The minibus came at 4:00am and Estella was up with the phone in hand to be sure that there are no surprises. The moment you left Antigua towards the east things change. First it is not cold at all and you start wearing very light clothing and sandals, the people are completely changed and there are no more traditional costumes. Everybody is dressed in pants and shirts and the men wear a white hat. Occasionally, you may see one or two Maya traditional costumes but so rare that they jump at you. And the buses are no more the regular chicken buses, but boring buses. It is not very hot because there are still mountains but for sure the pleasant temperature of the altiplano disappeared and is a steamier. In the bus I met an old lady from Canada who traveled by bus from Montreal to Guatemala. She was speaking Spanish well that she picked in Spanish schools in Guatemala. She told us over breakfast that she was robbed around Santiago de Atitlan when she decided to go out of the village and take a walk to another village. Also, she met a Belgian guy whose entire backpack with many important papers was stolen. This place is notorious for this time of crime and it is mentioned in all the books that YOU SHOULD NOT WALK BETWEEN THE VILLAGES AROUND LAGO ATITLAN.
The minibus run very well and at 8:45 we were at the Honduras border. The passing of the border is just a formality, these countries together with San Salvador and Nicaragua, having a similar deal like in the EU, but it does not work as smoothly. We had to pay at the border a Q10 for the Guatemalans, no matter that it specifically says that you don’t have to pay anything and another $3 for entering this zone, no matter that we were already in it. I changed $20 for lempiras, the national currency at $1=L18. At 9:15 am we were already in Copan Ruinas Village, 12 km from the border, at the Officina of the minibus and after I spoke with everybody there, it was clear that is no transportation to Quiricua and anywhere else except the returning minibus or some local buses. This was disconcerting because if I did not leave from Copan in the same day, the next day would be a full travel day. In order to do something anywhere you need to be there one night in advance to book your tours otherwise you may end up spending the day in the city. The minibus driver asked me to speed up the visit, Copan being a small site, but very beautiful and to come back with him at 12:00 pm and to drop me at the crossing from there I could take a bus to Rio Dulce where I wanted to go. I said that I will try but I knew, that no matter how small it is the site, it is hard to cover it so quickly, and I was right. Copan is located about 15 minutes walk from the village and I got there at 9:45 and got a ticket for $15 only for the ruins, no tunnels or museum because of lack of time. I joined some groups in various languages to listen to the stories and in the same time I shot lots of video and photos. However this was not easy and fast and I finished my tour at 1:30pm, regretfully because I liked the place a lot. Copan is the most beautiful of the existing Maya ruins. There are lots of steles located on situ, some of them copies but most of them original and their craftsmanship is remarkable. They represent one of the kings who rules successfully Copan that at its peak had about 27000 people. It was deserted around 900 AD like all the other famous ruins. The archaeologists opened tunnels under the temples and underneath they found like in many other sites other smaller temples perfectly preserved. The main construction in the place is a remarkable staircase that has on its steps hieroglyphs that tell the story of Copan since the beginning. It is huge and it is like a book in stone. There were many groups, a lot of older people but also many young. In other places I saw small children in Baby Bjorn or carriages.
I left the ruins at 1:30pm and I took a tuk-tuk to the village for $1 and there I took several shots in town square who was full of people, all men wearing the white hats. The place looked like a scene in one of the film with migrant workers. I took the first minibus that was leaving at 2:00pm to the border, that leaves when is full. I tried to find out about the connections and I got various responses but these are the facts: The minibus took me to the border, leaving every half hour or when is full, for L 20. If you go only to Copan they just take you the entry paper they gave you in the morning and you are ready to go. I asked the lady to give me some coins from Honduras and she was very nice to oblige with it. On the Guatemalan side was a bus waiting and leaving at 2:30pm, every half hour, that was going to Chiquimula, a larger city that arrived there in 1 hour and 15 minutes for Q20. From there I would have liked a direct bus to Puerto Barrio but this was only the next morning at 6:00am so I took at 4:00pm for Q7 and this one connects to an to Zacata that was supposed to arrive in half an hour. It was an accident on the road so we were delayed half an hour and we arrived in Zacata, I got right away a connecting minibus to Rio Hondo for Q5, the crossing with the eastern route that connects Guatemala City with PetÃ©n that arrived at the Cruces in 15 minutes. So at 5:15 pm I was on the road waiting for the bus to Rio Dulce that was supposed in 15 minutes. The 15 minutes transformed themselves in 1 hour and 30minutes, when like in the good old days two buses came, secunda classe with Fuente de Norte, the operator from the area.
One of the issues you are concerned about when you travel in Guatemala is security by night. It was getting late and I knew that I would arrived after dark in Rio Dulce but when I asked the guy from the bus office he told me that Rio Dulce is â€œmuy tranquiloâ€ and he was perfectly right. This delay of the bus and later on the nice atmosphere in Rio Dulce convinced me to scrap to return to Quiricua ruins the next day and stay only in Rio Dulce. The bus finally left at 7:00pm and it was supposed to arrive at 9:30pm but it stopped on the way, being a bus going all the way to Flores for the people and the driver to eat. I had my dinner and after we left a pouring rain started, a typical rain for the Caribbean, a sign that we are closer. I arrived at 10pm in pouring rain and I started squabbling under various roofs not to get drenched. I saw a sign of a hotel but was nobody there, and when I had no clue how to find a hotel in that rain I saw a light very close to me coming from an outside bar. I went to the bar, named Sundog Cafe and the atmosphere was in total contrast with the rain. When I got in coming from the rain the four guys around the bar cheered my entrance and followed a great time of stories of travel, with lots of laughing and some beers. The bar was kept by a guy Yuri from Amsterdam. Sonny was from Istambul and moved to the States about 10 years ago or more, first in Atlanta, further studying photography in Santa Barbara University and living for the last 8 years in LA. Now he got on a motor bike and started 2 months ago in a trip to Ushuaia and back that he assumes that it will take about 8 months. Keith was from Australia and in his 60s. According to another guy who was very funny he started to travel around the globe in 1993 and now is at his second tour. He said that he came from Honduras and I asked him when he got there, expecting something like two weeks ago. He answered straight that in 1998! He was in Honduras during hurricane Mitch and lost his boat, got another boat fixed it but sunk it also and now has another one. A lot of people come to Rio Dulce during hurricanes because that gulf and area is protected in case of storms and they can secure their boats. Keith was in Vietnam war and told some stories about using Lariam against mosquitoes. Apparently it makes as much damage to your liver to get preventive medicine as to contact malaria, a thing that I knew before. The stories continued a little after the other funny guy left with his wife and I left with Sonny to his hotel, that we found to be locked. During the time when he wanted to see how to get in, I was asked by a guy from the nearby hotel if I want a room, so I went to this place where I got a nice, cozy and clean room for Q75, waving to Sonny that we will meet the next morning. The rain continued all nice hitting the tin roof but I slept in the tranquil atmosphere of this pleasant town with no stop till 7:00am.