Since we had missed the boat, we (I) came up with another way of getting to Bluefields without us having to stay in San Juan del Norte with the mosquitoes and the hunger. We could take a fast boat all the way back to San Carlos, stay the night there, take a bus to El Rama early, perhaps spend a night there, then take a fast boat to Bluefields.
“It’ll be an adventure!” I said enthusiastically
We awakened at 4.30am. Rain was falling in drenching sheets.
“Oh, that’s just fucking brilliant”
It wasn’t far to walk to the dock but still, I didn’t want to get wet. It had been a night from hell. Jesus, mother, it was terrible. We didn’t have mosquito nets and the room was full of them. We were in a swamp after all. This meant that we had to cover ourselves completely in bed and it was so HOT. I was greased with sweat inside my sleeping bag liner despite taking all my clothes off. I kept a pair of headphones in my ears because there is nothing worse than having one fly past your ear and waking you with its hideous hell-whine, as bad as any Stuka dive bomber there ever was. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep. I opened my eyes, it wasn’t morning yet. I was pretty sure they’d been biting my face.
“YOU MISERABLE SONS OF BITCHES!”
I put on a head net, looked like something from a sado-masochism movie, and tried to sleep.
“URGH, what a terrible night”
“I have pretty much been lying there awake for two hours”
The rain stopped, or slowed, I don’t remember, and we walked to the dock. The boat to San Carlos would take about six hours. We stopped on the Costa Rica side of the river at a small shop again, and again at El Castillo. At El Castillo I stood looking up at the hotel we’d stayed in, looming over the town like some sinister wooden beast
“There it is.” I said.
It had been empty, of people and furniture. Downstairs was a cavernous space with a bar stripped bare at one end and a television at the other, next to a 1970s living room suite. In the middle of the space, a Victorian wicker garden set. There were plenty of tourists in town, but apart from two local girls we were the only ones staying in the hotel. There was a shared bathroom downstairs. Boxhead had refused to use it after I told him it’s a well known fact that every hotel has a ghost.
We got to San Carlos around midday. Before finding a hotel, I thought I’d ask about buses to El Rama. There was a little boy sat in the place where you buy tickets from at the port,
“All right chico, the buses to El Rama, they go from here also?”
“No, from around the corner”
We walked around the corner. There was the bus station. It was typical. Chaotic, people everywhere, shouting, horns beeping, like the bomb was about to drop. We walked over to where the buses were lined up.
“RAMA? OVER THERE!”
“There’s a bus?” I was under the impression there was only one bus a day that left early in the morning.
It was a chicken bus. The buses are re-purposed old American school buses. The seats were designed for kids, not six foot plus athletes, and after two hours of being cramped against the seat in front my knees were burning like broken blisters.
I had tried finding out how long it would take to get to Rama. The answer I got was something about four and a half. I didn’t know if this meant 4.30pm or four and half hours. Anyway, I was clock watching and worrying because I didn’t want to arrive in Rama too late because I had no idea what was there and we’d have to find a hotel…
After four hours, the kid at the back of the bus shouted to us RAMA.
It was just a big intersection. Great, I thought, another bus. I was right. There is only one DIRECT bus to Rama a day.
We were hustled off and he hurriedly told us to wait over there
“WAIT – WHAT?”
The bus was going, going, he hung out the back, his voice fading in the wind,
“It’s a big white one, about four thirtyyy….”
We waited next to the road. The dirty sun burnt my face some more but I couldn’t turn away from it because I couldn’t take my eyes off the road. It was 4.45pm.
“SHIT MONKEY! We’re going to arrive late…”
It was almost 5 o’clock.
“There is a bus right?” The old men assured me there was.
The sunshine peace was filled with the unmistakeable groaning of a bus engine and then like a miracle this big white coach thing came around the corner. I put my arm out. It wheezed to a stop.
“OH THANK YO – Did you see how busy it is?”
There were so many people on board, seated, stood in the aisle, we seemed scarcely contained in the space of the bus. We stood at the very front. There was nowhere else. I was bent over the driver. The driver’s assistant looked at our little bags
“We take them, put them underneath.”
“No, I keep it -“
But he had already wrenched it away from me. Well, that was it then. I’d lost everything. I’d broken one of the first rules of travelling. I’d separated from my valuables while in transit.
I didn’t have time to reflect on this because we were being shouted at to move further and further back into the bus. People were fighting from the back to get off and incredibly women were still coming on board to make and sell tortillas.
“Why would you try and sell tortillas now? I mean, look at it! LOOK AT IT!”
I couldn’t twist my hips. There was a woman with an enormous ass behind me in the aisle and I was trapped between those big soft cheeks and a seat. I couldn’t move. I simply hung onto the overhead compartment. A woman selling tortillas was trying to get past me
“Please, move …PLEASE”
“I CAN’T! THERE IS NO MOVEMENT!”
She didn’t care. She was bulldozing me out the way like a piece of Filipino rainforest. I had to move. I pushed myself backwards into those big buttocks, she kept on coming
“Hmphhh ugggg hrmphhhh”
I must have sunk into them some because seconds later she and her damn tortilla kit came through.
I moved a little further into the bus, away from that big ass, where I’d have more room. I was on the other side of the aisle. People were still getting on and off, pushing past me. There was a woman sat down below me. Each time I tried to make space I pressed my crotch into her face and shoulder.
“JESUS CHRIST”, I heard her say, “what’s that?”
She must of felt it all. I was practically assaulting her with it. I must have assaulted her for a good half hour before moving to a different spot. When she got off the bus she had a couple of black eyes.
Now that I had some breathing room I started worrying about my bag. It seemed as though the doors to under the bus were constantly open as people got off, and as it darkened it was harder and harder to see what they were taking. I thought about what we’d do if we lost those bags. The only thing that came to mind was cry. I had four dollars on me and nothing else and Boxhead didn’t have anything at all. What’s more, something in the back of my mind was telling me there’s no British embassy in Nicaragua (there isn’t). What a way for it to end. Feeble, no fight, to have surrendered so meekly, like a pair of cabbages to a goat. We deserved to go home.
I stood in the blue light of the aisle listening to the music, and slowly worked myself up into a near-hysterical state
Take me to the magic of the moment –
On a glory night…
We stopped again,
“Right, I can’t bear it any longer, I’m getting the bags”, I said
I maybe had a one minute window before we started moving again. I pushed my way through the aisle as quickly as I could in the manner of somebody too rigidly bred to consider being impolite, and hobbled off the bus wearing one flip flop because the other had broken again
I was shaken, speaking Spanish terrible
But he must have understood something because he let me reach in and get the bags and I got back on with them and began fighting my way toward the very back where Boxhead was sat
“EXCUSE ME, EXCUSE, EXCUSE, EXCU –” my flip flop had gone again – “OH, COME ON!”
I sat down in the aisle. I was sweating, sweating, but I didn’t care. I had the bags. We weren’t fucked after all. Boxhead and I would continue on, looking for whatever it is we are looking for. I managed to get a seat not long after and I sat cuddling my bag, talking to it, speaking in a low voice telling it that everything was ok.
Sometime around eight, we got to El Rama. They dropped us off at a hotel after I’d asked if they knew some place. The hotel was full. I let out a sigh so big that I almost completely deflated.
“There is another hotel?”
“Yes, there are hotels there, and there and there”
We started walking to the more ‘economical’ part of town.
“Let’s try in here”, I said, looking at a low building with a sign out front saying HOSPEDAJE.
We asked if there was a room and the girl said there was and that it’d be $6. We had a quick look and both agreed that we probably weren’t going to find anything better. We went to check-in.
“She said $6”
“THE PRICE IS $8!”
“THE PRICE IS $8 WITH A TELEVISION!”
“We don’t want a television. What the hell were we going to watch?”
“BUT IT’S CLOSER TO THE BATHROOM, IT’S BETTER …$8!”
He was getting quite worked up
“Alright, alright …knob head” I gave him his dirty money.
I stood in the middle of the room appraising it.
“We’ve stayed in some shitholes in our time, and this is right up there”
“IT’S WORSE THAN A WHOREHOUSE!”
I didn’t know what to say to that.
The ceiling fan wouldn’t work which meant that we only had one fan between us
“There’s only one thing for it”, said Boxhead, “we’ll have to share the double bed”
“Well, all right, just wipe that smile off your face”
Afterwards, we lay there next to each other in the dark
“This is actually quite nice”
I was expecting a night like the one before it, with the mosquitoes, the rustic pleasure
“You know, I think it’s the first time we’ve slept together this trip”, Boxhead said.
“Yes… Can you move your torch please? It’s poking into my back”
“I don’t have a torch”
We woke up early and walked to the dock with our things. There was already a crowd. The number of our boat was called and we headed on down to it. It began to rain and we sat huddled in the boat under a plastic sheet while we waited. Then it stopped and the speedboat took off up the Rio Escondido and after a couple of hours we arrived in Bluefields.
The taxi driver said it’d be a $1 to the hotel
“Well, all right…”
He took us three blocks. “Here we are”
We checked in.
It seemed there was a cargo ship leaving for the Corn Islands the next day. We asked downstairs about it but she told us it would be best to go to El Bluff for information. El Bluff being the port the cargo ships leave from. It was on the other side of the bay. We’d have to take a boat there. “The boats leave from the market”, she told us.
Well, there was a boat and it was leaving at 9am and would take five hours. Ordinarily, this would have been perfect, but there was the little matter of the WORLD CUP FINAL which kicked off at 1pm tomorrow. If we took the boat we’d miss the whole thing.
Days ago we had talked about what we’d do if faced with this very situation. We both agreed that we’d have to go, take our chance, miss the final. The boats were irregular enough to make us think this way. It was unbelievable that one had fallen so neatly into place (it was also a mockery). But now it was reality the decision wasn’t so easy.
“There is a boat on Monday?”
We could fly, for eight times the price of the boat and get there first thing. Or wait around in Bluefields for a few days and watch the match on the 14 inch television in our room.
I didn’t care where we watched it, as long as we watched it. There wasn’t a lot to do in Bluefields.
Walking along the rain-puddled, dirty broken streets of Bluefields back to the hostel, I think we had already made up our minds, neither one of us wanting to say it aloud in front of the other without at least going through the pretence of discussing it.
Money or football?
Later that afternoon we booked a flight, early in the morning. It’d take 20 minutes.
So close, a journey that most people fly, we’d fallen at the last, copped out. It was bittersweet. It would be fast and easy and comfortable, but I was gutted. So close. I felt like I’d taken a dive in the final round of the big championship fight. There had been a boat there for the taking.