As the Crow Flies

2 03 2008

Posted by: Laura

A crow flies in a straight line, without concern for the terrain. If you look at our map, you will see a perfectly straight line stretching from Perquín, El Salvador to Leon, Granada. However, this is not how we travel.

A few times per country, we get to take direct buses to our destination. Most of the time we have to change buses a few times. Sometimes we have had to take up to six buses in one day to get where we are going. These are not good days.

Our epic journey from El Salvador to Nicaragua began at 7:45 in the morning as we were waiting for a covered truck to come pick us up. Traveling in the back of a truck is not as fun as it was when you were a little kid and begged your parents to let you ride in the back of the pickup instead of the cab. While they have put benches in the back of the trucks and added a covered tarp, the idea is to see how many people can fit in the back. There´s strategy to this mode of transportation. You don´t want to be the first ones on because you get squished in the back with no air. But you don´t want to be the last one on because you have to hang out the back holding on to a rail. Why do we travel in such style, you ask. Because it only costs 25 cents for an hour ride.

So we took a covered truck from Perquín, El Salvador to San Francisco Gotera, so we could catch the bus to the boarder of Honduras, where we could get a shuttle across Honduras, cross the boarder into Nicaragua, then take another bus to our destination of Leon, Nicaragua. Sounds simple enough, yet our bus connections never seem to work out in a timely or efficient manner.

I haven´t actually seen a bus schedule posted anywhere since Mexico. So once we got to San Francisco Gotera, we had to ask which bus would get us to the boarder. Chris has decided it´s more efficient for me to ask for directions. I can´t argue with his logic because within 5 seconds, I had three policemen helping me figure out which bus I needed. I was trying to ask the policemen if we had to backtrack to the larger city of San Miguel in order to get to the border, or if we could catch a bus from the town we were in. They told us to catch bus 18. The town doesn´t have a bus station, all the buses just drive through the main street and you flag it down if you want to hop on. So we sat down on the curb to wait. After 30 minutes the policemen came over to tell us that we had missed the bus, but another one would come. Apparently, we did have to go back to San Miguel (two hours out of our way). After waiting for the next bus, we arrived back in San Miguel and found the bus to the Honduran boarder, another hour and a half away. Only, when the bus driver called last stop, we weren´t at the border. We got dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, and we had to get on a different bus to drive us the remaining 30 minutes to the border. If you´re confused at this point, we were too.

Most buses don´t actually cross the borders. Unlike the simple European border crossing where the efficient guards collect your passports and then promptly return them without you ever having to leave the comfort of your train cabin, these buses unceremoniously dump you off at a dusty stop where you have to make your way through a mob of people grabbing at you and trying to sell you food, drink, change your money, all at a “good price for you.”

Once we reached the Honduran border, we walked to immigration, then found a shuttle to take us to the other side of Honduras so we could cross into Nicaragua. Since we were crossing the Southern part of Honduras, it was supposed to take 2 hours. But for some reason, our van got pulled over at each of the three checkpoints we crossed. However, Chris and I were the only ones whose bags were searched. The nice guard with the semiautomatic weapon looked at our passports for a full minute before he gave them back. I guess he was wondering what we were doing there. I was wondering the same thing. At that point, it occurred to me that we had not seen another backpacker for the past three days.

We finally made it to the border where once again we were dumped out and swarmed by vendors. We discovered that it was a 1 kilometer walk to the bus station once we crossed into Nicaragua. For those of you wearing sweaters, please keep in mind that it´s summer down here, and Honduras is humid. Once we walked to the next town, we found that the “bus station” was actually one bus waiting in the middle of a patch of dirt near some cinder-block houses. We also found out we had two hours to wait before the bus left. After pouring sweat for the past 6 hours, Chris thought it wouldn´t make a difference to run around a bit because when I looked over, he was playing soccer with a group of local kids. Most of them were half his size, and some of them were playing in bare feet for flip flops, but they were all pretty good. We finally got on the last bus, a four hour ride, which got us to Leon, Nicaragua about 10pm. We decided to take a taxi to find a hostel. We chose a cheap but well rated hostel from our guide book, told the taxi driver the address, checked out the room, paid, threw our bags down, only to discover that the hostel had no running water.

In total, we took 7 modes of transportation(1 truck, 5 buses, and 1 taxi), walked through 3 borders (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua), and spent 15 hours in transit. I envy the crow.



2 responses

4 03 2008

Wow! What an ordeal…one that makes the journey both memorable and better always than lying on a sofa.

8 03 2008

Hi! First time to your blog. Great blog. And you are a traveller. That is interesting!!! Travelling is fun!

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