12.12.2005 - 14.12.2005
We left Lago Apoyo for Managua,and went from a decidedly upscale place to the opposite. It had the advantage of being close to the bus station since the bus left the next day at 5 AM. for the two day,19 hour ride back to Guate. It was either that, or a $400 flight. The bus itself was good one, relatively new, air conditioned, with bathrooms that worked, sort of, a rarity in Central America. There were assigned seats and people were not standing in the isles. Tica has its headquarters in Costa Rica, which may explain why the bus was in good shape. It was filled with young foreigners who could pony up the $35 admission price. Not much by first world standards, but expensive compared to chicken bus prices. The ride was grueling because of the poor roads, and the long, hot border stops in three different countries, Honduras, El Salvador and then Guatemala. The only food available was at these border crossings, and mostly it was greasy and not especially clean. After crossing the Honduran border, we were stopped again by the military for a drug check. We had to unload all of our luggage from underneath the bus. They lined up the men and woman separately, and then poked around our luggage with their machine guns. Finally they brought in dogs for a final sniff. It wasn't a strip search, but it seemed designed to intimidate.
The bus stopped for the night in San Salvador, and left the next morning at 5AM. Although we could stay at the small hotel at the station, it seemed overpriced and basic, so a few of us took a cab to another place a few blocks away that sounded better. Bad choice. The cab actually drove into the courtyard of the hotel, where they closed and locked the gates behind us, before we got out. Nuevo Panamerico, although described as newly renovated, turned out to be a dump, but by that time we were committed, exhausted by the 13 hour ride. When Nanette saw that the bathroom was not particularly clean, and had a cracked window so that you could see into the courtyard, she had a meltdown. Crying, and blaming me for dragging her to this place, she refused to go anywhere and said she wasn't hungry. I needed to eat, and after checking with the desk that it was safe to walk a few blocks around the hotel, went out with the two other guys that had come with us. There were a group of street weary prostitutes hanging on the corner, and the outdoor market at dusk was noisy and teaming with people. There were places to buy fruit and pupusas, a kind of cornmeal tamale stuffed with cheese or beans. We ate a few of these, and I brought one back for Nanette along with a couple of avocados. By now she was calmer, and we managed to get through an uncomfortable night on the lumpy, but fortunately bedbug free, mattress. In retrospect, we should have taken the cab to another part of town and just gotten up a bit earlier to catch the bus.
In the morning, another 7 hours on the bus got us back to Guatemala City. The coda, after 19 hours of watching shot-em-up videos, was the ad they showed us as we arrived, of two old geezers reminiscing and bragging about the comforts and wonders of taking Tica Bus to various parts of Central America. Our friends, Elizabeth and Robert, had invited us to stay with them for the couple of days when we returned to Antigua, and we took a taxi there, instead of waiting for the chicken bus. It felt great to be back to the relative comforts of their little condo. The next day we watched the Diablo festival, a local ritual when people burn a straw effigy of the devil, and set off fireworks. That was a nice finale to our time Guatemala.