Wednesday, November 18, 2015

El Tunco to Juayua

It occurs to me suddenly: This should be weird. We're standing on the side of a highway (word used loosely) attempting to flag a bus as it speeds past us. A specific bus. This is how it goes: A bus comes barreling around the corner and heads straight for us. We lean forward, squinting at the bus from the tiny shoulder to try and make out either a number or the name of a familiar city painted on the front window before it passes us by. And this is how the conversation goes: What does it say?! What does it say!?! Is that it??!! UMMM.. Just a little closer!!! Come on eyes! Ummm. Its almost here!! Should I flag it just in case? Uhhhhhhh... NO! Ok, no, that's not it. The bus wooshes by leaving us in a cloud of dirt and exhaust. Sigh of relief (despite the dirt and exhaust). We didn't miss it- yet. Ohhhh, there's another one coming, Moon, can you see it?! (Of course he can't he's wearing coke bottle glasses). What's it say!? What's it say!??? Should I flag it?! Baahhhh!! (My heart's pounding)  Umm.. I think maybe, yes, maybe..umm... a little closer.... yes, I think. YES! That's it! Get it! Get it! GET IT! And that's how its done folks. Calm and cool, just like that. 1. Spot the bus 2. Thrust your arm out frantically (or not) 3. The bus stops and you get on. That should be weird, right? Is is weird to you? Sometimes I forget how normal people catch buses.

It should probably also feel weird that when we do finally catch said bus and board it, we are met with the eyes of the entire bus. It's weird when everyone stares at you, right? It means you probably have toilet paper stuck to your shoe or spinach in your teeth. Or, you're blonde and travelling with a Jesus Christo (alleged) lookalike around Central America.... It's one of those things, I'm pretty sure.

The main difference between Nicaraguan buses and El Salvadorian buses, from what I can tell so far,
is the use of bird calling or whistling to get the bus to stop. This is something we haven't noticed anywhere else and its kind of a fun way to communicate. Usually there's a lot of yelling.

We were on our way from El Tunco to Juayua on El Salvador's Ruta de las Flores. Our bus drove west from El Tunco along La Costa del Balsamo. The coastal ride was gorgeous. When we could see the ocean the cliffs rose straight up on our right and fell steeply down to the water on our left. When we couldn't see the ocean we were encircled by lush jungle creating a green tunnel to drive through. There were a few terrifyingly narrow, unlit, black tunnels through the mountains, in which our driver decided that it would be a good place to pass a transport.. and then there was the fact that the driver seemed to like to go faster around hairpin turns than he did on safer straightaways...but then again, he was wearing an adorable sombrero and there were guardrails, at least most of the time.

As the bus turned inland the cliffs stretched out into rolling hills and palm trees dotted their way between tall green grassy crops. El Salvador- beautiful from every angle.

We arrived in our transit town, Sonsonante, which according to the Lonely Planet is a bustling, sweaty commercial town nicknamed Cinncinatti. As nice as that sounded, we wanted to move on quickly. Thankfully the bus to Juayua, our actual destination, was only two bus bays over. And there was a huge lineup of people. Almost instantly the bus pulled in and the mayhem started. People were going crazy like the bus didn't run every half hour. There was pushing and frantic elbowing. Someone pried open the back door of the bus and people started piling in both doors. We looked at each other. When in Rome... we jumped on through the back door and grabbed ourselves a seat.  When the bus pulled out of the station 30 seconds later, it wasn't even that full of people. Most of the seats were taken but there wasn't even anyone standing in the aisle. And there was still a small line of people standing in the bay. Weird. Oh well, off we went.

We drove at glacial speed through Sonsonate for some reason. Glacial is actually a funny adjective to use, because in actual fact, it was freaking hot. We had somehow, again, chosen the wrong side of the bus and our butts were roasting on the sticky vinyl. Driving so slowly through Sonsonate only cemented my original desire to move on asap. It was deserted. All the shops were closed and buildings looked like they were crumbling away, but not in a nice way like Leon or Granada. It was more in a sad, desperate way. In hindsight, the stores being closed might have had something to do with it being a holiday, but either way, I couldn't shake the 'Walking Dead' feeling.

When the bus driver finally found the gas pedal and we started moving at a normal speed out of town
and up along the Ruta de las Flores (the Route of the Flowers), two things happen both instantly and simultaneously. 1). We had driven up into the clouds and the sun was no longer threatening to bake us alive. We were in cool, fresh, high altitude air! and 2). We were surrounded by wild flowers! Although we were on the Ruta de las Flores, I didn't actually expect its name to be an accurate description for some reason. Yet, all around us on the narrow road, yellow, red and purple flowers cascaded out of the foliage, splashing colour as if arrows to guide us up the hill. Amazing!

We arrive in Juayua about 40 minutes later and the town was just hopping. People, music, shops and stalls are overflowing with flowers and happy people. Oh Yes! It's the Day of the Dead! The day everyone spends partying at the cemetery to honour their loved ones who have died. Judging by what was left of the celebration, I'm very sad we missed it. But judging by the friendly, smiling people and colourful looking town-  I think we're going to love Juayua.

No comments: