Saturday, 10 May 2014

All aboard to Semuc Champey...

Still very much suffering the effects of whatever bug we've managed to pick up, the idea of a 7-8 hour bus journey doesn't really appeal right now, but with our bus tickets booked we're keen not to waste a day by postponing the trip.

Having renegotiated the price down by 50% we're feeling pretty pleased with ourselves! as we spend the morning running between caf├ęs and other available bathrooms in Antigua - McDonalds in particular served us well.

With the bus mere minutes away, Carly decides that now is an appropriate time to quiz me on the finer details of the conversation I had with the owner of the Greengos Hostel which will be our resting place tonight (if we make it). Admittedly it's a key point - do we get off the bus in Lanquin, Semuc Chambey, or some other location? The problem is, yesterday was not exactly a great day for me, and today isn't massively better so I'm in no state to recall this information. I figure that we'll be dropped off wherever the driver feels appropriate, and the hostel pickup people will figure it out.

When our wagon for the next 8 hours arrives, the disappointment is clear, and we're not even going for the budget "chicken bus" option. We're the last pickup, meaning that our choice of seats is limited to the plastic fold down child seats, or riding upfront with the driver - no contest.

The main highways that either side of Guatemala City are anywhere between 2 to 6 lanes of bullshit, with cars and trucks happy to drift between lanes at will, overtakes happening every which way, buses parking up in the middle of it all to grab an extra passenger, people running across all 6 lanes, guys taking a stroll along the central reservation, guys having a nap on the side of the road, and my favourite, the occasional guy out for a walk with his machete in hand.

As our bus attempts a gentle bend at all of 60kph (35-ish mph) we start in one lane and slide across into the next. Not a one off occurrence and we can safely assume that we're running on slick tyres, and it's not an attempt by our driver to hit the apex perfectly. After another sliding bend our driver indicates that I should lock my door... I guess I should probably say a few Hail Marys as well...

For the next 6 hours the trip is relatively hassle free, aside from a steady stream of NASCAR-esque manoeuvres both from our driver and the other vehicles on the road, and of course, the rancid sulphurous burps... Fast forward to our 2nd bathroom stop in Coban, when we chance upon a couple of Irish gents walking down the street with their backpacks - and they're keen to hop on for the journey to Lanquin (the closest village to our final destination). Clearly the idea of an extra 100Q (£7.50) is too good for our driver and his buddy to miss, so we set about a lengthy bus change to fit the 2 new fish.

At some point over the next couple of hours later we pick up what appears to be another of the drivers buddies, but would be more accurately described as "the fixer", checking everyone's planned accommodation and calling ahead to ensure appropriate pickups are in place from Lanquin - an impressive service, and one that renders that CPs earlier questioning irrelevant. I'm quietly smug at this point.

Another change of vehicle if Lanquin (this time planned), and we're in to what was once a 4x4 pickup truck. This is necessary as the road gets even sketchier, the highlight being a wooden bridge which requires the driver to jump out and reposition some planks so we can make it across. 

We arrive at the hostel after what feels like a mammoth journey (9.5 hours all in) but will quickly become the norm, and although it's dark it's clear that we have picked a winner...

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