We’d asked for an early morning call, without being too hopeful of receiving one, since today we were moving on, first to Guatemala City, then, if possible, on to San Jose. As it happened, there was some unprecedented efficiency, + we were awoken at an appropriate unearthly hour. The timing was perfect – we arose, finished packing, struggled out into the dark early morning (a little after 5) + down the road, just seconds before the bus came round the corner. We were a little apprehensive about the journey – we had to pass some notorious dangerpoints en route. But the journey was uneventful, tho’ there were a few magnificent views looking down over a valley, where a thick white mist had enveloped everything, except for some islands of black tree-tops jutting up out of the white lake.
When we arrived in the city, I installed Val in a café, and was to set off to walk to the offices of Inguat, the tourist board, to obtain some travel info to San Jose. However, it seemed, by asking, that Inguat was a long way away, so I returned to base (Val) for advice. She, far more resourceful than I, was able to find a bus to take us there, where we discovered we had to travel by bus, more or less from where we’d just come from. We walked back, + almost immediately found a bus. There followed another completely uneventful, tho’ a little longer, journey, + we were deposited in San Jose – it was incredibly hot + humid. A shock too, since we had to pay Q5 for a not particularly special room. Then the nice bit – we’d told our mums to write to us here, + sure enough there were 2 letters, only 2 letters, in the Lista de Correos – one each, + both with a lot of news.
Next, business. Our purpose in San Jose was to look for a cargo boat going south, so we asked questions around the port area. They weren’t exactly encouraging, + there certainly weren’t any boats there at the time which could help, but neither did they totally dismiss the idea either – we decided to give it a couple of days. In the evening, we ate out – very expensive, compared to what we’d become used to – + not as friendly. San Jose is not a very nice town… but more of that tomorrow.
Clearly we did still have some safety concerns – the reference to “notorious dangerpoints” shows that we had at least some concern about being, at least, stopped. Another town, another port; part of our quest to find a way to South America without going by boat.
The poste restante – or lista de correos in Spanish – system has clearly disappeared. I explained it recently to quite a worldly and well-travelled 30 year old, and he thought it was all an extraordinary business, having mail delivered to post offices some time in the future. But that was how we received mail, for the most part. And this time was particularly exciting, for clearly they had never received lista de correos there before, and they were excited as we were that someone should walk through the door to collect it!
I remember Poste Restante–what would I have done without it? It was my lifeline to the States, my friends and family. And very reliable. It was like Christmas, coming to a new city, and finding a dozen or so letters–it was hard to decide which one to open first. Now, with the internet, Poste Restante must be only a historical artifact, but in the 70’s when I was traveling I depended on it everywhere I went (the main cities, that is).