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Thrillseekers in Guatemala City

Bus Station in Santa Elena
Everybody makes mistake. We did a bunch of times. Like the time we got robbed by guys with machetes in Volcán Agua, Guatemala. Or when we got mugged in Panamá City.

We like to think we are wiser now. But sometimes, things are simply out of our control.

From Flores, we decided to go to Guatemala City, the capital. It has the terrible reputation of a dangerous city, where people get shot and murdered on a daily basis, where city buses are off-limits and where most areas, notably zona 1, are just not the place to be.

Guatemala City—simply known as Guate to everyone—is a long 8 to 10 hours bus ride from Flores. Options were limited right after Christmas because so many locals travel, so we ended up buying tickets for the 9 a.m. bus. Right from the start, we knew we would only get there around 5:30 p.m., right after sunset. Not great. But that was the best solution—the other option was the night bus and then we would have to worry about robberies.

The thing is, in Guate, schedules are merely a suggestion. For instance, when we went to Tikal, we were supposed to take the 8 a.m. bus, which turned up at 9 a.m. Everything is like that. Food in restaurant, for instance. God forbids you go to the restaurant when you are hungry, because no matter what you order, it will take an hour to get some food on the table. Even eggs at breakfast. Even local non-exotic dishes of pollo and arroz. Ideally, you should place an order a couple of hours before actually being hungry.

Anyway. At 8:50 a.m., the two stupid gringos we are were waiting for the 9 a.m. bus. Which showed up at 10 a.m. Which then proceed to drive to the bus station in Santa Elena and idle there for another half hour.

We knew we were not going to make it to Guate before late.

On top of that, we inherited the most shitty bus in the history of shitty buses, complete with fragrant bathroom smell and musty seats, and insane driver who uses the breaks only when he really has to.

Around 4 p.m., the bus pulled out into the parking lot of a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Food time. We were happy to get some drinks and sometimes to eat considering we hadn’t eaten yet—remember, we were the dummies waiting for the bus to come at the hora inglés—but we were wondering how much longer the trip was going to be. Especially considering the last part was uphill—Guate is in the highlands.

Well, it took a good 3.5 hours. By the time the bus entered zona 1, where the station is located, it was pitch dark and the streets looked empty. The bus terminal hadn’t changed either: it’s about the size of a bedroom and as welcoming as Dante’s Infierno.

So we did what we had to. We grabbed our bags and walked to the nearest hotel, a couple of blocks away.

Yes, walked. In zona 1, by night.

We made it fine. The hotel actually had rooms—phew. We didn’t have a plan B.

To eat, we headed to a cantina next door. We picked a few dishes and ate under the watchful eye of a bunch of locals drinking and playing cards who probably wondered what the hell was wrong with us and how we ended up here.

So here we are, in Guate, in the infamous zona 1. Thrillseekers. That’s us.

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