Of Chicken Buses and Avocados Growing on Trees

On the way from Santa Clara to San Pablo
Yesterday, I rode a chicken bus for the first time. ‘Chicken bus?’, you might wonder. Well, they’re old American school buses, painted and decorated joyfully, but typically crammed with way too many people. Just like chicken stuffed into a truck.
The night before, Rubén asked me whether I wanted to join him tomorrow on a trip he had to do for this work – he is working with the forestry association and regularly has to visit villages around the lake, hand out licenses allowing people to cut wood in certain areas, control the condition of the forest, etc. Thanks to my not so advanced Spanish skills and my tendency to just say ‘sí’ to everything they ask me, I ended up agreeing to this trip without even knowing. Not that I didn’t want to come but I was a little overwhelmed in the morning when they told me we were leaving in five minutes.
Anyway, we were waiting at the ‘bus station’ at the intersection where our house is located (my bedroom windows are right there, yippie) and hopped on a chicken bus to Santa Clara around 8 am (Q5). From here, we took a shuttle to Palestina (Q3). The chicken bus we took was nothing like the typical chicken bus experience you hear so many stories of. As it was the middle of the morning, most people were already at work and so the bus was quite empty. But: it was a scary ride nonetheless. Steep hills, tiny and sharp curves, narrow and destroyed roads (bumpy is a word that’s too weak for parts of these roads) and huge buses which probably wouldn’t make the German TÜV quality control – all in all: One wrong move and your bus would be sliding down hundreds of meters of steep hills right next to Lago Atitlán.

A pick-up truck in Santiago Atitlán
Safely arrived in Palestina, we walked around this little pueblo (village) with its small, one-story houses and beautiful gardens to visit the first coffee farmer. We took a shuttle a bit further down to another village and walked up a hill into the forest. You didn’t even have to be too quiet and you could already hear the millions of mosquitoes flying around. Making our way down to another village, I saw my first coffee trees. Unbelievable that such aromatic coffee comes from those trees. The economic situation in the villages up in the mountain on the other side of San Juan/San Pedro is really bad, and so we would see a lot of poor people living in small huts without running water. Despite their tight budget, however, they wouldn’t hesitate to run up the street to the one ‘tienda’ (shop) in their tiny village and get us two Pepsis while offering us to rest a bit with them.
To return to San Juan, we hopped on the back of a pick-up truck in Santa Clara and road all the way to San Pablo standing up with around ten women and a few kids all standing with us (Q5). The ride on the chicken bus was already an adventure but riding on that pick-up truck, standing up, that was another thing entirely. However, after a while, I dared letting go of the railing and took out my camera to take a picture of this crazy ride. Here it is:

Kind of windy on that pick-up truck
While we were walking around the area, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of avocado trees and avocados lying around on the ground, rotting – my favorite food just lying there on the ground. In Germany, I pay around 2€ for a semi-good avocado – they’ll just never taste as good as fresh from the tree. At the market in Antigua, I paid around Q3 (0,27€) for an avocado. In the villages around the lake, three to five avocados cost around Q1 (0,07€). Heaven on Earth! Luckily, when we returned from our trip at 2.30 pm, lunch was ready: Eggs with rice and fresh avocados (and, needless to say, corn tortillas). Yummy!

Leave a Reply