The Plan...of course it's written in the sand at low tide....

The Plan...of course it's written in the sand at low tide....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Taking the bus in Centeral America….An experience all it’s own!

You have to love taking the bus in Mexico and Central America. It’s always an adventure. The joke is, “How many people can you get on a bus in El Salvador?”….”Two More!” …… and that’s the truth. It’s amazing how many people they can get on a bus here. Each bus has a driver and 1 or 2 “Hawkers.” Obliviously the driver is the one driving the bus but the “Hawkers”; they’re a breed of their own. They are the ones that call out "aka scream out" the bus destination. They can be seen many times hanging out the doors of the bus looking for business and calling out the destination of the bus. They can be very helpful and always help you with your packages when you are boarding the bus. They can also be very pushy….they are responsible for keeping the bus moving and they take the job very seriously.
It’s different from the states and you don’t pay when you get on the bus. Sometime during your ride the Hawker comes by and collects your money, I don’t know how he keeps track of everyone and who’s paid and who hasn’t paid. It’s always fun to find yourself in the middle of the bus, with 3 or 4 bags of groceries, a completely packed bus, and it’s your stop. Somehow we’ve always made it off with the help of the Hawkers.

Each bus has its own personality. It’s not like in the states where all the buses in one city look the same; here each bus reflects the personality of the driver. Here’s a picture of the one we recently took on our trip to Zacatecoluca….AKA….“Zacata”:

They’re pretty good at stopping wherever you want to get off and will pick up anyone standing by the road waving if it’s safe……now again their idea of safe and mine can vary somewhat!

Hungry, thirsty, or need some veggies, no problem…….along the way at various stops the bus becomes loaded with venders selling pupusas (El Salvadorian version of a taco, flat tortillas stuffed with beans, cheese, and or meat), water, soda, fried bananas, veggies, health remedies, candy, and even one time someone was selling Band-Aids. If you go to the “autobus station” in Zacata to catch the bus (sometimes a plus because you can be assured of getting a seat) you usually wait a while before the bus takes off. Not to worry, it’s so entertaining to watch the action. They have big doors on the back of the bus that are wide open. The bus is backed up to a platform that allows all the venders to step right into the bus and peddle their wares. They walk through the bus and then exit out the front door. Again the variety of what you can buy is amazing and so much fun to watch.

The other wonderful thing about taking the bus is meeting the local people. On our recent trip back from Zacata Alan and I were sitting in separate seats (sometimes I think the buses were made for schools kids because there isn’t enough leg room for Al and I to sit straight with our legs in front of us, we have to angle in the seat). Well the bus started to get really full so a pleasant older woman sat next to me and Al had this wonderful old guy sit next to him. Al had just bought 8 pupusas for $1.00 before the old guy sat down so he offered him one. You could tell he wanted one but would not take one unless Alan accepted 1 of his 2 bananas he had with him (he did accept the 2nd one willingly).

Now getting off and on can be another adventure. Again remember time is money to them so they like to keep the bus moving. The Hawkers use whistling and banging the side of the bus to tell the driver there is someone to pickup or drop off. Once the person is in or out the banging on the side of the bus tells the driver it’s okay to take off. They don’t wait for you to find a seat, the minute your feet are off the ground hang on the bus is leaving….a lot of times the Hawkers walk or run beside the bus, grab on and step up as the bus is moving.

All in all it can be a fun adventure and the cheapest way to get where you’re going.