By Conor Sanchez
The bus ride to Nueva Guinea certainly isn’t the most treacherous journey you can make in Nicaragua; that honor would have to go to the ride between Nueva Guinea and Bluefields, which is only feasible during the dry season when the road isn’t a muddy mess.
But it ain’t for the faint of heart, either. To get there, you can take a ruteado (a bus that makes stops along the way) or an expresso (a bus that also makes stops along the way, but ignores the speed limit). Unless you’re interested in 8 hours on an old school bus, there’s really no reason you wouldn’t take the expresso.
But slow down, cowboy. It’s not as simple as buying a ticket and hopping on board. I did that and ended up standing in the aisle for 6 hours with a full bladder and an empty stomach. There’s an art to riding this steer and only recently have I begun to feel somewhat competent in its saddle. To help you make this trip as enjoyable as possible, here are some steps to you can take that will make you a pro in no time.
Around 9 am, call to make a reservation and ask for a window seat. Even if there are two of you, sit separately. Trust me, the difference between a window seat and an aisle seat is comparable to a luxury private jet versus a rickshaw in downtown New Delhi on a hot sticky day (that is, if the rickshaw also had 7 other people on it who were leaning on your shoulders and resting a big bag of apples on your head).
To prepare for your journey, start by dehydrating yourself around 10 am. Whatever you need to start your day – coffee, orange juice, water – get it in early. After that, you should avoid all liquids at any cost. This bus takes no bathroom breaks and the last thing you want to hold up a bus of almost 100 passengers on an already lengthy ride.
When you get to Mayoreo Bus Station, resist the temptation to buy the chicken from the guy yelling “Pollo, pollo, pollo!” Even if you’re used to stomach issues like bacterial infections and parasites, this isn’t the time to be brave. It is, on the other hand, the perfect time to buy some dramamine if you get motion sickness. For 2 cordobas each, pick up a couple pills at any of the pulperias (a Nicaraguan convenience store) in the station.
Once you’re on the bus, sit back and relax. Within a few minutes, a flat screen TV will be pulled down from the roof and music videos from such esteemed artists as the Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, and Roxette will begin to play. If you’re lucky, “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun will be played twice.
As the trip gets going, you may find yourself slowly drifting to sleep, calmed by the the bus rocking back and forth, until you eventually realize that a bus should not be rocking back and forth. Before your anxiety has time to react, the dramamine kicks in and you’re toast.
When you wake up a few hours later, you find that a small child has been placed on your lap. You look to your neighbor, who after getting herself settled in her seat, tells you, “Gracias, muchacho,” and reaches for what you can only assume is her child.
Outside your window, a chorus of women on the sidewalk have begun singing a song about quesillos, a tortilla filled with some type of milky substance inside a tin bucket. One of the women catches your eye and it’s as if your brief glance has told her everything she needs to know – you’re interested in her quesillo, and she knows it. She peers deep into your soul, shouting quesillo over and over. Finally, in Spanish she asks, “How many, love?” Before you have time to answer, the bus starts moving again and you feel some sense of relief although you’re not exactly sure what just happened.
About 4 hours into the ride, you’ll start to wonder, “Are we there yet?” You’re not. About 5 hours in, you’ll wonder the same question only a little more impatiently. You’re still not. About 6 hours in, you’ll have resigned yourself to the fact that there is no way in hell that a city of 80,000 people could be located this deep in the rainforest and that you are probably never getting off this bus which has fallen into some black hole that perpetually shows you passing through forests and the occasional cow pasture.
Then, suddenly, you’re there!
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Nueva Guinea, where you can spend a few days either hanging out with us, visiting nearby waterfalls, dining at an amazing comedor, or eating some delicious yogurt that is produced and sold exclusively in this region. Take an early morning jog out to Los Angeles, where you can “run with the cows” as they march alongside you to their next destination (I still haven’t figured out why cows are being marched around all over the place here). If you actually make it to Los Angeles, stop by my co-teacher’s house where his mom makes delicious pancake-sized arepas.
To return to Managua, you have two options: take the expresso that leaves at 2 am (no that’s not a typo) or a ruteado which leave pretty much every two hours. The good part about the expresso is that it arrives at 7 am. The bad part is, well, it leaves at 2 am.
And there you have it! Now you’re ready to take the bus to and from Nueva Guinea. Buena suerte, amigo!