On the day before we were to head home for the arrival of our second grandchild, and the day when Larry, Faith, Pat, and Darnell were to head for Tikal, we all decided to gather for a quick lunch at a restaurant across the ramp from our marina at a restaurant called Ranchon Mary’s, a place that almost always seemed to packed to the railings. The restaurant was housed in a giant Palapa, or massive Tiki lounge. As luck would have it, we were the only patrons, so we had a quiet, but disappointing noon meal as the place was all but closed, and it seemed they were out of everything. While we had hoped for a good meal, it was most important to us all to get together one more time before we went our separate ways. A few hugs, only a couple of tears from the girls, and off we all went. Joy and I headed back to the boat to finish putting our Angel away for a few weeks while we went back to the states, and the rest of the gang headed to a bus that would take them to Tikal.
The next day at 1 PM sharp, Joy and I boarded the “Luxury First Class” bus from the Linea Dorado bus-line and headed off to Guatemala City. Our ride was a 5 hour hair-raising and awe-inspiring race through the countryside and mountains of Guatemala. As I mentioned earlier, the bus drivers are totally loco; on the two lane highways, they will pass one or more vehicles when completing the maneuver means cresting a hill beyond which they cannot see. More than once the driver slammed on the brakes in order to pull back in behind a car or truck to avoid a collision. After a while, I just closed my eyes because I decided that if I was going to die on the bus, I’d rather not know in advance. Really though, I regret not taking photos on the way to the big city as the countryside is truly gorgeous, but we will have plenty more photos to share with you later.
Our bus pulled into the station around 6 PM, and it was just beginning to get dark, so we wasted no time grabbing a taxi to head for our hotel, one that had been recommended by several boating friends as being economical and clean. Well, yes, it was surely economical at Q240 for the night (that works out to about $30.00 US) and it was very clean, but that was all we could say good about it. The sheets were threadbare, the towels had holes, and the bed sagged so badly that you almost had to hold on to stay in bed. Yes, really!
The next morning we were up early as are most Guatemalans, at around 5:30, and after enjoying an awesome breakfast for Q50, about $7.00 US, we wandered the streets of downtown Guate as we had several hours before our plane was to depart at 11 AM. As you can see in the photo above, the sidewalks are wider than the streets, and the walks are paved with inlaid marble tile. Ornate plantings and gorgeous trees line all the streets in Zona 10, or Zona Viva, as the locals call it. Downtown is in stark contrast to the poorer areas of the city and the countryside we left the day before.
Here in the heart of Zona Viva we found the largest McDonalds we have ever seen; inside is the traditional fast food restaurant, plus a boutique cafe with every kind of coffee, muffin, and taste sensation along with an enormous internet cafe. The facility occupies half a city block. On nearly every city street we found advertising billboards displaying stunning digital images just as clear as HDTV, so clear they made our jaws drop. Guatemala City is a huge study in contrasts; the poor sections are crime ridden, not safe at just about any time of the day, yet Zona Viva maintains an incredibly high standard and is perfectly safe day or night. The wealthy Guates enjoy every luxury, and to experience a taste, we wandered a home accessories store and found, at the low end of the price scale, stainless kitchen trash cans priced at Q1899.00, almost $300.00 US. Joy wanted one until she saw the price tag!