Payacuca: a Love Letter

The “Payacuca” bus is my favorite bus in town.  According to town lore (read: my friends William and Fabiola) the bus was named Payacuca because  the owner used to have a route between a community called Payacuca and Matagalpa.  For some reason, when he changed routes and moved to La Dalia, the name stuck.  Names stick here.  Like when you need to find the movie theater and the address is: “from where the gas station used to be [but hasn’t been for 20 years], go a block south and a half block east.”

In any event, here’s the Payacuca:

Payacoco in all her glory. Photo credit: Sam Burke, sitemate extraordinaire.

Payacuca in all her glory. Photo credit: Sam Burke, sitemate extraordinaire.

I want to share with you all a list of the reasons why I love this bus more than all other buses.  Here it goes:

1. It leaves from my neighborhood. This means that when I need to go to Matagalpa, I can just stroll down this beautiful street and be the first one on the bus before it even goes to the bus stop. As I would otherwise need to walk up a giant hill to reach the bus stop, this really is helpful.

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It’s that hardly-visible spec of light at the end of the street.

2. The whole bus crew is a family.  They work together all day and share a house together.  The owner of the bus loves ranchera music, as evidenced by the fact that the bus’s antiquated speakers blast ranchera from the moment I board to the moment I leave; he shakes everyone’s  hands, makes small talk and just emits that immeasurable energy that tells the world that he’s happy and loves what he does.  Oh–and he wears a cowboy hat while driving the bus. One of the best parts about Payacuca is that a woman works on the bus as well, which I have never seen anywhere else before in Nicaragua.  Usually it’s just men and boys.  But she holds her own, collecting everyone’s fare day in and day out.

3. Payacuca is dog-friendly. Not only did they allow me to travel with Maní on the bus 100% of the time, but the owner often brings his own dog on the bus from his house to the bus stop, so the dog can play at the market all day.  I was surprised to find that one time when he stopped the bus and opened the door, it was a dog that walked in rather than a person.  He was giving the dog a lift!

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Mani always rode chineada (on my lap).  This wasn’t actually taken on Payacuca, but you get the idea.

4. When you need to return to La Dalia from Matagalpa, Payacuca allows you to avoid Guanuca, the main bus terminal, altogether. Until about 12:30 pm, the bus sits parked in a calm spot on the side of the road in front of the Maxi Palí, a supermarket outside of Matagalpa.  For those in the know, they’ll let you board the bus there and avoid the nightmare that is Guanuca.  Instead of standing in the hot sun with your backpack strapped to your back and your arms full of your purchases, fighting for positioning, running up to the bus as it parks, grabbing on to the handles by the door, boxing out the crowd around you, and sprinting to your seat before the group of men that is coming in through the back doors gets there first, you get to climb up the stairs calmly, say “buenas” to everyone on the bus, choose your seat, put your bags away, and watch the madness unfold in front of you, while you watch, relaxed, in your seat.  This truly is a gift.

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Guanuca: Worst. Place. In. Nicaragua.

5. And finally, the reason I’m writing this blog entry is because of what happened yesterday. Yesterday I had to go through Matagalpa to pick Angelica up and bring her back to La Dalia.  She had just come back from a weekend participating in Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a leadership camp for girls led by a group of Peace Corps Volunteers.  We decided to take the Payacuca bus in order to avoid Guanuca, so we took a cab to where it was parked, got on, put our stuff away, and sat down.  At 12:30 when the bus started moving out, the woman who works on the bus stood up and made an announcement: You’re all going to need to duck and cover because we’re technically not allowed to let you all board the bus early, and the people that enforce that rule are watching.  So until we’re parked in Guanuca, you all need to hide. Immediately everyone springs into action.  Angelica goes to the seat across from me and lies down.  I duck too.  There are about 10 of us on the bus at this point and everyone–including some older adults–is hiding their heads from view and laughing hysterically. We stayed that way until we were safely parked in Guanuca and other passengers began boarding.  Here’s a picture of Angelica (and the man on her right) hiding:

IMG_1829So, in sum, Payacuca, there are a number of reasons why I love you. You’re there for me when I wake up in the morning and don’t want to get sweaty from hiking up the hill to the bus stop.  You’re there for me in the afternoon when I need to go back to La Dalia and don’t feel like fighting the whole town for a seat.  And even though most buses treated Maní and I like untouchables, you always let me travel with her. Even when I didn’t, you always asked me how she was doing. Payacuca, you have been an integral part of my life during my Peace Corps service.  Thank you for all that you do.

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2 Responses to Payacuca: a Love Letter

  1. Jessica Rivero says:

    I am leaving for Nica March and I have read A LOT of blogs but yours, by far, is my favorite! Awesome job.

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