Traveling in Central America is generally performed by bus. Pullman buses are comfortable and plush affairs, relatively speaking, and the so-called “Chicken Buses” are decidedly less comfortable, unless you are nine years old because that’s who the seats were designed to accommodate. The alternative to the public bus system is the Shuttle, or privately-run minivan. They do get you to your desired destination a little faster, however, they can still be quite cramped and therefore a painful experience on a long journey, especially since they cram people in till you’re seated with a degree of physical intimacy you may not like.
We took such a shuttle from Antigua to Lanquin, and were told that the journey could range from 5-9 hours. It ended up taking about 8 hours, however this was not due to traffic, but was due to our being forced to wait patiently in the cramped van while two self-claimed British “owners” of a new hostel in Lanquin got supplies, loaded the van, made phone calls etc. Oh, and when they wanted to pull over to buy themselves a coconut to drink.
These guys left rather a bad impression, in my opinion. If I were an owner of a new hostel in Lanquin, I would try to leave a good impression with backpackers. The vast majority of van occupants had not made reservations anywhere to stay, but not once did either guy mention anything about The Zephyr, or that we might also be able to stay there when two girls indicated they’d tried to email to hold a bed and were told, “oh, I’ll call ahead for you and make sure they have your reservation”. I found them to be pretentious.
We instead opted to stay at the El Retiro Lodge where I had booked a private double room via email and telephone about a week prior. Not that that mattered when we arrived and were told that they had my reservation, but that it wasn’t until tomorrow and it had been made for a dorm. Great. My Spanish may be a less than perfect, but I know what I confirmed. Basically, the hotel was somewhat full and they didn’t give a crap if you wanted a double room or not: you got what was available.
And so, we ended up in one of their “loft” rooms, which had two twin beds and had to be accessed via a step ladder. Fun times. Except for the bugs that could easily fly in and out of the room, the lockless entryway, and the even more entertaining trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The beautiful jungle-like mountainous surroundings replete with hammocks and wooden bungalows next to the river certainly compensated.
As did the yummy bbq feast that was put on in the hotel-run restaurant that night, which we’ve subsequently enjoyed each night we’ve been here. Generous servings of fresh home-cooked food: frijoles, guacamole, pico de gallo, chicken, tortillas, cheese, various salads, and strangely enough but very welcome: copious amounts of beetroot?
Yes, very happy to be here.