BY ESTEFANÍA GARCÍA MENDOZA
I met this week's Guest Blogger, Estefanía García, while I was living in Altamira, Mexico a few years ago. Although she is a small town girl, Estefanía has traveled to several countries in Central America. Throughout her journeys she has compiled a diary of notes and pictures documenting her experiences. This week she takes some time out of her busy schedule to share with us an excerpt from her travel journal: A Personal "Survival Guide" to Riding a Bus in Nicaragua.
Visiting a third world country is always an experience. There is something about crowded places and cheap shopping in markets that appeal to us all. Interestingly, people always visit the most touristy and “pretty” places, which in most cases won’t allow them to REALLY know the culture and lifestyle of that country. For those of you who aren’t like that, but who enjoy getting into the heart of a place and its culture instead, here’s a little story about my visit to Nicaragua this past May and June.
Point of Origin: Muy Muy, Matagalpa. Really.
It all started when I arrived in a little town in Matagalpa that’s called “MUY MUY”, (yes...meaning very, very.)
Apparently, in the local Language “mui mui” means “the best” and in Nahuatl it translates into “otter.” Funny, because I never saw ONE otter in the two months I lived there!
People are very warm and LOVE foreigners. My first language is Spanish, but gosh it is so very different from theirs!
So that’s the first thing: They will all make fun of your Spanish, whether it is broken Spanish, Mexican or Spaniard Spanish. But you’ll always have a good time learning their expressions and words.
It was hard for me at the beginning because they use a LOT of words that aren’t used in Mexico, also they say lots of swear words, but to them these words are not offensive or dirty at all! Yeah, it was pretty weird.
Near “Muy Muy” there are many beautiful places to visit, but to get to those places you usually need transportation. There’s not very many choices, so if you’re planning to go there this is an important part of your trip to Nicaragua: SURVIVING A BUS RIDE.
2 Basic Things You Need to Know
Ok, so before you jump inside of any of these “colorful” buses you need to know a couple of basic things:
(1) Always bring change and
(2) Expect to cuddle with strangers.
When you arrive to any town the first thing you want to do is to locate the bus stop, which usually is by the main market near the highway. Buses usually start passing by as early as 4 or 5 am. Yes! Life starts that early in Nicaragua, since sunrise is usually around 4:45.
I know you’ll probably be jet lagged, so let’s say, what if you decide to take your bus way later, like around 7 or 8 am? Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but this is when they’re the most crowded!
Also, bus drivers need to bring home the bacon, so they’ll put in as many people as they can into the bus. Here is when the cuddling starts. Roads aren’t very nice either, so it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Buses are old, and sometimes the engine gets hot, and so does the inside of the bus. On top of it all, the guy who charges you for the ride will pass by your “seat”, or wherever you are, to charge you anywhere from 15 to 20 cordobas, which is less than a dollar.
Always bring change with you.
These men can play dirty, and if they notice you’re a foreigner, they won’t give you your change back. Yes, it might be less than a dollar that they’ll steal from you, but while being in Nicaragua you get used to their currency, and if you’re traveling on a budget every cent counts!
Also a good idea is to travel with a local friend or have a good map with you. Buses go about anywhere and everywhere so getting lost is pretty easy.
Be Prepared to Be Friendly
Other than that enjoy the ride! Usually the drivers have loud Spanish music in their buses and you can feel the spirit of Nicaragua while you drive through the mountains, over scary bridges and through parts of the jungle.
When you travel during the day people are friendly and want to talk to you. They want to know about almost everything! Where you are from, how old you are, if you have any children, if you´re married, how long will you be there, if they will ever see you again! And no, I wasn’t getting hit on! People are just extremely curious, so be prepared! Be friendly and they will usually help you out in whatever way they can!
Just as life starts really early in the morning there, it also ends as early as 6 pm, which is when the last bus passes by. It can be different depending on which town you are in, but you can always make sure of the local bus times simply by asking the people in the local market.
Oh, and don’t worry too much, you’ll be fine! I’m a 24 yr old girly-girl who is scared of everyone and everything, and I did just fine. I bet you will, too!!!
ENJOY THE RIDE!
Contributing Blogger: Estefania Garcia Mendoza
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...