“You had it last! You were reading about crossing into Mexico.”
It really did not matter who had had it last because neither of us had it now. We had used the Lonely Planet guide to Guatemala to find the banks where we could most easily exchange money at the best rate or to locate convenient hostels or inns.
But for the next leg of our journey, traveling from Flores, Guatemala, to Palenque, Mexico, it contained descriptions of numerous side trips we might take. Without it, we would have to rely on a travel agent, some of whom were more reliable than others.
We had both panicked. Just the day before, a couple from Vermont offered us $60 for the guidebook because they had left theirs in a laundry. But we had been careful. And we had not been to many places: the bank, the camera store, and the pharmacy. In all instances, I was positive the guidebook had been in my daypack.
We started to retrace our steps, hoping that we could quickly catch a bus from the island of Flores to the mainland town of Santa Elena where we had been. As we waited by the outgoing bus stop, an incoming bus pulled into the square. The driver glanced at us and then peered down to his right. At the same iinstant, we took off running toward his bus. We knew he had the book.
Sure enough, when we reached his window, he sheepishly reached down for the book. “Es muy interesante,” we heard. ”Describe todo nuestro país.” (“It is very interesting. It describes our entire country.”) A few passengers affirmed this by shaking their heads. Holding the guidebook in his hand, he looked at it lovingly, then passed it through the window to my husband. The driver did not read English, but had already found a bus passenger who did and who had probably translated sections. Yet he knew we needed the book for our travels.
We thanked him over and over and gave him a reward of $5 in local currency, which he accepted with a sigh. For him, the Lonely Planet guide to Guatemala may have been like a course in cultural geography.
On our next journey, we can bring extra copies to share.