Monday 25 September 2023

1987 Travel Journal: More Chicken Bus

    My first surprise that next morning came early.  I took a shower and when I came out, I realized that the Hotel Mayan Kanek hadn’t supplied me with a new towel, so I ended up drying myself with a pillow case.  I had brought a towel along with me on the trip, but I didn’t want to get it all wet, because I would be traveling all day and I didn’t want a wet towel in my suitcase.

    The boy who helps run the hotel told me the bus to Chimaltango would come by at 10:00, first coming up the street, then it would return.  At 10:05, when I saw it coming up the street, I waved to flag it down, and the driver helper yelled something which I assumed was, “We’ll pick you up on the our return trip.”   Unfortunately, the bus never did return.   There are usually a lot of buses coming and going in the smaller rural towns, so I eventually was able to catch a mini-bus to Solola.

    Once we had arrived, I noticed there were multiple bus parked in the plaza, all of which looked like they should be condemned.  The Gringos who I had ridden with in the mini-bus, all boarded a green chicken bus.  I asked the bus helper, “Antigua?” to which he nodded affirmatively, then added, “Change, Transfer.”  

    I handed him my green bag, which he put up on top of the bus, then because the bus was already full, he walked me to the back door of the bus which was open, and I climbed in and sat on the back seat which still vacant.  As I sat down, I felt very uneasy, because the inside of the bus literally smelled like shit.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, or for that matter, whether the bus was headed to where I wanted to go.   

    While sitting in this unsettled and insecure state, suddenly something brushed against my calf.  I jumped, being startled, and then something hit my leg again, and made a grunting sound.

    It was a live pig in a bag, which had been placed under my seat.  I took a deep sigh in relief, and suddenly I wasn’t apprehensive any more, although I still didn’t know where the bus was going to let me out, and if I could catch another bus from there before nightfall.  It was too late to worry about that anyway, because we were already sputtering down the road, with only one stop to fill the radiator, after which the bus had to start its engine by rolling backward and popping the clutch.

    The bus slowly thinned out of local Indians (and their livestock).  A German fellow from Bavaria sat beside me and we talked.  He and his group were headed to the Mexican Mayan ruins in Palenque then were planning to go down the river to the Guatemalan ruins in Tikal.  That would sure be a more interesting 3 days in the jungle for them, compared to my getting to Tikal using conventional means.

    Like me, they departed the bus at the highway, but headed toward the Mexican border on another bus.  There was no bus to Antigua waiting for me, so I and my bag settled under a tree, hoping that such a bus would soon come along, headed in my direction.  I only had to wait about fifteen  minutes before one did, and and to my surprise, it was actually a coach, instead of a school bus.  I climbed in and it took me as far as Chimaltango.  There I got out and walked over to several parked buses, and sure enough, one of them was destine for Antigua, so onto it I climbed.

    The buses in Guatemala seemed so unorganized and haphazard, but surprisingly, somehow they work, and get you to where you want to go.  It took me three different buses in various states of condition to get from Panajachel to Antiqua, but in the end, I did get there.

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