Nobody fully briefed but us chickens


/chicken/pizza sellers hawking their wares about the same aisles other people are endeavoring to claim as their own.

The second surprise about my chicken bus is it’s not at all really a bus. From the physical sense, its; it once was a united states chartered bus but has become resurrected with Guatemalan engineering and also a glorious riot of red and green paint. Playing with the sense it behaves the way Westerners know buses should behave, it is not.

I’m forced in it just past the Mexican border, told it’s going inside my general direction, if not where I seriously want to go. “Xela?” I ask.

“You change Reyu,” someone yells when they throw my backpack on the roof.

Great. What’s Reyu?

From there, we complete a tortuous journey to … nowhere. It soon becomes obvious we’re not leaving until more passengers yield. Far more. A half-hour later, we hit half-capacity this is away to Reyu. As well.

We must make one or two stops as you go along. Actually, we should make about 100 stops along the way. Guatemalan chicken buses might drive that they brake with no man in fact, they will likely brake which will help prevent for the man, woman or child who is going to scrape together the $1 one hour to ride in a single, where ever they have already been standing. Just wave and will stop.

Guatemalan chicken buses appear to operate which has a staff of three. There’s the driver, whose job is always to take cliff-hugging turns along at the highest speed physically possible. You will find there’s seemingly superfluous supervisor, who may or may not be simply mate in the driver. After which you will find a ticket collector and jack of the trades, whom on my bus I dub the “Man-Child”.

The Man-Child may be a serious little chap whose age may be about 13 and 25. I have got not a clue. But performing his job with pride. It’s he who throws my bag towards the roof and yells something about Reyu. It’s he who collects my 100-quetzal note and writes me a little “IOU” for 80 quetzals. “No change,” he shrugs.

It’s he whom I noticed walking with the crowds at each and every stop we make, sliding crumpled quetzals into the hands of random people and yelling out our destination.

Back home, I’m thinking, none with this happens. Public transit may have picked me up, I would have paid my fare and I’d be there nowadays. That’s how things work. But discover the reason for travelling for those who expect everything to get just like home?

The Man-Child has another fundamental function, as it turns out: mechanic. It is necessary because our chicken bus has separated about six times during the couple of hours Appears on it to this point.

First, clearly there was an oil change, performed admirably with the Man-Child and observed admirably from the driver and superfluous supervisor.

Then there was ordering, and setting up, a different battery on a brief pause in Coatepeque. This, again, seemed to be completed by the Man-Child, who’d stripped right down to jeans including a singlet and was observed through the driver plus the superfluous supervisor.

Another half-hour down the line and this was the changing of the tyre. On this occasion, outside help was needed. A reputable mechanic was called. Maybe the Man-Child has his limits.

Then our merry chicken bus obtained care of again, Guatemalan pop music blaring in the speakers, the fruit sellers all having jumped off if it looked like i was visiting break 25km/h while some heads lurking on the bus windows to be sure of the smoke that has also been from the engine.

Ten minutes later and our gradual climb up a mountain becomes more plus much more gradual, until we eventually ease with a disappointed halt down the middle of nowhere. Man-Child, driver and superfluous supervisor whip themselves straight into action, banging pieces of engine with wrenches, pouring black liquid into other bits and softly cursing in native tongues.

Someone turns on board selling coconuts. Somebody else just begs. Everyone stares in the gringo.

And then, that has a puff of smoke in addition to a bored cough within the engine, we’ve been back moving about.

About five hours into our two-hour journey, we finally pull towards a dusty, crowded marketplace down the middle of a dusty, crowded town.

I look for the Man-Child.



He clambers in the roof, throws down my backpack, clambers down, hands me my change of 80 quetzals, pats me over the shoulder and breaks into his first smile for the day. “Hasta luego amigo!”

See you later. Much later, I figure, going through the schedule of Guatemalan chicken buses.

Read Ben Groundwater’s column weekly in the Sun-Herald.

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