The man was chattering away to me in Spanish at the bus stop. Too bad I couldn’t understand a word of it. “Mas lento,” I pleaded but he wittered on. I resigned myself to nodding and laughing when his face erupted into a wide grin. Thinking about it, he was probably telling me that I was a silly girl for sitting out in the hot sun all morning, waiting for a bus that was never going to turn up.
We’d awoken on Ometepe island with the best intentions for the day. The morning storm woke me early so I set up in the hotel’s outdoor covered restaurant, overlooking the beach and the lake. I took my fill of rice and beans and sat contented with a coffee, only disturbed by magpies who constantly tried their luck at stealing sugar cubes from my table. There was quite a fuss going on in reception, nearly all the volcano treks had been cancelled for the day.
The trek to Concepcion’s summit is notoriously difficult and the tricky weather on Ometepe, especially during rainy season makes it a dangerous and sometimes unrewarding hike. Other travellers were resigning themselves to a day trapped by the rain in the hotel.
The storm blew over too late for any hikers but I was keen to explore some more of the island. We’d heard about a nice hike up to a waterfall but not convinced by the supposed 2 hour bike ride there I quickly set off to do some research on local buses. Turned out there was one that passed straight by the start of the hike and it would also make a return journey later that afternoon.
So that was why I was sat at a bus stop for two hours.
You get used to timings in Central America. It’s best not to fight the current and just accept that nothing will ever be on time. They weren’t ever planning on being on time. Sit, wait, try not to care too much.
But when the bus was two hours late, we realised that we weren’t going to make it to the waterfall and hike up and down in time to make it back for the only bus going back in our direction. So when I went to enquire about how much a taxi might cost instead, the receptionist laughed at me.
“That bus has probably been cancelled!”
Oh so that’s what the man thought was so funny.
“It breaks down all the time, it hardly ever runs.”
“Can’t they afford to fix it? How do people get around the island?”
“It’s the road. The road is so bad, the bus breaks down. You’re not going to need a taxi, you need a 4X4.”
So I laughed in disbelief and paid ten times what the bus was going to cost. When the driver turned up he didn’t seem so happy when I told him the destination.
He sighed, got in the car and proceeded to drive us down the worst road I have ever been on.
I’ve driven on awful roads. Roads in Peru that swerve round blind corners, dangling over mountains, drivers refusing to give way when they meet a truck. Roads in Kenya where dust fills your nostrils and potholes send you flying. Roads where I’ve just closed my eyes and hoped that the driver knew what they were doing. But this road, this was the worst.
We didn’t break 10mph the whole way. I hit every side of my head on every part of the inside of that car. I laughed as we rolled down steep hills and got slightly worried that we would need to get out and push it back up the other side. That was not worthy of being called a road.
The hike to the waterfall was easier on my bum than the journey in the car had been.
Refreshed, we headed back down to start the journey back. This time we knew what to expect at least.
We were halfway home when someone walked out into the middle of the road, holding their hands out and stopped us.
A few people braver than me had taken the more strenuous choice of cycling the awful road to and from the waterfalls and Tim’s bike had given up. Ten minutes into their return journey his bike had just decided to stop steering and they’d been walking in the heat ever since.
Our driver was not in a charitable mood and it took a good few minutes to convince him that we definitely should give Tim a lift back to the hotel. The thing was, Tim’s bike didn’t fit in the car.
We had nothing to strap it to the roof and all seats in the car had already been filled.
So we had to get inventive.
On the bumpiest road I’ve ever been on, Sean sat half in and half out of the car, clinging on to a broken bike.
Now I know why the bus had given up on that road too.