our presence was officially established on the Gringo Trail.