Guatemala – land of earthquakes and volcanoes. The capital city, Guatemala City, and the former capital, Antigua, were both almost completely destroyed by the 1917-18 earthquakes, leading to more modern architecture than most capitals. There are 37 volcanoes in Guatemala, which is about the size of Ohio. Three are active and are still erupting. Volcan de Fuego (Fire Volcano) has been erupting violently since 2002, so long that it has created 22 cones, marking different eruption periods.
We took a ship’s excursion to the capital city, as it was about 2.5 hours’ driving time from the port. Even knowing that we typically don’t like ship excursions, we wanted to see something different. Of course, it was a mistake. We felt like two trapped prisoners, unable to explore as freely as we are accustomed. The only stops were a museum devoted to native dress, the city’s main plaza, and an outdoor Relief Map museum, which they claim is their country’s architectural treasure. We spent five hours in a bus and three hours in the city, limited to those three places. The description said we would have free time to explore, but that consisted of 15 minutes to take photos in the main plaza. It was dismal, and just not for us.
Because we were captives on a bus, the tour guide chattered on and on and on and on about every aspect of Guatemalan culture. There was no quiet time to rest, look at the volcanoes, or even talk with other passengers – just constant noise from the tour guide, who had a very loud microphone. We did learn a lot about volcanoes, and were delighted to hear about “chicken buses” (photo below). Guatemalans love to buy old school buses not in use from the US. They drive them through Mexico to Guatemala, paint them and fix them up, and transport people around the country and cities. They don’t hire certified bus drivers – just anyone who has a driver’s license. People crowd on with all sorts of animals, even chickens, so they call these conveyances – chicken buses. They are cheap, ubiquitous, and anything goes – hence, their popularity.
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