Tuesday, February 23, 2010


We were woken up this morning about 4:30am, not from fireworks, but because our room was moving.  There were a couple of good shakes, but it was over before I had woken up enough even to stand up (and run for the safety of outdoors, down here I´m not trusting a doorjam, and yes, I´ve thought about this scenario).  It was much stronger than any of the quakes we ever felt when we were living in California, but not strong enough to cause any damage, at least none we were aware of.  For a moment we thought maybe the volcano had erupted, but no such luck.

We got up and a little after nine we were packed and waiting for a bus out of Xela.  As we stood there an aftershock hit, not as strong as the first but still enough for us to stumble a bit and cause all the power lines to sway in the air.  All in all, pretty awesome!  Just looked it up online, and it was a 5.4 quake with an epicenter not too far north of where we were. 

We got on our bus with relative ease, they slow as they pass groups of people and scream out where they are going.  We were about 45 minutes early for the direct bus, so we just got on a bus headed for Guatemala City knowing we´d change busses when we got to Los Encuentros.  As we headed out of town, we made fun of the people who are afraid of chicken busses.  Here we were, saving almost 2/3rds of the cost over taking a tourist shuttle.  We´d even seen a guy with two goats at the bus stop, but unfortunately he didn´t get on our bus. 

Just as we hit the edge of town we made a stop, and about 50 people got on board to sell us stuff.  First it was the fruit guys, then the candy and gum girls, then guys with breads and then sandwiches and then tortillas and then drinks and then ice cream and then fruit again and finally a nice newspaper to read while you ate everything you just bought.  In the middle of it a burn victim stood at the front telling us his story, but the other salesman were all yelling over him and we couldn´t hear anything.  It was totally crazy and terrific. 

Then we took off, and I mean took off.  I am quite certain our bus driver had sold his soul to the devil, because were in clear violation of the laws of physics as we took corners at speeds the bus absolutely should have tipped over.  We whipped through this high mountain road, passing other cars (and other chicken busses!) gripping the seat in front of us trying not to fall over.  (We were seated, but at these speeds we were still in danger of falling over.)  We white knuckled it, and were not at all surprised to find that our driver had cut a half hour off a two hour drive.  Think about that for a minute.  Totally crazy.

It took us two more quick busses, but we are now in Panajachel, the main city on the shores of Lake Atitlán.  The important thing is our hotel has a kick-ass hot shower, so we may stay here a day or two before heading off to one of the smaller towns across the lake.

Volcano, check. Earthquake, check.  Gravity-defying chicken bus ride?  Check.  Guatemala is being generous. Let´s just hope Honduras comes through with the whale sharks.