Wednesday, 20th August
Today we left our home for the past week, San Pedro La Laguna and caught a shuttle bus leaving at 9:30am in the direction of Guatemala City. As we found out when we got on the bus though, the bus was due to stop in Antigua from where we would catch another shuttle bus for the short onward journey to Guatemala City. We were the last to get in the bus, so not for the first time we were in the front which gave us good views although a little cramped. The roads weave around Lake Atitlan and up and down the hillsides as we make our way back to Antigua. At one point, not far from San Pedro we were in a queue waiting for around one and a half hours whilst some roadworks took place further up the road. This is not unexpected here, by locals that is, not by us! It was okay though as we had nowhere urgent to be and had booked our hostel for the night. We got to Antigua not too late despite the roadworks thanks to the ambitious driving by our driver who seemed to ‘cross’ himself a lot as we made our way back to Antigua.
In Antigua we made our connection and jumped in another shuttle bus bound for Guatemala City, this one had an old couple at the helm who reminded Kirsty of the old couple from the Muppets in the theatre box. Anyway, we got to our hostel with only one skid on some oil and a near collision. This is all part and parcel of transportation here and doesn’t seem to faze anyone around us. They weren’t exactly driving fast anyway, you can’t in Guatemala City. We got to the hostel (‘Quetzalroo’) at around 4pm and after checking in found out where we had to buy our bus tickets for Managua, Nicaragua and did just that. We booked ourselves onto a ‘King Quality Platinum’ bus line. With a name like that they can’t be bad. We got some food court food for dinner (Mexican) and had an early night having to be at the bus terminal for 5:30am the next morning.
Thursday, 21st August
We were up at 4:30am and caught our ride to the bus terminal. The terminal is little more than an office with a parking space but then they don’t operate that many buses. The journey cost us little over US$80 each and for that we get a direct ride all the way from Guatemala City to Managua in Nicaragua, right through El Salvador and a small part of Honduras on the way. After some confusion about what we had to do with check-in, we eventually made it onto the bus with the rest of the passengers and started the long ride to Nicaragua. It would take around 18 hours in all but in comfort. Faux leather seats that recline and a Liam Neeson plane hijack film to keep our eyes busy.
As we got on the bus our passports were taken with our ticket stubbs by the bus attendant so that he could bundle everyone together at the first border. We exited Guatemala without any dramas and got our passports back with our exit stamp. When we entered El Salvador the immigration official came aboard the bus and checked our passports individually with us without stamping them. We had no paperwork either for El Salvodor in the way of arrival or departure forms. It was fairly seamless though and we all got through with no hassles and not even having to get off the bus or greasing a palm. We arrived in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvaodr, at around 11:30am and got off the bus for our only connection of the journey and a brief respite from the bus.
We had to check-in again and filled out some paperwork for Honduran and Nicaraguan borders before getting onto another bus at around 1pm. The ride through El Salvador gives you plenty of scenery and volcanos to look at. This part of Central America is strewn with volcanos and fertile land. We passed though dense vegetation, towns, villages and hillside roads with sweeping views before we got to the El Salvador/Honduras border. There the bus attendant collected some money (US$17 each for entry/exit fees), our paperwork and passports for checking. As we left El Salvador, an immigration official boarded the bus as before and checked us all off without any problems. Then came some more serious looking guys who checked our passports again and took some people off to check their luggage. It was strange that they were more riguourous as we left the country than entering. When we got to the Honduran border at around 5:30pm we didn’t get off the bus yet again but the bus attendant took our passports off to get stamped. It was by now dark so we didn’t see too much of Honduras and it was a relatively short ride to the border with Nicaragua. Our passports were stamped again without us in attendance and then we drove on the short distance to the Nicaraguan border where we had to get off, for the first time, with our luggage for inspection and get our passports stamped. It was about 9:30pm by now. It all went smoothly though and after the checks we got back onboard the bus and drove the final leg to Managua where we would spend our first night Nicaragua.
We finally got to the bus terminal in Managua around 1am and secured ourselves a taxi to take us to our hostel. He took around US$10 for the journey, well over the odds but at that time of night we weren’t going to argue. We got to the ‘Hotel Maracuya’ and were finally in bed by around 2am. It was an epic jounrey but felt good to cover so much ground for relatively little, around a quarter of what the flights would’ve cost for the same distance albeit a bit longer.