Monday, June 1, 2015

Riding on a chicken bus

One of the experiences I was looking forward to was to ride a chicken bus. These are quite common in all Central America and are old american school buses that were pimped out to fit the local likings. In Guatemala that means as many colours as possible in some really cool patterns.

The name chicken bus comes from the fact that locals usually carried chicken in these buses! We did not witness this part, but they did carry a lot.
So yes, from Antigua to Lake Atitlan we used one of these infamous rides. Pana (Panajachel) would be the final destination of the bus.

But the stops of this kind of bus are not exactly the same as the ones we are used to. These buses can stop anywhere to drop of or pick someone up. If you want a ride you just have to wait on the side of the road and lift your arm when the bus comes. A guy that is usually by the (open) door, then collects the money for the ride. If you want to get out before the end, just signal the driver 10 seconds before and he will stop. I have to stay this is surprisingly efficient as even when people coming in or out carried things with them, these were always a quite quick process.

The non so "efficient process" is driving on the roads. It was almost impossible to find 100 metres of road with either curves or holes or both! So the 50kms that separated us from our destination in the beginning were done in so many zigzags that the actual distanced done must have been the double! And of course, this also meant doing a bit of exercise to try to maintain ourselves in the seats with no safety belts. Obvious! This was a chicken bus, why would it have seat belts?

However, for me, the most unforgettable details were not these. It was the loud latin music playing for the whole time (a five hour ride that began at 7:00am); it was the multiple sellers of food and water that came on the bus at the entrance if a town/village and would get out a bit later; but specially, it was listening the word of God for, at least, 15 minutes in a very passionate speech. I captured a video of it, but it is quite short and not totally focussed on the "preacher" because I didn't want to be too obvious. But it is still good to have a general idea.

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