There are moments in your life when you look back and think…”that was just ridiculous.” One such moment comes to mind, which occurred during my travels in El Salvador, on a taxi ride from the coastal region into the mountainous village of Juayua.
Having learned that it would take hours on multiple chicken buses to reach Juayua from the small town of El Tunco, my travel buddy and I decided to shell out a bit more money and hire a private taxi to take us. We stopped in at a local travel agency in El Tunco and got everything squared away. Our ride would pick us up the following morning, and our driver would take us on the 2.5 hour journey into the mountains.
This is the story of how that taxi ride goes much, much differently than expected….
Part I: The Taxi Arrives
The morning came, and we eagerly waited at our hostel for our private taxi to arrive. When the car pulled into the parking lot, I found myself a bit shocked. I suppose when we hired a private taxi, I imagined we would be taking a bit more of an upscale form of transportation. This, however, was not the case. Rather than a taxi from some reputable taxi company, this was more like El Salvadorian Uber- just some guy’s car with no official taxi designation.
We handed our backpacks to the driver, to put into the trunk of the car. As he slammed it closed, I watched as the driver tied a rope around the trunk to make it stay closed. I quickly snapped a photo of the car’s license plate.
A part of me hesitated as we climbed into the back seat of this rickety looking car. I made a point to “take a selfie” which included the driver in the background. This way, if anything were to happen, I would have a photo of the driver.
The interior of the car looked like it was made of junkyard scraps that had been glued together. You could see the glue oozing out between the door and its interior plastic covering. The windows were smudged with the glue as well. The smell inside the car was a mixture of cigarettes and wet dog.
I wondered if maybe this wasn’t the best option.
Not the loveliest car interior I’ve seen…
Part II: The Journey Begins
Our driver jumped into the car and we started our journey. He shuffled through his stack of CDs and put one into the player. “This is good?” he asked us, flashing a smile and a thumbs up. We smiled and said “yes” and the music of The Doors filled the car.
I assume he chose this CD as it was all in English. I never realized how long the song Light My Fire was until this car ride. We listened to it probably three times throughout the ride.
As the morning turned into the afternoon, the El Salvadorian heat began creeping into the car. Our driver promptly turned on the A/C for us, but it would blow out hot air every time he accelerated.
Still, I tried to think of the hours we were saving, not having to ride on the cramped and foreign chicken buses. At least in our janky taxi, we didn’t have to worry about pickpockets.
Our stealthy selfie
Part III: Things Get Interesting
Now, the roads in El Salvador aren’t the best quality, meaning they have a fair share of pot holes. Our driver did his best to avoid driving over them, though this caused him to swerve left and right much like a toddler behind the wheel of his first play car.
For the first hour or so, that is how the drive went. Swerve left. Swerve right. Blast of hot air. “Gonna set the night on FIREEEEE”
Lulled into a sense of security as this pattern continued, I nearly jumped out of my skin when the driver finally hit a pot hole in the road. There was a loud KAH-THUNK and the car lurched forward. I thought I saw a piece of something fly off the car, but I figured it was probably just a chunk of asphalt from the road. The driver would stop if it was something important, right?
This is a tame road compared to what we drove on
Part IV: The Incident
The driver hit the heels of his hands on the steering wheel in frustration. It was easy to tell he was angry at himself for totally nailing that pot hole. His brows furrowed with annoyance and he shook his head.
Still, he kept driving.
About 20 minutes later, we heard another KAH-THUNK followed by the sound of shattering glass. I looked up to see nothing out of the front windshield, except white. The driver slowly pulled off to the side of the road and got out of his car.
The hood of the car had flown open and hit the windshield, leaving it cracked from one end to the other. Small shards of glass littered the dashboard. My friend and I exchanged glances which clearly conveyed our thoughts: “What the heeeeeeck just happened?”
The driver pulled on the hood in an attempt to bring it back to its correct position. The hood wouldn’t budge. He pulled again, this time harder and lifting slightly upward. The hood came down, but would not lock into its closed position. The driver tried slamming it down several times but it would just not stay shut.
The windshield cracked all the way across
Part V: The Resolution
The driver came around to my side of the car and opened the door. I was afraid he was going to ask us to get out of the car, but instead he reached his hand between my seat and the side of the door to reveal a small fragment of rope. He pulled on the rope and “CLUNK” the trunk opened.
With the trunk open, he pulled out another long piece of rope and proceeded to tie the hood of the car down.
I was worried about the cracked windshield and thought maybe the pressure of the wind as we drove would cause it to collapse onto us all. Maybe he would call another taxi to come and finish the drive for us?
Nope! Once he was finished tying the hood, the driver jumped back into the car and continued driving, like nothing had happened. An hour later we were at the door of our hostel in Juayua, and happy to be out of that jankity-jank taxi.
What is your “this is just ridiculous” story from abroad? Share with me in the comments!