I got up at 3:20am since the pickup truck would be ready to take me down the hill to Yoloaiquin at 4am. I packed the last of my belongings and at 4am and started a really long journey to Nicaragua.
The route included taking chicken buses from Yoloaiquin to highway “dieciocho” or “18” and then another to the border with Honduras. In Honduras I could take a shuttle directly to the Nicaraguan border, and then two shuttles within Nicaragua to get to Managua.
In the end, it took 12 hours and then 2 hours in a taxi in Managua, but I got to Managua just fine.
Again, I am in love with chicken buses, but seriously. Watch this 16-second video to see what they are like. You’ll notice my watch at the end. It’s 4:36am and they are completely blasting their hip-hop/club music. Only on a chicken bus!
Along the way I made some new friends!
After I crossed into Honduras I found the microbus parking lot. It was just a covered area where 15-passenger vans wait until they are full and then head directly to the border with Nicaragua. I arrived at 7am and we finally had a full load at 8am.
During the wait I started talking to a guy named Mario. He got there at 5:45am, so my wait was nothing compared to his. He was traveling with his wife, Carolina, and 4-year-old son, Alessandro. We talked a bit and I explained why I was in El Salvador, what I’m doing in general, etc.
The 2.5 hour ride through Honduras was uneventful, though it was beautiful. Well, it was uneventful until you get to the border. Then it’s pandemonium. I had read online that it was pandemonium, so I had my camera ready to take a video. But when the van was swarmed with young men, some of whom climbed up on the roof to take off the bags even before we had stopped moving, well, taking a video didn’t seem as important as being aware of my surroundings.
Some wanted a tip for “helping” you with your bag, others want you to ride in their pedal taxis. From where the shuttle drops you off, it’s about 1km to Honduran immigration, then another 2km until the Nicaraguan immigration, and then 1-2km to the bus station. So paying $2 for the bike taxi is totally worth it given the baggage and intense heat.
But this Salvadoran family kind of took me in and started protecting me! During the swarm I did my best to ignore everyone and refused all help. I am totally put off by overeager service providers. I’d rather approach someone. But Mario picked someone for me and we traveled together.
At the Nicaraguan border, I had to spend a bit more time going through immigration since I’m not from Central America. My “adoptive family” patiently waited while I did that and then exchanged money in the on-premises bank. They watched over my bags since I couldn’t take them inside the bank. It’s kind of funny how I instantly trusted this family to look after my valuables even though I had just met them a couple hours earlier.
In many countries, the trucks form a long line at the border. I don’t remember if it was El Salvador or Honduras, but I heard there is a mandatory 24-hour waiting period to cross the border, for example. Well, this is a perfect way to pass the time comfortably!
We continued on and as we were both heading to Managua we traveled together. The first shuttle took us to Chinandega. We decided to eat lunch together. It was fun and they picked a great place to eat. We both bought sim cards for our phones as well.
Alessandro, the boy, will start a bilingual (English/Spanish) school in February. He already knows a few English words, which he was all too willing to demonstrate. He was really excited to meet someone who spoke English and kept asking me how to say certain words. He is really intelligent and it’s great to see kids who are so eager to learn!
We continued on to Managua, the capital city. Central America is beautiful and my pictures never do it justice. But here’s a shot I got out the side of the window. Volcanoes dot this green landscape and it really makes for a beautiful scene.
They got out somewhere in the periphery of the city. We said our goodbyes and I was very grateful for their help and for watching over me. I then continued on to the bus station.
Then this long day then took a bit of a turn for the worse. The girl whose house I stayed in (couchsurfing) was out of town. So her brother was the point of contact. I called him and I really didn’t understand what was going on. So I passed the phone to the taxi driver. He understood.
Well, once we got to the neighborhood, it was a bit confusing, but we called again and then we found the brother. I thought I had arrived at the final destination. No. I arrived where he was studying with a friend and he gave me the keys to his sister’s place.
1.5 hours later (two hours in the taxi total), we figured out where the house was. The directions were bad and there were several calls to the brother that finally got us there. Needless to say, the fare was pretty extreme. Oh well. All part of the experience and I got a mini-tour of Managua out of it!
So, I arrived quite frustrated and tired. I’ve had better days. But you have to roll with the punches when traveling and see everything in a positive light!
I’m happy to be in Nicaragua, to see a good friend this weekend, and to volunteer… But the Nicaragua experience continued going downhill and in the next post I’ll explain why I “quit” Nicaragua!