I don´t like to take tourist shuttles. They´re usually more expensive, are known in places like Thailand as scam buses, and often try to get you to stay at overpriced but underperforming hostels. But in Guatemala, it seemed like they were the method most gringos used to get around. So after 2 months on the road we were finally going to take not one but two. The first leg would be two hours to Antigua and the second leg all the way to Copan in Honduras, another 6 hours away. At the tour company, we met our shuttlemates for the first leg: two other Canadians, two Germans and one very smelly Spanish speaking guy, no really he had the strongest BO ever, made worse when he took his jacket off and stretched out his arms to air out his pits. Anyone who would get on an enclosed vehicle without showering or using deodorant must really hate his fellow humans. Thank goodness it was only two hours to Antigua, not just because the mini van was cramped but also so we could sit as far away from him as possible.
In Antigua, the two German girls headed off to Rio Dulce in their very own empty mini van. But we had no such luxury. Our mini van was soon to be filled with the two Canadians from Panajachel, three Swedes, an Aussie, a guy from Quebec and yes, the smelly man. Sigh. Yet another reason to not take the shuttle.
Soon we had another reason. We had all been told that we were going directly to the Honduran border, however, when loading up the minivan the rep from the agency began loading us up by destination. Forcing all of us going to Copan to sit at the back. This did not please the other Canadian girl, until I pointed out that the smelly man was in the front row, albeit by himself. So we were going to be making some stops but where?
In an hour we were in the middle of Guatemala City and for the next hour we were driving through it seeing such sites as the red light district (no I did not take a picture), police shakedowns, and finally the airport where the smelly man was deposited – yay! No smell. More room. But boo! because it was obvious that this little side trip had added another 1 or two to our voyage and rather than taking 6 hours to get to Copan it was going to take more than 7.
Back on the highway and we drove and drove and drove. The sun was beating down on the non-air conditioned coach making us all lethargic. At least this van was more comfortable than the first. But when were we going to take a break? We were all getting a little hungry and thirsty. Unfortunately, the driver didn´t speak English and I spoke the most Spanish out of everyone on the bus (kind of scary). And just as I was about to put my week of lessons to use, we stopped in Rio Hondo. The kids (the 7 other travellers in the van) figured we only had 30 minutes left and celebrated with cold beers. I looked at the map and figured it was probably another 2 hours to Copan so Adrian and I responsibly grabbed some snacks and water. Sure enough it was 1.5 hours later that we arrived at the border and now it was pitch black. But not dark enough that the money changers couldn´t find us as we stood in line to get our passports stamped. Country number 4 here we come.
We were then piled back into the van only to be driven to the next door (?) for our swine flue clearance. We were all confused why we weren´t just told to walk the 10 metres. Oh well, it was quick and we were all getting quite fast at loading and unloading the van. The last leg of the journey was a half hour drive on very curvy roads to the tiny town of Copan where we were dropped off at the tour office.
It was 8:30 at night and there was no traffic in the streets. Without a cab, we started walking the steep hills of Copan towards our hostel. It was much hotter here than we´d been used to for the last few weeks in the highlands of Guatemala and soon the sweat was pouring off us. Of course the hostel where our room awaited was on the edge of this (luckily) small town but as soon as we got to the top of the hill, a tuktuk appeared. We grabbed it but not before asking the price. Diez Lempiras. I repeated the price in Spanish for clarification and then we were off. As soon as we got to the hostel he told me it was 10 Lempiras each. But I wouldn´t back down and he left swearing at me under his breath. Finally, the Spanish lessons pay off. I know, we were arguing over 50 cents but it´s the principle I tell you.
The hostel was very quiet. There was no office or desk instead the night watchman unlocked the door and let me us in. Despite the huge machete he was carrying he was quite nice, unlike the owner who later appeared. He showed us the room, gave us the key and then left. Good thing the place was nice or I would have thought about staying elsewhere.
The nice watchman gave us some directions on where to find some good cheap food. But in the dark in a new town Adrian and I couldn´t find it and ended up in the first place we saw called Twisted Tanya´s. It was very expensive ($60 for both of us) but it was a delicious three course meal. And we were entertained by the crazy 22 year old from Cambridge running the place. She was posh but quite sarky so she and Adrian entertained me by taking the piss out of each other. But after 10 hours on the road and another two in the humidity of Copan, I pretty sure we had become the smelly ones now and it was time to leave.