Friday 29 September 2023

1987 Travel Journal: To Guate, Then Back to Antigua

    I woke up very early this morning, but not by choice.  It was those damn clanging church bells again.  I have often thought that living close to one of those Muslim minarets with their periodic loud prayers would be horrible, but living by a Latin American Catholic Cathedral is no better.  The church bell loudly clangs multiple times, takes a short rest and then goes at it again, repeating the pattern over and over in the early morning.

    Unfortunately, I still suffered from “tourista”, but luckily, yesterday I did find some toilet paper on a roll by the hotel lobby.  I again took some Lomotil hoping to control the problem.  Some hotels have a bottle of purified water in the rooms, but this one unfortunately doesn’t, so I ended up brushing my teeth using Sprite.

    I was back out on the street by 8:00.  I walked down to the Tourist Information Center and picked up my nice clean laundry.  It cost me 5Q ($1.85 US).  I then got on a bus headed for “Guate” (Guatemala City) which was 50 km. (30 miles) away.  That trip cost me only .75Q ($.75). 

    Although the capital of Guatemala; Guatemala City looked as bad as everyone had said.  Antigua had been the capital but after being so devastated and destroyed by earthquakes, the Spanish moved their capital to Guatemala City.  This really didn’t solve the problem though, since Guate also suffers from devastating earthquakes, but it remains the capital.

      At Guatemala City, a German couple directed me to Setsa Travel Agency which was only 5 blocks from the bus terminal.  The travel agent was very friendly and spoke English, which is always a relief.  I bought a ticket for flight to the Internationally famous jungle Mayan ruins of Tikal in a few days time.  The flight cost me 80Q or $29 US.   With the flight arranged, I returned to the bus station and was back in Antigua by noon.

    The bus trip back was yet another experience to remember.  Whenever our bus passed a police checkpoint, all of the many passengers standing in the aisle, had to duck down, hiding until the bus got back out of sight of the police.  Another unusual event during the bus trip was that the bus driver got a ticket for running a stop sign.  He had already failed to stop at several during the trip.  As he began to run this particularly one, I was thinking, “This is pretty outrageous.”  I guess the cop was thinking the same thing.

    The driver then had to drive a block further where two policemen stood chatting.  One cop kind of motioned the bus driver to come see him.  All of us passengers sat in the bus for about five minutes, listening as the bus’s engine choked and coughed, getting closer to death the whole time.

    Once the police were done, the driver and his helper returned to the struggling bus, cranked up the engine and continued the trip at breakneck speed down the narrow cobblestone street.  Clearly the bus driver was really pissed off at what had happened.

    I ate a sandwich pollo grande, for lunch.  It turned out to be a bit too grande, but I forced myself to finished it.  I then met up with Martin who hadn’t eaten yet, so I accompanied him to a restaurant in a nice courtyard.  While he ate, I ordered myself an iced tea which was very refreshing.  Unfortunately, our  meal was cut short due to sudden rumblings in my digestive tract, forcing me to quickly excuse myself and scurry back to my hotel room bathroom.  I then lay down for an hour until I felt secure enough to venture out to take some more photos of Antigua.

    Somewhat chastened by my bout of “tourista”, for supper Martin and I went out for some vegetarian soup.  I wasn’t that hungry but the warmth and taste of the vegetarian soup was calming.

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