Misadventure to Guatemala

We are almost back up on the main road when a stocky Honduran man dressed in shorts and a polo waves us down and hails us back about 30 feet.

Where are you going? He asks. Do you want a ride?

That’s what I love about this country, Sarah whispers over. Everyone’s trying make money.

We bargain our way to 200 lempiras a person, and our new friend… whose name is incidentally Fresh, loads our bags into the back of his pickup truck.

gypsy cab!
gypsy cab!

Oh crap, we didn’t see this coming. The interior of the pickup truck can only fit 3 people tops perhaps, and the rest will have to ride outside in the back. It is still raining.

We hesitate for a moment, but seeing as how the border would close in an hour or two, we know that time is of the essence, so we push on. Sarah and I get into the front, gesturing for Cyn to join us, but she is already climbing into the back of the pickup with Phil, Rick and the luggage.

Together, we cruise down at 150 kph, passing palm and banana plantations as we go.

miles of palm plantations
miles of palm plantations

Sarah, who has traveled with Phil for the past year all over the world, tells me that in other parts, there had been sustenance farms that were bought out by palm plantations because they offered so much money for the land. Now villages would surround these plantations and instead of farming for themselves, the people now live off the plantations.

We make it to the Honduran border at around 4:30 after two checkpoints where Fresh orders us to “QUICK! Pretend to buckle your seatbelt. Seatbelt! Seatbelt!”. We bargain for Fresh to take us all the way to Puerto Barrios for 300 lemps a person but soon realize that the frontera closes at 5, not 6, and he must make it back to Honduras before then.

Quick, quick, Fresh says, as we go to Honduran immigration. We don’t even have time to use toilet although we’re dying to pee.

Welcome to Guatemala
Welcome to Guatemala

He cruises again to a spot where we can pick up another chicken bus. To the west, the Guatemalan mountains are gorgeous, with cloud swirling across hill like curls of smoke. Surrounded by palms, the scene is breathtaking.

Cynthia told you I’m snap happy, didn’t she? I tell Sarah. I don’t blame she says. I’ve got about 7000.

She and Phil have been posting things online as they’ve traveled. Phil does the writing. He’s got the harder job, she says.

While we speak, we look ahead to see a dog in the middle of the road. Oh, God, we think, Stop!

The dog looks to its left and sees cars zooming back in the opposite direction. It turns back to the other side of the road. Fresh slows down but only moderately. I close my eyes and scream. The truck hits slams into the dog, a loud bang followed by two thuds – Kathunk, Kathunk. We run over the poor animal.

When we arrive at the Guatemalan microbus, Fresh charges us 300 lemps a person.

That’s not fair, we say, we said 300 if you took us all the way to Puerto Barrios. We aren’t in Puerto Barrios!

I pay your bus ticket, he tells u.

No, Sarah says. That ride costs like a dollar (20 lemps). It’s 200 lemps. That’s it.

But after the fiasco of hitting the dog, we just want to get away from this crazy man, so we each pay him his 300 lemps and allow him to pay our microbus fee.

He made a killing off of us, Sarah says.

We load into the bus, which is more like a van and much more comfortable than the ride to Puerto Cortes.

This microbus also stops every here and there to pick up more people and let others off. At one point we have 10- children in the microbus, folded into every small nook possible. Children are so mobile.

That’s what I love at this place, Sarah says. People are so accommodating.

Guatemala is quite a beautiful country so far, and surprisingly much more eye appealing than the Honduran side that we’ve just left. I wonder how people have so many negative things to say about it.

It’s like crossing from Italy into Switzerland, Phil says. Funny how the Hondurans have so much shit to say about the Guatemalans. It’s so much cleaner here.

We make it to the main road in Puerto Barrios by dusk, getting off on the street just past a shop where you can apparently buy ropas exclusivos. We drag our suitcases through dirt roads, down Calle 12 until we get to Avenida 3. Along the way, men sitting outside at restaurants woot at us.

My God, Sarah says. It’s like a couple of cute girls come into town and the town goes crazy.

On the way down Calle 12 towards the Europa 2 Hotel that we see listed in Lonely Planet, we pass the immigration office and we are surprised it is still open. We stop in and are told by two immigration officers that we apparently don’t need an entrance stamp. We open at 7 am tomorrow so you can get your exit stamps, they tell us.

Um… ok.

We walk another block further to Avenida 3 and find Europa and Europa 2 on the corner. For a hot shower, double beds, air con and a TV, we pay $16 a night.

Going into the bathroom in our room, I see wires hanging out of the shower head. Well, Cynthia wanted a warm shower. I reckon that proves there’s hot water, even if we get electrocuted along the way.

We drop off our things and head to dinner.

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