Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting from Point A to Point B

On our first chicken bus in San Salvador.

One of the most stressful parts of travelling is getting from Point A to Point B, and this particular adventure involves a lot of that. Sometimes we are on the go every other day.

We are also trying to find the cheapest way to get around (taking safety into consideration) so this can be quite challenging.

So far, relying on the Internet and guide books we have managed quite well and our travels have gone quite smoothly.

Our first journey on our own from Antigua, Guatemala to Santa Ana, El Salvador was the most stressful and we actually ended up in a different city from the one we set out for. First, we took a shuttle in the morning from our hostel in Antigua to the Tica Bus terminal in Guatemala City and we were quite pleased with ourselves because we managed to cut out a taxi ride by asking the driver to leave us there instead of the airport. We also booked our tickets to San Salvador without any problems and asked the bus driver to drop us off in Santa Ana as we had read that we should do.

We were making very good time when we got to the border and with a short wait where the security checked our ID against the bus manifest, we were through the border. Unfortunately we hadn't gone ten minutes when the police stopped the bus and began searching the luggage. Of course, we thought the worst having read all sorts of accounts about corruption in the police force and highway robberies. No one explained what was happening and if they had we wouldn't have been able to understand anyway. We were there for a very long time when we saw the police load a few bags onto their truck -- they appeared to be full of winter clothes -- and the bus was turned around and sent back to the border.

At the border, all the passengers were ordered out then after a while we were allowed to get back on. We waited for another 45 minutes after this not knowing what was happening and by now it was dark and we were worried about how we would get to our hostel. Finally, they told us to get off the bus and we were loaded onto a different bus from a different company also headed for San Salvador. Marie and I managed to communicate to the new driver that we wanted to be dropped off in Santa Ana. In the meantime we had met an American traveller -- the only other person who spoke English -- and asked if we could take a taxi with him to his hostel if for some reason they didn't stop.

They did stop in Santa Ana, but the Shell station was deserted without a taxi driver in site. There was no way we could get to our hostel, unless we tried hitchhiking which was obviously out of the question, so we got back on the bus for San Salvador. In the end it worked out. We went to the hostel with our new friend Aaron, and there was room for us all. We spent the next day touring the city with him and then we managed to find out way to our next destination, Copan, Honduras.

Beyond this one experience, we've taken a number of these coach buses as well as local chicken buses and taxis where we've had to, without any difficulty. The most expensive ride was a $46 bus ride from San Salvador to San Pedro Sula, but we got off in La Entrada and caught a chicken bus to Copan. The cheapest journey, which also got us the furthest, was a local bus from Copan to San Pedro Sula (about $7) followed by a bus to La Ceiba about ($5.50), altogether a journey of about six hours. Silly how the 15-minute taxi to our hotel cost $20.

Now we are in Roatan, Honduras -- a beautiful Island on the Caribbean Sea. We took a ferry to get here and have a few more journeys to go before we end back in Guatemala City. Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hanging out with Mormons and visiting catholic churches

This title seems appropriate since Marie is Catholic and I am LDS. Our interfaith friendship, which began in high school, has seen us through many adventures including hiking the Juan de Fuca trail, biking the kettle valley and camping on the beach near Forks, WA. The latest installment of The Adventures of Jade and Marie finds us backpacking through central America navigating new countries with our limited Spanish and our limited budget.
We first arrived in Guatemala City last Sunday and were greeted by my first companion from Temple  Square and her mother. (My mission continues to bless my life by offering me friends and places to stay throughout the world.) It was so nice to have locals take care of us the first few days. Sister zepeda's mom showed us around Guatemala City the first day and another former sister missionary Amelia Lopez volunteered to take us to Antigua on Tuesday.
In Guatemala City we visited so many cathedrals I almost lost count, though I think there were six. Most were very ornate with several chapels and statues, candles and worshippers. We also visited the. National palace and national theatre and had tours of both.
In Antigua - a beautiful colonial town with cobblestone streets and beautiful colorful buildings- we saw some more churches. In at least two cases, we visited the main restored chapel and then explored the ruins left from earthquakes years ago which gave us an idea of the enormity of the buildings pre-earthquake. That was fun - I always like a chance to explore ruins and touch really old things.
So far we have visited four cities: Guatemala City, Antigua, San Salvador and Copan, Honduras. Each has a central park or main square with a government building and, of course, a Catholic church. We visited a few churches in San Salvador and today in Copan we got to experience the old church as more than a museum when we attended mass. Though of a different faith, I appreciated the hymns and the love these people had for their Heavenly Father, so found common ground despite language barriers.
It's only been a week and there is so much more to share, but I'll try write more when I can and add photos when I have a computer instead of an iPhone.