Man vs The Chicken Bus

Justin Wegiel May 18, 2012 7
Man vs The Chicken Bus

We were somewhere near Panajachel in the heart of Guatemala, when the fear and the loathing began to take hold.

A transport truck had jack-knifed on the main highway leading to Central America’s largest market, Chichicastenengo and our chicken bus, now too far-gone into our journey to turn back, had no other option but to risk the lives of 15 carefree back-packers on a ride we would not soon forget.

Our tyrannical driver, high on his own authority and burning diesel fumes, assured his passengers (minions) he knew another “local” route and insisted we push on. He then pointed our chariot straight into the face of certain death, dialed the Latino hip hop to 11, and with a devilish grin, steered the group onward.

It was at that moment that the skies opened up in a fit of rage. Our leisurely Sunday drive to market, although travelling north, went south in an instant. We fought tooth and nail battling severe vision problems from the insane torrent of rain pounding down upon us. Our dictator, unwavering in his decision to carry on, continued to put pedal to metal and was picking up speed with every blind corner.

I remember thinking to myself that this tired old dirt road barely wide enough to accommodate a wheel barrel, planked by sheer drops hundreds of feet deep, was our only “straight line from point A to point B”? Surely there had to be another way.

At one point we took a vote – do we get out and walk through Hurricane Pedro? But regardless of popular vote, this was no democratic bus ride. We were all at the mercy of our oppressor with little to no influence over his decision making.

Luckily, I had come prepared with enough Gallo’s (the local brew) to last me and my colleague well into the trek. Not only did this help ease the general mood on board, it also helped pass the time.

And with every empty bottle, another little white cross seemed to whizz by.


  1. Ashley May 18, 2012 at 10:34 am - Reply

    I rode one of these in Nicaragua a few years ago. It was through Managua too, so although there wasn’t a hurricane I could have used some Tona to get through the driver’s idea of “merging” with traffic.

  2. Justin Wegiel May 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    LOL – I hear you loud and clear Ashley.

    At one point of the drive the driver actually got up while the bus was still in motion and switched duties with the guy collecting the fares.


  3. Ashley May 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    They must have bigger cojones in Central America! At least he couldn’t keep his foot on the gas while switching spots with the other guy, right? I probably would have been screaming obscenities.

  4. Justin Wegiel May 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    At least he couldn’t keep his foot on the gas while switching spots with the other guy, right?

    - You know what, I’ve never even thought of it that way. Are you a lawyer?

  5. Ashley May 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Not even close! I also work in the travel and tourism industry. I just try to see things from all angles ;)

  6. Colleen Setchell May 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Sounds traumatising and amazing all at once. Glad you survived your trip and were able to share the adventure with us.
    Happy and safe travels…

  7. Justin Wegiel May 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Hey Colleen, it’s all part of the adventure isn’t it? It’s not the destination it’s the journey :)

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