When we complete our adventures, we think that 50% of our noteworthy stories will relate to transportation. Trains are nonexistent and airfare is expensive. The bus system, however, is shockingly well developed throughout Central America, though it doesn’t always provide first-class accommodations. The buses themselves are worth a mention.
Do you know where American school buses come to retire? Central America. Buses from the 1970s and 80s abound. They’re painted wild colors with the name of a female adorning the back window. In addition, a young, agile, sometimes pushy, but generally helpful man is half-way out the front door yelling the direction of the bus to anyone and everyone on the street. Interiorly the accommodations are equally as stimulating. Latin pop-music blares while an impressive amount of people squish together, trying to keep the aisle clear. The young, agile man makes his way down the bus, often squeezing his way through standing passengers, collecting fares and throwing larger baggage anywhere possible, including the top of the bus. The circus continues when children, men, and women circulate the bus selling bare essentials, such as: water, prepared meals, candy, chicken, treats, papers, toothpaste, shampoo, and any other item imaginable (including mysterious vitamins/medications that do miraculous things).
While the buses themselves are a site to behold, using the system is quite an adventure too. Being “gringos” with over-sized luggage makes us targets—every young, agile busboy and roaming bus terminal helpers seems to know where we are trying to go before we tell them. Truly benevolent people are constantly helping us by telling us what bus to take and later when we should be getting off, and in between lugging our over-sized bags to unknown locations. It’s extremely overwhelming, especially when we really don’t know where we should be going or how much the bus should cost.
In the end, using the system for transportation is bumpy (pun) but kinda cool. We have, thus far, arrived at our desired destinations without too many hiccups. On one such “hiccup-less” trek from Perquin, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua (which required a bus through a slice of Honduras—see the map!), we took one pick-up truck, one mini bus, one bike trolley, five buses, and one taxi, and a mere 10 hours later we were hanging with new friends sharing travel stories.