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Road Wars – Day 4

Posted by | Evil Kristos | January 20, 2009 | No Comments

I think I mentioned that I didn’t particularly like Antigua. It may have to do with the fact hat whenever you want to do something there is someone holding up his hand and wants money. It’s ridiculous. I was looking forward to move on and especially since my next destination was the very reason why I came to Guatemala in the first place: Lago Atitlan.

Since it is quite difficult to get there with a chicken bus I booked a shuttle. It cost 80 Qetzal which is more or less 10 USD. Since it takes almost 3 hours to get to Panajachel – my first destination at Lake Atitlan – I consider the price OK.

The main square in Antigua

The main square in Antigua

The shuttle bus turned out to be a shitty mini van and not just that; it was also packed. These things are build for midgets in the first place, packing them with 12 people my size is not a good idea at least when it comes to comfort. They want to make money so I don’t blame. I’d do the same.

The roads in Antigua are cobblestone with loads of speed bumps. After about two minutes in the vehicle I started to feel my back. Not good! After cruising around for a little while we finally left Antigua and all the people in the bus were glad. At least now we were on a paved road.

What I suspected in Antigua already turned out to be true. The driver of this mini van had issues; and I mean serious issues. As long as we went uphill the lack of a decent engine power prevented him from doing something too stupid but that changed the second we went downhill.

Going around sharp bends on a winding road downhill with squeaking tires is not my idea of a relaxed ride. Also; doing 100 km/h but closing up to the vehicle in front of us up to a point where we could read the fine print on the other vehicles number plate is something I find not just stupid but also dangerous and crazy. And this was only the beginning.

There seem to be no rules on Guatemalan roads whatsoever. As long as you drive fast no one is complaining, ignoring pedestrian and cyclists is compulsory though If they are crazy enough to be on the road that’s there problem. Overtaking left as well as on the right side is perfectly normal and no; this was not a dual lane highway. It’d be really interesting to know how many people do get killed on these roads, I mean percentage wise. I did not feel safe.

At the next bigger town we got stuck in a traffic jam. Although we weren’t exactly moving I was petrified. The traffic was moving painfully slow, cars were crawling bumper to bumper, still other cars tried to push in. Since no one would let them they pushed in anyways. While we were slowly progressing a chicken bus passed us on high speed on the right. This annoyed a 4WD driver so he started to overtake on the left. Just to make ths clear, the actual traffic jam with us in it was still there and not moving at all. They just decided they can’t be arsed anymore and tried to skip the queue.

While the bus was now closing in on a parked vehicle the SUV had incoming traffic. No one would give in so eventually the pushed their way back into the lane. I still can’t believe no innocent bystander was killed in this incident. It seems to be perfectly normal.

Guatemala has a lot more traffic than I expected. Compared to other countries it probably still is little but there are fewer roads so you still feel like rush hour in L.A.

The thing you have to see in order to believe it is the pollution. We had to close the windows because we couldn’t take it anymore. It’s not the amount of cars that is the problem, it is the kind of cars. If it needed any further proof that an old Toyota pickup is indestructible Guatemala would deliver it. The amount of exhaust fumes these things can produce is astonishing. The chicken busses that in a former live served as school busses in the US are bad. The black clouds they are emitting especially uphill would make a steam engine proud however; an old pickup beats them easily. If they would even try to pass an NCT with one of these vehicles in Europe they would get shot.

For the first hour or so I was terrified. I seriously thought that I will die or at least suffer some horrible injuries in an accident. Once we left the main highway and raced the side roads I started to feel better. I am not sure if this was due to the fact that I thought I will die anyways but I started to enjoy it.

While first we were driving through god forsaken villages, ugly, filthy, noisy and polluted, we now hit some serious countryside. Guatemala is a beautiful country. There is no doubt about it. Up and down mountains, cutting corners and sharp bends, the bus driver more and more desperate since he still hadn’t managed to kill someone, it was cool.

On a sharp bend on a steep hill the car actually lost traction. This was too much for one of the girls on the bus. She started vomiting which amused the bus driver immensely and encouraged him to go even more crazy. You get the picture.

When we reached th top of the last mountain the environment suddenly changed. It was pretty before but now it was stunning. We all knew we were getting close. Lake Atitlan, what an astonishing beauty. I’ll tell you more about this tomorrow. After surviving that bus ride I really need a pint.

Lago Atitlan

Lago Atitlan


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