Journey to Coban

31 Dec 2007 5:27 pm

Some of you are well aware that it’s not pretty when I get motion sickness. Today was not a pretty day.

According to “The Book” (Lonely Planet), it would take 8 to 9 hours and 4 buses to get from Panachel at Lago Atitlan to Coban, our destination north. We left Casa del Mundo at 6:30am, caught a boat to Panahachel and then waited for a chicken bus to Los Encuentros. The bus came, we very quickly hoisted our backpacks on top and then ran around to board the bus. Yikes! The bus was completely full. Three people in every seat and the isle full with no standing room. With our bags on top, it was too late to wait for the next bus, so we stood next to the bus driver who turned out to be an aspiring race car driver. The bus sped up the very windy steep road out of the volcano. This ride lasted about 30 minutes and I was out of sorts. SEASICK. We were quickly dropped at Los Encuentros. Not a nice place. It’s a dusty 3-way intersection with about 2,000 people waiting for buses, some food stalls and no bathrooms, everyone and everything covered in dust and diesel exhaust. Buses and minivans screeching in and the ayudantes yelling the destination. A bus leaped in for Chichitenango, ‘Chichi, ChiCHI, CHICHI!!!’ That´s our bus! Hurry hurry, hoist the backpacks up and pray for a seat inside. The bus was just as full as the first. The road just as windy, but this time the ride was 2.5 hours long. To make a long story short, I stood up for 2.5 hours with my head spinning focusing very hard on holding back the vomit pushing at my throat and wondering why I was not sitting a beach in Hawaii with the other normal vacationing Californians.

By a stroke of luck, the bus somehow did not drop us at Chichi, but at the next town on our route, Quiche. I suppose when we thought we heard Chichi, we really heard QUICHE. Dun, of course. Very Lucky mistake. It was pretty warm in Quiche, and I slithered off the bus and sat on the ground under a tree. Dear Klaus caught the bags from the top of the bus, located the bathroom and also negotiated our next bus leg. Thank you Klaus. Our next leg to Uspantan, would be in a new minivan. Klaus even reserved me a seat toward the front, right behind the driver. About 20 people pilled in the minivan and we were off. The countryside was really beautiful. Unfortunately, all I could think about was the evergreen air freshener swinging directly in front of my face, already nauseous, I really couldn’t handle the smell (in addition to getting motion sickness, I also have a very sensitive nose). Next thing you know the little girl sitting behind me started throwing up in a little black plastic bag. Nothing can throw you over the vomit ledge like another person vomiting. I spent the next 2 hours fighting back the vomit, thinking about beaches in Hawaii.

Well ahead of our estimated travel time, we arrived in Uspantan. As soon as you arrive at a bus ‘station’ in Guatemala, 5 people come up to you asking you where you are going and then when you answer they quickly push you in that direction. It’s a very efficient system really. The handlers said there was a bus to Copan in 20 minutes. I looked at Klaus and just started to cry. Again, I found a piece of shade and just sat down in the dirt and cried. Klaus said we didn’t have to take the next bus, we could wait a while and he ran off and found me a better place to melt down in the Uspantan town plaza. Once deposited, he ran off and got me some fruit (blood sugar Klaus, good thinking) and then he ran off to a farmacia for some Dramamine. Somehow he came back with anti diarrhea medicine. I pointed this out to him. We tried to look up all kinds of variations of motion sickness in the dictionary and then he ran off again to fix the situation. Klaus is such a dear, he had to go to 3 farmacias and the tourist office and then was able to get the right pills.

The shoe shine boys came by to ask if my Chacos needed shining. The newspaper boy came by to ask if I wanted to by a copy of Diario, the news paper. His name is Juan and we struck up a great conversation. He is one of 9 children. He doesn’t go to school, he sells papers and weighs people in the town plaza. He has two scales. I was surprised that many people bought this service. Men and women. I taught him a bunch of phases in English and told him what a great job he did learning English so fast. He asked me how much I make in one day. He then asked me how much everything I had with me cost. My shoes, backpack, jacket.

Klaus returned from his farmacia trip and I was feeling better. We ate some food and then found the next minivan to Coban. A couple from San Francisco was on board. They live about 10 blocks from me. I started with a good seat towards the front, but then 6 more people piled in and I couldn´t see or breath. The scenery was absolutely beautiful but with 27 people now in the minivan I had to find the scenery behind one persons ear and below another persons underarm. Then the girl next to me threw up. Again, I focused on tranquil Hawaii beaches. Thank goodness for Klaus and the motion sickness tablets.

Right on time we leaped into Coban. We shared a quick taxi to our hotel with the Irish women on our bus. Within minutes I had my own bedroom, a fresh towel, and my ticket to Semuc Champey Park for tomorrow all sorted. All in a good day’s travel.

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2 Responses to “Journey to Coban”

  1. Cynthia Closkey (January 1st, 2008 at 10:00 pm)

    Hooray for Klaus! What an ordeal.

  2. Kim Wilson (January 2nd, 2008 at 12:28 am)

    hello dear laura! what a day! thank goodness klaus is such a champ. i was so thankful that there was a happy ending. i look forward to hearing tales of semuc champey park. i will return the favor with tales of tulum. i miss you! xo k

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