My taxi and bus rides from San Ignacio, Belize, to Flores, Guatemala, involved a driver with Chikungunya (possible diagnosis) and an overcrowded chicken bus from Melchor de Mencos.
The plan was to travel by bus from the San Ignacio city center to Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize. The bus ride costs about 1.50 Belizean dollars (BZD). From Benque, take a taxi to the Melchor border for about 5 BZD. Alex, who works at the Old House Hostel, mentioned taxis try to charge over 10 BZD to tourists, sometimes 15 or 20 BZD. Belizeans usually pay 5 BZD.
Andrea, the Italiano, was travelling the same way, so we went together. As soon as we left the hostel on Buena Vista Street, a chubby, 40-something-year-old man drove by and yelled out offering a ride to the Guatemalan border for 10 BZD. “Yeah,” we said. We got into his beat-up, 1990-something, burgundy Toyota.
While driving, the chubby man talked about leaving Belize with his heavy Creole accent. “I want to leave everything and start again in England.” He wanted to live in Manchester for no particular reason. He was content with a starting job as a dishwasher. While getting closer to the border, he said, “I almost died yesterday. I got bumps on my arms. I called my ex-wife, who is a nurse. She told me ‘to get to the hospital.’ I had to get an injection. I have to go for another one today. I think it may have been that disease going around Central America, Chikungunya,” he said. “What the fuck,” I thought. I was sitting in the front. I looked closely and noticed how close our arms were. They actually touched a few times, damn it. I was happy to leave his car at the border. I didn’t know at the time but Chikungunya is not contagious.
Andrea and I crossed immigration into Guatemala after paying the Belizean departure tax of 37.50 BZD.
There were plenty of men offering taxi services. One man offered 60 USD to Flores, way too pricey. We saw a 15-seater van that dropped off tourists going over to Belize. Our plan was to travel to Santa Elena in that van.
Andrea found a taxi guy (or the taxi guy found him) offering to take us to Flores for 80 Guatemalan quetzals (GTQ). While leaving the border in the taxi, we kept double checking the price of the fare. Super-taxi man jacked up the price to 450 GTQ. We asked him to drop us off at the bus terminal. He stated the bus to Santa Elena doesn’t come until 3 pm. It was 11 am when we arrived at the bus terminal in Melchor. The taxi driver lowered the price to 400 GTQ: still expensive. Andrea and I saw the bus schedule outside the station. The bus to Santa Elena was at 3 pm. The bus terminal was small. The inside was smaller than my previous basement bedroom. The lady at the ticket desk stated the next bus won’t come until 6 pm contrary to the schedule. She mentioned there were other buses to Santa Elena near the park three blocks away; all while the taxi driver was standing at the door. He made one last attempt and lowered the fare to 350 GTQ.
Andrea and I walked towards the park. Right in front of the park was a 15-seater bus going to Santa Elena for 30 GTQ. It was a bit unsecure; the entire luggage went outside on top of the bus. I just wanted to get to Santa Elena. I gave the Guatemalan boy my red-and-gray, Eddie Bauer duffel bag.
We crammed into the sweaty bus and drove off. The Guatemalan boy (probably not a boy, just short) working on the bus had half his body out the open, back side door yelling for passengers, “Santa Elena.” “Is he going to stand there the whole time?” Andrea asked me. After a few minutes, the boy fully went into the van and shut the door. I think the bus driver was the boy’s father. The bus made stops along the way. We had 18 passengers on board at one time. There was no air-conditioning except for the open windows. “How’s the ride,” I asked Andrea. He replied with a smile, “I love it.”
Andrea and I arrived at the Santa Elena bus terminal with our bags. The hard part of our journey was complete. We travelled by tuk tuk to Los Amigos Hostel on Flores Island for 10 quetzals.
Have you had any unexpected journeys while traveling abroad?