Room for One More
I’ve ridden in them all: all shapes and sizes and with whatever accessories. The easiest of them all is the Guatemalan “camión”, the large, two-axel trucks which transport equipment, products and people. It is also my daily transport into the finca where I work. I wake up at 4:45 to catch it as it enters, usually at 5:30. In my morning ride there is always plenty of room to sit or stand, whichever I desire to do that morning. If I leave in the afternoon on the same vehicle with the same people, it’s usually the same situation. Recently, this ride has been replaced with a large pickup truck that has a cage with no back, which is where I now find myself. (Continue reading)
When I leave from the other finca, however, the story changes completely. Luckily, I’m usually one of the last to get on. This just means that I am not buried on the inside with everybody else breathing under the covered top which doesn’t allow for any ventilation. At the back end, though, it can be uncomfortable when it rains as the back is poorly covered.
Once in a while I find myself riding on some tractor. I’ll ride in the trailer or over one of the wheels or on the part where the trailer connects to the tractor (I forget what it’s called). The tractors give off quite a bit of smog which chokes a bit, but it’s just a short, fun ride.
There are basically two types of pickup trucks in Guatemala. Ones with a “cage” over the bed and ones without. The point of the cage is to keep people and cargo from falling out, and it really is like a cage: bars all around that reach up to my mid-chest but without a top. In a regular-size pickup, maybe some 25 people can fit inside, with a few more on the back holding onto the bars and standing on the lowered hatch. This is usually, and preferably, where I find myself when it becomes crowded. In Guatemala, there’s always room for one more.
The pickups with out cages are a little trickier. They require a lot of balance and, in some cases, teamwork, especially when there are some 12, 14, or more sitting back there. In one of my previous blogs I wrote about the teamwork required to leave safely. Everybody has to grab on to somebody, some part of a body, to keep from falling out. Recently I found myself sitting on top of one of 3 barrels in the bed of a pickup that were going to be filled with diesel. It was the only spot left because the inside was already filled and there were already 5 others in the back. So I took out my sheet of nylon (also used as a raincoat/umbrella/shower curtain/and any other waterproofing), placed it on top of the one barrel and enjoyed the ride.
Public transportation is another story. The infamous “Chicken Buses”, or camioñetas, aren’t difficult, but you can be squished by swarms of people, baggage, corn, and chickens. Sometimes the numerous passengers are welcome, especially on the curvy roads where the drivers do not bother using their brakes. The people act as support so as to not fall out of the seat and maybe as cushioning if there were to be an accident.
The micro-buses are almost the same as the camioñetas in that it’s public transportation that can fill up all the way. But, like I said, there’s always room for one more. I have sat everywhere in the micros that go to and from my little aldea. Front seat, backseat, all the way in the back and standing on the inside. I have also been everywhere on the outside. The most common is with the sliding door open and me, usually with others, holding onto the top rack or inside sliding track, standing on the foot rail. I have also been on the ladder that leads to the rack and on the rack itself. My favorite was probably when all of these positions were already taken. I looked and planned carefully as the micro was deciding it maybe couldn’t actually fit one more. So, I jumped up and sat on the sliding door’s open window, holding onto the rack and feet swinging happily all the way home.
In Guatemala, there is always room for one more.