So, granny squares notwithstanding, I was waiting for the bus in the freezing cold at 4 a.m. It came about 45 minutes later, but hey. Such is Guatemalan time. Of course I was wearing full traje, hat and everything, so I am sitting on the bus, which isn’t going anywhere yet because the driver is getting coffee . . . a man gets on and asks me if it’s going to Concepcion. In Mam! Talk about going native. I was very pleased, although I have to admit that a) it was very dark, b) he was very old, c) I understood nothing except “Concepcion” and d) I couldn’t reply in Mam. We had a little chat in Spanish and finally we were on our way. Clara had promised me that I would be able to sleep because the roads were good, but she must have been taking some different roads. That was a joke. I live in a remote mountainous region – there *are* no other roads. To give you an idea, Todos Santos is about 50 km from La Mesilla, which is where the border crossing is, and it takes about five hours to get there. The road did get better eventually, but I’m too tall to sleep on chicken buses anyway. (More about chicken buses another time.)
The bus actually dropped us off at a petrol station a way before La Mesilla, who knows why, so we got another little bus to town from where I had to walk to the border post. It was considerably warmer there than in Todos Santos; we must have lost all altitude on the way. (In fact, at least two of the towns we passed – San Martín and Jacaltenango – are warm enough to be centres for coffee growing areas.) La Mesilla is unremarkable, it’s basically one very long main street lined with shops selling cheap merchandise, often in bulk. I looked at cowboy boots (mmmh, I still want some . . .) but didn’t but anything.
Crossing the border was a little irritating on the Guatemalan side – they weren’t too happy with my temporary passport, and once they’d come round to it their computer didn’t work – but eventually they let me go with the promise that I’d get my new passport soon. (The consulate in Cancún is sending it, hopefully.) The Mexican side of the border looked identical, except that the shops slowly became market stalls, and there were more people calling out to me in English. I had to catch another little bus to Ciudad Cuahtemoc, which is where Mexican immigration is – I’m not surprised that all those Guatemalans make it across illegally when there is a good five miles of countryside to disappear into before anyone checks your papers! The Mexican official was very nice and let me enter on a transit visa, which meant I didn’t have to pay the twenty-odd dollars or so.
Mexico is soooo different to Guatemala. In Guatemala you get on a bus which happens to be passing, someone comes round to collect money eventually and you get off wherever you need to. In Mexico you have to go to the terminal, someone sells you an actual ticket for an actual specific departure time (you get to choose your seat on a screen and everything!) and the bus then takes you to another terminal. It’s also air-conditioned, comfortable (leg room!) and shows movies (The Golden Compass today; I’d already seen it on another Mexican bus . . .). If you’re lucky, you even get to sit next to a guy from Colorado who’s been living in San Cristóbal for three years (and has just done a visa run in the other direction) so you can chat. (Thanks, Jason!)
We arrived in San Cristóbal (the stress is on the O, I’ve been trying to teach people that for months) about four o’clock in the afternoon and after checking back into El Corte Maltese (which is where I stayed last time, though sadly Marco and Vivian were in Italy to show off their brand-new daughter to the family, and my towel was no longer there either) I went straight to my favourite place in town – the falafel place on Maria Adelina Flores. Friday is 2 for 1 day! I’d been dreaming about it for days and it didn’t disappoint. The owner used to live in Israel and totally knows what he’s doing. I might be slightly in love with him, based entirely on his cooking skills. Mmmh. That was enough to keep me happy for the rest of the day! 🙂