At first impression, he wasn’t the friendliest fellow on earth.
“Let’s go, everyone in the vans. There are supposed to be 11 of you. Peace Corps, where’s Peace Corps?” he barked. We cautiously signaled that we were the three volunteers. The day before we had signed up for the sunrise tour of Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins of Guatemala. Being a Peace Corps volunteer has its perks, as we get a generous discount to enter most national parks, so we were able to negotiate the usual price of this tour down from 300 Quetzales to 200. Little did we know this would cause so much consternation with our tour guide, who was not convinced the Peace Corps discount actually existed.
“Okay, you three in this van, everyone else in the other.” All 11 of us hesitated, the boxed lunches we had paid for were no where to be found, and the hostel owner was passed out in a drunken stupor in the hammock. Not to worry, our guide had no qualms with waking him up before the crack of dawn so we could be on our way. Marissa, Laura and I piled into the small van, while the other 8 had to squeeze into the other. Although there was space in ours to seat two more people comfortably, the guide wouldn’t have it. Only the three of us in the first, everyone else in the other. The couple we met the day before gave us a dirty look, before cramming their way into the stuffed van. We assumed our separation from the rest of the group had to do with the uncertainty of our cheaper entrance rate.
To assume makes an ass out of you and me.
While our guide treated everyone else with brazenness and disrespect, he was amazingly civil to us. He did point out the obvious and explain that he wasn’t a good tour guide because he didn’t have patience and wasn’t a people person (duh!). After watching the sunrise from temple number 4, we broke off with another guide who gave us the entire tour of Tikal in English. We were told to meet up with our original guide outside the park at 11 am.
Sweating profusely, exhausted and in desperate need of re-hydration we stumbled out of the park to meet up with our original guide. I’m almost certain it was 11 am on the dot mas o menos a minute or two. He was sitting there waiting, and upon catching sight of us snapped “Peace Corps! Let’s go!” (We were a little tired of being referred to as Peace Corps at this point…) He herded us into the small van once again, despite the fact that the entire group from our hostel hadn’t exited the park yet. When two people tried to hop into the van with us, he quickly negated their attempt by informing them they would have to wait and return in the other van. Our ride home was something of a nascar race through the jungle back to El Remate. A little perplexed at our guide’s brashness and our VIP treatment, we quickly put it behind us and headed off to the lake to enjoy what was left of the day and the sun.
Later that day, enjoying a cold beer (amazingly, they use refrigerators in El Remate) on the hammocks back at the hostel the owner stopped to chat with us a bit. “So, how did you enjoy your tour with matagringas?” DIRECT TRANSLATION = GRINGA KILLER. “Excuse me?” our mouths dropped. “Yea, matagringas. It was never proven, but he probably killed his druggie gringa girlfriend who was cheating on him a few years back,” he replied while laughing hysterically. “He did it with a machete, and now everyone calls him matagringas” (behind his back, I assume).
“AND YOU LET US CLIMB SOLO INTO A VAN WITH HIM AT THREE IN THE MORNING???”