by L Egle of Chicky Bus
The Mexican bus driver – the busero – pulled out of the parking lot. Immediately I noticed that the bottom half of the bus wasn’t attached to the top, nor was the steering connected. At least, that’s how it felt as it shook, rattled and rolled.
Each time the busero (a Mexican version of Mario Andretti) took a turn, the bus threatened to come apart. Like an old body whose bones are brittle, this bus felt as if it had seen its day. This is going to be a long and hellish night, I thought.
When we reached the hills and eventually the mountains, I began shaking more than the bus. Then, midway up the mountains, I was completely engulfed with fear. Each time the road curved, the driver got too close to the edge. Although it was dark, moonlight illuminated just enough to see what was down below. And it scared the hell out of me. I’m going to die on this bus, I thought.
How I ended up on the bus was quite simple. Greed. I’d met a Mexican couple on Puerto Escondido and – despite two other bus options – the departure time of this bus gave me ‘just a few more hours on the beach,’ more time with my friends, one more sunset … one last sunset? But this bus wasn’t listed in the Lonely Planet – I’d heard about it from some locals. Perhaps that should have been a red flag, but, greedy for more time with new friends, I ignored all warnings.
Too late now, though, I thought to myself as I clung to the seat. My main wish was that “it” would be fast and painless. I didn’t want to suffer if we went over the cliff. Whatever happens … however it happens … I just hope it’s fast, I thought. And even though I’m not religious, I began to pray. To whichever god I could think of.
The maniacal busero pulled over at a rest stop for some Coca Cola. He’ll keep driving fast, but at least he won’t fall asleep, I thought, hoping to focus on something positive. A French couple that I recognized from the seat in front of mine, found their way over to me. They were both chain smoking with shaking hands. I asked them for a cigarette even though I don’t smoke, but I needed something – anything – to take the edge off.
We got back on the bus, now feeling slightly better due to our fear-based camaraderie. Every once in a while, they’d turn around with stricken faces, but we’d chat, soothing each other with reassurances that it would “soon be over.” We were wrong, of course.
The ride lasted 9 hours.
To this day, I can remember what it felt like to be on such a poorly designed / maintained bus that was on the verge of falling apart, being driven the way it was. I’ll never forget the crazed look in the driver’s eyes, the terror I saw on the French couple’s faces and my very real fear of possible death on a Mexican bus.
The morale of the story? I’ll stick to my travel Bible (the Lonely Planet) next time around and won’t indulge the deadly sin of greed. It’s just not worth it!
“I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” — Woody Allen
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.