Chasing Chicken Buses
Guatemala is a very colourful country. The markets are abundant with shades that would make a painter envious, the traditional dress of the local women is a multicoloured work of beauty and the gorgeous town of Antigua is jam-packed with brightly-hued houses. However, by far my favourite example of the colours of Guatemala is the chicken bus.
The chicken buses are a wonderful Guatemalan conversion of old American, yellow school buses. Once they’ve come to the end of their usefulness in the USA they are driven south through Mexico to Guatemala, where they are transformed. Fantastic designs and a riotous rainbow of colour replace the yellow to create a very distinctive Guatemalan vehicle. Roof racks are then attached to house stacks of luggage and baskets of chickens.
There is no such thing as maximum capacity on these buses and passengers are rammed into every available space. Seats that used to house just two wee children now have three adults, two children, a few chickens and maybe a pig or two. As the buses careen and corner at high speed, a sort of mobile village takes place as Mexican soap operas play on the overhead TV and the collective mass start bartering their various cargo. Often they will reach the market they have chosen to sell their wares at, with nothing left to sell, having completed trading on the bus.
We recommend when travelling around Guatemala to keep an eye on these crazy chariots, they will often be seen, swiftly passing you and you may see someone precariously climbing atop the speeding vehicle to grab a piece of luggage, or if you are lucky you may see a chicken make a break for freedom.
People often ask Anton why he crosses the road. He invariably answers, “to see what’s on the other side”. A committed researcher and trip planner, Anton’s respect for local transportation is unwavering. So much so that in December he’s driving a rickshaw 3500 km from the top of India to the toe. And you thought chicken bus drivers were crazy.