Published: April 7th 2013
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The fabled Hotel Colonial.


And so we arrive, a little frazzled without our bags, but just happy to be somewhere close to bedtime. With taxi overpaid for, we set off to the central hotel we've booked. Easy peasy we think. Er, not quite. It turns out that Hotel Colonial, 7th avenida is far from enough of an address for a taxi driver to be able to find a place. And so begins one of the longest, silliest taxi journeys I recall being in.

It goes like this: Guatemalan cities are divided into zones, every zone has a 7th avenida, there are 19 zones; but that's ok, we're confident we're looking for zone 1; except, every zone is divided into a grid of avenidas and streets, and without both, you are lost. So, our taxi driver knows we are on 7th avenida, but are we on 1st street or 21st?, we have not a clue. And so we circle 7th avenue, one-way system permitting, looking for a hotel our driver has never heard of, on or near an avenue we can't seem to get to, and which we don't know what it looks like, in a town where everything looks grubby-colonially the same and all hints are hidden behind secure doorways.

We continue circling, our tour of downtown Guatemala City by night getting ever longer. By the third time round we start to recognise streets, just not ours. Before too long we know we'll be avoiding 18th Street with it's equally large number of prostitutes and policemen - Please, may our hotel not be there! - but we still don't know where Colonial is. And neither does the driver. Nor do the other taxi drivers he asks.

The thought begins to cross our minds that perhaps we'll never find this hotel..... How would that work? Does an honest taxi driver circle for ever until he finds his destination. Do we have to pay if he runs out of petrol?

Finally, after perhaps more than an hour, someone knows where it is, and we drive to the corner of Hotel Colonial. Our driver apologises profusely (with that politeness we've come to expect of Guatemalans), but we can't help feeling it is us who should be apologising for being numpties without an address.

We have made it. We have no clothes, but we have a place to stay. We go out, find shotgun-guarded food, eat and then finally sleep, 26 hours after waking up in a cold dark 3am Glasgow.



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