No ticket to ride
Mark and I had a true Nicaraguan experience last week, something not at all unusual for the 20-something backpackers who travel through the area, but for a respectable almost 50 year old (almost 50, not almost respectable) woman and her husband, it was unique.
After a beautiful day at a fresh water mineral spring, we started walking to the bus stop, about 3 miles. We were surprised when a pickup truck with a couple we recognized from the mineral springs stopped and asked if we wanted to jump in the back for a ride. We looked at each other, shrugged, and said sure. It was a nice treat to ride instead of walk.
They dropped us off at the bus stop, and we waited for an hour before the very last bus to our side of the island showed up. It must have been filled to 4 times it’s approved capacity. People standing in the aisles belly-to-back, and hanging out every door by their fingertips, just like the Granada beisbol bus. The thought of even trying to step in there filled me with terror! There was one other guy at our stop, he hopped on the edge of the step, grabbed on to the roof, shrugged apologetically at us, and the bus left. Leaving us stranded, an hour before dark, 15 miles from home, with very little in civilization between us and our destination.
Smart people would have brought a cell phone and the number of a taxi driver. Mark and I are smart. We did that. Too bad we hadn’t noticed that we were out of minutes.
After a 10 minute walk, Mark spotted what looked like a little town ahead, but actually, it was just a lone fruit delivery truck, unloading some supplies in front of someone’s house. In a burst of brashness, I jogged up to the driver’s side door, explained our plight, and asked if we could have a ride. He gestured yes, and we hopped in the back, with 4 other passengers, some plantains and some watermelon. Mark thought it would have been smarter to ask where they were going BEFORE getting in the truck. Details, details….they were headed in the right direction. About 10 minutes and 6 miles later, before they turned off the main road, we got out, along side a young Nicaraguan woman and a doctor from Mexico. We kept pace and conversation with them long enough to see the proper way to hitch hike –it’s just like in the movies. You just stop and stick out your thumb. Quite a skill to pick up at the ages of 49/55, don’t you think??
But stick out our thumbs we did. Eventually, a truck stopped, but it was full of supplies for the ultra marathon coming up, young European race volunteers and — our medical friend from Mexico. I’ m assuming the young Nicaraguan woman made a turn off earlier. The volunteers offered to sit on top of the big boxes to make room for us. They were headed all the way to Moyogalpa, our current hometown. We climbed in and for just a moment I wondered if we’re too old for this…the answer of course, was no. Certainly there were lessons learned , like don’t count on the last bus and make sure there are minutes on your phone. We will try to avoid those situations in the future. But, hitchhiking on Ometepe Island isn’t an age thing, it’s cultural. And apparently, given the bus schedules — necessary.