July 31, 2009
Antigua, Guatemala to Juayua, El Salvador

I now have a travel friend and we decided to head south into El Salvador. After a quick breakfast, after me insisting on picking up an AMAZING brownie made by JP, a bar owner in Antigua from New Orleans, we head over to get on a chicken bus for Guatemala City. This is my first chicken bus and I am sad to report that there were no chickens on this particular bus.

A bumpy hour later, we arrive at the biggest city in Central America, Guatemala city. Now, I have been told that Guatemala city is a dump and very sketchy, I have to admit that there was a part of me that thought about coming in for the day (this was pre- El Salvador) just see what kind of cluster fuck it really is. Well, let's just say that there really is no need to see it. A dirty, messy, charm less city, much like many I have been through.

A taxi to another bus terminal for another chicken bus to the boarder. The chicken bus are old yellow school bus that used to drive children to and from school in the US, after X number of years, they get retired and they get send down here in Central America. Some guy buys it, paint it multicolored, and they will cram as many passengers on to it as possible. What I am most impressed by is the guy who is in charged of the fare on a chicken bus. People come on and off all the time, including from the door that opens straight back from the bus. Sometimes people jump on through the back door while the bus is in motion. How does the ticket taker keep track of who has paid and who needs to pay is a kill beyond my imagination.

Its the raining season here in Central America, afternoon thunder storms is the norm. I have been lucky enough that it has not affected my travel much and also have managed to just duck indoors to wait out the rain. Well, the rain started here in Guatemala around 4pm, a torrential down pour. Its stops for a bit here and there, but by the time we arrive at the El Salvador boarder, it is a massive down pour. I had to tread through ankle deep water to get to the front door of immigration.

After that, its another collectivo that is supposed to take us to the bus which will take us to the biggest town in the region where we have to catch a different bus for our final destination. The collectivo passes through water that must be 6 inches deep, thank you for visiting Guatemala, welcome to El Salvador, then meters into El Salvador, the collectivo stops short. The collectivo can't go any further as there is a major land slide ahead. Boulders the size of small dining room tables are falling down the hill. The other collectivo that we need is on the other side of this mud slide. We put our packs back on and starts walking very quickly but carefully down the road, across the land slide. There is no going back into Guatemala as there is nothing at the boarder. Forward is the only choice.

We get across the mud and giant boulders, get on the collectivo, only to have it sit right by the land slide, making us nervous. Alright, back out on to the road again. It would be safer if we keep on walking than to sit in a non-moving car taking the chance that the land slide would get worst. We get further down the road and clearly there is nothing else coming this way. The collectivo has now collected enough passengers and are coming our way. Thank god!

The El Salvadorians are all super nice and we make some conversation with them about where we are from and where we are going. We get to town, find a bathroom, get 5 conflicting opinions as to if there is still a bus to Juayua and we set off to find the chicken bus station. We were told by 6 different people that it is just around the corner, well, its actually just around about 4 corners, many corners were turned before we finally find the chicken bus that we need.

Wet but excited, it took us 7 hours, 3 chicken buses, 2 collectivos, 1 taxi, 6 inch deep of rain water, a major down pour and a land slide but we have arrived at Juayua at last.

Charlie Grosso

www.charliegrosso.com

310-592-0895

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