1. eNewsletter Sign Up

Avoid the dirt road from Santiago Atilan to San Pedro in Guatemala

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by daveg, Aug 24, 2008.

  1. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    Hi,
    I was robbed yesterday at gunpoint as three guys jumped out of the jungle wearing balaclavas demanding my camera, phone, and money.

    This occured on the dirt portion from Santiago Atilan to San Pedro. The road is great (and presumably safe) on the paved portion, but the last 15KM is dirt. Before my trip, I heard bad things about this portion of road, but when I got to Panajachel I started asking around for myself. Everyone said that the road is fine (I even asked two cops) except for one guy who warned of Banditos.

    Foolishly, I ignored that warning. One never knows what to expect I suppose.

    Anyway, I wrote about it on my blog and ride report.
    My Tx-> tierra del fuego RR is: post #85 at
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=361037&page=6


    dg
    #1
  2. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,908
    Bummer.

    Nata Harli told us a story of a guy on that road who was robbed of everything- even his boots!

    I took the paved route.

    Barb took the harder/faster route. When she found me in Guatemala City, she was almost crying- too damn stressful, even for Barb.

    I hope you gave them your "fake" wallet?

    I'm glad you didn't get hurt.

    While some have suggested that riding in groups is safer, what I heard from locals in the Lago Atitlan area, the bandits like it better when the groups are larger. I also heard that the police work with the bandits. I wouldn't be surprised if the police who told you that you'd be safe actually tipped off the bandits.

    My suggestion for this area: don't tell anyone where you're going. Certainly don't tell anyone that you're going toward Guatemala City. You'd be better off saying you're "just going down the road a little ways." I'm not saying there's anything you can do to prevent a robbery here, and it's certainly not your fault if you get robbed.

    This sounds like a situation where a little bear spray would not be a good idea.

    Did they get your SPOT? If they took it, did you manage to put it on Track, Help, or 911 mode before they took it?

    I just posted this a couple of days ago:

    #2
  3. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    You bring up some funny (maybe not haha, but interesting funny) points:
    The route that barb took is ChickenBusHell, so I was avoiding it like the plague.

    Re: Fake wallet. I gave them my fake wallet ... they took out the 80Q ($11ish) and ... gave it back! It was loaded with CCs!

    They were then prodding around, probably looking for a gun, and started poking my god damned money belt.

    Here is where I was pissed at myself: I had all my CCs/Texas DL/Passport/2 ATM cards in the money belt.

    A couple of days ago I was reoganizing my stuff (to make sure I had everything) and just plopped everything into the money belt.

    Usually I just keep Passport, 1 CC, and 1 ATM card with the rest spread in over my three boxes.

    I'm notn going to replace the money belt. I'm going to find a better place for my passport/cc/atm. Any ideas?

    Re: Bear Spray. I know the saying is don't bring a knife to a gun fight, but I dont know what spray would have done. In fact, I forgot to list, they took my pepper spray. In my mini-preperation before I started down the dirt road, I put my camera up from hanging around my neck and unzipped my front tank bag pocket and unlocked the pepper spray.

    If they were guys with machetes, the pepper spray would have came out. Guns?

    In reliving the scenerio in my mind, I wonder what I would have done if I had a hand gun with me. No idea.

    Re: SPOT. That MF was sitting in my map bag on top of my tank bag. They looked at it, tried to get it, but gave up. It was in tracking mode. That is _technically_ my other error, I should have pressed HELP or 911. I wonder if this would have qualified as a 911 event. I was just so freaked out by the balaclava dudes with guns I just popped the bike in Neutral and put my hands up.

    It is kidna funny on my Zumo, I have the EXACT position where I was robbed, if anyone is interested.
    #3
  4. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    I ran this road, from Santiago to San Pedro, a few years ago, but didn't know at the time what a bad reputation it has - fairly famous for robberies.

    It's in the process of being paved and that will help things.
    #4
  5. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,908
    Behind or inside your armor is an excellent idea. Especially if you spread things out. A credit card here, an ATM card there, a few $100 bills stashed in and around the bike... the $100s could be $50s or even $20s. The idea is to have enough jack to get you some dinner and to hold you over until you can get official help.

    My R1100GS came with a spare key taped inside the headlight. I had no idea- and only found it when I was doing some maintenance, took the headlight out, and wondered what was behind an old piece of duct tape. The harder you have to work to hide something, the less likely the crooks will find it.

    If anyone is interested, there's an excellent/sad thread on Horizons Unlimited about the dangers of drive-by kidnappings. Maybe someone can dig it up.

    That would have been awesome if you'd pressed 911 on your SPOT! Unfortunately, SPOT isn't as easy to use in an actual emergency.

    I'm actually glad you didn't have a gun.
    #5
  6. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    I stash money all over the place, but because of the card reorganization and me being lazy, I paid the price in reissuing of my CCs.]

    RE: Spot. Yeah, I don't know how I would have held the button for 3 seconds while guys had guns pointed at me. "WAIT, I'll hand you the money, let me finish my spot call."
    #6
  7. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    What time of day did you go through there?
    #7
  8. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    1 pm, absolutely perfect weather. I guess bandititos don't eat a proper guatemalan lunch

    dg -- at a hotel with great wifi and saving money by using it
    #8
  9. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,908
    The banditos Barb and I saw between Huehuetenango and Lago Atitlan had knocked over the truck late-morning. Them banditos are smart!

    Regarding credit cards, ATM cards, and cash- I carried two different ATM cards, one Mastercard, and one American Express card. None of them had very much credit available- on purpose. While I was riding I'd have some cash deposited into my main ATM account every two weeks. One of the biggest dangers in drive-by kidnappings is for them to force you to withdraw cash at an ATM. The more cash available, the longer they keep you.

    My "code word" for "send Blackwater" was this: "Send money." My closest friends, my uncle, my mother, and my kids all promised that they understood. If I called home and said I needed money, that meant I was kidnapped and they should just call the FBI. I had a couple of ways out of this- for example, if I said I'd been robbed, they'd agreed to help me replace my cards, but with only $50/day in credit. I was then supposed to make contact with the closest american consulate or embassy ASAP, and my family was supposed to verify with the US government that I was, indeed, safe.

    Luckily I never got kidnapped, and I didn't completely run out of money.

    As for using a credit card to get cash from a bank- sure that's a good idea, but what a fucking hastle. It was hard enough sometimes just finding an ATM that took one of my cards!
    #9
  10. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2001
    Oddometer:
    1,330
    Location:
    Corvallis Oregon
    Hey dave,

    Sucks that you got robbed. I did part of that road awhile ago, dropped in from the West. Didn't know till after that it was considered one of the most dangerous roads in Central. I was told beforehand to just go fast and stop for nothing. Then I started to have carb trouble and had to stop every half hour or so when my bike would flood :cry

    I am in Nicaragua, heading north. Where are you headed, looks like whe might cross paths.
    #10
  11. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    I'm in Guatemala City and will be here/Antigua for one-two weeks waiting for stuff to arrive from the US to get my financials back in order. I'm heading to Honduras next.

    dg
    #11
  12. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    Dave,
    Did they use a rope or just their bodies to block your travel? What weapons were shown?
    #12
  13. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    They stood at the side of the road with .45s pointed at me. So I guess they just used the threat of their guns.

    I _could_ have just gunned it and risked them a) not shooting or b) missing, but there was another 10km of dirt road between me and the next forward town and they probably had cell coverage.

    #13
  14. TengaiJohn

    TengaiJohn Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,666
    Location:
    Tappan, NY
    Hey Daveg,

    Glad your ok and that they only took some of your stuff.

    My wife's aunt and cousin live in San Lucas, if there is anything I can help you with just let me know and I'll get in touch with them.

    Safe riding!!!

    John
    #14
  15. Cuchanu

    Cuchanu Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Seattle
    +1 on being lucky you didn't have a gun. 99% of the time nobody wants to hurt you. But the second you pull out a gun self-preservation takes over.

    It's too bad that having a gun can be so unpredictable.

    By the way you should hide things in your underwear like the natives. Right tucked up under your balls.

    BTW Did you go to Semuc Champey?
    #15
  16. daveg

    daveg no longer homeless

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    KC MO
    Both suggestions are great and Ive already followed one: Semuc Champey.

    I heard at the market they sell special underwear with pockets in areas that macho men won't search.
    #16
  17. Nata Harli

    Nata Harli Accidental Tourista

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,566
    Location:
    Kansas City, MISSOURI
    Dave,

    Sorry to hear about the robbery. Like Bananaman said, my friend from Switzerland, Thierry, got robbed on that same trail - 3 guys with pistols and 2 guys with machetes.

    On the other hand, my friend, Tim, who was down there with me rode that same road just after dark, completely oblivious to what happens on that road. When he met up with me that evening and told me how he had ridden in to San Pedro, all I could say was, "You rode on WHAT road?????" and then I explained how lucky he was. Maybe the banditos all take a siesta at sundown!

    Here's hoping you get everything taken care of and the rest of your trip is trouble free.
    #17
  18. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2001
    Oddometer:
    1,330
    Location:
    Corvallis Oregon
    That has been running through my head since I first read this thread. Wondering what I would do and if it would be intelligent to just gun it. Part of me says they just want easy money and wouldn´t fire on you unless threatened. Huge risk though because if that isn´t the case, you´re f´cked. I think think the intelligent thing is to stop. As annoying as it is, it is just things and money.
    #18
  19. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,908
    I was wondering, what if you just beeped and rode on? Offered a friendly wave, a quick beep-Beep, and laughed your ass off inside your helmet?

    Worst case, you get shot. Best case, you laugh like a maniac for the rest of your life.

    I would have stopped.

    I bet Boyscout would have ridden on.

    And I bet Lone Rider would have stopped, demanded their money and weapons, made them lie down with their boots off, and THEN ridden off.
    #19
  20. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2001
    Oddometer:
    1,330
    Location:
    Corvallis Oregon
    Lots of time on the bike today to ponder this. I got a little "lost" in the mountains of Honduras today. Rode right past two guys standing by the side of the road with shotguns. Clean clothes, no masks, matching shotguns and confused looks on their faces made me think "private security". I gave them a nod and wave and never slowed down. There are a lot of shotguns around here.

    Three thugs with masks and handguns in Guatamala? I am pretty sure I would stop.
    #20