Getting to Lanquin is Not Easy
The 8 hour ride from Flores to Lanquin started innocently enough.
The 16 passenger vans are typically crammed with at least 20 people; ours had only 7. Plus, the driver turned on the air conditioning. What?! I was even able to write the Flores blog post during the first couple of hours. I was feeling good.
And then we entered the mountains. The back and forth and up and down forced my pen and paper into my purse. I took a Dramamine.
I tried to sleep, but the speed bumps made it impossible.
Speed bumps are at all the crosswalks in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala because they are a cheap and easy way to force traffic to slow down without needing people or technology. I loved these in Mexico since it made crossing the street really easy. Now, I hated them. Our driver slowed down at the last minute, crawled over the bump, and accelerated quickly only to need to slow down for another one. Every small town has a plethora of these stomach churning bumps, and we entered a new small town every few miles.
I took another Dramamine.
Now my eyes were dilated, my brain was foggy, but I was not nauseous.
We stopped for lunch at a gas station.
Chips and pop for lunch? I’d rather not. I found a can of tuna, some tortillas, and tomato sauce. Martin and I had a feast. I love the challenge of making a meal out of nothing.
For three days, medical workers held protests throughout Guatemala. We travelled on the second day of these protests. The workers put up road blocks and took over the major highways. As a result, some shuttles were delayed up to 5 hours! Fortunately, we were only delayed for an hour, at most. (I was on Dramamine, so my recollection might not be super accurate…)
We arrived in Cobán 163 miles and 7.5 hours later.
At this point, the shuttles were consolidated, and I traded my leg room for a jump seat next to an Israeli and a guitar. It took another 2 hours to get to Lanquin, which was just 37 miles away.
I liked this bus driver much better, despite the increasingly sharp curves and steep hills. I saw a sign that said Lanquin was 11 kilometers away and rejoiced…until I saw the “road”. The minimum maintenance gravel road had terrifyingly steep hills and sharp curves mixed with back breaking pot holes. We met large truck after large truck, sometimes needing to stop or back up so that we could pass safely along the narrow road.
Oh, did I mention we were on the side of a mountain? Just inches from the road was a steep drop off.
The view was spectacular. I watched the sun set over the mountains as we descended into the valley. The view would have taken my breath away had the ride not already done that. It took about 45 minutes to drive the 7 miles. I wished I had a horse.
Suddenly the dirt road turned into cobblestones.
We were in Lanquin, a small town of about 10,000 people. The minute our shuttled stopped, local boys swarmed the vans shouting names of hostels. After being trained to ignore people offering deals the moment I arrived someplace, I tried to get away from them. But these boys were how people find their hostel. Without them, tourists would just wander around lost. The hostels paid the boys a small commission for each tourist they get to stay there. Hence their eagerness. We found someone saying “El Muro”, and we followed him up a hill about 100 yards.
We made it.
We threw our stuff into our small private room reserved for staff and grabbed a well deserved beer at the bar.
Introductions might have happened; I don’t remember. Orientation would begin the next day. Martin and I took a deep breath and looked around at our new home for the next six weeks.
I had no idea what would happen next, but I was excited to find out.