I like to pay $1 per seat hour of bus time. If a journey is 8 hours, I want to pay $8. But, as I well know, a begger cannot be a chooser. I take what I can get. Short bus trips, bus routes, expensive countries, gas prices, and a whole variety of factors often times shake this ratio a little, so it is not something that I can stick to ardently. But when I get on a bus and pay $1 per hour, I am a happy vagabond.
So the tourist shuttle from Antigua to Panajachel costs around $4 and is a two hour ride. This is double what I want to pay, so I made inquiries into how much the public bus, referred to as the chicken bus, would costs. What I found, set me back a little. If I wanted to take the chicken bust to Panajachel I would have to take three different buses and pay 25 quetzales. This price is only 5 quetzales less than what I paid for the direct tourist shuttle.
“Es el mismo,” I say to myself, so I luxurize my life a little and strut my stuff out to the tourist shuttle van. . . . and on to impending disaster.
The van that picked me up at the Universal Travel Agency was already full of stark white tourist, and only two seats remained unfilled. Myself and Mira were the only ones seking to fill these two open seats. It all made sense to me, it made sense to Mira as well, but somehow, someway, this threw the entire van of tourists into an uproar. They simply could not figure out how to arrange themselves to allow two more indivuals to fill two empty seats. So the entire van of six adventure outfitted tourists pour out into the street and left Mira and I all the seats in the van to choose from.
I think there was some kind of issue going on that was far beyond my intellect, as I could not figure out what was wrong with these people. As they poured out into the street, traffic soon ground to a halt. Horns began to honk. The tourist stood in the middle of all of this with the van doors open, setting up a perfect baracade across the narrow colonial street. I left the scene and walked over to the side walk to watch the befuddled crowd point in various random directions, as they tried to figure out who really needed a seat belt and who would be willing to brave the Guatemalan roads without one. Not all the seats in the van had seat belts attached, and this seemed to throw the fray into a frenzy. Mira and I soon grew tired of this charade, and we jumped into the back and left the tourist to sort out their own jumbled mess. In this moment I was thoroughly, genuinly confussed. I did not even know what was going on, so I pinned my nose against the window and absconded in the back corner of the van. The tourists soon followed and everyone who demanded a seatbelt soon received one. I then began to hope dearly that I would not be assaulted by eminant stream of small talk that I knew would soon fall upon my countenance.
To those of you who have been following along in this journey, you well know that I am not the most social of human creatures. In fact, you could refer to me as a misanthrope by definition. Small talk freightens me. I do not mind conversations, but talking just to assuage or slaughter an otherwise silent moment is not my most cherished of activities. I do not want to be asked where I come from, what I do, how long I have been in any certain place, or where I am going ever again. I do not have a clear answer to any of these questions. I am under the impression that I do not even know where I am going and that my journeys are boring. I do not even want to talk about them.
I like talking to Andy theHobo Traveler though. He his the kind of guy that can be prompted into an exciting tale of adventure and woe by a simple ‘good morning’ greeting. Andy would walk into the hotel that I was staying at in Antigua and I would only have to say “hello” to be launched into a good and humorous conversation about Africa, Iraq, or the particulars of search engine optimazations. I do not yet posses these social graces, but that does not mean that I cannot admire them in another. Perhaps when I am Andy’s age I would have learned a thing or two about being a regular, socialable human being. For now, I will just sit in the back of the van like an old grump.
My sole ambition is to will be a hermit on some mountain side in China, grow my beard even longer than it is now – maybe I will grow it down to my belly – and rage like a lunitic everytime I am disturbed by a benign, inquiring sole.
Benign and inquiring was just what my traveling companions were though. So even though my nose was stuck to the window and I tried hard – so hard – to not make eye contact with anyone, I too was soon affronted with the base, dare I say meaningless, questions that every traveler is asked a dozen times a day. In despair I realized that my gallent effort at being an arrogant, unsocialble A-hole had failed me. I was confronted with small talk.
It came from the direction of a thirty something, red-haired Canadian. I nearly lost my misantropic nerve and broke down to make a joke or two about the Canadian flags that he surely had sewn on his bags. But I held my tongue and only grunted nervously in the face of his interogation. Maybe I mumbled a thing or two. Mira, my lovely lady, soon came to the rescue, and talked up a blue streak. She thoroghly had the attention of the tourist throng. I think they thought she was very cool. Another female tourist soon felt compelled to try to one-up Mira’s yarns as she tried hard to prove to everyone that she, too, was also very cool. I was not convinced, but, then again, I am a window licking weirdo.
Mira and the other female tourist continued to share the conversational reins. Mira talked about Mayans, the female tourist about her trip to “Lao.” I was happy, as everyone let me stare out the window without impediment. Sometimes I become very glad when the company I inadvertinly keep find me unworthy of conversation. I would have hated to let that beautiful Guatemalan country-side pass unrelished. I smiled at the mountains. But soon enough we desended a steep mountainside full of jack-knife switch backs, and I watched Lake Atitlan rise out of the be-cratored earth. Volcanoes abounded on every shore, and I let out a deep sigh of relief. The scene before us was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I was please that I did not have to damper it with idle chatter. We quickly descended the cliff face and were let out into the streets of Pananjachel.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala
April 10, 2008