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I can't get there from here

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I Can’t Get There From Here

In the six or so years that I’ve been writing and traveling around Guatemala I’ve always been able to get from my home base in Antigua to virtually any part of Guatemala or Central America-until now.

My proposed destination wasn’t some backwater Mayan village on the slopes of Mt Whatever but instead it is a populous farming town known as Salama’, comprised of some 47000+ inhabitants, and located in the semi-northern department known as Baja Verapaz, north of Guatemala City by a hundred kilometers or so. I’d been there last year, in the company of Hill Billy Tom, the “Perfesser’ and Alabama Bob, with the ostensible purpose of locating mineral deposits erroneously described by a trio of local miscreants. We eventually went on, over a local road and found our way to Semuc Champey.

This year, having found a knowledgeable local geologist who not only knew the region but who could also read topographical maps, I was inclined to return.

Guatemala has fairly decent road and highway systems, much better than Honduras and Costa Rica but the annual rains take their inevitable toll and repairs sometimes take years. The main tourist routes are served by good buses and mini-vans, while the lesser routes are covered by the inevitable ‘chicken buses.’

I’d assumed that Salama’, being on a good road and with a sizable population, would have some regular bus service but to my dismay, I was told that there aren’t any direct buses. Yes, I could take the shuttle from Antigua that goes to Semuc Champey but they’d drop me off at the intersection of La Cumbre, some 20 miles from Salama’….from there, maybe the occasional ‘collectivo’ or mini-van or the ubiquitous ‘chicken bus’ would supply the next leg of what was becoming a traveler’s nightmare. And forget about the return schedule, of unknown times and days.

That changed this week, when my local travel agent found that there is, or might be, a direct ‘real’ bus to Salama. Their address in Guatemala City has changed but their telephone number doesn’t work. Perfect, right? I need the schedule and the pricing but how to accomplish that? Google supplied five different listings for the so-called ‘Transportes Cubulera o Dulce Maria’ but they all have the same non-working telephone number. Do I spend $20 on a shuttle to go find out? I may have to, because my proposed ‘fellow travelers’ are dropping off, one by one. There is one last chance: a local lady photographer who also doubles as a Mayan shamaness, has a ceremony scheduled just outside of Salama’. I’ll know more in a few days. Welcome to Guatemala.

My usual coterie of local friends with vehicles have a variety of problems: some mechanical, some financial. The idea of renting a car and driving through the Seven Circles of Dantean hell that comprise Guatemala City wasn’t even on my radar screen. So, here I sit, with a new book of a Field Guide to Minerals, a knowledgeable guide, my magnifying glass, camera and two paid writing assignments and I’m waiting….and waiting. Will I ‘do’ the drop-off at La Cumbre and take my chances? Will I track down the phone number of the mysterious bus company in the City? Or, travel with my shamaness friend and bounce along in her 1974 Land Cruiser? I’m hoping for ‘Door #3’ as it’d be more fun.

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