Don’t Try This At Home – Dying For Fresh Air on the Chicken Bus

There is a good reason why a chicken bus is called a chicken bus in Guatemala.

Because said buses carry chickens and any other live or dead animals people can carry with them onto the bus. Chicken buses originally come from the United States… they are old school buses that have worn out their welcome in the States only to find a new life in Guatemala. So when you get onto a chicken bus, think old school bus, lots of animals, lots of produce, lots of people.. you know those rules like 2 to 3 to a seat… NOPE… not on a newly reincarnated chicken bus… anything goes.

This is where Guatemala has a lot in common with India.

So after spending all day on a chicken bus to climb up a mountain and then another on the way to Todos Santos, you are not a pretty picture at the end of the trip. What to do when you have to get on that bus all over again to go back?

Well you decide that it is a brilliant idea (you know those ideas when you are in the 20s and nothing will ever happen to you) to avoid the inside of the beyond crowded smelly chicken bus and sit on top of the bus with all the bags instead. And no.. the road is not smooth, flat, properly paved… it is a road (loosely used term again) that winds through the mountains on some pretty intense curves. So at 4 am when the chicken bus arrives in Todos Santos, I hop onto the top with my backpack, sit on who knows what, try to find a spot to hold on and wait for the ride.

How did it go?

It was dark, freezing cold, scary, exhilarating and at the end, I probably thought (with the eyes of a 20 something) that I deserved some kind of Brave Backpacker Badge instead of the (with the eyes of a now 40 something) Brainless Backpacker Badge. You have to remember, these were the days before zip lining, drunken tubing in Laos, full moon parties in Thailand and who knows what else is hot nowadays… but back in the day… way back… this was all we had.

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