The Adventures of Local Travel in Guatemala

Yesterday, I was in San Marcos La Laguna and I wanted to get to Quetzaltenango. However, I didn’t want to pay 10 times more for the tourist shuttle, so I decided to try local travel.

First, I had to take a lancha, or small boat, to Panajachel across Lake Atitlan. That was the easiest part of my journey. From Panajachel, I took a tuk-tuk to the bus station and hopped on a local bus, or pimped out US school bus, to Solola. I was sandwiched between a well-dressed man about my age and an older Mayan woman. The man on my right decided to take the opportunity to practice his English pick-up techniques. The woman on my left was trying to figure out what we were talking about. I’m sure she had a pretty good idea. It’s pretty uncomfortable to reject someone’s advances when you’re sandwiched next to them and you have an audience. US school bus Guatemala

The next jaunt, from Solola to Los Encuentros was a little less eventful. I spent this ride squished next to a dad and his 4-year-old eating an ice-cream cone and an older man. However, due to the way the men had positioned themselves, my bum was in one place and the top half of my body leaning at an awkward angle to the right.

I made a switch to another bus heading to Xela. This was the longest part of my journey, and I only had to share a seat with one other person for most of the way. At this time, however, my bladder was getting ready to burst. So what do I do? I sit in the back. Why? Good question… every school kid knows the back of the bus is the bumpiest. I must be subconsciously sadistic.

Finally, I made it to Xela! My guide book says I should hear people screaming, “Parque!” to get to the center of town. I look around like a lost tourist, and don’t hear anyone offering rides to the Central Park. I ask for directions to the vans in broken Spanish. They tell me I have to walk through the market. With my now unbearably heavy backpack. And it’s sweltering. I pass some taxis that look very inviting… but I didn’t take 3 buses and 1 boat to give up at the end! I push myself and keep trekking through the market.
I get to the cramped minivan, but for some reason I can’t understand the Spanish the boy who collects money and passengers is speaking. I feel stupid. At various points throughout the journey, he stops attempting to speak and resorts to wild, frantic hand gestures. They make me anxious, so I decide to ignore them. Finally everyone gets out of the van, and the driver informs me we have already passed my stop and I need to transfer.

I’m wiser on the next jaunt, so I ask the driver to please let me know when we get to the Park. One boat, three buses, and two minivans later, I’m at my guesthouse, traversing a total distance of 30 miles.

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