Seventeen days in the one place. That was our time in San Pedro, and the longest we’ve essentially been still since we left Australia back on the 27th of June 2014.
We’d had an enjoyable as well as fruitful time, with side excursions, diving in the lake and the chance to improve on our levels of Spanish quite considerably.
But despite us not really having a schedule, we do have our first deadline of the trip (our flights to Havana from San Salvador) and our plan to try and cover El Salvador in the intervening time necessitated our onward journey.
So with our bags packed and our goodbyes said, we slunk out of town on a Chicken Bus bound for Quetzaltenango, more commonly (and easily) known as Xela.
This was our first Chicken Bus adventure involving any distance, but fortunately for us this was an A grade variety (it had arm rests) which meant the usual 3 or 4 people to a seat wasn’t going to occur!
Still, it did get crowded but 3 or 4 hours passed an eventually we were there, at what really couldn’t be passed as a bus station, but rather just a location from which buses come and go…
With a hostel in mind, but no booking, it was then a fun (replace fun with hot if you wish) 2-3km stroll until we found it, by which time we couldn’t be bothered haggling too much over the price and simply took a room.
After locating the local supermarket (which meant we could cook dinner for the night) and a quick lunch of tacos we had a little wander around the main plaza which showcased some of the city’s top colonial relics.
Despite Antigua’s grand plaza and churches, although Xela lacks the cobbled street charm, its few gifts from Spanish rule rival and possibly better those of Guatemala’s favoured tourist city.
This place is more a working city than a showpiece, so away from the historical centre, there isn’t as much that we could find to charm the pants off of us.
Many people who come to Xela have a pamper destination in mind (about 4 kilometres from the city lie the Los Vahos steam baths/sauna), however that wasn’t going to be us. Instead we’d come to see the apparently quirky and colourful church in nearby San Andres Xecul.
We then discovered to both our dismay and relief (dismay because we obviously wanted to go and relief because we were both dead tired) that the final bus to the town ran at 3pm and we were no chance to make it!
Our night was concluded with a pretty tasty home cooked pasta and some effort to plan our Guatemalan exit, which currently looked like it may require an incredibly long days fun on and off Chicken Buses and possibly a night in Guatemala City itself.
By the time Sarah woke the following morning I had a new plan.
Gone was the consideration of Guatemala City and a full day on the buses.
In its place, we would now visit San Andres Xecul this morning, before trying to get a couple of buses that would get us back to Antigua where we would then arrange a shuttle for the following morning to ferry us into Honduras to Copan.
Our expectation was with some good connections and some good luck, we may get to Antigua by 5pm, hopefully just enough time to sort out what we needed.
It wasn’t looking great when we were only just departing around 1pm, however the most impressive connection we could have imagined (where we got off one bus and immediately onto the departing Antigua connection) and some Schumacher like driving manoeuvres from the driver of our second bus meant we actually found ourselves back in Antigua just after 4pm!
Time enough to find a room, book a shuttle and even get a new loaf of Banana Bread for breakfast!
With alarms to be set for a 4am pick-up, this particular night was never going to be big, but there was still time enough to cook up a second feast in two days and wash it down with a couple of nice cold beers.
A low key finale to wonderful month in Guatemala…
* Chicken buses to Xela depart from just outside San Pedro’s Catholic church took about 3 hours and cost $35.00 Quetzales per person (expect your bags to be on the roof and 3 people to a seat).
* To return to Antigua from Xela (by Chicken Bus) required a trip to Chimultenango ($30.00 Quetzales per person for a 2 to 2-½ hour trip ) where we transferred to an Antigua bound bus for the final leg ($5.00 Quetzales for a half hour trip).