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Back on the Road in Guatemala

2011 January 5

On the road to Flores.

The red digital clock located above the center aisle read “2:09”. I had just woken up from a restless doze and peered out the window. Lit by the nearly full moon and the dim afterglow of the bus headlamps, the blur of trees and bush were occasionally interrupted by a roadside shack. Other than some snoring, the only sounds were the low hum of the engine and the constant creaking of a bus bouncing on uneven roads.

“Hello nightbus, it’s been a while.”

I was back in action, back in Latin America.

– – –

After what turned out to be an incredibly amusing 19 hour layover in Irving, Texas (where I learned about gunshows, the proper way to handle a firearm, and American excessiveness) I landed in Guatemala City at 8pm. As is the case with many other big cities in Latin American, Guatemala City is, bluntly put, a shithole. It’s big, sprawling, dirty, dusty and polluted. Throw in a healthy dose of crime and you get a concoction poisonous to pretty much any tourist.

Having no intentions of spending time in a shithole, I withdrew some cash and took a cab to the ADN bus station. It was going to be a long 8 hour ride to Flores, especially on the heels of 24+ hours of travel. But there are times in every journey when you just have to suck it up and do it; this was one of them.

– – –

The woman who sat down next to me was exceedingly nice but also exceedingly talkative. She happened to be very into “Mayan reunification” and was headed to Tikal for the lunar eclipse/winter solstice. As talk of the Mayan calendar, 7 sources of energy, the end of the world, and other assorted spiritual topics dragged on, I found myself asking less and less questions. Instead, my gaze shifted to the view outside.

Our bus plowed north in the cool night air where street lamps and buildings slowly gave way to a sprawling mass of trees and bush. This continued for several hours before the landscape changed once again, this time into flat fields interspersed with big mounds of dirt and rock. I could make out their silhouettes in the moonlight and wondered what they might be. As if on cue, my seat partner told me that many of them were still-undiscovered/unearthed Mayan ruins. Indeed, I later found out that this was very probable due to Guatemala lacking the money and resources to unearth these ruins, even in the most touristy areas.

– – –

My talkative friend eventually stopped talking and fell asleep. I was left to my own staring out into the night. At the beginning of every trip, I always have some uneasy thoughts. Things like not being able to meet anyone and having to travel alone. The fear of not knowing what lays ahead also lurks in the back of my mind. Yet at the same time, there is palpable excitement about that very same uncertainty. Mired in my thoughts, the clock turned to 3:00 and I slowly drifted off to sleep.

An hour and a half later, I found myself standing on a sidewalk in Flores. Our bus had arrived early and it was still dark. In a decision that would shape the rest of my trip, I trudged over to Los Amigos hostel, set down my pack and jumped on a 5am Tikal tour.

5am bus to Tikal.

I would soon realize that my worries from a couple hours prior were completely unfounded.

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  1. December 21, 2011

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  1. It’s Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy in Flores « Backpacking the World | Life in a Sack

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