It was an interesting bus – or I should say van ride, over to the small village of Languin. Two spots had thankfully freed up, making it rather comfortable comparable to the other bus we had of the same size, on the way to Tikal. There were 5 of us Total, 10 spots in all, and I somehow managed to snag a whole bench to myself. I’m telling myself it was not because no one wanted to sit with me. Regardless , it made for a super relaxed first 5 hours! It was early when we left, so I slept for most of the morning. I finished my entire litre of water as it was hot inside, and started getting really restless like everyone else, 20 minutes to the eat and stretch stop, and really needing pee at this point. Then suddenly we were held up in bumper to bumper traffic, behind a truck full of overcrowded cattle. Our driver said nothing, not that we would have understood him anyway if he did, and jumped out of the front seat and started up the road on foot. We were confused, hungry, and at this point dancing in our seats because we all had to pee. How long would we be stopped here? Five minutes, twenty? After fifteen minutes of stretching our legs, hanging outside the car, and discussing how confused we all were, the boys decided they would try and find out, while I set out in search for a bathroom. “El Bano?” was the first word in Spanish I had learned, and quite frankly the only word I had actually remembered anyway. There were 2 houses in site, and I thought maybe one would allow me into their home to use their bathroom. I got two “No’s” followed by a lovely offering of cola, and some roadside chicken. The families were actually prepared for the road block and had set up vendors, selling pop, beer, food, ice-cream, anything to make a quick buck. But they wouldn’t sell me the use of their washrooms, or maybe they would have, had I only known a word of Spanish.
As I walked around I got the details of the detainment. Turns out there was a massive hole in the ground, and they were waiting on a dump truck to fill it with dirt, so they could get people across. In Canada this sort of issue would have been all over the news and radios, our GPS’s able to route us 2 or more possible detours, because we have far superior infrastructure even in our rural areas. Unfortunately this high level of convenience is unknown to most of Guatemala, and certainly so in the country side. We were all stuck waiting for the road to repair, and subsequently forced to hold our bladders.
Now I’m not proud of this, but after 30 more minutes, of which seemed like days, I couldn’t hold my bladder any longer. The pileup was likely 20-30 vehicles behind us, the field to the left of us blocked by barbed wire fences, and I really didn’t feel like getting shot at, stepping on someones beloved private property. So I walked, to the edge of the pileup, beside an empty van at the back, which was really doing nothing in terms of coverage, and shamefully squatted down to pee. I had my head down, but I could see eyes on me, and then mid stream a truck pulled up behind me. There was no turning back so I admitted defeat, ended up peeing on my pants in an effort to cover myself from the truck driver, and vowed never to tell anyone about it. But here we are, and I feel the need to prepare you for an event as this, if you are travelling in this area, because these types of roadblocks are not uncommon in Guatemala. In fact we also had to drive onto a barge to cross another part of the road prior due to heavy flooding, unsure of whether or not the wooden dock supporting would even make it across with 8 large vehicles atop.
Over two hours later, there hole was filled enough to allow for our passage across. Our driver showed up right in time, again said nothing, and quickly got the van going, forcing two of our fellow passengers to hop in as it was moving. Judging by the amount of cars on both sides of the road waiting to pass, and the fact that it started immediately pouring after we crossed, I’m not sure how long that makeshift road lasted. Ironically, we stopped to eat and pee just 10 minutes later, and from there it was 2 hours until we saw the 11km marker for Lanquin. By this time we were all exhausted, our necks and bums sore, and growing extremely restless. Little did we know, that the dirt road from its marker to Lanquin is the worst road any of us had ever driven on. Oh, and I forgot to mention that our driver didn’t even want to make the trek down, so piled us into another van going to the same destination. Our spacious vehicle turning into shoulder to shoulder contact with those around us in yet another overcrowded vehicle. It was bumpy, we were slamming our heads off the windows, and colliding with our neighbours. At one point I even bounced so high I landed in someones lap. We had to drive 5km/h the entire time, and god forbid we ran into another truck going the opposite way. The 11km trip took over an entire hour.
The vehicle stopped in the middle of the city. Don’t worry if you don’t have a hotel booked, neither did we. But as soon as you park, they slide the door open and your treated as if your being bid on. Swarmed by a group of local hungry seagulls, and your a bunch of fish in the sea. Everyone is yelling at you, and you can barely hear your own thoughts, let alone talk to your travel partner. I recommend having an idea of where you want to go, so you don’t get screwed. To save you the trouble, I recommend staying at either El Retiro or Zephyr Lodge. Those are the two most popular choices.
We went with El Retiro, and were happy with our choice, as we got a semi private room (own room, two separate beds, but shared bathroom facilities) for less than 10 dollars. The grounds are beautiful, a tropical paradise deep in the valley, right beside the swimmable river, and they also offer daily lazy river tubing. The lodge is Eco Friendly, so if your Earth conscience like myself you’ll feel very good about your decision. Wifi is available only from 7-10 in the morning, which allows you to check in with whatever you’ve left behind, and then forces you to tune in to nature and to the experiences your having in the present for the remainder of the day. They also offer a mixture of games such as cards against humanity, and have a very lively nightlife complete with a spinning board full of friendly dares. There is a buffet dinner every evening, and an all round good atmosphere. You will not be let down at El Retiro. However, if you enjoy infinity pools, lazy hammock swimming, daily pool games, and looking out into a sensational view from half outdoor showers, the Zephyr Lodge will be sure to please as well. Both places are also available to visit, so you can stay at one, but hang out at the Latter, everyone is super friendly.
Theres little inside the actual village of Lanquin, but its natural beauty is everything you actually need to enjoy your self there, while you await your day trip to Semuc Champey. I’d tell you more about that, but it involves a separate post as it was quite possibly the most epic adventure I have had to date on this trip. Stay tuned!