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Voyages of los Testigos - Part 11, Page 1

Some Central Americans gauge their level of machismo by the number of empty beer bottles piled on their table. The more bottles, the greater the consumptive ability and manliness of the drinkers seated in front of them. In some bars, the practice is so common that a waitress won't carry empty bottles away until the beer drinkers request it. The truly manly, once the bottles are removed, will then turn to whiskey, Flor de Caña (flower of (sugar) cane) being a commonly known brand.

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The four travelers were not a particularly macho group, however, and while beer bottles were beginning to pile up on their table, they avoided the distillation stage. The beer bottles, moreover, signified an enormous relief at having survived the bus ride from the Nicaraguan border, and a need to spend the black market money they had smuggled into the country. The comfortable quartet sat in a small bar on the outskirts of Somoto, a small town at the end of the bus route.

Suicide Ride

Medio looked up from his rice and beans. "How close were we to tipping over in that bus?"

The BigGuy, usually loquacious, was lost in a reverie of thought, Capn in the enjoyment of his cerveza. Nuco put down his fork, used the last tortilla to wipe the bean juice off his plate, and ate. "I don't know," he said, his mouth half full of food, "but every time we hit one of those curvesmmmffI thought it was all over." He picked up a bean that had fallen off his plate and onto the table and stuffed it into his mouth.

Capn put down his cerveza. "Personally, I think we would have been safe if the bus tipped over. We would have been cushioned by all the bodies around us."

"There were people on all sides," Medio agreed.

"I had no place to fall," Capn added.

"I thought the driver was going to get pushed out of the bus there were so many people on it," Nuco said.

Capn finished his cerveza and placed the bottle amongst the growing galley of empties. "He couldn't. He had a dead bolt riveted to his door so he was held in place."

"I was yelling for people to lean left or right every time the bus hit a curve," Nuco said. "The soldiers were ready to jump off at any minute."

The discussion was a therapeutic debriefing for the group. After almost tipping over a curb before it was even en route, the bus from the Honduran/Nicaraguan border had begun a slow voyage down Central American Highway 1, wobbling back and forth like an overweight penguin. Adding to the danger, CA1 had been constructed with banked curves, which, while helping keep high velocity autos on the road, had almost toppled the slow moving bus. Fortunately, the soldiers lightened the load shortly after the bus departed the border, disappearing into an encampment along the road. As other passengers got off at the frequent stops, the bus's hyper wobble was transformed into a low-grade lean.

"If they wanted to do a better job, they certainly could have," Capn observed, waving for the waitress to bring him another cerveza. "At least I hope they could. If they couldn't, I feel sorry for them."

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