Upon leaving Perquin- Achim, Veronica and I knew we had a long trip in front of us to Leon, Nicaragua but we had no idea that we were in for such an unforgettable experience on the borders of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. We crossed El Salvador at El Amatillo and traveled in a collectivo (van) full of Hondurans and Nicaraguans and drove through Honduras for about two hours to the Nicaraguan border town of Somotillo. I was fortunate enough to get a seat in the front of the van to enjoy the scenery and unfortunate enough to witness our driver accidentally hit a stray dog as he cussed under his breath- how disturbing!
Upon arrival to the Nicaraguan border there were a group of about 15 people waiting for our van like hungry predators that had not eaten in a week- all ready to prey on the three light skinned gringos that were about to enter their territory. As we pulled into our parking space- all 15 bombarded our van before we even opened the door all shouting "taxi!? cambia dinero (money change)!? transporte (transportation)!? taxi!? cambia dinero!? transporte!?" over and over again through the windows. One hundred ten
percent of their attention was focused on the three of us- never mind the 15 other locals that were traveling with us- what a stressful experience!! Upon exiting the van each of us had to fend off at least five people who were aggressively trying to get us to use their services all at the same time- even little kids no more than 10 years old approached us while this was going on asking us for one Cordoba. All I could do was tell them sternly "dame espacio por favor, no puedo pensar guay!" After about ten minutes of bartering with them and trying to get them to each speak one at a time, we chose two bicycle taxistas to give us a ride to customs while crossing the border. As the three of us were walking towards customs we were approached by about three other coyotes (as the money exchangers are referred to in Central America) with fists full of money trying to get us to exchange our Lempuras or dollars (El Salvador uses USD) to Cordobas- they followed us all the way to the bus we were taking to Leon and did not give up until we boarded
our bus for an even crazier experience. !!Que locura!!
As we boarded the bus for the last leg of our journey to Leon a large swarm of fat ladies came on board carrying garbage bags full of clothes that they were stuffing into the aisles, on the floor and even underneath the seats (keep in mind these are old US school buses). They used every last inch of space to stuff their bags in that bus- even removing the seat covers and using their feet to stomp with all the force their large bodies could emit in order for the bags in to fit under the seats. The lady I shared my seat with sat on top of her bag and seemed quite comfortable being crammed in during the entire 3 hour trip. I later found out that she and all her friends were taking all these clothes from Honduras to resell in Nicaragua- and that was how they made a living. We ended up passing la policia along the roadway and there was a mad rush to hide all the bags that were visible upon first glance from outside. When we ended up passing the cops all the
ladies let out a huge bellow of laughter and were amused to have fooled the policia. All the while Achim, Veronica and I were just observing what was going on around us with amused expressions on our faces as this was one of the most entertaining experiences we have seen on our travels yet. More and more people kept on boarding as now all the seats were taken up and people were sitting down on top of the bags in the aisles- the guy behind me took advantage of the situation and fell asleep in the aisle while laying across several bags and began to snore while a lady in the back began to puke in a bag. Night fell and it started raining like crazy- then the situation turned extremely surreal. It was pouring rain out as salsa, mexican ranchero and reggaeton music was blasting on the bus speakers and the ladies were now dancing in the aisles. Next a few guys selling cheese and cream boarded the bus and the ladies had to yell at the top of their lungs to be heard over the loud music- "dame queso, dame crema"- the people at the back yelled even
louder to be heard since the cheese and cream salesman could not traverse the huge bags and all the people crammed into the aisles. Money, cheese and cream was being passed from the front to the back of the bus while people were dancing and sleeping in the aisles while it was (we were in rural Nicaragua) pouring rain outside. All of this went on for about three hours until we arrived to Leon.
At one point during our bus ride Achim and Veronica decided to cut open a pineapple we had bought at the market earlier on in the day. We shared our fruit with our neighbors and polished it off within minutes. Veronica, being the savvy traveler that she is, had a spool of dental floss handy and the three of us flossed on the bus. Everyone around us was extremely amused and intrigued as they acted like they had never seen the tooth cleaning material before. We showed them how to properly clean in between their teeth, however they turned down our offer when we attempted to share with them. They looked at us with the same amused expression that we had on our faces upon
witnessing all of the craziness that was taking place on that dark, rainy night. What a unique experience!!
Finally we arrived to Leon and decided to lounge around for a few days and share stories with other travelers while staying in the shade during the hot, steamy Nicaraguan afternoons to energize from our crazy adventures. Leon provided by far the hottest weather I had ever felt and a good resting spot for a few days.
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