I love travelling when I’m travelling. So getting around Guatemala, and Central America in general, is going to be fun. It was today, a thwarted pickpocketing aside. And that’s thanks to the so-called chicken buses, the large, noisy, colourful, carbon monoxide-inducing local buses, the riding of which provides one of the most quintessential Central American experiences there is. So-called tourist buses (private minibuses) ply the same routes getting you to your destination quicker and in more comfort, but for multiples of the cost of an equivalent chicken bus fare. Now I ask you, where’s the fun in that?

A chicken bus on the streets of Antigua, Guatemala. May 20th 2013.

A chicken bus on the streets of Antigua, Guatemala. May 20th 2013.

The buses are mostly used North American school buses – what’s not deemed good enough for American schoolchildren anymore is seemingly deemed sufficient for the everyday Guatemalan. The music blares & it is a given that the buses are crowded; three people squeeze into seats barely big enough for two children, with more crowding the aisle. In addition to the typically aggressive driver, there is usually a conductor standing/hanging out the front door. The conductor collects the stupidly cheap fares and from time to time jumps out to direct the bus through a blind intersection, around a tight turn or to haul the luggage of passengers onto the roof rack – such cargo is always exposed to the elements.

Video || Chicken Bus
This video was taken today, on the second of three different chicken buses I had to take en route from Antigua, Guatemala, to my present location of Panajachel, on the shores of Lake Atitlán (I’ll be using Panajachel as a base to explore the area). The only reason I have this video to upload is because I still had my iPod, my video capturing device of choice, having thwarted an attempt by a pickpocketing local on the first bus journey to relieve me of it (see below). This journey was not as noisy or crowded as the first journey – it, the journey, actually comes across as tame in comparison.

Wits About You

Thankfully the pockets of the shorts I was wearing today were deep ones. He had to dig, and only had a split second to work with, but even so he almost had his hand on my iPod (it was my mistake for it being in my pocket in the first place). It seemed like a nice ‘welcome to Guatemala, Friend’ gesture, but actually beckoning me to go ahead of him as we were readying to leave the bus was just a ploy to enable him access my pockets from behind. Thwarting him just as I was scrambling to jump out the back of the moving bus left me little time to do anything other than swat his hand away. A close one. He obviously needs more practise, or defter hands. Best be on your guard on these buses. Have your wits about you & only carry stuff in your pockets that you’re prepared to lose.

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