Chicken Bus Marathon

chicken bus guatemala

There’s always a risk when travelling that you’ll have a bad day. You know it’s going to happen, just not when.

All began peacefully with a journey north via taxi heading to Poptun, Guatemala. En route to Poptun town we intercept the south bound Modesto Mendez bus which was the bus we intended on catching when we arrived in Poptun. Seems it was ahead of schedule. OK, let’s be honest no bus runs to schedule in Central America. Mostly because there is no schedule. Before we know it, all our bags are switched to this bus and we are on our way.

Into Modesto Mendez, which I would call a one horse town, except for that I actually saw two. Our next bus takes off with 20 people on board in a bus designed for a maximum of 8 people. A gravel road starts soon after. An argument ensues with the conductor about the price of the fare we are charged. Unresolved we spend the next 2 hours of the journey wondering if they will hand us over to the gunman who are known to roam these isolated hills.

Our bus was supposed to arrive in Frey Bartholomew de la Casa but the bus stops about 30km short. We are made to change to another bus. This next bus managed to get 30 people into a similar 8 seater bus for a painful hour long trip to Frey. I stood bent halfway leaning over a small family, my left hand and left foot the only means of balancing along the rocky road.

We arrive into Frey at about 12:30pm we are informed buses to our intended destination of Lanquin being finished for the day. Frey being nothing more than a few shacks we negotiated a trip to Coban which is three and a half hours away in yet another over crowded 8 seater van. The bus heads further into the hills and the roads become steep and windy with not much separating us from gorges hundreds of metres below. Both my legs go to sleep at this point and I’ve forgotten what it is like to move.

The chaos in and around the Central American bus stops

Numerous stops to load and reload passengers, chickens, eggs, potatoes and to round up more passengers at each town to fill every last inch of space on board. Eventually arrive into Coban where we’ve finally decided to stay the night to attempt the trip to Lanquin in the morning. We are dropped at a garage and we enquire where the Lanquin bus leaves from in the morning. Surprisingly, we are informed that a bus to Lanquin is leaving right now so we just manage to get blood flowing in our limbs before being crammed in to yet another bus with half the people of Guatemala.

We move through even steeper, windier roads before it starts to rain heavily. Around about the same time the asphalt ends and we are on a very rocky and now muddy road. The darkness at least hiding the steep ravines on the roadside.

Eventually we arrive into Lanquin and get dropped at ‘El Retiro’ lodge which seems deserted from the road and set in the middle of a jungle. We walk around from one hut to another to arouse some attention from anyone. Eventually we are ushered down a steep hill towards a rushing river (which we can only hear) and we enter a huge cabana full of travellers, The beer is flowing, cards are being played, music blaring and dinner about to be served!

A great soup, pizza combo washed down with a well earned Gallo cerveza. Still pinching ourselves that this exists all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. Semuc Champey being the drawcard to this location but we are still unsure what Semuc Champey actually is.

About The Author

Warren Dobe

Ever since venturing out the back gate into the bush as a kid, I've had a curiosity to escape and explore as often as I could. It's fair to say that my curiosity has continued to grow instead of fade as the years go on. Sixty countries later it was about time to turn a few scribbled notes into some legible stories and tips to share for anyone with a similar curiosity as me.

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