Yet Another Country!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Friday, July 21, 2006

Although yesterday had been good fun there was no reason for me to hang around in town. There wasn't anything else for me to see and I was itching to get further south and into Central America proper. To get to our chosen town we could have taken a pre arranged bus through our hostel which would only take about 4 hours but cost an incredible $40! We believed we could do it far cheaper, and it shouldn't be difficult, by local transport so decided to get up really early and get on with it. It could be a long day after all.

So at 6am we were ready and standing around waiting to checkout. This hostel was the first one in ages where we had to pay a deposit and it proved a bit of a problem. The hostel reception was supposed to be 24 hours but we had to stand around waiting for 20 minutes before someone turned up. Money in hand we set off towards the bus stop. The town didn't seem that big so we decided to walk as Dave needed some more money for the bus. It soon started pouring with rain so we were forced to jump in a taxi and it was a good job as the bus stop was far further than we thought.

When we arrived at the bus station we realised that we had a problem. We had missed both the early buses and there wouldn't be another one until 1pm. Not the best of starts but the ticket seller kept saying "Comitan?" so we purchased tickets there on the assumption there would be more frequent buses as it was closer to the border.

I believed it was quite a sensible assumption but it turned out the only buses to the border leave from San Cristobal and the only bus left was the 1pm from San Cristobal, passing through Comitan at 2:10. Fantastic. We were in a middle of nowhere town and could have just stayed in bed for a few hours extra. Trying to buy tickets was a nightmare! When we asked for tickets to the border town they told us the next bus was at 4pm! We knew there was a bus passing through sometime around 2pm and managed to get the last 2 seats. Phew, one problem sorted. Now all we had to do was sit around for 5 hours with nothing to do! Total spent so far $6.

After about an hour we were really bored and decided to see how much it would be for a taxi. After about 10 minutes Dave came back saying it would be 250 pesos each and it didn't take long for me to agree. A 40 minute taxi ride or another 4 hours sitting around. It's not a hard decision really. The taxi weaved around the traffic on a soaked road and we were soon at a very confusing border. Total spent: $29.

Borders are normally quite confusing places. People shouting at you from all directions offering food, money exchange (Cambio), bag carrying and transport but all we wanted to know was where to get stamped out of Mexico. Spotted a group of foreigners who had paid $40 for the journey, followed them and we were soon stamped into no-mans-land. Found a share taxi and went the 3kms to the Guatemalan border post. Total spent: $30.

Once we had been stamped into Guatemala we had no idea where to go. I wanted to take a local bus but couldn't see a bus stop anywhere so when someone approached us offering a minibus straight away we gladly accepted. This was turning into an expensive day. I hadn't eaten any food yet and after all the fares so far I was completely out of money. Still we had transport sorted to our destination so I wasn't too bothered. We told the driver we needed to get cash and he agreed to drop us off near a cashpoint.

The minibus ride took a couple of hours and we stopped along the way at a petrol station canteen for lunch. Dave managed to put it on his credit card so at least we got to eat something. The journey was very comfortable and far better than a local bus.

2 hours later we arrived at Quatro Caminos (4 Roads) and this was the end of the road for us. We were going to Xela and the rest of the people were going to Panajachel. Managed to locate an ATM, paid the driver and went in search of a bus the final 13km's to Xela. Total spent: $37.

If our first experience of finding local transport in Guatemala is anything to go by then it's going to be a piece of cake. Local buses seem to run constantly all day and the second you step off one bus people are shouting at you trying to get you on their one to the next destination. I loved it! No effort is needed at all and the buses are brilliant. Old US school buses, dubbed Chicken buses because chickens are normally passengers, with barely any padding and really loud local music. The best thing about them is the decoration. All of them are painted in crazy colours, covered in chrome, neon and stickers about God. Although they aren't as comfortable as the buses in Mexico they are far more fun! Total spent: $38

The bus took over an hour to cover the 13km's and take us to the Minerva terminal in the north of town. The pollution, noise and smog, had been incredible and instantly noticeable . All the buses are in a bad state and belch clouds of black smoke and constantly beep their fog horns every 10 seconds. Found a taxi and went to the centre of town, Parque Centroamerica. Total spent: $40!

We found a small local family run hospedaje which was reasonably priced although the shared toilets smelled horrendous but it was more than adequate for the night. We were both starving so went back to Parque Centroamerica to find something to eat. Amazingly there was a McDonalds so we grabbed a burger and used the McInternet (not kidding) before heading to a small bar across the road. It was a dark dingy place but I managed to order in Spanish, which requires more knowledge than just 2 beers please, and relaxed after a very long and expensive day. We could have done it far cheaper but it would have been torture waiting in Comitan bus station for 5 hours! Gallo beer was huge (1 litre) but lacking in any real flavour. Loads of people raved about it but it's not a patch on Beer Lao! Speaking of Beer Lao, it's now available in England! Beer Lao for 25 a crate.
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