|Following a night in Antigua we had the journey from hell up into the mountains. It involved several different ‘Chicken buses’. These are old school busses that have been transported down from Canada and the states and bought and painted in gregarious colours by individuals who then let their bus out to a driver and his bus pimp. They pay the owner a fee for this but whatever money they make on top of this is theirs and hence the quicker they do the journeys with as many people on board as possible, the more money they make themselves. The reason they are called chicken busses is twofold. Firstly they cram as many people on as possible, like battery caged chickens and secondly because the drivers like to play a game of chicken with other chicken busses, which we witnessed and narrowly missed another by inches!
They barely give you enough time to actually get on the bus as they are in such a hurry and when you are on it, if you are lucky enough to get a seat, this is likely to be 4 people on a seat made for 2. If you are really lucky you may get an old Guatemalan guy falling asleep on your shoulder and dribbling! The bus pimp, literally hangs off the bus touting for business and then attempts to move around the bus collecting money which often means several people are piled on top of each other for him to pass through. We were travelling in a group of over a dozen at the time, so you can imagine what fun we had trying to get us all on and off at the appropriate time . . . . . . . . .
After 3 separate chicken busses we stopped at one of the Guatemalan markets, famous for its textiles particularly. Here I very reservedly did very little shopping (unfortunately my rucksack still hasn’t doubled in size so that I can start collecting tat!) but it was fun just wandering around the colourful markets and people watching.
A further 3 chicken busses later we eventually arrived in some mountain village which was to be our home for the next 2 days. We elected to do a “homestay” with a local family. Their normal language is some odd village Guatemalan language but they did speak some Spanish which still was not terribly helpful as our Spanish has not improved. I think we lucked out a little here as a lot of the families in the village seemed to speak English apart from ours, so a lot of hand signals were used. It has proved quite difficult to act out ‘physiotherapist’ and clearly Jb’s impression of one made them assume that I was a bloody masseuse which led to me having to give the whole family a massage (there were 8 of them living in this particular house/shack!).
As I said there were 8 people in our family, the 2 parents and a bunch of kids ranging from 22 to 6. The 15 year old girl seemed to run the house with the mother and they spent their days washing, cooking and cleaning. It’s a really primitive lifestyle but quite simple I suppose. They did have a shower (cold) but the water in the village only reaches certain parts of it every other day and they have 1 sink in which to wash-up, wash clothes, clean teeth etc.
The first night was spent attempting to make conversation from the phrase book (and giving massages!) and eating some beans with the toughest bit of mutton in it that you have ever tried. They serve tortillas with absolutely everything and make them fresh for each meal. We tried to help with this on the second night – suffice to say most of the mixture ended up on the floor but I think we have a photo attached of our lame attempts! Jb got involved in a game of cards with the 2 younger boys, which I think turned into a 3 way version of ‘snap’which funnily enough was not terribly successful but at least was better than the awkward silences at dinner! Dinner the second night was a sort of mutton broth which I won’t bother describing but again served with the tortillas we had attempted to make. Each time the youngest boy got a disfigured tortilla out of the basket to eat he was in absolute hysterics and clearly was taking the piss out of us for our tortilla making skills.
Albeit that the family were very kind and it was ‘an experience’, it was probably 2 of the most awkward days we have spent and we have to admit that we were well ready to move on, and were craving a normal hotel or hostel and a slap up meal in a nice restaurant. Oh, and also we decided to all band together and pay for private transport (which between a group wasn’t much more than the chicken buses), and so avoided bus roulette on the way back!