My husband drives.  I am the co-pilot.

The job of the co-pilot is to prevent death to the pedestrian who is standing in the middle of the road while wearing black clothing at night and carrying groceries with a kid or old lady at his side.  Also: to prevent inadvertent squeezing of the delivery dude on his China Wok motorbike into the semi-trailer which is loaded with sugar cane as the China Wok guy decides to create a fifth lane of traffic on a two-lane road.  Oh, and also:  to shout out "tumulo" (which means speed bump) when approaching an unpainted hump that sneakily runs the width of the shade-dappled road and which causes one's passengers to go airborne when one hits it at full speed.

We listen to salsa music or political updates accompanied by my shouts of Bike!  Hole!  That guy's turning!  Stop!  Tumulo!  Hole!  Chucho (dog)!  Sometimes in English, and sometimes in Spanish - whatever comes out quicker.  Every now and then, my husband says, "Stick your hand out the window so I can get over there."  He says it in a voice of edgy submission, like he is a bit frustrated that he could not win the lane position race on his own.

Our routes often take us through Apopa.  Driving in Apopa is an exercise in patience, especially on Saturday afternoons.  San Salvador empties its work-week employees out into the surrounding hamlets at noon.  Thousands of people are on the move.  The main road to the north runs through Apopa.  Cramped buses, cars, motorcycles, pick-ups, semis, and at this time of year, semi-trailers loaded with sugar cane, exit the bypass, make their way through the round-about ringed with people selling stuff, and squeeze into two narrow lanes that carry them in to downtown Apopa.

Last Saturday, there we were, in an Apopa free-for-all of six lanes of traffic honking and pushing their way into the two-lane exit which is really a one-lane exit.  I was casually going about my usual business:  Truck coming up  - holy!!  Little blue car!  Where is he going?  Yikes, moto!

"Why is this such a mess?" my husband pondered out loud.

"Wheelchair.  Guy in wheelchair!"

Yes, seriously, a guy in a wheelchair was parked in the right lane of traffic.  "His pusher is probably off peeing somewhere," my husband stated, just a bit sarcastically.

"What?"  I said.

"I'm serious," he replied, "his pusher is probably peeing," at which time our mouths gaped open a bit because a guy emerges from a ramshackle lean-to bus stop on a dirt road off to the side of the paved road, zipping up his pants.   He nonchalantly grabs hold of the wheel chair and pushes his buddy on down the road.

Who leaves his buddy in the middle of a traffic lane?  Well, at least he had a pusher.

Hole!  There are no manhole covers in Apopa.  You hit one of those holes and you break an axle.



  1. I enjoyed this. My wife and I drove up and down the Troncal del Norte regulaly 1991-93, through Apopa. It's always important to have a co-pilot. And recently also trying to navigate around Managua.


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