Driving down the Panamerican in pouring rain is one of the more harrowing experiences of my trips to Guatemala. Oh, I forgot to add: driving down the Panamerican in the pouring rain IN THE DARK. Guatemala has been enjoying an extended canícula -- a little break in the rainy season, which extends for several months. But there was a break in the break today - and so I was stuck driving in the rain. I was hoping that the weather reports were wrong, which they often are, and that it wouldn't rain, but it did. I had gone to Xela yesterday, and I had to leave today because I have an all-day meeting tomorrow in Guatemala City starting at 8 a.m., and there was no way I was going to leave Xela at 3 a.m. (it's not normally a 5-hour drive, but with morning rush hour traffic, you need to leave at least an extra hour to make it through the city -- the meeting is Zone 10, which is on the eastern side of the city, so getting there from Xela means driving the whole long miserable stretch of Calzada Roosevelt/Boulevard de Liberación). However, I couldn't leave Xela very early because the residents of the 48 cantons of Totonicapán had blocked several points along the Panamerican highway between Cuatro Caminos (where the highway that goes to Toto intersects with the Panamerican) and Los Encuentros (where the highway that goes through El Quiché splits off), and they were not supposed to lift the blockage until 6 pm. The rain didn't start until I was near Los Encuentros -- about 1/3 of the distance from Xela to the capital. But the stretch of road between Los Encuentros and Tecpán (where the altiplano begins) has a lot of steep curves (although it is a 4-lane highway and relatively well paved), and the 20 kilometers or so immediately south of Los Encuentros is always very foggy when it rains (and sometimes when it is not raining) so visibility is extremely limited and I had to drive very, very slowly since the last thing I wanted was to end the night - or my life -- going over a guardrail or skidding into a truck.
But what preceded the drive made it worthwhile - going to Xela for one day seemed kind of crazy but I had a few meetings/interviews that I had previously scheduled, and they ended up being more than I had expected. I will give more details later: not only was the drive a bit nerve-wracking, but I took a wrong turn, something I rarely do. I got onto the Periférico in the wrong direction and there isn't any simple way to turn around. So I went farther than I've ever gone heading south, hoping there was some overpass or easily visible way to get back on in the other direction. There wasn't and so I got off, an exit that seemed to go onto another highway but luckily there was a gas station right at the exit, and the first person I approached begged a napkin and pen from the cashier and made me a little map. His directions were good with one important point wrong and I almost ended up back on the southbound Periférico, but luckily I was able to correct that one mistake and then got myself back in the right direction and to the guesthouse where my host was awaiting me (I felt guilty because he doesn't live here; it's a house that he and his brother in law bought and fixed up, and his mother in law and 1 or 2 other relatives live here, but he is the one who manages it and he lives about 10 minutes away).