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Half the fun of Antigua to Flores . . . ........Two alarms were set. I went to bed early. There was a six o'clock wakeup set to get me on my nine hour trip to Flores. The tour guide told me to wear long sleeves. The air conditioning was cold on the bus. I had no long sleeves with me. His suggestion was to steal a blanket from the hotel. I bought a long sleeved Guatemalan shirt. Warmth and style!

I woke before my alarm and had plenty of time to check email before heading to my bus stop, the front of the hotel. I was told my pick up could be any time between 6:30 and 7:30. The entire time, the security guard from my hotel kept me company. But, at 7:30, he went to make a phone call. Was there some kind of problem?

There was some kind of problem!


Actually, there was a breakdown in communication at the travel agency the day before. I said I wanted to leave in the morning. I could never sleep well on a bus, so a night bus was out of the question. Well, I had a ticket for a night bus.

At first, I thought I would just have to wait around Antigua for twelve hours. The thought of that was about as delightful as the thought of a night bus after the long wait. I decided to count the $40 ticket as a loss and head up north on my own. It really didn't quite happen that way. I had watchful guardians throughout the day.

My first guardian was the security guard. He personally walked me to the bus terminal in Antigua to go to Guatemala City. I asked the man directing me into the bus before boarding, "Does this go to the terminal in Zone One?"

"Si, si, si, Zona Una."

The only actual "si" in that sentence was, "I si tourist money." We never went to the terminal in Zone One. We never went to any terminal. We stopped in a whole lot of places in Guatemala City, but I had no clue where any of them were. I finally asked the bus assistant for some help. He and the driver had a rapid-fire conversation in Spanish. The result? I needed a taxi.

So, what did you really think rides in a Guatemalan chicken bus?
I knew what I needed. The best tour guide I met on this trip said to never go to the bus terminal in Zone 18. It was for Guatemalans. Tourists needed to go to the terminal in Zone 1. There, a tourist would get on a bus with leg room, more space, air conditioning, direct routes, most likely some people who spoke some English and toilets. Yes, it came with a higher cost, but for a nine hour ride, I was willing to pay the price.

My bus driver and the taxi driver he found both refused the logic of going to Zone 1. They both insisted that I needed to go to Zone 18. It was a brand new terminal in the north of the city which was the gateway to the north. No amount of arguing would change their minds. So, for the first time in my life, I took a taxi ride to a place that I knew I didn't want to go to.

The two drivers were right. It was the gateway to the north. It was a beautiful terminal wrapped around a new mall. It was everything a Guatemalan traveler could want.

It was the wrong terminal.

Gone was my chance to possibly get a refund from the bus company that sold me my ticket. There were no tourist buses at Zone 18. Gone was my leg room, space to move, over frozen air conditioning, direct route and English. I was afraid to even check if there was a toilet.

In the past, I would not have handled this well. I would have created a scene before the taxi ever left that bus. But, I decided this was a day for a Guatemalan experience. Nothing was going to bother me on this adventure, starting with a taxi fare that was almost half the nine hour bus fare.

Once in Zone 18, I must have really looked out of place in the mall / bus terminal. Yes, I was the only foreigner. I didn't really think I looked lost or confused. I certainly didn't feel that way. But, a young man working in some business decided I needed help. He put his arm around my shoulder and guided me to the bus company that would take me to Flores. I appreciated the help. Always! But, I still didn't think I needed it.

Well, that young man was certainly more help than any employees at the bus company he took me to. My ticket said there was a 10:00 departure. That time came and went. Then, 10:30 came and went. There was no gate indicated. I just didn't know what to do. An old man behind me motioned with his hands for me to just calm down. "It was all under control." That really didn't help. Finally, at 11:00, my bus arrived and I was on the road to the north.

It didn't take long to miss the comforts of the tourist bus I wasn't on. I was the only foreigner on the bus and next to me was an uncommonly large woman. I had the window seat. Common sense and common decency would have caused this woman to get out of her seat to let me in. Well, she was uncommon in this respect too. When I crawled over her, there was no way to get my very large backpack onto the floor. I had to hold it for hours.


a little dried pepper to spice up your meal

However, she did redeem herself after one brief rest stop to grab some food. When we got back on the bus, a new passenger was in my seat. She made sure he left. I made sure my bag was on the floor before I sat down. All was well in the world.

It was a long day even though the bus came with entertainment. Well, that is, if you could call it that. There were three movies. Perhaps they were Chinese rip off DVDs. The quality of the DVD was terrible in two respects. The videos kept pausing and clarity was awful. However, the plots were worse! When "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" came on, I did my best to ignore it. It was very hard to ignore a blaring video on a bus. I would NEVER watch that movie in English and I wasn't about to try it in Spanish. It was bad enough to hear the screams and the roar of the chainsaw! But, from the looks of things, everyone around me was glued to the tube.

Thankfully, the movies ended and Spanish music took their place. I enjoyed the songs, even if I didn't understand them. At one point, there was English music with Madonna. However, the speed wasn't quite right. She sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks. I was pleased when the Spanish music came back on.

The final bus stop was in Santa Elena instead of Flores. I knew that. Flores was on the island just outside of Santa Elena. I'd been there and done that. I knew Santa Elena was huge. However, when the bus pulled into the station, there were hardly any lights anywhere. I thought it was just another of the zillions of stops we made along the road that day. But, when everyone else got off the bus, I decided I better check it out.

It was 8:30 PM. The very long day of travel was over. I purchased a ticket for a 7:00 departure in the morning, found a hotel and grabbed a meal. As a general rule, I avoid soft drinks. However, some days they just felt justified. When I sat down for my meal after this trip, I ordered two Cokes. I also tried to avoid street food. You never know what extra bacteria or parasite might come with the course. However, it was the only option if I wanted to eat that night. I ate the chicken and the meal tasted great.

I was also sick for the next four days.

market place goodies
Copyright 2014 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.