La Union to Potosi
I was the last passenger left on the San Salvador bus when I exited
the “blue bird” special in La Union, El Salvador. The ayudante helped me out with my bag, pointed towards the gulf & told me that the muelle was straight ahead. After thanking him I picked up my gear & I was off to seek a ride across the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua.
Once there I made a few inquiries around the waterfront & finally was
directed to the nearby migracion office. There I was to find a person by the name of Julio Merlos filling the migracion officer’s chair. He greeted me with a smile & told me to pull up a chair from an empty desk nearby. After a few pleasantries I told him of my purpose & he
told me that he would see what he could do.
The subject then turned to a hotel for the night which Julio also
said he could arrange & did justs that with a quick phone call. I walked the short distance to the hotel & within minutes after checking in & taking a quick shower the manager informed me that I had a phone call. It was from Julio; he had a pilot in his office that could
transport me over to Potosi, Nicaragua.
Back at the migracion office Julio introduced me to a pilot by the
name of Jose. Jose told me that he was taking a Nicaraguan across the next morning at 5:30 & for 100 Colones he could take me along. I paid & after Julio stamped my passport, Jose took it over to the port authorities for their logs. I set my watch alarm for 4am.
Because the tide was low early this moonless morning the boat was not
visible from shore as we started trudging out through the muck. I was happy to have my water socks on & a flashlight handy as we had to cover more than 100 yards through some really yucky & uncertain conditions. The four of us made it ok with the ayudante carrying the 25 hp Yamaha on his shoulder, and it wasn’t long before the motor was
attached & we were headed out of the harbor. The ride was smooth until we left the protection afforded by the mainland & entered the open seas. The swells picked up & I was thankful that I had the foresight to put my bags into the large trash bag as it was not
just spray coming over the bow of the boat.
When we were a little less than midway through our 4 hour journey the
Yamaha abruptly died…dead. At first I didn’t feel much anxiety but repeated tries by Jose to restart the engine failed. Then our young ayudante’s efforts also failed & I started to feel a sense of urgency as I continued bailing.
Fortunately within an hour a good samaritan finally came along in
another ponga & after a little bit of question & answer, plus a few more pulls on the starter, a tow was decided upon. Fortunately our knight to the rescue had a rope; that & floatation devices
were among other things our boat lacked.
We were towed to the island of Conchaquita, a large island but only
populated by 300 people. It was a wonderful sight to me in more ways than one, as its rock & sand shoreline & its flotilla of small fishing boats gave way to hills that were checkered with small patches of pepper, bean & corns fields. The small crowd of villagers who came to
greet us were also a welcome sight & it wasn’t long before the animated conversations turned to action when our skipper was pointed in the right direction for mechanical help.
I took this opportunity to visit this little village & followed a
cement walkway that hugged the waterfront for its 500 yard length before winding back up inland & reversing itself again. Obviously these people weren’t used to a gringo walking around as I was greeted with some somewhat startled looks at times, but smiles & salutations made for more of the same. Getting a friendly conversation was not a problem.
Upon returning to our beached boat I brought out my frisbee & chose a
couple of boys playing in the bay to throw it to…never have I seen a kid who could resist a frisbee. Their play led to a few fishermen playing & it wasn’t long before I had quite a few taking part. I was no longer a stranger.
I took leave of the little party after a bit to go see what was
happening with our motor problem. They had brought it up from the beach & were all huddled over it exchanging macho guy mechanic talk. Not being a mechanic I had no expertise to share with them. But one doesn’t have to be a mechanic to know that this engine was a problem waiting to happen. Nylon string was being employed to hold some of
the carburetor parts together.
While filling my tummy I was again the center of attraction as people
gathered around asking me all the usual questions of nationality, family, occupations….I loved it & had just as many questions as they. I was so impressed that I wanted to stay a few days here…there were no hotels but I had accommodation offers. This wasn’t to be though as Jose told me that legalities would not permit it…I was already on the zarpe to Nicaragua. I was resigned to return to La Union.
The next day was a reenactment of our previous trip in that the newly
repaired Yamaha again abruptly stalled in even heavier seas. My heart fluttered only for a short period this time however as we only needed to change gas containers. I helped with this chore & kept the empty one close by as a my personal floatation device.
The port of Potosi consists of on short pier & nothing else within
sight except a row of tall bushes along the shoreline. I found the migracion office a couple hundred yards beyond the vegetation inside an almost empty warehouse. There I discovered a solitary migracion officer who reminded me of the “Maytag Repairman.” He obviously
wanted something to do & someone to talk to. If only customs should be so enjoyable & helpful everywhere…this man even changed Cordobas for me.
Beyond the migracion another quarter of a mile was the town of
Potosi…a couple of restaurants/tiendas. And Chinendega was just 3 hours & a 66 kilometer bus ride beyond it.