The shuttle was almost an hour late picking us up from the hotel this morning. It was to be expected, as shuttles usually go to the fancier hotels first, and we, although we weren’t slumming it, were budgeting.
After a three and a half hour trip which included a stop for a tasty buffet breakfast, we arrived at the border with an hour to spare before the Guatemala shuttle was supposed to arrive. We got our passports stamped, and all sat around to wait. Rene and I shared some street food, and the smokers furiously cremated cilia as fast as they were able, trying to build up their nicotine levels for the smoke free journey ahead.
Considerably more than an hour passed, and we began to wonder if something was wrong. Rene and I had heard about some sort of road collapse near Huehuetenago, and had seen an overflowing waterfall blocking a road near Panajachel. He called our travel agency here in San Pedro, and they assured him that the roads were passable and that the shuttle would be there by 1:30 or 2:00. Meanwhile, more shuttles arrived from Mexico, and the group grew. Finally, I looked at Rene and said “debemos tomar carro privado.” He agreed, and located someone willing to drive us to Panajachel for $150. Not cheap, but it didn’t look like shuttles were going to arrive any time soon.
As it happened, the shuttles arrived just as our car did. I’m glad we didn’t wait, however, because I doubt they made it to Panajachel before midnight, long after the final lancha leaves for San Pedro. As we drove off, they were still unloading passengers and baggage from Antigua and Panajachel, after which they had to cram too many people into too few seats. We, on the other hand, zoomed off, comfortable in our own car, with music blasting from the stereo.
Maybe an hour and a half later, we came to a stop behind a line of trucks, buses, and cars. Our intrepid driver jockeyed his way forward quite illegally, but in tandem with numerous others, to get us near the front of the line. Cars trickled through from the other direction. We noticed that none of the trucks alongside the road had drivers. They were off having a beer or a meal, most likely. After about a half hour, we crept forward, past a half dozen soldiers who were standing around drinking coffee and ignoring the traffic problem, and finally arrived at this point:
This is where we left the road, after being charged 5 pesos by a kid who just happened to be there to take advantage of the situation. Based on the number of cars, he did quite well. If you look between the backhoe and the bulldozer, you can see where the road used to be.
Our driver crossed himself, and we slogged down a muddy slope and across an equally muddy bridge made of I know not what. Logs and dirt?
That is where the road was.
A few nailbiting fishtails later, we were up and out the other side.
None of those trucks and buses are going anywhere except back the way they came. On the other side, we saw the passengers of the buses toting all their belongings across to meet other buses lined up there.
I doubt anything as heavy as a fully loaded shuttle was allowed across, and not long after we heard on the radio that the road was completely closed. I’d say the $150 was well spent.