One of the last things I see leaving Guatemala City are two young men driving a herd of goats down a city street. It's a six hour ride on a luxurious Litegua double decker Mercedes bus complete with uniformed pilot (tested daily for blood alcohol level according to company literature), uniformed steward, and two american action hits on flat screen tvs (Runaway Train, and some Tom Cruise flick, neither of which appear to lose much without english dialogue). I look out the window and groove to i-tunes. The countryside starts out god-awful dark side of the moon ugly, then turns to Arizona desert with jagged mountains on either side and lots of cactus, and finally a lush flat river valley filled first with cane and fruit and then lots of cows and Guatemalan cowboys. Next to one huge sugar cane plantation is an equally huge and apparently thriving Coca-cola plant. Real sugar in the tasty stuff not our better living through better chemistry high fructose corn syrup (I suppose we should update that to better living through bigger government subsidies for corn farmers).
Over the six hour trip we lose 5000+ feet of elevation. From my perch on the arriba level of the Mercedes I discover that the huge canvas covered trucks of produce carry passengers in the valleys formed between stays. Some of them awake catching the breeze in the sweltering humid lowlands, others catching some zzzzz's. I can't help but wonder what happens in a panic stop or swerve but as usual I appear to be the only one worrying. No two hour early arrival or baggage hassle on either end combined with the truly wonderful ride of the big bus and the gracious service of Litegua make a good case for cheap sensible intercity transport. Six hours, 5000 feet, $12.50, not bad. Now if you could just match that to a good highway system.