Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Scary Bus From Flores to Languin

There is one more "must see and do" before I leave Guatemala and head north to Mexico, Semac Champay. The challenge "if I wish to accept it" is the 10 hour bus ride from Flores to Languin. Not a real concern except the road is exactly what you would think of when you imagine a third world jungle mountain road and a driver who you know is going to drive too fast and pass where ever he can regardless of the conditions. Guatemala has some of the worst accident records in all of Central America and twice the death rate as Canada.

Most of the incidents of buses careening off of the roads and down 1000 foot cliffs are Chicken Buses. Most are older school buses in poor condition with macho drivers who follow no rules. They are also under pressure from violent gangs to deliver as many people as quickly as possible to pay fees, otherwise they can get stopped anywhere on the road and are robbed. These long distance Chicken buses are normally filled with locals going to markets or home from spending time working in the coffee fields harvesting for Starbucks. Very few travelers venture onto them except for short town to town rides knowing the dangers regardless of the savings. This is an interesting chart that I found showing World Road Accident Death rates. There are some very serious dangerous drivers out there in the world and in every country. Before we all jump to insane conclusions how many times have you read in your local newspaper about a traffic accident death. It is so commonplace now you do not give it a second thought. It is just more dramatic when it involves a bus going off a cliff. Perspective is everything.

We are heading into them thar hills
With all that under my cap and a free breakfast courtesy of the Chaltuna Hostel, I boarded a Microbus at 9:00 am for the 10 hour trek to Languin. Oddly our driver started the trip buy turning to us and saying "Good Morning, my name is Hector. I am not a normal Guatemalan bus driver". "We may take longer but we will be safe as I too have a family". As I said thank you Hector I calmly and quietly removed my diaper.

The trip itself was un-eventful in its beauty. Driving over high mountains into deep valleys down the ever present well worn winding roads at times with hectic traffic. A few Chicken Buses passed us going to fast, down hill and into tight curves where the drop was gut wrenching. Hector pulled over a few ties during chaotic moments to let cars and buses pass. Hector became more awesome with each kilometre. We passed through the village towns of La Liberdad, San Fransisco, Sayaxche and  La Rosas each with it's own charming central square. The views were as breath taking as you can imagine both up and down hill. Not once were we in any danger thanks to Hector. He even pulled over a few times to have a smoke and encourage us to take pictures. Make no mistake the road at times was rutted and we bounced along pretty good. I can not imagine this road during the rainy season.

We arrived in Languin just as the sun went down and it did not look like much of a town but the daylight will change all of that. The moment the bus door opened we were greeted with the screams and shouts of "young touts". "Where is your hotel", "where are you staying", "come with me, good price". Here we were in a town deep inside a Guatemalan jungle valley and the drive for tourist dollars was alive and thriving. I had a reservation at the El Retiro Jungle Lodge and our driver was going to take me there directly. Sometimes is pays to be prepared.

El Retiro has a great reputation and NO WiFi. I was going to be unplugged for 3 glorious jungle days. I could probably find a connection in town at a coffee shop but the decision was made. I was Unplugged and was staying unplugged. The resort was not busy and there were only 3 people in the dorm built for 10. I knew there was a river out there in the dark somewhere, I could hear it rushing and suddenly had to pee. Jungle Lodge bathrooms at night no matter how modern and clean are still Jungle Lodge bathrooms. After the long ride down the winding scary roads to get here I was ready for yet another three days of hammocking. Yes I know I just used the noun hammock and made it a present progressive tense verb.

Before laziness abounds (on the road its called chilling but its really just being lazy) there is Semac Champay. The reason I made this trip. Maybe the torturous drive will bring the remote Eden I have heard so much about.

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