Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Flirting with Death

My bus caught fire the other day!

No joke – I actually saw flames behind the instrument panel. People started running towards the front door, somebody said, “we’re all going to die!” and smoke gushed out of the hood. However, after throwing a little water on the engine (three separate times), we just kept on going, climbing a steep mountain slope in an overloaded school bus.

I felt a little like my life was in the hands of drunk-driving teenagers – the driver and his buddies thought the whole ordeal was pretty funny. I was definitely pissed at first, eventually resigning to subtle annoyance, and finally shaking my head when it was all over, relieved to be alive and yet amused at the insanity of what just happened. It was 6:30 am.

Seriously though - if your ENGINE CATCHES FIRE you should stop a second, take note of the situation and do some problem solving:

1. The bus is on fire.
a. Why is the bus on fire?
2. Perhaps it’s because we’re seriously overweight and the engine wants to commit suicide.
a. Is this a problem?
3. I dunno; do you think it’s a problem?
a. ………..

Anyway, so the bus was filled to capacity with passengers. There were like 2 cords of wood up top plus substantial cargo. The maintenance and mechanical state of our bus was God Knows, and the mountain slope was twisting, turning, and represented a 1600-meter elevation gain. As we were coming up a really steep incline, my seatmate pointed out that smoke was coming from the hood. We stopped, poured some reserve water on the motor and kept going, but 10 minutes later smoke flooded out again and a flickering orange light*** appeared within the engine.

At this point people got a little more riled up, but the driver just re-soaked the engine and we kept going, trying to keep the temperature low with periodic splashings of water. Forget reducing weight or offloading passengers – we just rallied the vehicle until reaching level ground.

The whole thing was crazy but we made it and I have to give the driver credit for knowing the operational threshold of his equipment. At the same time, it was pretty unnerving watching these guys laugh about what felt like mortal danger. Only in Guatemala.

*** this would be fire.


  1. o.O
    Egads! My mind is boggled that the thing could keep going after being on fire.

  2. Geezhuz! I am glad that I didn't read this before visiting Justin.... and RIDING on one of those buses.
    And, now that I'm back in Fairbanks, I can say that there were several times when our bus was traveling so fast around corners (going up mountain roads that had no railings) that the tires squealed.... or the brakes stank because the driver was using the breaks instead of a lower gear while going down the steep mountain road. ...... taking our lives in our hands...