A Three-Hour Tour

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…I hummed that song for three hours on my flight from Ometepe Island to Managua, which was supposed to be a 20 minute flight.

IMG_0272I was a little concerned when I booked my flight online with La Costéna because it is usually $50 plus taxes for a one-way flight. This time it was $83. Why the increase in the cost? The flight schedule said the plane left at 2:45 and arrived in Managua at 3:05.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 11.55.53 AM
Since we live very close to the airport, I started to worry because for the past two months, I’ve only seen one plane land on Thursday and Sunday, instead of the usual two planes. Plus, I’ve heard reports from two people who live on the island that this flight doesn’t exist anymore.
IMG_0278So, I walked to the airport at 10 am to confirm that my flight left at 2:45 pm that same day. You see, our little airport doesn’t have a land line or internet, and there was no way to contact them to confirm my flight.

IMG_0286“I am here to confirm that my flight leaves at 2:45 today,” I said to Mariana.
Mariana responded matter-of-factually, “No. There is only one plane and it leaves at 12:30 pm.”
“But, my ticket says 2:45 pm,” I whined as I showed her a copy of my ticket.
“No. You need to walk home now and get your bags for the flight at 12:30 pm,” she said without any explanation about why I booked a flight that apparently didn’t exist.
“Where am I going?” I asked her.
She looked at me like that was a silly question, and pointed to my ticket which said Managua.
IMG_0307 We were off…I wasn’t sure to where, but it was an exciting trip. We landed in San Carlos and picked up a few more passengers. It reminded me of a ruckus chicken bus ride with wings.
“Are we going to Managua now?” I asked the pilot.
“You don’t know where you are going?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said.”I thought we were going to Managua on a 20 minute flight from Ometepe Island.”

IMG_0311We waited for the assistant pilot, while he took selfies standing beside the plane, with a pretty female passenger, and in the plane. Was this his first flight?
And we were off again…to where I still wasn’t sure.

IMG_0314We followed the Rio San Juan. At first, it was a beautiful flight with the river winding in and out of the rain forest, and colorful fields dotting the landscape. But then…

The weather started getting rough
Our tiny plane was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
Our plane was surely lost
Our plane was surely lost
IMG_0328 Enveloped in heavy, dark rain clouds, our plane wobbled from side to side. The pilot turned on the radar because we couldn’t see a thing, while rain drops the size of quarters pelted the plane. Oh, look a rainbow. That reassured me, as I gnawed my fingernails…or what was left of them.

IMG_0338When the clouds parted, it looked like we were headed to the Atlantic coast.

IMG_0343I could see the ocean. We must be landing at the mouth of the Rio San Juan where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, I thought to myself. The little town called San Juan del Norte, or Greytown was our next destination.

IMG_0360“Bathroom break,” shouted the pilot.
We all exited the plane, took our breaks, then boarded the plane with two more passengers.

IMG_0377The assistant pilot took a few more selfies and we were off again. The Caribbean coastline was spectacular.
IMG_0381I didn’t ask where we were going anymore, because I was too busy snapping photos of the amazing cloud formations.

IMG_0407Well, look at that! After two and a half hours, I was back where I started…Ometepe Island looks mystical from the air, doesn’t it?

IMG_0294Another 30 minutes and we landed in Managua. I was tired and hungry, but before I headed to my hotel, I was going to have a little chat with the jefe ( boss) of La Costéna Airlines.

IMG_0460I was directed to the office of Bismark, one of the bosses of La Costéna airlines. I tried my best to keep a straight face when saying his name, and I think it helped me control my anger. Most Nicaraguans I know don’t like confrontations and they will tell you what they think you want to hear. Bismark was no exception.

“Bismark, habla Ingles?” I asked. I was hoping he would say ‘yes’ because it would be challenging to explain my dissatisfaction in Spanish. Bismark responded in perfect English, “No. I do not speak English.” Alrighty then…and I proceeded to explain the problem with my flight and my three-hour tour in Spanish with lots of hand movements and some mime.

When I asked Bismark a question in Spanish, he replied in English. I think he was playing with me and I wasn’t a happy flier. He told me how expensive it is to run the usual route  when there is only one passenger. I told him, I understand that, but all he needed to do was to change the time on the website for when the plane left.

I explained that I lived close to the airport and I could easily walk to the airport to check on the time the plane left. However, what about the poor tourists? If they book a flight online, they expect it to leave when it is stated on the ticket. This was bad for tourism. Malo, malo, malo. Plus, what was with the increase in the cost? He said, “The fuel is very expensive for a three-hour trip.”

Bismark copied my ticket and told me that the time for the flight would be changed on the website. Of course, I have learned not to hold my breath. I checked the website today, and the time is still the same. Sigh!

My three-hour tour wasn’t all bad. I met many new people, took some gorgeous photos, and saw Ometepe Island from every angle. But, next time…I think I’ll take a taxi to Managua. It will be cheaper and take less time.

Have you ever booked a flight where the time of departure was wrong? Did you miss your flight because of it? I don’t expect many people to respond that this has happened to them. Oh, Nicaragua! Sometimes living in the land of the not quite right is baffling.

We’re leaving the island again next week for a trip to Guatemala. We are traveling by taxi to Managua…that’s for sure. 🙂

26 thoughts on “A Three-Hour Tour

  1. Hi, good afternoon, my name is Julio Caballero I am the managing partner @ La Costena, please accept my deepest apologies

    If you would like please contact me directly we want to make it up to you

    Best regards

  2. A tale to make you tear your hair out and laugh hysterically in the land of the not-quite-right! We flew round trip on La Costéna Airlines from Managua to Big Corn Island and what I remember most was that there was a $10 penalty per ticket if you booked it online. And the cloud formations are our return trip were absolutely awesome! Anita

    • I heard about that $10 penalty if you booked online. My first flights from Ometepe to Managua, I booked online and didn’t have to pay a penalty. But, with this flight, maybe that’s what the extra money was for. Quien sabe. Oh, I’m still laughing about the way some businesses are run in Nicaragua.

  3. “Have you ever booked a flight where the time of departure was wrong? Did you miss your flight because of it? ”

    Not exactly. But once, in the early 90s, we were in Mexico City and went to the central Buenavista train station to book an overnight train to Oaxaca for the next day. When we got back to our hotel and checked the tickets, we found that they were for a departure that very day. Essentially no time remained to make it, nor did we want to.

    We went back to the station and waited a very long time to speak to a manager. They were very nice, but wore us down and we eventually gave up. But as unofficial compensation, they gave us a kilo of café de Córdoba. That was handled very deftly. The coffee was super aromatic. Then we went back to the ticket counter and bought two new tickets to Oaxaca. We checked the dates very carefully before leaving the premises.

    Many years later, 2002, we prepared to say good by to Spain and got a cab from our guesthouse in Madrid to the Barajas International Airport. When we went to check in, we found that we were there a day early! No seats were available on that flight that day.

    So we called the guest house to have them hold a room, then got another cab back to the center of Madrid. That evening, we had dinner at the Spanish hour, about 10 p.m. I recall a fish dish and Callos a la Madrileña, a famous but unappealing stewed or baked tripes dish with a gluey consistency.

    It was a great trip.

    Don Cuevas

  4. Holy cow, that would drive me mad! 🙂 You certainly got some great shots and I’m glad you eventually arrived at your destination. The plane didn’t say “Minnow” on the side, did it? 🙂


  5. Many years (decades) ago, I was taking an overnight train from Florence to Vienna – or at least I thought so. We made the scheduled stop about midnight in Trieste (on border with then Yugoslavia) and I was talking with a couple of Texans when we realized after about 15 minutes that we hadn’t moved and there was no one else left on train!
    After struggling to communicate with our little or no Italian, we finally were told not only that the train wasn’t going on til about 8 am the next morning but that the station house was also closing and we had to leave. It was about 45 degrees out and there was absolutely nothing open anywhere.
    Indeed, downtown Trieste then looked like a classic urban wasteland – burned-out buildings, a few guys standing around barrel fires trying to stay warm, screeching tires and angry shouting, groups of roving migrants (gangs?) It was pretty spooky as we huddled together on benches across from station in what once had been a park.
    I was the only one with a thin sleeping bag. But I didn’t do much sleeping. As I dozed off and on, I kept waking to find another body or two lying next to us every hour or so – usually covered by newspapers. Safety in numbers, I guess. At one point, a Yugoslavian kid scared the crap out of me by shaking my shoulder as he offered a cookie!
    We survived the night and got on the train to Vienna the next morning. Obviously we were tired but fine. A minor travel inconvenience.
    And here’s the punch line: When I was in Florence I had made friends with another American student when he told this funny story about coming from Vienna and being forced to spend the night on a park bench in Trieste! We both thought he had thought he read the train schedule wrong. Joke was obviously on me.

  6. I guess that’s one of those that “you can laugh about, now!” On a recent trip home to England I booked a 3:15 train ride. When I got to the station it was shown as 3:17 on the departure board, so I went in the office to double-check. Turns out they use the 24-hour clock and my train had departed 12 hours ago, at 3:15am! That was an expensive trip, too, because I had to but a new ticket. (I can laugh about it now!)

    • Sandra, oh boy! That 24 hour thing always confuses me. Yep! Something to laugh about now. When I was in the states, Ron was stopped by a cop when riding his motorcycle. He had all his documents with him, and he thought everything was in order. But, the cop gave him a ticket because his insurance expired. Not only that, but the cop took his license and Ron had to pay for the ticket to get his license back. Ron looked at his insurance card and told the cop that it hadn’t expired, that it was still good. Well, in Nicaragua, they write the dates different than in the states. 11/5/2015 means that his license expires May 11, 2015, not November 5, 2015. Gotta watch for things like that when abroad. 🙂

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