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Borders, Buses and Rocks. Oh My!

The day started at 6:30 am. Tropical depression Matthew still hadn’t moved out of San Cristobal so I was greeted with another gray, misty, rainy morning. Hearing stories of other travelers walking 6 kilometers because the road was blocked from rock slides and reports of roads flooding had me second guessing if I really wanted [...]

The day started at 6:30 am. Tropical depression Matthew still hadn’t moved out of San Cristobal so I was greeted with another gray, misty, rainy morning. Hearing stories of other travelers walking 6 kilometers because the road was blocked from rock slides and reports of roads flooding had me second guessing if I really wanted to travel today. I already bought my ticket to the border on Friday so I decided to not lose the money I had already spent on the ticket and just go for it and see what the day held in store. My hope was that the storm had moved past the border and Guatemala so that they could have already begun clearing any potential rock slide blockages on the road.


The bus ride from San Cristobal to the border town Ciudad Cuauhtemoc took four hours. Really calling Ciudad Cuauhtemoc a ‘Ciudad’ or even a town is an ambitious title. The ‘city’ consists of an immigration office, hotel, restaurant and a couple other buildings. Getting my Mexican exit stamp took all of thirty seconds. Next step was a 4 km cab ride to the Guatemalan town of La Mesilla. Getting my Guatemalan entrance stamp was more difficult…and by more difficult I mean it took a total of two minutes. No questions asked at either border point. Moving between the Mexican and Guatemalan border is easier than it is for a U.S. citizen to get back into the U.S..

With a fresh passport stamp it was time to make my way to Quetzaltenango also referred to as Xela (pronounced Shayla). Chicken bus time!

Saying these buses get crowded would be an understatement. Three people share a bench seat made to hold two and then pack the aisle with more people (They never refuse to let people on the bus. More can always ‘fit’). That third person on the bench seat would normally fall off with only one cheek on the seat but since the person across the aisle also only has one cheek on the seat they meet each other in the middle and prop each other up. Add in the random bags and boxes thrown around and it becomes a bit cramped.

With the border crossing done and bus found I was on my way to Huehuetenango (just called Hue Hue for short). About thirty-five minutes into the two hour bus ride the morning worries of rock slides and closed roads became a reality. All I see in front of our bus is a long line of stopped buses, trucks and vans. Everyone empties out of the bus and starts walking. Talking with a guy he says there should be a bus on the other side of the rock slide…after you climb over it. I wish I had time to snap a picture of the boulders sitting in the road on the side of a mountain but the bus on the other side of the rock slide was leaving before I could dig my camera out of my bag. I jumped on the back of the bus through the emergency exit and crammed my bag and self behind the last seat on the bus and hovered over some poor old Mayan woman. This scene also would have made the perfect picture but my camera was still buried in my bag.

Three hours after leaving La Mesilla I’m in Hue Hue. I transferred buses and 2.5 hours later I’m finally in Xela. 12 hours of traveling, half of which on school buses has me a bit worn out. When all is said and done the four bus rides and two cab rides went fairly smoothly. Finding the buses and a place to crash for the next few days was a piece of cake. Tomorrow begins my search for a language school which is my reason for being here. Some preliminary research shows that I should be able to enroll in a Spanish school that gives five hours of one-on-one instruction a day, five days a week, plus activities, lodging and three meals a day for about $150 a week. Not too shabby.

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Filed under: Cubicle Ditcher, Guatemala, Mexico

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.