Ok, so we had our last night in Guatemala. The alarm was set for 03:15am to wake us up ready for our shuttle to Guatemala City at 4am. These ungodly hours really weren’t fun to wake up at no matter what we were going on to see. I suppose this time it’s our fault because we chose the 4am shuttle so we would arrive in El Salvador around midday. Or so we thought….
For once, the transport was early. We were picked up at 345am which caught us by surprise considering we didn’t leave our beds until 330am. Whoops. Good job we packed last night!! We were bundled into the shuttle and proceeded to drive along the cobbled streets of Antigua one last time, picking up other early birds as we went.
Eventually we hit a solid road that took us all the way to the Tica Bus station in Guatemala City. Today we would actually be travelling first class as opposed to the transfer from Flores to Antigua. We were the only two exiting here and the shuttle driver took us inside. He informed us we’d need our passports ready and the process was very much akin to that of an airport. Passports handed over, then it was how many bags do we have and given luggage tags for those being stowed in the under carriage.
Next came the hour wait for the bus. It was to leave at 6am. Just like an airport nothing was open at this time and more passengers began filling the seats in the waiting room. At about 550am we were set to board the bus. We sat in the wrong seats to begin with as there were no seat numbers until the driver turned the lights on. I’m pretty sure the lady taking our tickets told us where they were, something like “4 rows down on your right,” but our Spanish is still lacking so we counted what we thought it would be, and thought wrong.
Eventually in the right seats we attempted several times to connect to the wifi before giving in. The journey to El Salvador should only take about 6 hours. Considering it was still early, we weren’t tired. I started listening to music whilst Nathan watched a film on his iPad. Roughly an hour and a half into the journey, we stopped behind a row of cars. I thought it was the queue for the border, and it wasn’t until the wifi came to life that I checked to see where we were. Nowhere near the border.
Thus proceeded probably the most painful five and a half hours of our lives. Ok maybe not quite the most painful, I have been in some pretty boring meetings at work in the past, but painful all the same. I’m not kidding. We were sat in the same spot on the same road for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS!! We couldn’t figure out why either. The bus driver, left the engine running and went to have a nap at the back of the bus! Clearly he knew something we didn’t!
There’s only so long I can listen to music before I get fidgety but I didn’t have the energy to get my books out to continue researching out trip. I say energy, more like I couldn’t be bothered. My own fault really. I was getting tired and cranky. It’s not like we would have understood the reason for us being stuck anyway.
Nathan eventually started playing his game which meant I could use the iPad to watch the second episode of ’13 reasons why.’ I’m hooked!! No one tell me what happens, for once I’ve not actually read the synopsis spoilers for this series!! Sadly the wifi on the bus wasn’t good enough to download more episodes! I must have dozed off at some point and woke up to the same view…I mean out of all the views we have been lucky enough to see over the last two and a half months, these two have got to be my favourite. No seriously, seeing women walk up and down the road with fruit and whatever else balancing on their heads, (I have no idea where they came from either as I’m sure there was no town for miles back), men selling the paper or chairs that you can use to sit on bleachers, or my ultimate favourite, men emptying their bladders on the side of the road. Can’t blame them really, five and a half hours and not a toilet in site!
We finally got moving. The bus wasn’t full so we spread out and had two seats each. Time for a bit more sleep. I awoke not long before we hit the border as the conductors voice came over the speakers. Not that I had any clue what he was saying as per usual! It must have been something about visas maybe because next we were handed an immigration form to fill out.
Then we hit the border. Off the bus we got, straight into hoards of men with huuuuge wads of cash wanting to rip off us gringos that they think haven’t done research on the exchange rates. Pah!!! Proved them wrong when they tried to offer me $50 for 725Q.
Bloody rip off. As we started to walk away of course their exchange rate went up. Then I ended up looking stupid as I counted 725Q when I actually had 825Q. We settled on $92, approximately $20 under the internets exchange rate. Next came immigration. The office was tiny, although there were 7 desks with only two open. The queue was long and we just stood there hopelessly minding our own business when the conductor motioned us to skip all but two people in the queue. Needless to say that didn’t win us any brownie points with the locals. You could feel their eyes burning in the back of your head!
We were called to the desk, handed over our passports then told to go back to the bus. That was easy! As we crossed over the bridge, the bus stopped and appeared to park up. You don’t get a stamp upon entry into El Salvador, just a stamp out of Guatemala. You also don’t have to pay because of a treaty between Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras meaning you only have to pay once, which we did upon exiting Belize. Instead, you get another immigration officer board the bus, with a clipboard and checklist, who goes along checking everyone’s passports/ID cards and jotting the exit and entry dates down on his sheet. Surely they did that back in the office no?
Next I got told off for being on my phone casually reading the news and Nathan got told off for being on his iPad whilst the immigration officer was on board. Then a security guard with a huge gun got on and strolled up the central aisle casually checking some IDs and bags. We were ignored, probably because it’s too much effort to talk to us English folk who can’t understand Spanish. Meanwhile, there were other people down checking the luggage stowed underneath. A few people got called off the bus, no idea why, but whilst all this was going on, I had another pleasant view of dogs going at it outside the window. So spoilt today!!
Finally we were on the home straight, but not before pulling over to allow people to buy drinks/snacks from the vendors across the street. I reckon the driver was hungry. Then it was a loooong ride down to the Tica Bus station down in San Benito, in San Salvador. The best part was that as soon as we entered El Salvador, the weather instantly became wet and stormy. We have had rain and storms but generally in Central America they have passed quite quickly. We have five nights in El Salvador and according the google, it’s raining and stormy for the next fifteen. I knew the weather in Guatemala was too good to be true 😞.
It got dark at about 5, mainly because of the weather. As standard with any big city the traffic was appalling getting in and also getting out. I just wanted a shower and a decent nights sleep. We aren’t setting any alarms for the next five days. We’ll just wake up whenever and see what the weather is doing to determine what we do. Passing by the fast food chains that remind us of the USA, we stop at the side of a road. It was 715pm and we had finally reached the Tica Bus stop. Over seven hours after we were meant to!
We jumped off and proceeded to grab our bags from underneath, although the conductor seemed more intent on helping everyone but us so we helped ourselves. It was hammering down with rain but thankfully, our hostel, La Zona Hostel, was just across the busy main road we had parked on.
In we went and were greeted by good English asking if we had a reservation. We did for the next five nights. He took the remaining balance of $70 and showed us to our dorm. Los Amigos sets the bar really high for hostels. Whilst all we need is a shower and a bed, La Zona Hostel has a million rules. Slight exaggeration, its a few less than a million, but I don’t think this was going to be as relaxed as Los Amigos. To begin with, the room is small, there are three sets of bunk beds, and Nathan and I are both on top bunks.
He had the top bunk in Los Amigos so is fine, me however, I like the bottom bunk so I’m close to all my stuff. I also fidget loads so I feel so sorry for the dude underneath me. Then there’s the fact climbing up on to it, I probably looked like a walrus trying to climb onto a rock. No exaggeration there! They have the layout all wrong. This is the tiny gap I had to climb up onto my bunk. Instead of putting the beds against the wall they put the ladder next to the wall. The logistics are way out. We are roomies with the dude underneath me, I don’t know his name yet but considering our positions I probably should. Then there are two old guys. No joke they’re probably in their 50s. Fair play to them if they’re backpacking 😂!
One of the rules is to not shower for longer than 10 minutes. Easy, but for those taking the whole ten minutes makes it frustrating when you just want to brush your teeth and collapse on your very wobbly top bunk bed. Instead, we wandered downstairs to the bar to grab a Coke and some water for $2. No breakfast, lunch or dinner today for us. Can’t bring outside food and drink into the hostel either so bang goes the idea of ordering in Pizza Hut 😞. Still, at £6 here, you can’t go wrong!!!
Eventually I drifted off into the land of nod but was woken by the dude on the top bunk next to me snoring away, then again by the American girls alarm going off at 445am, then again by the dude underneath me leaving and making as much noise as humanly possible. It was 7am. I was not happy. After reading the news I slowly started to get up. There were people downstairs eating breakfast, I wasn’t feeling very social this morning so stayed researching instead.
We left the hostel at about 10am, heading to a shopping centre a mile away. We kept walking and walking and walking, for much longer than a mile. When we arrived at the point on the sat nav we had walked three miles. Something wasn’t right here. We turned left and headed towards Pizza Hut for lunch. It was only delivery 😞. Then another one popped up on the sat nav 0.4 miles up the road. It wasn’t there 😞. Four miles walked and no shopping centre, post office, or Pizza Hut in sight. We settled on the Gourmet Burger Company instead. Where the menu was 99% in Spanish! Out came the phrase book and the menu was easily translated! The food was really good, albeit I think it’s possibly the smallest burger we have ever eaten.I was so chuffed I managed to ask for the bill in Spanish too!! “La cuenta por favor.” Stomachs full there was a statue I wanted to see that I saw on the way in. It was straight down the main road, situated on a roundabout. Over here, pedestrians have no right of way at any crossing. Traffic lights don’t stop to allow pedestrians to cross and we actually had a bus and a car speed up and almost run us over. It was utterly crazy. Horns honking everywhere, I’ve never seen such impatient drivers, and yes that includes me!!In the background I believe is Volcán San SalvadorOk, so whilst this is a statue, it is totally not the one I saw on the way in. This is Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo. It shows Jesus standing on the Earth. Whilst the statue is an important landmark to San Salvadorans I’m beginning to think I’m going mad unless it was what I saw coming in. There’s no statues like the one I think I saw 😂!
Anyway, we had so far walked 6 miles, not bad for an originally planned 1 mile, but we decided to head back to the hostel to chill out as the weather was starting to turn.As we got back I asked if I could move to bunk number 2 as the guy had gone. The guy at the desk asked me to show him what I mean?? So I did and he said that they’re expecting a group of 5 so have to wait till the girl planned for bed 2 arrives so he can tell her she’s now bunk 3. I mean just change it in the diary right? It’s not like we book specific bunks…and they want a 5 star review to give us a free drink…pah!!
Until next time…