We left the the war torn hills of south eastern El Salvador to meet up with family of friends in a small town just outside of San Salvador, the capital city. Mayte and Luis are the aunt and uncle of a former co-worker of mine back in my Henkel days. Mayte is a professor of English at the University in the capital, and her husband Luis is a retired chemistry teacher. They insisted that we meet them and stay the weekend in their country house in San Jose Guayabal, the town where Luis grew up. As with any chance encounter with new friends we were unsure how well we would hit it off. It didn’t take us long to quell any doubts when we discovered they fill their time at their country home playing pool, preparing big meals and taking long naps.
We’ve been lying to you all along. The truth is we can’t drive from the US to Argentina. No one can. The Pan American “highway” is a network of roads linking the majority of nations in the Americas and totaling nearly 30,000 miles. It stretches from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the farthest reaches of South America, ending arguably in Ushuaia, Argentina. That is, with one exception: The Darien Gap.
A late lunch was quickly turning into an early dinner as Jill and I wandered through various small towns looking for the right place to eat. Our hunger was distracted by the beautiful scenery of the mountains surrounding Volcan Baru in the NW corner of Panama. We entered the one horse town of Cerro Punta and soon passed what looked like the perfect little restaurant, equipped with large windows and a view of the surrounding peaks. We pulled big blue into the driveway of the small restaurant which was attached to a residence. There were few signs indicating it was open and soon our suspicions were confirmed when our polite knocking received no response. We hopped back in the van and I shifted the Astro into reverse, pressing my foot to the brake pedal. Instead of the expected resistance, the brake pedal fell quickly to the floor. We had lost complete pressure in our brake lines.
It seems that each “start” of the trip for us comes with a test of our convictions, a “prove yourself” diversion that would make even the most confident travelers question whether they could hack it (remember our first series of unfortunate events). After four cushy months living in CT, our first few days back on the road did just this. It started with the gasoline leak we noticed when we picked up the Astro from storage. Then there were a series of frustrating mechanics who sent us on a scavenger hunt throughout the tangled, traffic-filled streets of greater San Jose. Then there were the usual missed deadlines that come with said frustrating mechanics.
We woke at 2 am to begin our travels back to our home, which has been in storage for four months in San Jose, Costa Rica. On a list of things the van has hopefully withstood during this time are a 7.6 magnitude earthquake and the bulk of Central American rainy season. While waiting for our first flight, Zach looks worried so I ask him what’s wrong. He lays out a list of problems that could be awaiting our return. For once, I am the optimistic one. My only worry is whether or not I can once again adapt to cold showers.