One of the first things I noticed, and one of the things I have come to love about El Sauce, is that casi no se ve coches (you hardly ever see cars)! Instead, people travel by motorcycle, horse, bicycle, camponera…or walking, of course – the beauty of living in a small city! I love seeing people ride by on horses and hearing the click-click-click of their hooves on the streets (adoquinado – one of my new words - it means that it has “pavement” in the form of hexagonal cement blocks laid down as opposed to the dirt and rock on the outskirts of town).
Now, I know about 99.8% of you are wondering what in the world is a camponera, right? Well, it’s probably the best thing since sliced bread…just kidding, but it’s right up there. All kidding aside, it’s a very common mode of transportation, and basically it’s a bike with the front part removed and a little part attached to the front where you can sit 2-3 people. It looks a bit like a large tricycle since the cart part has two wheels in the front. They are wonderful. They’re always riding around the streets, and when you want to go somewhere, you ask if it’s “ocupado”, and if not, they let you climb into the little carreta and ask you where you want to go, then peddle you there while you get to enjoy a nice little breeze and protection from the sun (which, trust me, are very welcome breaks around here!). Then, you pay when you get out – usually it’s C$5 (5 cordoba – the currency in Nicaragua, which is about $0.25) to take you anywhere, though sometimes they charge extra for gringos (white people – because obviously if you’re white that means you’re rich…which I guess is true to a point…though that’s a topic for another post). Here's a camponera from the back to give you an idea:
The funny thing about the bikes and motos is that there is almost NEVER only one person riding. I promise. You will often see two schoolchildren riding on a bike together, one sitting on the seat and peddling, the other sitting on the bar between the seat and handles. Or, it might be two grown men. Completely normal. Or a mother and her child – even a 2 year old. Sometimes I wonder if as soon as the child is able to hold himself up, they put him on the bike and hope for the best, because I’ve seen some pretty young kiddos riding on the bars of a bike or moto and hanging on to the handles. Same thing with motos – you will often see a parent with their child(ren) – yep, sometimes 2 kids riding with mom or dad. And nobody, NOBODY wears helmets. I suppose it’s a bit safer here since they all go pretty slow since it’s a small town and not all the roads are paved, plus there are lots of people biking or walking down the streets (and basically no cars), but it is what it is!
I do have to confess that I have been on a moto, and I also have to confess that IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! Mom and dad, I hope you’re not too worried. Bonnie took a picture and promised to send it to you. And did I mention I was in a skirt? Me, in a skirt, on a moto? Who have I become?! Anyway, my moto experience was with Martha’s family – she had to go back to one of the 4 Walls houses, so I went with her husband and 2 kids. Her 6 year old son rode in front, then her husband, then me in the back (sitting sideways, ever a lady…right…), with Martha’s 4 year old daughter on my lap. Definitely not the safest thing I’ve ever done, but you’d better believe I had an absolute blast!
Oh, and did I mention that it's completely normal to see cows being herded down the street, or a cart full of bamboo or another material being pulled by ox? Don't believe me? Take a look:
Did I mention that I love El Sauce? How could you not when you get to see this on a daily basis? Admit it, my life is pretty awesome right now!