Nicaragua, year 2017. The story is written in a humorous way – Nicaraguan people are great, friendly and I have a lot of respect for them.
We had to leave Corn Islands (located on Caribbean Sea). We got up very early to catch a flight from Big Corn Island to Bluefields (usually I use cheap local transport, but this is a separate thriller story why I flew this time, available here 🙂 ). There is no land road between Bluefields (sea port) and El-Rama, you have to travel 90 km by fast boat (Panga) on the river (full of local inhabitants – crocodiles). It takes maximum 2 hours to reach El-Rama. We were hoping to catch a bus from El Rama to Managua – the capital of Nicaragua. Of course the locals tricked us as usual, because by the time we hit the office the tickets were already sold out … obviously they had some tickets kept for local residents. Buying any kind of transport ticket in this country (except touristic places) means you’ll probably deal with long queues, leafing through your passport, writing receipts and searching your luggage by armed soldiers. Don’t worry you just need to get used to it and be patient. Very often there’s only one bus a day going particular direction, so it’s nice to get a ticket, otherwise you can put a peace a carton on the ground and wait on it for next transport. Waiting in any queue in order to get a transport ticket you can be sure that the locals will pass their ID to the one’s standing in front of you, as there is limited number of seats. By the time you finally reach the ticket window you can be almost sure to hear ‘no buletos’!!! (no tickets!).
When I heard from the driver that there are no tickets for the bus I got really mad and firmly stated that we’re going by this bus even if we have to stand for 6 hours . Suddenly it turns out that we have seats – restored buckets placed upside down in the narrow passage of the bus 🙂 Small projections on the bottom of the lid are a little irritating but I cover them with my jacket and it becomes quite comfortable. The most important thing is that we are in the bus! In every bus there is always a driver’s buddy sitting next to him, usually collecting money for the tickets and whistling when someone needs to get of. When the bus makes a stop you can hear door mechanism hissing sound, the buddy immediately pushes the door outside, of course while the bus is still moving. All windows are opened in the bus and the wind blows straigh into passenger’s faces and keeps tousle their hair. Although everyone is shutting the eyes nobody takes care to close the windows to avoid the draft. At least it’s warm so we won’t catch a cold. We slowly drive narrow asphalt road. Sometimes I stand up to stretch or straighten my bones. Bumping is a fundamental driver’s activity. Every occasion is good for bumping, another bus passing, car turning, cow crossing the road. When pulling particular cord there is a different type of horn, depending on road situation: greeting, warnings, welcoming, etc. In the middle of the ride we stop to have a half-hour lunch break. It’s incredible how Nicaraguan people are plump. It’s really rare to find a slim person. 30 km before reaching the destination we stop again. I can’t believe that! Few curly people get in with huge bowls. What does it mean – trade! Street trade is a background of this country. Plastic bowls are full of food packed in small plastic bags. They carry the bowl on their head or under their’s arm. I’m already nervous as the bus is full and this means those curly women will have to pass through a little passage where I sit. If she mistakenly treads my pail it definitely gonna crash into thousand pieces! After having a big lunch an hour ago I’m sure nobody would be interested in buying more food. Wrong! And here we go again with buns, pastries, fried chicken squized in small plastic bags, banana chips, stuffed potatoes .. Now the beverages go for the second round 🙂 we are trapped in the middle of the crowd in tiny passage. Finally we continue the ride. We just need to drive through busy capital – Managua to catch another chicken bus. 😉
Public transport in Nicaragua.
Most of public buses in Nicaragua are yellow American School buses, which are used to drive children to school. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua they are called chicken buses. They constitute a majority of public transport in those countries, although the sits are too small and the height of the bus is not designed for adults 🙂 The oldest bus we saw was from 1964. The locals say the buses ensure almost faultless operation and even the oldest ones can still drive long distances. The buses in those two countries are ridiculously cheap, even when driving between the cities. The back emergency door are used in Nicaragua as normal exit for passengers, parcels, etc. The buses are usually very crowded so it’s almost impossible to get to the front door. Very often on the back of the bus people travel with lots of luggage, fruits and food. So it’s easy to unload it by using back door. The most terrifying thing is that usually the driver even doesn’t stop when the other guy is pulling out things from the bus through opened emergency door. Sometimes he even travels outside the bus, standing on a tiny step or small ladder.