Chicken Bus to Guatemala City

Trip Start Mar 22, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Friday, April 28, 2006

The day starts at 4 AM on my first chicken bus ride that for over four hours gives you every amusement ride force from acceleration, deceleration (slam on the brakes), sideways G-force from taking downhill curves and passing. Then there are the bumps and finally that squished feeling when they pack 3 to a seat.

I was fortunate because about half hour into the trip, the passengers in the front seat got off and I bolted for the seat. It is the only seat that my legs fit in. Remember, they were school buses at one time. But eventually I ended up three to a seat but at least with the window seat you don't slide off during the curves.

If your computer doesn't have a Quick time movie player, download it from or upgrade your media player. You have to see the three video clips of the chicken bus ride to Guatemala City. The first clip shows a normal pass on a blind curve. Normal just means no one was coming. The second clip shows what happens when there is oncoming traffic and it doesn't pull over. The last clip shows what happens when there are three vehicles abreast and oncoming traffic appears. I can still smell the burning brakes and the smoke in the picture looks like incense which is very different from the usual black diesel smoke when they shift or accelerate.

We did get to the city without a crash which is not that uncommon and now I see why the newspapers have daily pictures of crashes somewhere. Took a cab to the immigration office where my guide needed to get a passport to accompany me to Costa Rica. Typical cab ride - about 80 km/hr down streets with the horn tooting and pedestrians and dogs scrambling out of the way. My host was able to get a passport without any problems. Actually by the time the shoe shine guy was finished with my boots, he had his passport.

My favorite part of the trip was the stop at the shoe store. Now I know it might be a bit mean to expect to find a pair a boots to fit here when I can't find them most places in Canada. I like to play with the shoe hustlers, especially the aggressive ones. I can walk by the CD and watch hawkers and ignore them, but there is just something that draws me into a shoe stand. They get so happy when I tell then I need new shoes. Then when they find out what size I need the fun begins. I have seen every look from bewilderment to laughter. I had one guy try to get me to try on a size 11 saying it was a "grande" shoe. It is only 5 sizes too small. Today was no exception but this time I managed to get a picture plus they had a female security guard toting a shotgun. The city was a really good reminder that not every one is Mayan in Guatemala and perhaps had I ended up in a different place when I got here, it would have been a very different month. No regrets though, at all.

I wasn't able to take as many pictures as I wanted because I was continuously told to put my camera away because it's dangerous. Have to love it when the guide takes you to the most dangerous part of Guatemala City and then gets you on an equally dangerous inner city bus. Yet I see it completely different because there are military on every corner, police on every street and armed guards in every store. How much safer could you feel? The only dangerous thing would be the hail of bullets when some one yells "stop the robber."
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