Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: The Inevitable Chicken Bus Post

Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

What's a chicken bus

I'm going to turn it over to other writers to tell you all about the Guatemalan chicken buses.

Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Here's the movie trailer for the documentary:

My little chicken bus story

I took a chicken bus to and from Lake Atitlan. The experience was similar to what I had in Ethiopia (here and here are two examples) in that the bus driver has a helper to: 
  • Hang out the door and call for potential passengers; 
  • Collect money; 
  • Load luggage; 
  • Generally maintain some order on the bus; and
  • Run speedily to streetside vendors to get himself or the driver something to drink or eat. 

Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Yup, the bus goes pretty fast and the bus seats are slippery, so as the bus takes hairpin turns, passengers slide from one side of the bench seat to another, depending on the direction of the curve. The fun of this wears off quickly.

Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

I did not experience the packed-til-overflowing situation described in the scenarios above. Maybe Guatemala has a similar situation as in Ethiopia, where the "class" of the bus, i.e. 1st or 2nd class - and the price of the ticket - brings certain expectations of how many people are allowed in the bus, the conditions of the interior, and the number of stops.

Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Below is a video I took outside Santa Lucia Church in Antigua, in which chicken buses and tuk-tuks star:

OK, now don't get me wrong on what I'm about to say. The chicken buses - the camionetas - are part of what makes Guatemala Guatemala. They are beautiful - like tropical birds of paradise. The camioneta system seems to meet the needs of Guatemalans and visitors. And what an elegant way to recycle school buses.

But damn, these buses hurtle through the narrow cobblestone streets of Antigua, farting great black odiferous clouds of exhaust, and being generally noisy.  

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