SANTA MARTA – We were thankful for the rain. Without it we would have been forced to choose between the dust or the heat on the small Toyota bus as we made our way to Santa Marta. In Puerto Cabezas, none of the buses have air conditioning and opening the windows would have normally resulted in us choking from the dust rising up from the dirt highway.
The rain meant there was no dust, but it didn’t mean we would be spared the potholes which rattled us for almost two hours on our 60 kilometre journey. The bus itself was a hodge podge of seating cobbled together from other vehicles. The bench at the back of the bus was particularly stiff, sending us slipping both up and down and left and right as the driver swerved to miss the worst of the indentations on the road.
The highway turns into a dirt road before you even emerge from Puerto Cabezas, the landscape softly rolling before emerging onto a flat plain where the trees become fewer in number. You can count on one hand the number of vehicles we pass going in the opposite direction, most comprising motorcycles or trucks.
At the first village we encounter a rope across the road just before a wooden bridge fording a river. A soldier asks us the purpose of our visit given we are about to enter an area that is controlled by Miskitu indigenous peoples.