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MARTIN

Half the fun? ........The travel for the day can be summed up in three words: Convenience, Comfort (or the lack thereof) and Chaos.

Convenience .....As promised, Luis, who sold me the ticket in Flores, Guatemala, was at my hotel with a taxi to take me to the bus terminal. He got me to the station and gave instructions to the driver to take me to my connection for Copan. The bus left on time and headed south to Chiquimula.

The bus was called "first class", but I really was not convinced. Yes, there was air conditioning which I greatly appreciated. I was told there was a toilet, but I never had to check that out. There were no assigned seats. You got what you got, and for many people, it was standing room only. I cannot be convinced that anyone must stand in "first class".

MARTIN
MARTIN
Chicken buses are frequently recycled US school buses.

Once or twice, there were bus stops when people got off to buy food. I wasn't about to lose my treasured seat. I sat put, for eight hours, very thankful that a few people entered the bus to sell goodies like banana chips and pineapple. Still, eight hours in the seat was not comfortable. I didn't want to stand in the aisle, but it still wasn't comfortable.

Almost to our destination, the bus stopped. I never learned the problem, but we parked on the wrong side of a mountain curve (Is there a right one?) for about a half an hour. Very fortunately, police happened to be parked just ahead of us. They came to safely direct traffic. A group of gringos eventually got out of the bus and decided to hitch a ride. When they got one, I grabbed my bags and tried the same. It was less than ten minutes and I was in Chiquimula's downtown colorful market.

One very friendly man directed me to the bus going to the Honduras border. I was off and on my merry way in a matter of minutes. This form of transport, called a chicken bus, will be talked about later. However, I did see a woman with a handbag that moved and clucked. It was zipped up tightly so it didn't smell.

In a town I'd never remember, I was escorted from my van and put in a second one. Without any waiting, I was on my way to the Honduras border. Like I said, it was so very convenient.

Comfort (or lack thereof) .....I already mentioned that eight hours in the bus was not comfortable at all. Well, remember, that was the "first class" bus. There were other forms of transport, used almost exclusively by the local people that nobody would called "first class". I'd been in Jeepneys (the Philippines), money buses (Liberia) and tap taps (Haiti) before so I knew all about uncomfortable public transportation. The one strange thing I noticed on these chicken buses was that I had plenty of headroom. At six feet tall, that hadn't been the case in most of the world.

However, what I had in headroom was made up for in every other direction. The chicken buses I rode in were both vans meant to hold 15 people. Counting infants and small children, I rode with at least 25 people. That meant the driver's seat, built for three, had three adults, a child and an infant. My row, which ever so briefly held three people, was extremely comfortable. Well, it was until the fourth person squeezed in. I moved from cushion that fit me perfectly to a hump in the middle of my seat. It separated cheeks perfectly, but there was no cure for the pain until someone left. And, it eventually happened. I then looked at the man next to me and told him (in Spanish) that it was better. He agreed (in French).

Chaos .....On the way to the border, once again I was crammed into a space with four adults that should have only held three. When one man finally left, I stretched out my leg so far that the Honduran man next to me smiled and spoke in English. He and his girlfriend were delightful. And, I was distracted.

Just like at any border crossing, I had to get out and go to immigrations. I did this with no problem on the Guatemalan side. Then, I looked at my new Honduran friend and asked, "Where is the bus?" I thought the same bus would take us on to Copan Ruinas . In reality, it only went as far as the border. My bus, with my luggage on top, had already turned around and headed to parts unknown. I'd never left my luggage like this before. I raced back into Guatemala, but like I said, my luggage was long gone. It was mainly clothing. It was all replaceable. There would not be much sentimental loss. The real goodies were in my backpack. So, this kept me calm. Still, I needed some clothes.

One man aware of the situation suggested I go to the police station across the street.

Now, my Spanish is terrible, but if my listeners are patient, I can tell anyone pretty much anything that needed to be communicated. And, this was one of those times when I really needed to communicate. I walked into the police station and said I had a problem. Then, I explained the whole situation.

I didn't think there was much hope in getting my luggage back. First, I would need a ride to the previous town whose name I couldn't remember. Even if I did find my way back to that colorful market, I held little hope in locating an elusive chicken bus that I wouldn't recognize. By the time I got to the market, I imagined the driver would already be at home with my luggage, passing clothes out to friends and family. Well, they wouldn't enjoy the clothing until most of it was washed. I needed laundry service and very soon!

Well, the police were very calm. This probably wasn't the first time for this to happen to a tourist at the border. The officer I talked to knew the van was white and that my bag was blue. He pulled out is cell phone and called ahead to the next police checkpoint. They could gather up the luggage when the van came to their checkpoint.

MARTIN
MARTIN

And, it worked out just that way!

As we waited, I bought the two officers a cola. Twenty minutes later, two more officers arrived, with my bag in hand. I shook hands with everyone and then had to take their picture. Everyone smiled. Everyone probably had a good laugh at the foolish Gringo's expense. And, everyone surely knew they made my day.

The final leg from the border to Copan Ruinas was complete bliss. Most people probably never thought that could be possible, but I had my luggage and the entire back seat to myself.

MARTIN
Copyright 2014 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.