Ride from Hell ends in Paradise - Sunday, March 09, 2003

Eight hour bus ride, no problema! After two bus rides in the middle of the day through weather similar to Texas in the summer, we have finally learned how to do it right. The key is to figure out what side of the bus the sun will be shining on for the shortest portion of the trip before picking your seats! We've now learned our lesson. The bus was actually nicer than a greyhound and was double decker, served lunch (stewardess!), seemingly had air conditioning (didn't work), played a video (Cats & Dogs), and had reclining seats. Not bad, except for the fact that it felt like 100 degrees in the bus if your face wasn't stuck out the window. Our bad.. We had two of the 8 or 10 seats not in the shade and M had one hell of a naucous bus ride... Lesson learned!!

Thank goodness our new friend Will remembered some of his Spanish from the year he spent in South America 15 years ago. Guatemala City after dark is not a good place to be, especially in the part where our bus let off. With ~20 minutes to spare, Will helped us find our way to the chicken bus to Antigua. Just like the guide books say, Guatemala City really is a pit. Overwhelming pollution, trash, and traffic. I'm sure there are some nicer areas, but we've made no time to go back.

What a wild & crazy ride to Antigua!!! The very old school bus was painted colorfully, the horn sounded like it belonged to an 18-wheeler, the seats were 3 on one side and 2 on the other with ~5 inches in between. The driver and his partner were an AMAZING duo. The partner - a very little man - slung our backpacks atop the bus. We have NO IDEA how they rigged it so that our bags stayed on. On the 45 minute Mario Andretti-like ride from Guatemala City, the partner jumped out of the bus at junctions and sachayed riders through crazy traffic onto the bus. Quite a skilled man. No injuries on our trip. Though I did find this very believable chicken-bus account on the internet. Hopefully our next chicken-bus ride won't be as colorful as this guy's!

We made it to Antigua after dark and were immediately impressed with the cobblestone roads, cleanliness, the picturesque lighting of all the colorful homes, and the FRESH air. The Spanish colonial style seems to permeate every part of town-even the slums. Apparently, Antigua is THE best-preserved colonial city in Spanish America. We quickly found a quaint, stylish hotel with comfy beds for VERY cheap and went out for dirt cheap meal with our friends that would have cost up 5X as much at home...

It was GREAT to finally get a decent night's sleep!

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