An Unexpected Journey

The following was written by a fellow traveler (Luca from New Zealand) about what should have been a routine journey from Leon to Granada….

17th December 2012 – An Unexpected Journey involving a New Zealander (not a Hobbit) and a couple of Nicaraguans on a Chicken Bus: 

….The Chicken Bus departed from the ‘Surfing Turtle Lodge’ heading towards Leon – our intention was to travel to Granada via Managua (Capital of Nicaragua).

Let me explain to those who don’t know what a “Chicken Bus “ is: it is a 3rd class bus system in Central America to transport people, fruit, vegetable and any other live protein, especially “Pollo Feliz” a literal description for “Happy Chickens” – the saddest looking chickens imaginable.

Nicaragua - Chicken Bus

We arrived in Leon at the main bus terminal and spun a coin and decided to take the Chicken Bus rather than a Mini-Van – destination: Granada, never believing it was to become a life or death journey for one or two of the passengers.

All was routine during the journey. The usual vendors hoping on and off yelling at the top of their voices. All selling their produce; while passengers squeezed past trying to secure a seat for the bumpy ride ahead.

Together with Rianne, a Dutch friend who I had met while travelling, we happily enjoyed the sights and sound of the bus journey. We were split-up as the bus was full. And there we were content to mind our own business, happily catching up on some lost sleep. All of a sudden out the corner of my eye I see a local hombre in his late 40’s, sit bolt up-right. He then shot out of his seat, his vertical projection driving his head into the ceiling with a significant thump. He then lands in the aisle besides my row of seats. The acceleration of his body disturbed the airways around us as he fell heavily on to the floor accompanied by screams and shrieks from the other close by passengers. He lay their prone, and I sensed this was a serious matter…

Having completed three First Aid course recently I quickly realised it was an Epileptic Seizure. (In fact it turned out to be a Grand Mal or Tonic-clonic seizure often leading to sudden death!) He had a friend alongside him and we jumped out of our seat to help. However, it soon became clear that I knew more about First Aid then he did, so I started to take control. Our seizure man started to shake fiercely and we needed to restrain him to protect his head as I moved him into the recovery position. This seemed to go on forever, but in retrospect it was probably only for about a minute, which was long enough to think the man was in the throes of dying. His muscles became rigid and I couldn’t move his leg to reposition his body. Then all of a sudden his body goes limp which looked like the life had been sucked out of him!

While all of this is happening the driver continues to pick up passengers and food vendors continue to sell their goods – business as usual. In the meantime I tried but could not find a pulse. I suggested CPR to his friend with a reply: ‘Porque No’ (Why not…?). At this stage I couldn’t tell whether he was dead or alive! But I continued to persevere with CPR. There was a sudden silence from the immediate on-lookers made uncanny as it contrasted with the cacophonic Chicken Sellers and chicken’s themselves – like a bizarre scene from a Black Comedy movie. So there I was working furiously on the man while the Chicken Bus passenger bystanders watched on with bated breath.

Eventually the Seizure Man began to stir and then with equal ferocity as before, he jolts back to life with a startled look on his face wondering what this Gringo stranger is doing pressing down on him. He was clearly confused and groggy. Rianne and I fanned him and rehydrated him with our final bottle of water, for he must have had a splitting head ache. And then he eventually catches on regarding our good intentions and makes his way back to his seat.

Phew! That was a relief! I sat back expecting the rest of the journey to be uneventful, all the while keeping a wary eye on my new amigo whose health was now steadily improving.

By this stage the bus had emptied and we were enjoying the extra space and a gentle breeze, when a young drunk man with a pink shirt and a full Tona Cerveza (local beer) hops on the Chicken Bus. He wants to sit close beside me despite the fact that the bus had some empty seats elsewhere. It was actually too hot and a bit disgusting to have a sweaty Nicaraguan drunk wanting to site beside me. Soon his intentions become clear: he proceeds to try to snuggle-up and begins an awkward conversation – often referring to my long legs – which of course are twice the length of his hobbit-like propositions.

And now it began to get be uncomfortable. Not wishing to attract too much attention, and continuing some semblance of politeness so as to avoid an international incident, I made an excuse to read my book so he would stop trying to engage with me. This would show I had no interest in him. My Lonely Planet was far more interesting.

My CPR resuscitated amigo must have been watching the proceedings… He summed up the situation, and started swearing in Spanish at the drunk which of course, were the first words I had learnt in my travels. “Leave the Gringo alone” … and… “The Gringo is with me…! He can’t understand you, but I can…!”…and so on…

Next thing there is a full-on fist fight in the middle of the Chicken Bus. My CPR rescued man, who was near death only a short while before, is pounding the drunk to a pulp. Now we were about to be faced with a second potential death. All the while the Chicken Bus driver continues picking up Chicken Bus passengers, and Chicken Bus food vendors continue selling their Chicken Bus goods – business as usual.

It turns out my CPR resuscitated friend has a good left hook and the drunk in pink starts crying… What a shame there wasn’t a camera man from Warmer Bothers Studio at hand, because this became an even more bizarre Black Comedy movie scene.

And since I was not about to embark on another emergency First Aid program, my Dutch friend Rianne and I jumped off the bus just as soon as we could. Our driver looked at us in a perplexed manner – “What could possibly be wrong”, he must have been thinking – “this is, after all is a Chicken Bus.”

Once off the bus we stood there looking at each other – “Did this just really happen…?” As the Chicken Bus set off to disappear into a Nicaraguan cloud of dust along the Chicken Bus Gringo Traveler’s Trail.

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