Once again, as the first to arrive at the pit stop, Simon and Ang were the first to depart at 8am. For this leg, they had to make their way to El Salvador by the most rapid means possible.
To do this, they first booked passage on a shuttle from San Marcos to Antigua. Their shuttle would pick them up from San Marcos, so the team was required to wait at the municipal basketball court. As normal in this part of the world, the micro bus was late arriving, so the team entertained themselves by talking to some of the locals and wondering what prices the other shuttle passengers had paid (the team had negotiated tickets for 40Q each, which turned out to be a bargain).
|Rush hour, San Marcos
|Tuk Tuk rank in San Marcos
Soon the shuttle arrived. It was the exact same one that the team had the issue with eight days earlier (Casa Verde Tours), but thankfully with a more capable driver. Unlike previously, the ride back to Antigua was uneventful and soon the team had secured accommodation for one night.
|San Marcos church
|The offending shuttle
After a quick detour to the travel agency where they received a 10Q reimbursement (for extra tuk tuk payment), the team set about enquiring about pricing for transport to near Juayúa, El Salvador from a selection of local ticket agencies. Various routes were proposed and pricing offered. The team decided the price of a shuttle and first class bus, whilst more costly, would be better value (and safer) than navigating through Guatemala City.
With transport organised, the team changed their focus to completing the final Antigua challenges. Ang purchased some more handicrafts, after an entertaining and lengthy negotiation process. Receiving their next clue, the team went in search of Hector’s, a hidden gem of a tiny restaurant that had no external advertising and serves modern fusion fare to no more than twenty people on five tables at a time. This challenge was completed and the team enjoyed a fantastic meal. While they ate, they were entertained by the dozens of kids in Halloween costume, who were either walking past the entry or directly through the restaurant to request and occasionally demand candy.
|Antigua once again
|Another Antigua street photograph
|Dogs don’t need to drink the water
|Jungle Party, this time with a little bit more party
Waking early the next morning, their next challenge was to locate an awesome coffee. This required the team to find Refuge Coffee, a small coffee shop that was the highest rated on Trip Advisor. Again, the team was able to locate this shop with ease and had two coffees. Ang was very impressed and went as far as thanking the barista for providing ‘the best coffee thus far of the trip’.
|Red hulk is angry
|The team was sad they missed this fight
With the Antiguan challenges completed, the team boarded the shuttle to Guatemala City. An hour later, after dropping most of the passengers off at the airport, the team was deposited at the King Quality international bus station. There they waited for 1.5 hours for their next bus. This part of Guatemala City was particularly unsettling with Simon being approached by a drunken Guatemalan guy who demanded cerveza. Simon later said that this made it very difficult to choose which juice to purchase with the team’s remaining quetzal. Tactfully disengaging from the creepy drunk, Simon quickly returned to the bus station waiting room and the remainder of the wait passed without further incident
The team boarded the bus and soon they were driving through the streets of the city, with only a dozen stops for other passengers to board and vendors sell their food as they made their way to the border. For Ang, the highlight was the chicas that brought pollo campo (kind of like KFC) onto the bus to onsell to passengers.
Driving into the border town, Simon was surprised to read that it was Valle Nuevo as he was expecting the more northern crossing of San Cristóbal, due to the travel agency telling them that the two southern border crossings were closed due to recent flooding. Because of this information, when they booked their tickets, the team had decided to make their way to Santa Ana and then backtrack to the Ruta De Las Flores (Route of the Flowers) as required by their clue. Seeing this chance to speed up, the team changed their plans, and while they were waiting for El Salvadorian authorities to complete their immigration inspection, and sucessfully negotiated in spanish with the bus driver for a new drop off point.
The team also noticed a number of passengers who had gotten onto the bus in Guatemala City (but not in the terminal, so not on the official manifest) had crossed the border on foot. Oddly, their positions on the bus had been replaced by vendors while the El Salvadorian authorities were inspecting passports. Once immigration formalities were completed, these passengers re-boarded the bus up the road one km. Ang thought this was very fishy. The best explanation Simon could come up with was that perhaps the bus driver and assistant were moonlighting as people smugglers.
The bus continued into El Salvador and the team were deposited at a junction just outside of Ahuachapán. Boarding a chicken bus, they sped into town. On the ride in, the team passed the celebrations for the day of the dead. Once at the packed market, they pushed their way through on foot to their next chicken bus, number 249 to Juayúa. After the pretty hour long ride, they arrived in the friendly town of Juayúa and soon found their hostel, Casa Mazeta, the pit stop for this leg of the race.
|Shared bus station/market in Ahuachapán
|A Ruta de las Flores town
|Juayúa at sun down