At precisely the bus began to load its other, perhaps more priceless but less economically valuable, cargo: humans. The line began to shove its way slowly towards the bus where each personal bag was checked for weapons and everyone was patted down. I must have looked like an easy-go-lucky-no-danger-here white girl as I was waved through without the hassle. Brian, however, got the pat-down.
We walked up the steep stairs passed the tiny bathroom and down the long aisle towards our seats 44-45. It was nearly the back of the bus. I made a mental note not to look towards the front of the bus as we zoomed around tight curves in the highlands. By everyone was on, all the luggage was loaded, and the groaning golden hulk began pulling out of the station and onto the narrow colonial street.
A neatly uniformed woman stood up and explained the bus rules to us. “Thank you very much, passengers, for obeying these rules. The bathroom is only for pee-pee no poo-poo. Be kind to your fellow passengers and respect the bus. Don’t poo-poo.” With that, the bus lurched around the Zona 1 corners and launched itself onto the road. The “stewardess” walked by with a large black plastic bag and handed each of us a Styrofoam container containing one suspicious sandwich with chopped meat, a packet of dry cookies best for dipping in coffee, and two blue mints. After distributing our meager meal she prowled the aisle holding a shopping basket full of canned juices for us to select. Brian and I both ended up with Pineapple Nectar, which we stored until later time.
An hour later we had finally left the city behind, were an hour into the movie “Wicker Man,” and had begun the long, arduous overnight journey to Peten. I attempted to close my eyes and rest, all the while remembering what a bad overnight bus rider I am. The bus moaned as it turned around sharp corners, rumbled over recent road construction sites, and used compression breaks to slow itself down steep hillsides. Eventually I must have dozed off, only to be wakened by the persistent dripping of condensed water from the air conditioners falling onto my exposed arms. The cold drips startled me out of my stupor and I tried in vain to prevent the drips for the rest of the night. Occasionally I would doze off again, just to be scared awake by the image of the bus tipping towards the nearby cliff like a vision of death. As always in
In every tiny provincial town the bus slowed itself groaningly and launched over the excessive quantities of speed bumps that characterize the crossing of towns and the main highway. Finally, six speed bumps later (after every town) the bus returned to its maximum speed of around 40 miles per hour and we continued huffing and puffing our way to
Brian and I were surprised to see it was already . We were almost there! Where had the night gone? I couldn’t be bothered thinking about the road already traveled or yet to be traveled. I needed to find the bathroom. Eventually, after wandering around the cold, cement check point, which made me imagine strongly a military check point during Guatemala’s “little war” of 30 years, I noted the sanitario sign and followed it to the basic bathroom where water pressure does not remove waste products and tanks of water with empty containers of orange juice float for the purpose of flushing. There was no toilet paper. Of course, there was no toilet paper. But I asked at the concession stand and for 2Q (26 cents) I bought a role of brown toilet paper reminiscent of brown paper towels found in high school bathrooms. What a relief.
We all filed back onto the bus after the fruit search and the bus rolled into action again. Only 2.5 to 3 hours to go. Before long, the grey pre-dawn began to fill the tropical sky. I sleepily watched as dark figures grew more and more distinct until I recognized the octagonal INGUAT tourist center that marks the T-intersection between the road to
We were bombarded by too-eager micro-bus owners looking for people to drive to
At , we approached the Mirador del Lago, positioned strategically with a view of Lake Peten Itza. After listening for signs of life, I bravely knocked on the window and called, “Buenos días?” We heard distinct coughing and hacking followed by a, “Ya voy! I’m coming,” as the door to the yellow-green hostal opened up and a slightly disheveled, possibly hung-over hotel clerk let us in and showed us our room. I followed him downstairs where he accepted our Q120 and wrote out a little receipt for the payment.
When I returned upstairs, I briefly admired our room with a view, balcony and breeze from the lake, while thinking in
Some say the whole concept of the overnight bus ride is so you sleep. That concept doesn’t work for me. The truth is, Linea Dorada's motto ("ON THE GROUND THE SAME COMFORT YOU HAVE IN THE AIR") is just not true. I think we would have been just as served to take the day-time bus as we spent the entire day in a hot, sick stupor. We both caught colds on the bus. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the Flores-Tikal ambiances and when it came time to leave, bought plane tickets to avoid the arduous overnight adventure in the Luxury Linea Dorada bus. Haleluja, 1.5 hours later we were back in the comfort of our homes. Cost analysis concludes that for 10 hours at $20.00 versus 45 minutes at $120.00 that it was worth that extra $100 to ensure our health, happiness, and humanity.