Adventure Behind the Wheel


Those that have traveled abroad in developing countries have likely been awed, or terrified, by the driving techniques employed by local bus and taxi drivers. There´s nothing quite like the thrill of passing a semi around a blind corner into oncoming traffic on the side of a mountain. I was so inspired by the reckless driving skills on display here in Guatemala that I just had to try it for myself.

While we were in Antigua a few weeks back, we rented a car to make the three hour drive up to Western Highlands of Lake Atitlan and great market in the Mayan town of Chichicastenango. The route took us up the Central American highway for most of the way, a fine two-lane road that is patrolled by a surprising amount of police. I´m fairly sure none of them are armed with scanners, however.

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Driving here does require a bit of aggression if you ever want to get anyplace, as the speed of traffic varies wildly between overloaded trucks and speeding buses (By the way, Guatemala´s famous chicken buses earned the name not because of the poultry on board, but because of the classic road game, which we played with them several times, and always lost.)
Things went smoothly on the highway, but by the time we reached the local road to Chichicastenango, we were plunged down a narrow road winding around absurdly steep, blind curves. For these turns, its best to turn the radio down and listen for the honk, the lone sign that a truck is barrelling around the curve, taking up both lanes and slowing down for no one. The steep grades also mean you will inevitably be caught behind a struggling old diesel belching exhaust and making very little headway uphill. It´s hear that you´ll have to decide whether it´s worth taking your life in your hands to make the blind pass or spend the rest of your afternoon gagging on this guy´s fumes. Just pray there isn´t a bus driver faced with the same decision around the next corner.

Oh, and ALWAYS pay the extra five bucks for the full insurance coverage. It´s well worth the peace of mind.