Terrified in Tegucigalpa: A Close Encounter with a Taxista

I sat squashed in the back seat, my bags occupying more space than I was. I had heard so many stories about taxistas driving off with people’s luggage in the boot that I wasn't going to be caught out! The journey was longer than I had remembered it being the previous night and I began to wonder if the driver really knew where he was going or worse, if he had any intention of actually taking me there.

My heart lifted when I saw the Tica Bus terminal sign but I began to feel apprehensive again when I realised it was still closed! It should have opened at 6 am but it had gone past 6. I paid the taxi driver to whom I was grateful for having dropped me off safely and waited on the step outside. Every car that passed or every person that approached I hoped would be getting a Tica Bus but to my dismay they kept on moving. I really didn't want to get back inside another taxi which is what would happen if the bus station didn't open. I have always hated taking taxis, even in rough cities because the situation is out of my control, there is no escape.

Finally a lady stopped in her car. She had a double chin and a pretty girl in the passenger seat. “Doesn't it open at 6 am?” she asked me. I told her in my pigeon Spanish that that’s what I had been told. I hoped she would take pity on a young, single girl, park the car and wait with me but she left.

As I sat on the roadside I became fully aware of my surroundings and conscious that it wasn't the nicest part of town. The street was full of rubbish and all the houses had metal bars across the doors and windows. I felt very alone but it was my best chance of getting to Nicaragua for Christmas. Like most Central American capital cities, Tegucigalpa was not really somewhere you wanted to hang out for long. But there was no option than to travel through the capital to get to Granada, in Nicaragua.

At one point a taxi stopped and a tall, young man got out but he wasn't heading for the terminal. The taxi driver himself got out and began to chase him down the road. I could only assume it was a passenger who hadn't paid their fare. The taxista then returned to his vehicle. Thinking he’d given up, I was a little disappointed that this short yet comic episode was over because it was so boring, just waiting. But it was far from over. The driver had gone back to his taxi to fetch a machete from under his seat and resumed the chase. I thought he was going to attack his passenger from behind. I wanted to warn him but then he turned around and saw for himself. I scanned the street looking for anyone who could help but it was deserted apart from a few scavenging dogs. Would the taxista come after me next, the only eye witness in the street? I really thought my luck had run out and I was desperate to get out of there.

Fortunately, his plan was only to scare his passenger and he relinquished the hunt, sliding his machete back into its original hiding place. The young man obviously wasn't very smart as he started throwing rocks at the taxista’s windscreen. He deserved no sympathy as to what would happen to him next. When the taxi driver got back into his car with the door half closed I imagined he was going to mow down his ungrateful passenger but thankfully murder was not on his mind and he drove off.

The real journey hadn't even begun yet. I was facing a long bus trip with vomiting children and no air-con but anything would be better than what I’d just experienced. That would be if there was still an available seat. It was after all the busiest time of the year.

I saw an old man open the corrugated iron gates next to the bus station. My heart sank when it revealed cars and not buses.

“Señor, What time does it open?”

“A las 7”, he responded.

I took this with a pinch of salt and continued the wait.

S Parsons

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