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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Guatemala Part 12

    Tuesday, September 12, 2017
    Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan to Lanquin, Guatemala

    Gnarly traffic in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
    Gnarly traffic in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

    At 7:40 am, I checked out of Mario’s Rooms and walked a few blocks over to the Hospedaje El Viajero to wait for the bus, which was supposed to pick me up there at 8:00 am. Not surprisingly, as I was walking up the street, I could see it in the distance, already sitting there. As I arrived, the driver was running back out of the hostel. After I told him about the hostel change and how the travel agent had been closed, we got on the bus. If I wouldn’t have showed up early, I’ll bet he would’ve left without me. A few blocks away, we picked up around eight or so French backpackers and headed out of town.

    Earth rape somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.
    Earth rape somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.

    Ascending the mountains north of Panajachel, we once again got to enjoy the magnificent view of Lago de Atitlan. This time, as a sweet goodbye, the tops of the majestic volcanoes were visible, each brandishing a ring of clouds part way down. Passing through some small towns, I spotted a few Guatemalan men in their traditional striped pants. I was bummed I didn’t have my camera out. A while later, I saw a man walking on a median carrying a bundle of sticks on his back. In the next town, slowing down oncoming traffic was a long parade of Guatemalan old timers celebrating something, but I’m not sure what.

    Unintentional abstract expressionism somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.
    Unintentional abstract expressionism somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.

    A bunch of times, I spotted billboards that were painted over (instead of whited out like in the United States) in a way that unintentionally resembled modern art. One even looked like it had been blacked out by Franz Kline. Around 11:00 am, we pulled into a McDonald’s to eat, use the bathroom and change buses. Hmm, that’s funny. The travel agent never told me I had to change buses. So, the nine people from our bus joined approximately that same amount on the new bus, which was now completely full.

    When everyone was in McDonald’s, I had put my hat on a seat that had a lot of leg room. When I returned from getting food, a guy was sitting there. When I confronted him about it, he said he’d already been sitting there. Oddly enough, the only seat still open was shotgun, which was awesome except for the fact that the dashboard was literally eight inches away from the front of the seat. That meant I had to either sit sideways or spread apart my legs really wide. At least the new driver drove a little more slowly and carefully at first, but he did speed up later on.

    Earth rape somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.
    Earth rape somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.

    A while after we passed Guatemala City, we drove through some more massive hillsides, but these were in the process of being dynamited, carved up by earthmovers and scarred in the most hideous way. I’m talking total Earth rape of a very bad kind. I’m not sure if they were mining fill dirt, gravel or what, but they were not going about it in a good way at all. The previous driver told me that we would stop again for food in three hours, which would have been 3:00 pm, but we just kept right on driving. We actually didn’t stop until we reached Coban at 4:00 pm!

    Unintentional abstract expressionism somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.
    Unintentional abstract expressionism somewhere in the middle of Guatemala.

    There, we pulled into a fancy hotel and restaurant, where we stayed for close to an hour.  Instead of paying the expensive restaurant prices, I walked down the street and bought a couple of tostadas, two small bags of plantain chips, a roll and a chocolate milkshake from three different places for way less. At 5:00 pm, we all piled back onto the bus and headed out of Coban onto the really bumpy, pothole-filled road to Lanquin.

    A backstreet scene in Coban, Guatemala.
    A backstreet scene in Coban, Guatemala.

    Finally, around 7:00 pm, we rolled into the small town of Lanquin. As we exited the bus, a bunch of hostel touts surrounded us, shouting out offers of transport. I told one of them I had a reservation at the Hostal Oasis, and he told me to climb aboard his pick-up truck, which was filled with a bunch of other Euros standing up and holding onto metal railings. Then we got hauled down the road like a bunch of cattle, over hill and dale on a really bumpy, rough road. As we neared the hostel, the driver turned around and backed up to dump us out at the entrance.

    At first, I checked into a six-bed dorm room, but then I decided to move to a private room, because it was only $14, and I really needed some alone time. But, I had to fetch my backpack from the dorm room first, which was locked, and I wasn’t yet given a key. For some reason, it took the staff 10 or 15 minutes of flicking through a big bunch of unmarked keys to open it. After eating dinner, I was so exhausted, I laid down on my bed fully clothed at 9:30 pm and instantly fell into a deep sleep.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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