Tecnically Nowhere

Trip Start May 25, 2013
Trip End Jul 25, 2013

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Co-Op Tecnica

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Thursday, May 30, 2013

We had bought bus tickets from Palenque in Mexico, all the way through to Flores in Guatamala.  350 Pesos ($35) per ticket seemed like a good deal.  Although there is no actual road all the way through between these towns, so our ticket was supposed to be a bus - boat - another bus ticket.  The minibus left Palenque at 6 am and was full of other tourists: Spanish speakers; Germans (speaking Spanish) and us.  The first leg from Palenque to the border on the River Usumacinta went smoothly, the bus driver spoke English and gave us clear instructions, such as ´´go over there and eat your breakfast´´.

Once we got to the Mexican border office, we were the only people on the bus who went to get exit stamps, it was apparent we would be on our own for the rest of the journey into Guatamala.  We parted ways with the rest of the people on the bus and were guided onto a small motor boat on the river.  Our Mexican bus driver said ´´go with this boat driver, he will buy your bus tickets on the other side, good luck!´´  We had expected a 40 min boat trip up stream to the nearest town on the Guatamalan side, Bethel.  However, the boat crossed directly over the river, taking about 5 minutes and we got off in a tiny little town with dirt streets and stray dogs, ducks and chickens wandering up the main street.  There was a small office with bars in the window near the wooden boat jetty.  I asked if this was the Guatamalan immigration office.  Everyone laughed and pointed towards the hills in the distance.  The customs and immigration office was somewhere out there (they were not specific).  I was a little disturbed to be out of Mexico, and while, technically, we were in Guatamala.  Officially we were nowhere.  It would probably help if we could speak some Spanish!  Tiana is the only one of us who can make herself understood in Spanish, but even she has trouble understanding the locals at full speed (they only have full speed).

We were handed 4 pieces of paper the size of postage stamps that had been cut out using scissors, apparently, these were our ´bus tickets´ good for 2 more buses and 150 km of travel!  I assumed we had been scammed, but we got on the minibus that was waiting because it was the only option.  After 2 hours on an extremely picturesque stoney track through forested hills interspersed with de-forested hills, we completed the 15 km to Bethel immigration office and were stamped into Guatamala.  Amazingly enough, another minibus was waiting for us at the customs office, we didn´t even need to present our postage stamps because we were expected!

We met "our" bus for the onward trip.  The Guatamalan driver spoke English and said they had been waiting 1 1/2 hours for us, he scolded us for taking a boat accoss the river into the jungle, instead of upstream to the official border town, and did we know there are bandits up there, and someone was killed there yesterday.  We said we were sorry, but we didn´t really know where we were going, we just got on the boat and that was where the boat took us.

After clearing immigration we continued for two hours on good dirt roads.  The only traffic being the occassional herd of cows being driven down the road by cowboys on horses with Stetson hats (the cowboys also wore hats).  Then 3 more hours on sealed roads to the beautiful old Spanish town of Flores, on a small island on Lake Peten Itza.  We have been able to cool down a bit with some swimming in the lake.  Tomorrow we go to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal.
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