October 11, 2003

Guatemala City, Guatemala

11/10/03 7:49

After two days in Flores and Tikal, I've moved on to Guatemala City. The temples were absolutely amazing, and the days and nights were sweltering: 30+ degrees with 100% humidity. Only one fan in the hotel worked, and the nightly blackouts took care of that one nicely.

Coming back from the ruins, I was filthy enough to justify renting a hotel room just to shower, despite leaving for Guatemala City later that night. A few others I started traveling with yesterday thought this was a good idea and we each chipped in. It turned out to be a very good thing we had the room. A Swede I've been traveling with spent the hours before catching the bus puking up her guts from a combination of sunstroke from the jungle and a bad case of diarrhea from the water. In Guatemala, as in most Central and South American countries, you can't put toilet paper in the toilet. The sewage systems here can't handle it so it usually goes in a basket provided for that purpose. It was 30 degrees that night. Thankfully, nobody had to sleep in there that night. The rest of us sat waiting for the bus on the hotel terrace in the muggy night air watching a spectacular lighting storm in the distance while generators hummed until the power returned.

Flores has no bus station, and the only way to arrange travel out of the city is by using one of the local travel agencies to book into a charter. So, for the first time on this trip I didn't arrange my own travel, and arrived at the agency last night at 10pm with my ticket to Guatemala City as arranged. There, a woman at the agency collected the tickets and promptly closed the shop. Minutes later the bus arrived.

Once on route, an attendant (who was perhaps all of 15 years old) came around to validate all the passengers' tickets. This wouldn't be a problem except my ticket, like those of many other passengers was back in Flores in the now closed travel agency. At this point, the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere to resolve the issue. Enter "bad cop". He tells us that we can't be on the bus without a ticket. The kid pleads in our defense, and so ensues a humorous rendition of the classic con. Me, being the only one of their "customers" able to speak with them is stuck right in the middle. This goes on for a while, and the other tourists are growing nervous. Bad cop and the kid go off and "heatedly" discuss the issue between themselves, then bad cop disappears. The kid comes back and in a fine appoligetic performance delivers the ultimatum - (surprise!) we can all go on to Guatemala City for the price of 10 Quetzals each. The cast has done a fine job and the passengers, more frightened than irate at this point, gladly pony up the cash (about CND$1.50). I do also.

So, it took just over a week into my trip to get taken by my first scam, and no doubt this is only the first of many.

The overnight trip was otherwise uneventful (I've come to learn from experience that flat tires, wrecked transmissions, running out of gas and the like are routine here, and are not really worth mentioning). I didn't get much sleep however. I write this in the room I rented, where I'm about to sleep for a few hours then go see the city. Off to Quetzaltenango tomorrow morning.

Posted by dhuska at October 11, 2003 07:49 AM