Posted by: vlbyers | January 25, 2012

Bus Ride

our bus

Fender bender on the bus

Antigua, Guatemala to Playas del Coco is about well lets just say about 500 miles, give or take since mapquest can’t seem to compute today. if you look on the map you will see it is a long way. During this trip we would cross 4 countries borders, visiting a total of 5 countries, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We would be taking a bus instead of flying which would enable us to see more of the countries we were traveling through and be easier on our wallet. The cost of taking a bus would be about half what plane tickets would be. We would begin this trip at 0400 in the morning taking a shuttle into Guatemala City and arrive at our destination at 7pm the following evening, a total of 39 hours-23 of those were scheduled to be actual bus traveling time, the other was interval between buses which we could rent a room to wait our last departure bus on the 2nd morning.
So 23 hours on a bus is a long time but as we entered the first bus our eyes rested upon the extra wide, thickly padded seats that were better than executive class on the plane, the hostesses preparing food and drinks, the plastic covered pillows (nice and fluffy) and blankets, I’ll take 2 thank you. This is why the King Quality line was recommended, Ok this is going to be great.
We went through the border of El Salvador with ease, the hostess handled all the paperwork, taking our passports and the passenger list, and whatever money was needed. The next 2 hours were more comfort as we watched a few movies in English, rested and read. As we neared San Salvador the hostess began collecting the pillows and blankets, did I mention none of the attendants or the driver spoke English, no announcements were made in English, hu, wonder what is going on??
It was finally apparent that we would be changing busses in San Salvador. What the brochure doesn’t tell you. The wait at the station wasn’t long and soon we saw our new bus pulling in, another King Quality type, I anticipated my comfy seat and the nap I was going to take advantage of, 4 o’clock this morning came very early. As we entered the bus it was quickly apparent that this was not the same type of bus, the seats were narrow, thinly padded, the leg rest wasn’t quite elevated to horizontal, there wasn’t much space for a purse, book ect. Ok well this could definitely be worse, we’ll be fine.
Everyone settled is as we pulled out of the station in San Salvador. So far we hadn’t had much traffic as we were not in major cities after we left Guatemala City. The road is pretty well kept, 4 lanes in some places but mostly 2 and the highway winds around going through all the towns along the way, not like in America where the roads are built to bypass most cities. This is just another way to see the country, its people and enjoy the trip.
It was 4pm, we had been traveling for about 4 hours in this bus when the bus braked, swerved a bit, not unusual since we spent much of our time passing other vehicles, and then braked a bit more causing some of us to grab our seats and wonder what was going on. Our wondering only lasted a split second when we heard the crash, felt the bus lurch and heard the expletive from the driver.
Damage to the bus was caused from us hitting a truck, a regular pickup truck with the pipe rail built around the perimeter about 4 feet higher than the bed, the kind that has many people standing in the back going to or from work or various other activities. Speculation began among the passengers as to the next steps, hopefully no one was hurt, cops would have to come, report filed, a new bus may be needed, we may have to stay the night in El Salvador waiting. We all started filing out of the bus slowly to check out the damage, stretch our legs and see what we could find out.
The right fender received extensive damage, the windshield glass was cracked but remained in place, the headlight was intact. None of us ever went to see what the truck looked like as I recall, one older gentleman from the truck was taken to the hospital, we would have to wait for the result of that. Group consensus was that it would be at least a 3 hour delay. Hmmm, as it turned we had pulled to the side of the road right in front of a restaurant, many folks went to have a cold beer and watch the activities.
Darkness began to fall, we had been waiting already about 4 hours and there was no real idea about when we may leave. The police had been a few times and were gone, the bus remained on the side of the road as did the truck, partially blocking the road, the cones were still in place guiding the 2 lanes of traffic around both vehicles. Many of us wondered why they didn’t pull both vehicles off the road leaving it clearer for the traffic, we all hoped there wouldn’t be another accident.
I am sure the owner of the restaurant was happy that day, she sold out of most everything, best day in the whole month for her I’ll bet as this wasn’t a destination by any means. Since she was out of food and it was getting late we all started making our way on the bus and by 9pm things were taken care of, we were ready to go. I guess there was some sort of compensation, the older gentleman was not hurt that we knew of and the plan was that we would continue on this same bus to Nicaragua, bummer I was hoping for an upgrade.
Our 5 hour delay meant that we arrived in Nicaragua at 0500, sleeping was difficult but we both managed to get some after the excitement of the crash. A taxi was outside the bus station and it would cost 5 bucks to get to the area where the Tica bus station was, our plan was to rent a room and grab a few hours sleep and a shower. This taxi was one of the worst I have ever ridden in, there was only bare metal on all the doors and the floors, I am sure light could come through if there had been any, thankfully it was dark and I couldn’t see what we were sitting on. The driver was unusually rough with Larry’s guitar even after we asked him to be careful with it. He led us to a hotel, probably his cousin, brother, sisters brothers place, we got a room, coffee in the morning and did catch some zzzs for the next segment of the journey.
Tica bus makes more stops along the way and this is the reason we changed lines. If we had continued with King Quality we would have gone to San Jose and had to return, losing 6 more hours and spending another 6 hours in some sort of vehicle. Tica bus would drop us off in Liberia which we thought was only about 45 min out of Coco beach.
This part of the trip went without incident, the bus was comfy and clean but not for long-term travel, definitely more cramped and no food or drinks. We arrived in Liberia, listen well, the driver will only say it once and there will be no announcement prior to the stop. Thankfully he was able to stop a little further down the road and let the 4 of us ‘novice travellers’ our luggage out. We split the taxi ride to Coco beach with 2 girls we met on the bus, found their hotel and went on to ours, checked into our hotel and since my stomach was about to explode, I headed for the bathroom and straight to bed. Unfortunately I would spend much of the next day in bed, at least we had separate bathrooms, AC, a TV, pool and running water.
Welcome to Playa del Coco, Costa Rica

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