I walked into a tour office yesterday to buy a bus ticket from Antigua, Guatemala to Tikal. I do not like buying anything through tour agencies that I do not have to, as I know that their words can not be believed and they will take as much money as they can take. But I have to make Cancun by May 14, and I need to move fast. I thought that by jumping a direct bus to Flores from Antigua I could make a little time, and then I will not have to run as fast through Palenque and Mexico. I was wrong.
In a fleeting moment of optimism, I believed the words of the tour agent when she said, “You will be riding on a nice Pullman bus with air conditioning and a bathroom. It is very nice.” So I extinguished the harking voice of my always skeptical inner vagabond, turned tourist, and bought a ticket for a ride the next day on a “very nice Pullman Bus.”
Woke up this morning at 4 am, threw some things in my back, and started out of my hotel in Antigua, Guatemala. For I was on my way to Tikal, and, I must say, I was excited.
I have always wanted to go to Tikal. When I was young I thought of it as a jungle enclave of adventure; when I got a little older, and learned about some of the ways of tourism, I thought of it as a place that I needed to go just for the joy of doing so. Now that I have dabbled a little in Meso-American archaeology, I want to go there for more academic and professional reasons, and I was also commissioned by Cafe Abroad Magazine to write another $50 article on the fall of the Maya. I think that a visit to Tikal is a necessity.
So at 5am I jumped into the front seat of the van that would take me to Guatemala City so that I could transfer to my “nice Pullman Bus,” and rode out of old colonial Antigua with a heavy heart. I will miss Antigua. I think that it is a place where I can hang my hat. I have friends there, know of a good place to stay, and can work on the internet til my little heart’s content. Antigua is a good place to relax.
I then promptly fell asleep after the sorrows of leaving Antigua waned. On busses, I simply hibernate. I could ride on a bus for 15 hours and sleep for the whole time. It is an odd phenomenon. I think that it may have to do with the gentle vibrations of the busses motor subconsciously reminding me of the bouncing motions of my mother carrying me around the house when I was a baby. I am told that when I was young my mother had to carry me around the house in order for me to go to sleep. So busses become time portals to me: as I walk into them, fall asleep, and then awake in new place at a new time. Likewise, I seldom care what the conditions of the buses that I ride in are like, as I know that I am just going to fall asleep anyway.
But on this occasion, as I was in the midst of my travels up to Flores, I stepped out to the van that took me to Guatemala City so that I could meet my connection, only to realize that my “very nice Pullman Bus” was actually a regular old Central American chicken bus. I had been duped by the travel agent. I have no problem with the chicken buses. In fact, I would rather be stuffed in like cargo with babies drooling on me, and men in the aisles standing with their nuts all too close to my face than have to listen to the stupid conversations of tourists making crap ass “cultural distinctions” every five minutes. My only concern here was that I had been duped.
I do not like being lied to, tricked, or otherwise duped when I travel. If I am told that I will be taking a “very nice Pullman Bus with air conditioning and a bathroom” then I do not expect to be packed into a half running, stuffed to the gills, chicken bus. I was on the verge of annoyance as I stepped on the bus until I realized that everyone on it had paid the same price as I for the ride from Guatemala City to Flores. So I sat back, relaxed, and realized that even though I had been duped, I had not been ripped-off. I paid the same price as the Guatemalans.
But I had still been duped.
Be warned! Travel agents will lie, cheat, and steal as much as they can from you! They cannot be trusted!
My warning is such stated.