I took a Fuente del Norte bus from Rio Dulce in the east of Guatemala to San Salvador for 125 quetzales, or a little over $15. The ride took seven hours. The bus route originates in Flores, way in the north of Peten, travels down to the southern stretches of Guatemala, and then crosses into El Salvador before terminating an hour and forty minutes later in the country’s capital.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador- I looked up from a walk over the bridge in Rio Dulce to find a passenger bus parked in the road. In its front window was a placard saying, “San Salvador.”
Could this bus really be going all the way to the capital of El Salvador from the eastern fringes of Guatemala?
I asked Chaya if she thought that the “San Salvador” that was supposingly this buses final destination was the San Salvador that we would want to go to in a couple of weeks. She did not think it was even worth asking: of course this bus in the Guatemala jungle was not going direction to the capital city of El Salvador.
I asked the bus attendant anyway.
Yes, he told me, this bus is going to San Salvador.
“San Salvador in El Salvador?” I asked, knowing the Latin American propensity for having many cities of the same name.
The bus attendent looked at my cross eyed, “Yes, the capital.”
He then told me that it costs 125 quetzales — a little over $15.
It was previous thought that we would need to travel all they way back from Rio Dulce to Guatemala City — 6 hours — before transferring to an international bus for San Salvador — another 5 hours. My previous conception of Central American geography was that San Salvador was directly south of Guatemala City, and that I was way east of both points in Rio Dulce. It was my impression that my route to El Salvador would be through a right angle turn in Guatemala City.
I thought wrong.
San Salvador is actually southeast of Guatemala City, and sits in between Rio Dulce and Guatemala City, forming the bottom tip of an odd sort of isosolies triangle. By taking the bus from Rio Dulce, I would be spared a good number of in-seat bus hours and a night in Guatemala City.
It is interesting to analyze the falisy of assumptions. I just assumed that we would need to travel back to the Guatemala City before catching a bus south to El Salvador, I had no evidence to the contrary and assume that there was not any. The traveler creates the world they observe nearly as much as the world shows them what is actually there. I had my transportation route set in my mind, and did not even think to challege it — I was acting upon a pattern that I have come to know well: many Central American countries use their capital cities as the hub of their transportation wheels, you often need to travel all the way to the capital to change directions.
Until I saw that bus placard that said “San Salvador” I did not even have the flicker of a notion that there could have been an international bus to El Salvador that did not first traverse Guatemala City. I then went into the Fuente Del Norte bus office in Rio Dulce to aske a little more about this bus.
What time does it leave? 10 AM daily.
What time does it arrive? 5 PM.
Where does the route begin? Flores.
Does it go through Guatemala City? No.
Does it go through Honduras? No, it goes around.
We then went to Livingston and into the jungle with our minds eased as to how we would get to San Salvador — we would only need to get back to Rio Dulce.
Traveling with an infant is good.
Except for the traveling part.
Petra — my 8 month old baby — has yet to find a form of transportation that she enjoys for more than a few sparse moments. She wants to move, yell, be carried around, and play. She does not want to sit still and quiet in a seat for hours on end. She seems to love traveling, except for the traveling part.
In this way, Chaya and I need to be clever about where we go, the routes we take, how we travel them, and always gague how much trauma the ride will exert upon us in relation to the rewards of arriving. Floundering around the world is no longer applicable — we need to plan our stops well. It is just too difficult otherwise.
Slow travel is best. Staying in places for a minimum of four days and traveling in one hour skips is optimal. But for longer journeys — where it is difficult to gague appropirate stopping points along the way, it is my impression that one long day of travel is the preferable. In this case, when we were standing in eastern Guatemala with San Salvador as our next destination, two weeks of staying in Central American highway and border towns did not sound too appealing — we wanted to get right there. Although slow travel is often best, as a rule, the exception of looking a long journey in the face just to get it done and over with is sometimes preferable.
We got on the direct bus to San Salvador.
We boarded the Fuente del Norte bus bound for San Salvador in front of the bridge in Rio Dulce. The words “El Salvador” were written all down the side of the bus — we were quite sure we were on the right bus as we stumbled down the center aisle — bags, baby and all — towards any remaining unoccupied seat.
We found a couple amongst a troupe of babies and little kids. We had obviously found the right section. There were two little kids across the aisle from us, a one year old boy in the seat in front of us, and a baby or two nearby. I would normally cringe in such a setting — babies are the last things a traveler would want to see on a bus — but as my own baby smiled, cooed, and shook her arms and legs at her “kind,” I welcomed the company.
Petra making gurgle friends is vastly perferable to Petra screaming out of boredom.
She spent much of the seven hour ride looking at the one year old boy in the seat in front of her, while he stared back at her.
I could not record what they were talking about.
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