As soon as the bus starts moving, I am passed the hell out. I am out, drooling into my shoulder as they play an 80s movie until we reach the Nica/Honduras border. We all hand over the passports and exit the bus into the street. Across the street, a quiet duty free store sits, empty and closed.
We are out only about 20 minutes, with locals trying to bargain lempiras and dollars with us, arguing that it is was more necessary than ever to exchange our dollars today because it’s a holiday and banks are closed.
I’ve never even been to a bank, I whisper to Cynthia. And bullshit to these people. ATMs are open 24/7 everywhere. They’re sure to screw you with their exchange rates.
We are back on the bus again and I am confused we don’t have our passports back. Then in another 15 minutes, we are forced to exit again and again we refuse more people offering to exchange dollars/cords for lempiras.
We had heard many times over that it took mutliple hours to cross borders. Apparently, we had picked a good day. It turns out that it’s likely Central American countries have a strong attachment to religious holidays. No one else was traveling.
Although our itinerary had said we would arrive in Tegus around 1, we are in Tegus around 11 a.m., in the middle of a showing of Rush Hour 2 on the Tvs.
Upon negotiating an 80 lemp cab to the airport, I decide I want the cabbie to take us on a tour of downtown Tegus before. After all, I have only hear negative things and I Just want to see it once, as I doubt I’ll ever return.
The downtown is quiet, but packed in the markets and by the park, where there is a huge Christmas tree lit in the corner.
As our cabbie tell us about the park, another car slams into his hind side. BOOM! The car goes, and the cabbie shakes his head and exit’s the car.
Fuck, I think. This is a setup. We’re going to get robbed.
But the cabbie takes a swift look and the damage and comes back into the car.
It’s ok.? I say.
Yea, yea, he says. He slams the door, causing it to pop out of its holder.
He rams the door back in. No problems!
He takes us everywhere around the city, pointing things out along the way. When we arrive in the Tegus airport, the old man with the Santa belly looks at me solomenly. “250 lempiras por todo” he says.
Shit, I think I just screwed, I think to myself but I don’t even know what to say., And, $13 is not so bad for a tour around the city. F-it, I think and try to pay him with my $20. He has no cambio, he says, and I have to trade my money with some of the shifty-eyes guys trying to change money at an 18-to-1 cut. Funny thing was that on the border, they traded cords for lemps on a 1:1 basis. The whole time in Nica, it was a 20:1 exchange rate. Now, we felt as though we were getting screwed.
But what can you do?
For a while we cannot find our flight out. It is not showing up on the displays and I am flipping a gigantic shit. I am ALMOST POSITIVE that I booked a ticket for today, I say. I don’t get it. Around us, armed guards pace by.
A Taca agent eventually points us in the right direction. On the way to the security checkpoint, I find the beer that Martin purchased me on our ride up from San Juan still tucked away in my purse. Sweet bananas, I think, I have one more Tona!