What happens to yellow school buses retired from commission in the United States?
They start a new colorful life as Chicken Buses in Guatemala. The chicken bus or “camioneta” as locals refer to it, is the main mode of local transportation between towns, villages and cities especially in the western part of Guatemala. Usually, taking the chicken bus is the cheapest option for travelling for any distance. These buses started their lives as yellow school buses from USA or Canada, when these buses reach the age of ten years or 150, 000 miles, they are sold at auction.
A lot of these buses are acquired and driven down thru Mexico, Guatemala and other Central American countries, where they are given their second lives. Contrary to their simple and unembellished first lives as yellow buses transporting kids to school, these buses transformed as a gaudy, flashy and decorated chicken buses carrying passengers, loaded with roof racks full of cargos and driving in excessive speed while swerving over mountain passes.
These buses sport vibrant paint consisting of colorful murals, the bus’ name and permanent route. Each bus reflects the owner and driver’s personal style, be it love, machismo, religion, national pride, or some combination thereof. It isn’t rare to find a sticker of a hot women pasted above a bible verse or framed picture of Jesus. The old yellow paint is coated with bright colors and often adorned with murals of religious motifs and mantras.
The interior of the chicken buses are modified to accommodate more passengers. Bench seats are altered, wherein there is limited legroom especially for gringo knees that guarantees a bruise or two. They are called “chicken bus” by tourists because they are stuffed with people, that even the bus has reached its maximum seating capacity, bus drivers keep on loading more, plus the cargos on top of the roof of the bus. Not to mention, the chances of having real chickens in the bus is often, locals transport their live-stocks with them in the same bus as well.
Adding all these, the ride gives a similar scene to live-stock being transported from one place to another, all cramped up to maximize the space. Camioneta are staffed by a driver and an “ayudante” (helper). The ayudante is responsible for ticketing the passengers, arranging the cargos, calling more passengers along the way and announcing destinations.
With the high-speed of the chicken bus and driving techniques of the driver such as overtaking around a blind corner on a narrow road on the top of a hill, it feels like you’re having the ride of your lifetime. This is why many locals named it as “cementerio en movimiento” (moving cemetery), for the high risk of having an accident along the way.
The best spot to catch a Chicken Bus is to head to the town’s bus terminal and wait patiently with other passengers. The buses don’t run on any kind of timetable. They usually come and go and the frequency depends on how heavily populated are areas are.
If you ever visit Guatemala, make sure you take a ride on a Chicken Bus. Checkout this nice do’s and do not guide to travelling in a chicken bus.
1. Watch YouTube Video of Chicken Bus World Record Part 1
2. Watch YouTube Video of Chicken Bus World Record Part 2
3. Watch YouTube Video of Chicken Bus World Record Part 3
4. Watch YouTube Video of Chicken Bus World Record Part 4
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H/T: TransportGuatemala.com , themixedculture.com & Wikipedia.com