Brutal Bus Rides: 2, Quetzaltenango to HueHuetenango, Guatemala.

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What the bloody hell are you doing?

Are you trying to get us all killed?

Slow down you maniac. This yellow American school bus is probably older than me and should have been put down years ago, not thrown around blind corners into oncoming traffic on a narrow, pot-holed road sitting atop a 200 metre sheer drop.

Slow down driver.

Noone’s in a hurry. Well, they might have been but their plans were ruined when the bus crawled out of the terminal hours after than its ‘scheduled’ departure, only to stop 20 minutes later.

So that’s why you were carrying a spanner in one hand while driving, a disconcerting sight for anyone boarding a bus. It’s to fix the bus every time it breaks down, as it did at the 20 minute mark, the 35 minute mark and again, and again…

Not at a rest stop, or a roadside cafe, or a scenic lookout, just at some random patch of the road which blocked traffic in both directions for an unspecified length of time. Long enough to watch the two young male attendants punching each other in the nether regions, much to their own amusement and the amusement of the passengers; who needs on board movies?

Clearly you’re trying to make up for time you’ve spent with the bonnet open and your head buried in the hissing engine, utilizing the tool you clutch while throwing the bus around these blind corners, to apply a temporary fix which will carry the bus to its next breakdown.

The first 20 minutes were an adrenaline rush and maybe even exciting but hour after hour of dangerous speeding and reckless driving is just draining and frustrating and nerve wracking, especially after noticing the elongated finger nail on your pinkie, which in Central America usually indicates an involvement with the use or sale of cocaine, or whatever substance it is you’ve been snorting up your nose since we departed; and you’re definitely no Olympic weightlifter.

Slow down.

We’d rather arrive alive. That’s why we’re clutching the seat in front of us and glancing at the hardened Guatemaltecos who themselves are starting to look nervous, and pray, as you throw the bus around another precipitous bend in the road and remind us of the sobering number of people who die annually in bus crashes in this part of the world.

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As they say in Mexico, ‘Vamos de GuateMALA a GuatePEOR’ – yes, we are going from bad to worse.

Slow down.

It’s even more dangerous driving at dusk and into the evening, because like this old hunk of yellow metal, many of the vehicles coming the other way also lost the use of their headlights years ago.

Finally he slowed down, as the clunking, yellow beast belched and hissed into the terminal at Huehuetenango at some point in the evening. I don’t know what time, I just know I was alive and that it was cold and dark.

After such an ordeal, at least the hostel offered the solace of a slow dripping, freezing cold shower and a hard, lumpy mattress.

Images: Rachelle Blake. 

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