April 25, 2009
Mexico (Around the World Trip)
It took a couple of chicken buses to get us to the border, and then a taxi between the two immigration offices. I was happy to be done with Guatemala`s transportation system (or so I thought at the time), because the small, uncomfortable old school bus seats are not meant to fit adult-sized knees. Plus we were constantly wondering if our backpacks were going to fly off to roof rack during death-defying turns on the mountain roads. I do have to say that the Guatemalan buses are the most efficient, affordable, friendly, and well-used public transportation system we have seen yet. No matter where you want to go, during daylight hours there will be a bus leaving within minutes, and although frequent switching of buses is sometimes necessary, the next one will also leave within minutes. The buses are often very crowded, to the point of fitting 3 adults and a kid or two in each seat plus a few extras standing in the aisles, but the fares-collectors always seem to worm their way through collecting their quetzales, and willingly shimmy up to the roof like monkeys to haul up sacks, baskets, and anything else that needs to be transported. Anyway, my knees were happy to say goodbye to it all, and once across the Mexican border, we found to our relief our next ride was a plush minivan, and by late afternoon we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas.
It is said that San Cristobal and Antigua, Guatemala should be sister-cities...indeed we found that they looked and felt very similar to each other. It was raining again when we arrived, and we found a quirky guesthouse and had some supper. The next morning, our plan was to visit a nearby canyon and then continue on our journey to Oaxaca that night and then eventually Mexico City. After buying our bus tickets, we chatted with the guesthouse owner, and she told us about the contagious swine flu spreading rapidly in Mexico City. We went and did some internet research, and decided that it would probably be better not to go there, since all schools and museums were closed, and more importantly, we didn't really want to get sick.
April 25-26 - Back to Guatemala!
So, we spent the whole day trying to figure out how to avoid Mexico City yet somehow make it to our next flight in Costa Rica. We finally found a flight out of Guatemala City in a couple of days. Which is how, the very next day, we found ourselves retracing our steps back across the border into Guatemala, in what turned into another very long day of traveling. We landed in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan for the night, and although the rains had cleared the skies and the view across the lake was beautiful, we couldn't stay long. The next day we continued on to stay a night in Antigua, where we would catch a shuttle for the airport in the early, early morning.
Although I had no real desire to travel on more chicken buses, our trip from Panajachel to Antigua included four of them, switching in each major town in-between. Even with all the switches, I think we made the trip in record time, faster than the direct shuttle, because there were always buses waiting, and more importantly, because the drivers all seemed to be practicing for the Indy 500. Once again, to our amazement, our luggage didn't fall off the bus and is still in our possession.
***From here, we spend a few days in Guatemala (again) and then Costa Rica before heading to South America***