Tuesday July 16, 2013
It’s kind of funny how once you know you’re going to be in a place for awhile, it’s easy to fall into a rut. With 4-5 months here in Guatemala, there’s certain things we want to do and see, but they keep getting put on the back burner.
“We should go visit the ancient ruins at Tikal.”
“Yeah, but we have plenty of time for that. We’ll get to it later.”
“Copan is also relatively close you know.”
“We have all summer.”
Even our neighboring town of Morales, something that’s a 20 minute drive away, a larger town that carries much more than Fronteras, was put on the back burner. “There’s nothing we really need there, if we’re just going to check it out, we can do it later.” Three weeks we’ve been here, and in three weeks the only sights we have seen outside of our normal trek to town for necessities was our first weekend in Guatemala where we were swept away to El Estor. Every day after that has been focusing on boat work and nothing much else. Even though while we’re actively cruising we usually sweep through a country or destination in a week, we can’t seem to be bothered to take a hop to the next town over right now. So the other morning while I was having coffee at the ranchito and Matt was sleeping in (our sleep schedules seem to differ a little bit these days) and Luis came by to ask if the two of us would like to go into Morales the next day with him, Ana Bianca, and Luki, I agreed on behalf of myself and Matt.
This morning as I got myself ready for ‘the big city’, I finally got myself out of my athletic gear that’s become my new uniform for our days at the marina here, and into something more presentable. The five of us shuttled over to town in Luis’ lancha and made our way up to the main road, where I was told we’d be taking a collectivo into Morales. The only thing I knew about these is they were the cheap, local transportation. Thinking in my mind that it would be a bus, I almost walked right past the mini-van looking vehicle that Luis had stopped at. Ohhh, so that’s a collectivo! And the gibberish I’d heard them yelling out every time we walked by was “Morales”. Or as it sounded to me “MoralesMoralesMoralesMorales”.
This collectivo was a twelve seater van that had three rows of seating holding three people each running through the back, and then three seats up front for the driver and two passengers. Being the first people to get in, Matt and I slid into the first row of seats, with our other three friends taking the row behind us. Silly me, I thought we’d wait until we had eleven passengers and leave, but even before taking off we had about fourteen people squeezed into that tiny van. Even sillier me, I thought it would stay that way. All along the way to Morales we’d make a stop for anyone that was on the side of the road and waved their arms to flag us down. As each person joined, we squeezed in tighter with me eventually sitting on Matt’s lap as we fit five people into our row alone. By the time we made it into Morales, I kid you not, we had 28 people in that van. Four were small children, but that still meant we were double capacity for adults. I’m surprised that no one was hanging off the racks on the roof. One saving grace about Guatemalans though is they hold personal hygiene very highly and probably smelled even better than we did, which was a big bonus for us as we sat in such a cramped enclosure.
As we pulled to a stop in town and the door slid open, we all spilled out as if the closed door was the only thing keeping everyone in place. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting form the ‘big city’ of Morales, but I don’t think it quite delivered to my expectations, not right away at least. It could have been my recent researches of Guatemala City, or the repetition of hearing “Morales will have everything you need!”, but I was dropped on to a dusty road that looked like it had very few shops. Fret not, it turns we weren’t quite in town yet. We had chosen to get out early to check out a hardware and lumber store just on the outskirts. I have to say, it’s a bit better than what we’ve been finding at the concrete mall, and may even give the hardware store in Grand Cayman a run for it’s money.
Matt and I didn’t make any purchases here, just wandered around converting prices from Quetzals to USD. ”Oh look, this hammer is only $6.50. Look! Drill bits for under $10!”. We all came out of the store empty handed, but it was good to know the kind of selection offered just a 20 minute, 28 person van ride away. That was really the end of our necessity to visit town, the rest of our time could be spent wandering around for fun. I did pop in and out of a few pharmacies to see if they carried a prescription we were running out of, and although they did have what we were looking for, no one carried a generic and wanted $90 US a month for it. Are you effing kidding me? No thanks, I think I’ll wait until we’re back in Michigan and take advantage of Walmart’s generics for $10/month.
After doing a little more walking through the desert Central American sun, my shirt was soaked and I needed a little shade. We found some at a fruit stand that was sitting on the side of the street, and even talked the woman running the stand to hack open a fruit that we were clueless on so we could all take a sample of it.
Still couldn’t tell you what this was if my life depended on it.
The closer we got to the center of town, the more stores and shops we came upon. Again, in my head we were going to a mini Guatemala City and I foolishly thought there’d be many more Americanized stores instead of the concrete cubes that house stores like back in Fronteras. Nope, they were the same. Just many many more of them. Not that this is a terrible thing, and we browsed the stores and talked about how we really need to get Matt a set of cowboy boots and a cowboy hat to help him really fit in here.
In the end we just did a big loop of the town before ending on the main road that would take us back to where we had originally been dropped off. We stopped for lunch in a little cafe, and although it took all my strength not to order a cold beer or a tasty margarita, I instead opted for the free natural juice that came with the meal. I have to remember that every dollar counts now for our South American trip. Paying the bill at the end of our meal we were given Halls cough drops as mints. Because, well, why wouldn’t you get those. As our visit neared an end, the only thing for us left to do was step outside and hail down any vehicle yelling “RioDulceRioDulceRioDulce!”