|Fast & Furious, our aptly named bus|
There were chickens and puppies traveling with us, and giant sacks of beans. The bus stopped occasionally to deliver packages to random farmhouses along the route. We traveled the whole night blasting music from loudspeakers, perhaps to keep the driver awake as we barreled through the dark, feeling every single rut and pothole. Almost as loud was the wind from the open windows, which also brought the 2 a.m. cold and the smell of diesel exhaust. By morning I almost could taste it.
It was, as you might imagine, a pretty uncomfortable night. The spacing of the seats was slightly less than the length of my thigh bone, meaning that I was unable to sit normally facing forward and spent the night twisting from one side to another, jamming my knees into cracks, trying to find a comfortable position. Laura Jean's seat was on top of the wheel well, making it even worse. Nothing we tried seemed to help for long. Allegedly I did drift off to sleep at some point because I awoke as the sun was peeking over the horizon, my eyes gunked over and woozy from the motion.
We rolled into Rosita at 5:30 a.m. Our instructions were to head directly to the bus terminal and grab the 6 a.m. bus to Kukalaya. The latrines were locked and nothing was open for breakfast, so we boarded the bus and kept moving forward.
Unfortunately, that bus was stopped in the next town of Susun. It turns out that some local farmers were staging a huelga (a strike or protest). We got off the bus, a little confused, but someone told us that if we walked through the town we could catch another bus on the other side. Upon crossing a wooden bridge we saw a crowd of thirty or so men, armed with machetes and clubs. They had dragged branches and pieces of wood across the road and were stopping and turning around all vehicle traffic -- public buses and private pickup trucks alike. They didn't seem to have any problem with pedestrian traffic and we climbed over with no problems.
On the other side of the barricades we waited for a while at a pulperia with some other displaced travelers, waiting for the mythical bus and wondering what to do. The sun was getting hot, even thought it wasn't yet 8 in the morning. Once we saw that the protesters were setting up new barricades to trap vehicles coming from the other direction, Sonia said that we should set off walking. And so we bought some water and headed out, not entirely sure how far we had to go to reach our destination.
|Waiting for the bus.|
We saw multiple buses heading in the opposite direction, but none ever returned to pick us up. We figured that the protesters had stopped them and even prevented them from turning around. So we kept walking. Sonia insisted that we had to keep moving ahead, and it was great advice, although at the time we wondered. We also noticed that this part of Nicaragua, more so than anywhere we have visited, was suffering from a terrible deforestation-- the jungle transformed by slash-and-burn agriculture into broad fields and cattle pasture. Specifically for us, this meant that there was hardly any shade and after an hour or two of walking we were hot, thirsty and sunburned.
|Evidence that I've been on a horse!|
Around 11 a.m. we arrived at a crossroads and found many people waiting for buses that weren't going to appear. There were a couple of pickup trucks around, but they were charging exorbitant rates, so we steeled ourselves to keep walking, even though the hottest part of the day was coming up. Someone told us that California was a 2-3 hour walk from where we were. Sonia rallied us and we pushed on ahead.
Very quickly our perseverance was rewarded. A pickup truck packed with people approached and in the passenger seat was José Adan. Hearing that we had been walking, he and the other hermanos from the church mobilized some transportation and came in search of us. We had never been so happy to see a friendly face. We piled in the truck and arrived in Riscos de Oro in no time. There we got to sit down and have some lunch with José Adan, meet his family and some of the other church members (who were themselves traveling back to El Retiro from an event at a different church).
|Arriving in El Retiro.|