Friday, August 15, 2008

On The Road

Excerpt from my journal, July 28, describing the journey from Flores to Finca Ixobel. (Side note on pronunciation: "x" is pronounced as kind of a soft "sh" or "zh" - so "Ixobel" sounds like "Izhobel".)

The trip to Finca Ixobel was highly amusing -- who says you can´t experience true local culture if you´re not on a chicken bus? We bought our tickets from a travel agent in Flores, who arranged a shuttle taxi service to Santa Elena (just across the causeway), where we caught the 15-passenger minibus that would take us to the Finca. When we left the bus terminal there were four passengers, the driver, and two young men (ayudantes, or "helpers") hanging out the open side door shouting, "Poptún, a Poptún!" to rustle up more passengers (Poptún was the main town closest to where we were headed).

We drove really slowly through town (like, molasses slow), and then straight into a major market street which did not look like it was meant for buses -- narrow and winding, one-lane with market stalls on either side and people milling about everywhere. And when we got to the very center, we parked for about ten minutes while the ayudantes called out for more passengers, and young children approached the bus trying to sell sodas and snacks, and random people got on board and sat down for a few minutes simply because it was ever-so-slightly cooler in the bus than it was outside. Cristie commented that "Guatemala is a place where, a lot of the time, I have no idea what´s going on." It brilliantly summed up the afternoon.

We finally filled up the bus and departed for Poptún, picking up more and more passengers along the way (did I mention we were full when we left?) -- they either crowded into other peoples´seats or simply stood up between the seats -- thankfully, the bus had a tall ceiling, and was much roomier than some of the other microbuses we´ve been in. At its max, we counted 26 people (including an infant on a lap) in that 15-passenger bus! It was pretty exciting; we could scarcely believe it when the ayudantes kept calling for more passengers. At one point, three young women wanted to get on, but when they saw that there were no seats left they said they didn´t want to. The main ayudante pretty much told the three men in the seat in front of us to get up, and they did, giving up their seats and standing so the girls could sit. It was a very interesting and informative bus ride.

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