The Longest Day Part II. I only slept for a few hours before we hit the El Salvador border and then it was off the bus, with queuing and formality. Having said that, the bus was great – brand new, tons of leg-room, free food, drinks, flat screen TVs – and a good selection of films. I bought a bottle of whiskey from the Duty Free on the border and began the day as I meant to go on.
I whirled in a drunken haze as the countries passed me by – El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica…Sophia and I wasted the day away playing cards, watching films and yakking away, nineteen to the dozen. Not such a bad way to spend your first day as an old codger.
We arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica at 10pm. Sophia’s annoying friends wanted to stay at a pit recommended by our (obviously on commission) taxi driver. No – it’s my birthday…I will pay the extra for us all to stay at the backpackers recommended by the Lonely Planet. See, I’ve done this before and whenever your taxi driver takes you somewhere, it’s always, ALWAYS an overpriced hole.
Note to all backpackers – the thing about places in the Lonely Planet – they WANT TO STAY IN IT!! So, generally speaking, they are a lot nicer places than the ones that aren’t in it and don’t give a monkeys. Oh, and if I offer to pay for your accommodation in a better place, SAY YES!!
I was too drunk to argue. Sod it – I had to be up at 4am for my next bus anyhoo.
So we ended up sharing a room that was about 4 cubic metres big – 4 of us, 3 single beds and my bed consisted of a plank of wood diagonally plonked on an empty frame with a wet sponge as a mattress. Lucky my Heroes-esque super power is the ability to sleep anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
I bet Sylar would love to get his hands on that one.
I arose before dawn for the last leg of the southern journey that had been necessitated by the fact that I didn’t get to go to Costa Rica on the bad ship Pamplona one week ago. Oh well. The journey to the Panama border was uneventful, as was the Panama border. I couldn’t be bothered queuing up for stamps in my passport, so I just walked across unchallenged and bought a can of Coke IN PANAMA! Woo! And then I came back to Costa Rica and waited for the bus back up North.
On the return journey, I met Jordan, a boat captain from Florida, who said he might be able to help with the old Cuba chestnut. We were pretty much made to stand for a large portion of the 5-hour journey, but that’s something I learned to do working in the Union Bar, so it wasn’t too problematic for me. Once we got to San Jose, I took Jordan and another backpacker to the hostel I wanted to stay in, the night before (it was lovely and well worth the extra $2, Sophia’s mates!), but I didn’t stay. My bus back to San Salvador left at 3am.
The great Central America relay race was only just beginning.
Back on the groovy bus up through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. No cute girl for me to annoy this time, but I did meet a guy from Texas called John, who was – like myself – backpacking around Central America on his own. The remarkable thing was that he was 86 years old.
I guess you’re never too old to hit the road. Nicaragua was amazing – driving past Lake Nicaragua, which is just HUGE, and seeing the massive, perfectly-formed volcanoes rising out of the middle of it – it looked like the backdrop from The Land Before Time. Honduras was a little less remarkable, but seriously, they don’t generally stick the cool stuff next to the road, do they?
We arrived in San Salvador late that night. The guy on the bus told me there was a bus going north to Guatamala City at 3.00 and I went and did something a little silly – I believed him. So instead of checking into a hostel and getting a few hours shut-eye in a proper bed, I stayed up. I headed to a hostel to try and grab a shower, which cost me $2. I shouldn’t really complain too much that the shower was cold, after all, judging by the warning on the bathroom wall, if it had been hot, the resultant electric shocks would have left me with third-degree burns.
I headed to the Irish Pub, but you can’t catch lightning in a bottle and there was no repeat of Friday night’s high jinks. I left the pub at 2:30am and started looking for a taxi. The streets were dead. Oh dear. I walked and walked. It was now past 3am and I was getting worried. Not just because I was walking about in the dark in a Central American country on my own with no map, carrying all of my bags, credit cards, money, camcorder, laptop etc. but because I thought – more worryingly – I was going to miss my bus.
I went to a 24-hr petrol station. The police were there (same ones I bribed on Friday night perhaps?) and I asked them where I could find some taxis. They shook their heads and asked me where I was going and I told them which bus station it was. Vamos! I think I just hitched a ride with fuzz!
The lovely Salvadorian police chaps dropped me at the bus station just in time for my bus. I thanked them profusely and strode into the bus station. Only – the 3.30am bus didn’t exist! It was more like the 6am bus.
Groan. The bus station was FREEZING. There was nowhere else to go, nothing else to do but to huddle in the corner, sit there and wait and shiver.