|Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of modern Guatamala City we arrived in the oasis of the charming old colonial city of Antigua. Our first "chicken bus" experience was a hair raising experience, almost as much fun as a ride at Canada's Wonderland. It came as a surprise when the taxi pulled into a station full of the brightly coloured buses bound for Antigua but we had heard much about the experience from others at the marina. We were immediately herded onto one, our luggage stowed up top. We sat up front behind the driver for a great view of the ride.
It seems that the objective of the chicken bus is to pack as many people as possible on to the bus in as short a time and race as fast as possible along the route. These drivers are not paid by the hour and each one has a partner who stands on the bottom step leaning out the open doorway, casing the roadsides for prospective passengers. "Antigua, Antigua, San Lucas, San Lucas, Antigua" he shouted out the whole way. When a passenger is spotted the bus screeches to a stop barely long enough for them to climb on and then peels off again, not waiting nicely for people to get seated or accelerating gently like we are used to. Time is money here and these guys waste no time. There are buses everywhere, all swervng in and around each other to gain a few seconds. Horns fill the air, our bus had a really loud air horn that he leaned on frequently, blending nicely with the Spanish music playing on the radio. At one point our driver locked the bus up, burning rubber and sending people lurching around the bus as he stopped for a last minute passenger.
At busy stops vendors jump on to the bus, selling their wares, candy, ice cream, snacks, hats etc, jumping off the next time the bus stops.
We arrived at the dusty, fumy, noisy bus station in the not so nice part of town. Our plan was to walk a short distance to the tourist office located centrally alongside the Parque which marks the centre of town. There are many hotels available, in every price range.
We were quite a sight, pulling our bright red gringo luggage along the cobblestone streets, up and down steep curbs and obstacles along the way. There is nobody to sue here if you fall into a big hole and break your neck and there are plenty of big holes and dangerous obstacles.
We rolled our bags around a body sprawled out on the ground across the sidewalk. I assumed at first he was passed out drunk but as we practically stepped over him I noticed that a pool of blood was forming under him. I paused slightly, the natural first reaction wanting to stop and help but John hurried me along, alert to the possibility that we were stumbling apon an incident still in progress. He felt very uncomfortable walking with our luggage, computer bag for the old laptop and new laptop still in the box.
We quickly made our way to the tourist office and armed with more information continued on our hunt for a nice room at a reasonable rate. It was a daunting task along the busy cobblestone street laden down with luggage. I would go in and look whle John stayed with the bags, since my Spanish is a little better. When we found Posada San Sebastian I sent John up to second my vote for the room I had just fallen in love with.