…Could’ve Gone By Chicken Bus, But I was Too Chicken

Retired school bus lives on in Guatemala.

Retired school bus lives on in Guatemala.

The main method of transportation in Guatemala and other Latin American countries is by chicken bus.  I am not sure if the name comes from the fact that chickens may be seen on the roof racks or because the people are stuffed inside like chickens in a crate. Chicken buses are actually modified retired school buses from the United Sates. People have made a career of going to the  US auctions to buy the buses and drive them through mexico to be modified and painted.  The job is extremely dangerous because of gangsters along the route or corrupt police demanding money.  Transport drivers have been murdered and buses burned. Apparently even once at their home location the driver’s job is difficult with extortion  or protection fees to be made to various unscrupulous groups.

When bought the buses are usually between 8 and 10 years old with lots of service life left.  They are first stripped and modified with roof racks and heavy bumpers then painted bright colors and lots of chrome added.

Lots of chrome.

Lots of chrome. Gone is the yellow.

Generally the buses travel at high-speed with drivers either wanting to beat other buses to the next pick up location or to be able to make more trips in one day. We witnessed buses making turns on the highway at speeds that looked very unsafe.

This bus passes our van then leans into the corner at high speed.

This bus passes our van then leans into the corner at high speed. Notice the name on the back. Most buses had a ladies name like a ship.

All buses have a driver and a helper called the ayudante. The ayudante’s job is to help people on, get the luggage on quickly, collect the money and to shout out the destination of the bus when it is stopped. The ayudante could usually be seen standing in the open doorway of the bus even as it was speeding along the highway. In Antigua the yelling of the ayudante was a common sound.

The ayudante or helper stands in door of crowded chicken bus.

The ayudante or helper stands in door of crowded chicken bus.

Buses might leave their small village at 4 or 5 a.m. to get to markets in Antigua or Guatemala City. Hundreds park waiting for day end return.

Buses might leave their small village at 4 or 5 a.m. to get to markets in Antigua or Guatemala City. Hundreds park waiting for day end return.

Hey! Wait a minute...Is that Carefree Ken?

Hey! Wait a minute…Is that Carefree Ken?

Close ups shows fine detail.

Close up shows fine detail.

Makes our buses seem pretty boring.

Makes our buses seem pretty boring.

 

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