The Bus Breakdown
Several travelers and I managed to catch the last express bus back to Esteli after our hike/swim through Somoto canyon. I was excited about the prospect of an upscale bus ride after the agonizing ride up north on an ordinario (chicken bus) with scant seat and leg room and a music track that included the Bee Gees and other bell-bottom bands from the 70s. (Please – no more Stayin Alive.)
I had big plans for a nap and happily settled into my comfy seat. I had barely closed my eyes when I heard a rooster crow. One eyelid popped open followed by the other. I looked around and discovered the culprit: A rooster being held like a baby in the arms of a man two rows back. He made no attempt to shush his cargo.
Shortly after my hopes of a nap were dashed, the bus began to make engine noises and then sputtered to a stop. After several unsuccessful attempts to get the bus started, the passengers (and one rooster) filed off of the bus onto the highway. The driver doled out refunds minus “his expenses.”
Nicaraguans are resourceful and quickly disappeared into flagged down pick-up trucks and passing cars until only a few Nicas were left – and the foreigners. A taxi arrived on the scene and offered to take us to Esteli for 700 cordobas. It is important to note that my hesitation was not the price tag ($4 per person) rather fitting seven people into a compact Hyundai. We decided to go for it after one fellow traveler begged for the trunk (see footnote on trunk people). I was wedged into the back seat with four others and had the uncomfortable task of sitting mostly off the seat, sideways. One hour later we arrived at our destination.
Bed Bugs Revisited
Those of you who have been following along with my travels all these years know of my long and tawdry history of bed bugs, fleas, and mosquitoes. In terms of blog entry frequency, bed bugs, in particular, rank equally with affronts such as bad coffee, intolerable wine, and the ubiquitous disgusting toilet. Indeed, it is impossible to engage in a discussion about bed bugs without becoming aware that my abhorrence for bed bugs borders on crazed.
It was during my stay in a lovely hostel in central Granada, with a chill courtyard and tasty restaurant, that I awoke from a sound sleep to an alarming number of bites. Mosquitoes are thick in this part of the country and given the open windows and lack of mosquito nets in my sleeping quarters (eleven-person dorm), I first suspected mosquitoes. However, on closer examination, my lower back was hardest hit and some of the bites were linear. My second suspicion was fleas.
It is generally not helpful to report bed bug and fleas to hostel staff. They either don’t care or don’t understand that bug infestations are deemed to be unacceptable in other cultures. I decided to remain silent.
The hostel owner made an appearance that night. He was a congenial and knowledgeable man and after a helpful exchange on general travel topics, I decided to broach the bug topic. He expressed immediate concern and further explained that the entire staff is trained on bed bug detection and perform inspections after each traveler departs. They further fumigate each week. He said that the staff would take action. He thanked me profusely for letting him know. I was impressed.
Later that evening I was sitting in the smoking section – which is where all interesting conversations occur – when I saw a hostel worker clandestinely carry first the mattress and then the bed board out of the dorm room and past the courtyard smoking area. To my amusement, the smokers were so engrossed in a discussion about the U.S. First Amendment and how it has been misconstrued to apply only to Christians that they didn’t notice this new development.
Although the transfer of the mattress and frame went unnoticed, my missing bed in the dorm room did not. The missing bed was finally detected by a fellow dorm-mate, but did not seem to alarm anyone in this relaxed atmosphere. The mattress and bed frame came back with a clean inspection report and newly fumigated. I slept fitfully and bite free that night.
Other Noteworthy Mentions
* I chickened out on the 15 meter jump on my hike/swim through Somoto canyon.
* Nicaraguan men watch soccer games at the bus station.
* There are slot machines on every corner in Nicaragua.
* I coined a new term: trunk person. Someone who voluntarily folds themselves into a small, dark space – risking carbon monoxide poisoning, rear ends, and excessive jostling – and enjoys it.
Signing off from Nicaragua (and Costa Rica),
P.S. I might try surfing again. It might turn out poorly.