Cool Kids Sit in the Front Row

Jul 29, 2014

One of the things I knew I was going to miss while away from home is driving. At home I did virtually all the driving. I like to drive. This is not any indication that I am a ‘car guy’ ‘gear head’ or ‘grease monkey.’ Yes I do like Top Gear, but that is because I like British television in general, and it is hilarious.

All that being said, moving from place to place, over ground means riding the bus. Especially in Central America as there is no established train system. As a person used to driving, being a passenger takes a bit of getting used to. Putting your faith that the person behind the wheel of your bus is up to the task can definitely make you a bit uneasy for the duration of the trip.

In Mexico, this was not an issue. None whatsoever. The buses were new (new enough anyway). The drivers were uniformed, polite, and the trip was down major, well-maintained roads.

Not the case from Belize City to Flores Guatemala.

First things first an announcement was made that everyone would need cash once they reached the Belize-Guatemala border. There is an exit fee from Belize of $18 and an entrance fee for Guatemala of $3. Of course there were 7 or 8 people (backpackers of various nationality) that did not have any cash. Morons.

In order to help those idiots, the bus driver (more on him later) started driving through various neighborhoods of the beautiful (dripping with sarcasm) Belize City. This side trip (which did not result in anyone obtaining the hard currency they required) did send us past/through several slums, around traffic circles, clearly not made for a full size bus and through/over a car accident – A motorcycle collided with a car in the dead center of an intersection. As the bus was too large to avoid the scene, we simply ran over the motorcycle, with literally no regard or remorse.


Back from that tangent…


We decided to get the front seats on the bus, partly because those seats tend to be open, partly to be able to see more of our surroundings and we bundled around the countryside, and partly because it is the closest thing to being in the driver seat as it is going to be for me for who knows how long.

This was not a good idea. This is proof positive that ignorance is bliss.


Being upfront gave us a clear view of how mad this experience was. First off the bus itself was not at the height of automotive technology.

It had a broken windshield. Well cracked I guess. But with multiple cracks of varying lengths, I cannot be sure if it would qualify as broken or merely cracked. I do not know the threshold that needs to be crossed to officially alter the description. Either way, the windshield was fucked up.

Additionally I have never seen so many warning lights flashing on a single dashboard in my life. Most notably was a huge flashing warning light that simply read STOP. Constantly blinking and unmistakable. The driver paid it no attention and just forged ahead.

So that driver I mentioned. Well he would not have been employed in Mexico. This dude looks like he was coming off a 36-hour coke and craps bender and was simply driving the bus to make up for what he lost in the two previous nights. He was constantly on the phone and more concerned with the music he was listening to than driving the bus. Beyond finally getting to an ATM for the ass hats who didn’t bring cash, he stopped twice to get food. Once, fair enough, everyone needs to eat and piss. But to stop a second time for more take out is a bit much. He also stopped to complete his weekly grocery shopping, again to pick up presents for his or someone else’s kids. He also stopped at least once to chat with someone he knew along the way and for every local who needed a lift a way down the road.  We also stopped for gas on the outskirts of Flores, 5 minutes from our destination. For an express bus, this guy made an awful lot of stops.

When he wasn’t jamming on the breaks for personal reasons, he would swerve and dodge potholes, overtake slower travelers going uphill at blind corners all while holding his cell phone, the radio remote, shifting and steering. 

On one particularly harrowing stretch of the journey we were thundering down a dirt road that looked like it recently went through a month of bombing runs, I am fairly certain he:

A) Did not apply the breaks once.

B) Spent more time on the wrong side of the road or teetering on the edge of the driving surface than on the correct side.

C) Took 3 separate phone calls and sent at least 2 text messages that I noticed.

D) Nearly killed an elderly bicyclist as it was a better option than hit a pothole.


To his credit he did not kill anyone on the road or any passengers on the bus of which he was in charge.


All this and we conveniently had front row seats. As I see it this is just part of the adventure. 

Category: Activities

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