Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Riding the Chicken Bus

I finally made it to Gracias on Monday evening. The original name of the town is Gracias a Dios, which is an appropriate name for a town which took me 13 hours to reach, the last two of which were spent in the rain and cold in the back of a pickup truck with six other weary travellers. Transportation throughout Central America is often in what is lovingly referred to by backpackers as chicken buses. These are retired US school buses fitted with luggage racks and bars on the ceiling to be held by the people who ride standing up. Drivers take on passengers regardless of how full the bus already is, so it can be a pretty cramped ride, and it is always a bouncy and usually uncomfortable one (especially if you wind up in the seat with the tire hump--remember that from your school days?) I suppose they are called chicken buses because in these, as opposed to in regular, coach-type buses, you can bring anything on it that you need to transport. I shared bus space with many a chicken in South America, but as yet I haven´t actually seen any on chicken buses. I have seen sacks of rice, beans, coconuts, coffee, oranges, and other foods, but no animals as yet. I´m sure it´s just a matter of time.

So, i took buses from Danlí to Tegucigalpa to La Esperanza and to San Juan, then along with everybody else, grabbed the next passing pickup to Gracias. It wasn´t what I was expecting, but apparently there are only a couple of actual buses per day that go there, and the rest of the time everyone just hitches. As we were (finally) pulling into Gracias, we came to the site of an accident: another truck had hit and killed a very large cow, which was lying in the road. We stopped, our driver got out and there was much discussion of whether or not they could still use the cow´s meat, and whether the cow´s owner had to pay for the damage to the truck, or the truck´s owner had to pay for the cow. There was no debate over how to remove the cow from the road, which to me seemed the greatest mystery of all.

Yesterday, after a well-deserved long night´s sleep, I went with some people I had met at dinner to the nearby national park for a hike. The park is in the cloud forest, and on days with particularly bad weather (like yesterday) the entire view is of cloud. So where on our map it said "beautiful views" or "view of waterfall" we just saw white. But it was a good hike anyway, and nice to get some exercise after being pretty lazy for a couple of weeks. Today I took a few more chicken buses and finally arrived this evening at Copán Ruinas, the town nearest the ruins of the Mayan city of Copán. I´ll visit the ruins tomorrow and then wander around the town to see what it has to offer.