The last day in Rome began with an early morning for all Pilgrims. We met in the foyer at 5.00am in order to board our 8.00am flight to Madrid. Our carrier for the next stage of our journey was Iberia Airways so we dutifully lined up at the baggage counter. Disaster! Marie was informed by the Iberia Airways check-in person that records were showing that she had already made the Rome/Madrid flight! How odd – Marie was standing right there, we were sure she was not already in Madrid! Nevertheless the woman was unmoved and thus another ticket for Marie was purchased.
The flight to Madrid was faultless, and we arrived 2½ hours later. After a short stopover we boarded a much larger Iberia Airways Jet (an A340) for the 12½ hour flight to Guatemala City. Some of the Pilgrims hit the jackpot with many vacant seats towards the rear of the plane – some were spied sprawled across seats and sleeping soundly for most of the flight.
The day was endless as we turned our watches back 7 hours to local Guatemala time – we touched down at 4.00pm.
Welcome to Guatemala! We checked through customs and waited patiently for our host to arrive. Br Edgardo, the Director of the Marist Retreat Centre in Guatemala, arrived with a bus to take us to the Centre – a 22 seater coaster! We quickly figured out that our baggage had to be placed on the top of the bus and three Guatemalan workers impressed us with their strength, speed and courtesy by hoisting all heavy bags aloft. Several Pilgrims joined Br Edgardo in his car and we followed him back to the Retreat – the traffic was an eye-opener!
The Retreat was a delight – quite a sanctuary after driving through quite dismal streets and gaping at the armed guards in car-yards and local businesses. But most Pilgrims were exhausted and went to bed almost immediately.