Archives for posts with tag: nicaragua
Originally published on facebook – July 1, 2009.

I made it to the cemetery in Granada the next morning, an incredible place, huge, with many beautiful monument/gravestones/sculptures, unfortunately my camera is being persnickity and I only got a couple shots off before it died. I’m not sure why but the thing is eating up batteries like there is no tomorrow, failing me at the worst moments, oh well, at least I have the pictures in my head.

And one here…

After the cemetery I booked it back to the hostel to pack up my stuff and head to the Corn Islands via Managua. Managua, what an ugly city, incredible amounts of poverty and filth. As far as I could tell there were absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. I took a long cab ride from the bus depot out to the airport, every time we stopped at a light people came up to the window of the cab either trying to beg money or sell something (anything from, water to plastic seat covers to assorted foodstuffs to Nicaraguan flags etc..) Was hard put to say no to everyone, did buy some water though, what the hell am I going to do with a plastic seat cover? Got to the airport in good time and was lucky to be able to buy my ticket for the fight right then and there. During check-in everything gets weighed, not just my big backpack but me with my carry-on as well! We walk across the tarmac to get on the plane, it’s a small plane, a Short SD360 ( here’s a link to see it for those of you who like that kind of thing: http://www.lacostena.com.ni/fleet_short.php ) holds about 33 people, it’s not the smallest plane I have ever been on but it does not make me happy, my heart speeds up as we approach it. Apparently these smaller planes are much safer then jumbo jets but I’m still nervous as hell during take off. Fortunately I am quite tired so I manage to sleep through pretty much the whole flight, seems to be my coping mechanism with uncomfortable travel really.

As we approach Big Corn Island I can see beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear Caribbean blue water, I’m smiling already. We land on a runway that cuts right through the center of the island, with only 2 flights leaving and arriving daily at predictable times the runway is often used by people as a soccer field or playground. There are in fact gates in the fence that surrounds the runway so that people can cut across it instead of going around. Once in the airport we have to talk to a nurse who asks us again if we are feeling well, no signs of flu etc… I make it through no problem and hop in a cab (it’s one dollar anywhere on the island) I get the cabbie to take me to where I planned to stay based on my Lonely Planet guidebook, I get there and it’s such a dive, the bathrooms smell like urine and I just can’t bring myself to stay there (I’m not a total priss, I have stayed in some pretty nasty places on this trip but this is just too much) so I start walking, pack on my back, checking other places in “the book” they are all filthy. Finally in desperation and exhaustion I settle on one that I am still not happy about. I go outside and find a cab and ask him to take me to another part of the island and other hotel I had heard about, I go check it out, still horrible and I still haven’t seen that beautiful beach that I saw from the plane. I ask the cabbie, which beach on the island is the nicest, he tells me picnic beach so I ask him to take me there…AH HA! I’ve found the dream I think to myself, only problem is it’s $40 a night and I have to be here for 5 nights, I haven’t brought enough money and they don’t take visa. I have no idea about the banking facilities on this island but I decide this is where I want to be. I get a cab to take me back to the hotel I choose earlier,grab my stuff, make my apologies to the clerk and taxi back to picnic beach. I figure I can stay here one night, visit the bank in the morning and then move to a dive if I can’t get any more money. Luckily the bank comes through and I get to spend 5 glorious nights in supreme comfort. My place is basically right on the beach, beautiful golden-white sand and crystal clear blue ocean.

In the mornings it is sunny but once afternoon rolls around rain , thunder and lightning reign, but I can deal. i spend mornings on the beach and afternoons either exploring the island, reading or internetting, quite nice and leisurely. My last day I rented a golf cart to get me all around the island, haven’t driven in 4 months but hey, it’s a golf cart no problem…and fun! I explore dirt roads that end in the ocean…

I find a cemetery (of course), and take pictures of all sorts of random things…

I unwittingly gave free rides to little kids as well. At first I didn’t even know it was happening, then I heard them giggling away behind me and I turned to see three smiling faces looking back at me, rascals! They had just been jumping on and off whenever they wanted, was quite fun for them, and me. All in all it was a quiet time, not too many other tourists around, perfect. The only drawback was the food, no fresh vegetables at all the whole time I was there, barely any fruit either. I ordered things that I though would have veggies in them only to be denied, vegetable curry was just potatoes, over rice…..carb city. I felt malnourished quickly and wondered how the people who live there deal?

After Corn Island I flew back to Managua, once again, horrible city and I planned to get out asap. Took a cab straight from the airport to the bus station hoping to head to Leon. I get to the bus station and guys are yelling in my window “GRANADA, GRANADA, LEON, LEON” Ok, ok, TRANQUILLO! I yelled back at them, was just a little too much in my face. I get out of the cab and the guy for the Leon bus is there, so I pay him for my ticket but he tricked me and as I went to get on the bus another guy demanded money from me,. I looked to the first guy I had paid and he denied I had paid so then I had to pay or they wouldn’t let me on the bus at all, I’m actually livid at this point, on principle, after all it’s only really a couple bucks to me. But I tell them, yes in SPANISH no less, that I’m pissed off about it and I tell the guy who ripped me off, that he was a bad man , he didn’t deny it.(wish I could have done better but hey, at least it was in Spanish) Soon I am in the bus and we are on our way to Leon.

In Leon I stay in a lovely hostel, dorms again but really nice comfy beds, there is a pool and internet and a big courtyard. Leon is ok, very run down and more begging here then in Granada. I visit churches, even get to go on the roof of the main Cathedral in town, and visit and art gallery with loads of contemporary Central American artists work, very inspiring.

My last night in Leon I’m walking back from dinner only a couple blocks away from the hostel and a guy walks past me and slaps me on the butt. I lose all my Spanish and yell at him, very loudly, hey, fuck you. Not very original I know. Then a couple steps later I remember some Spanish and I know he understands me when I call him a PUTA and a CERDO and a PERVERTO because I see him start walking more quickly. My honour is regained!

Nicaragua hasn’t been the biggest pleasure to be sure, I was robbed from my room in San Juan del Sur, ripped off in Managua, in danger of getting scurvy in the Corn Islands and groped in Leon, time to get to Honduras….

I take the Tica Bus from Leon to San Pedro Sula in Honduras, it’s 13 hour bus ride. The Tica Bus is a luxury bus service, air-conditioning, movies, bathroom, and best of all really comfy seats. I choose it because it’s faster then the chicken buses I have been taking up until now and I’m running out of time and also because damn it, it’s a long, long bus ride. I arrive in San Pedro Sula on June 28th. I know I am spending one night here only before I head to Copan Ruinas and I decide to treat myself to a very nice hotel, king size bed, super clean fresh sheets & towels, hot water, my own balcony overlooking the pool, cable tv and room service….heaven! I luxuriate in my room for the night and yes, indulge in room service.

The next day I make my escape to Copan Ruinas, back on the chicken bus, The seats are all broken so that they are permanently in the reclined position, neat, not really it makes me feel carsick, I try to sleep it away.. It’s a 3 hour ride and I arrive in Copan Ruinas and start looking for a hotel. As I am wandering around checking places I am told that there was a military coup yesterday (Sunday) and the president of Honduras has been whisked away, for his own safety, to Costa Rica. Then I find out that Martial Law is in effect, 9pm curfew must be obeyed. I’m thinking, what the hell have I gotten myself into? I obey curfew, even though I haven’t seen a single soldier in this town at all I am NOT taking any chances. The people here seem to be taking everything in stride, everything seems quite normal with the minor exception that a lot of tv’s are tuned to the news in shops and restaurants. Everybody is smiling like normal and going about their everyday business. I wish I spoke enough Spanish to be able to understand the news and have conversations with the Honduran people about what is really going on! It’s kind of boring though because of the curfew, I’m now having to arrive home at about the time I usually would be heading out for dinner, it doesn’t make for a very exciting nightlife.

Today (Monday) I played tourist and visited a butterfly house, very beautiful, took tons of pictures. As well I went to my very first ruins, Mayan ruins. Interesting to be in a place that is literally thousands of years old, and still standing (at least parts are). I can’t even begin to imagine what the lives of the Mayan people were like, except that there were a few alters that looked suspiciously big enough to fit a supine human on. I don’t know if human sacrifice was part of Mayan culture, I didn’t pay for the guide but you know, it looked likely. I also climbed an awful lot of temple stairs today, all of which appear to have been built for people with legs at least twice as long as mine.

My touristy activities complete I made it back to town and started to contemplate my next move. I had planned to go to the Bay Islands (specifically Roatan) to finish up my travels with some beach time, however I have heard that in addition to this coup there has been major rainfall there, resulting in flooding and possible mudslides, hmmmm. I got online and started to try to figure somewhere else to go, no luck. With the way my flights to get home are arranged I can’t get anywhere else with out going to Panama city first, and I have been there already, plus that wastes about 6 hours of a day, there and back so really doesn’t leave enough time. Therefore I think I am going to check out Roatan after all, heading there tomorrow (Tuesday). If I get there and it’s terrible then probably will come home a few days early. Will keep you posted.

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originally published on facebook – June 17, 2009.

So I finished up with the yoga program on June 6th, so glad to be done and able to get back out on the road. I stayed in Montezuma until the 9th, relaxing and enjoying lazing around in the sunshine again, then caught a bus up to Liberia (close to the border of Nicaragua). I spent one night in Liberia and then the morning doing a quick wander through the town until it was time to catch my bus to the border. I love waiting for the bus, the cabbies are always right on you asking if you need a ride, when I tell them I am waiting for the bus they stay and just want to chat with me as much as possible and always make sure to let me know where the right bus is and when it is leaving (it’s kinda like having your brother looking out for you). It’s also a good chance to work on my Spanish which is really still quite abysmal, I have a lot of words now but don’t conjugate them properly at all, everything I say is in the wrong order and I don’t know the “in between” words, I think I might be getting a little bit better though and can understand more and more of what is said to me even if I can’t answer back. I however am getting the hang of answering the same questions, where am I from, how do I like (insert current countries name here,) isn’t it (this country) beautiful, do I like the local beer (or rum on my case), how old am I, do I have any kids, where is my husband/boyfriend (I’ve created an imaginary one who is at home) and why isn’t he traveling with me? Oh yes, and usually they are kind enough to tell me….you are beautiful. Smooth and not subtle at all,

Anyways made it across the border without incident, this flu thing is pretty bad I guess, all the border staff are wearing gloves and surgical masks, we have to fill out a form that states where we are coming from and going to and whether we have any of the following symptoms, I check “no” to all of them and I wonder at the one that asks about diarrhea, don’t almost all travelers have upset stomachs at some point, what if I checked “yes” in that box? Would I be denied entry to the country, quarantined somewhere? I don’t want to find out. Besides, I have been particularly lucky with my belly so far, touch wood…:)

From the border I took a “chicken” bus (still haven’t seen any actual chickens on these buses) to a border town called Rivas, got chatted up the whole way by a guy who works at the border checking peoples cars, basically the same sort of conversations I have with cabbies at bus stations but he was particularly persistent, even asked for a kiss, the cheeky bugger! But I laughed him off with a “no, no” and a wag of the finger and he took it all as fun and was respectful of that, was even kind enough to show me which bus I should get to transfer to to my next destination and shook my hand like a true gentleman when we parted ways 🙂

Made it to next stop, San Juan del Sur. Is a beach town, very touristy but I choose it because I figured it would give me a little time to get used to the new currency/exchange rate (20 cordobas to the US dollar). Found a hotel with my own private room and bathroom with A/C for $13usd, saw a bit of the town etc. That night I woke up around 3:30 in the morning, I wasn’t sure why, I couldn’t get back to sleep so I thought I might sit out on the deck for a bit of fresh air, when I opened my door I noticed it was unlocked, I thought that was strange but I didn’t really register it that much as was half asleep. The next morning I realized that I had been robbed, while I was in the room asleep…creepy! My wallet was in my purse on the extra bed as well as my camera, passport and computer. The only thing missing was my cash, about $200 usd worth, credit cards were still there along with everything else even though this person could have taken everything they didn’t, and most importantly I was safe. I handled this incredibly well, I must say 🙂 got a tiny bit angry at first and a bit creeped out but I soon realized that it was only money, could have been so much worse and I accepted it, is all good. Am quite proud of myself for that response! I visited a beach the next day, about 12kms up the coast, met a few people and came back to town. I decided to leave the next day, didn’t love it there, too touristy and perhaps a little jaded by the robbery.

Next morning I headed to Isla de Ometepe, an island with 2 volcanoes, one of which is active. On the ferry on the way over I met a lovely couple from France, we were both headed to the same part of the island (Santa Domingo) and I suggested we share a cab there. We ended up hanging out together the whole 4 days I was there. We were pretty lazy I must admit, none of us really felt like climbing a volcano or anything however I did teach them both their first (and second) yoga classes ever!, Good practice for me! My last day there we rented horses for a couple hours, by chance I got the good one, she was a runner! We rode along the beach for about an hour and then along a path to see some petroglyphs, not quite what I expected but it was somewhat interesting. Our bums were killing us already so we headed back. Saddles here are not western or English, kinda a hybrid of the two, is impossible to post while trotting so makes for a bumpy ride unless you are walking slowly or galloping along…seeing as I had the speedy horse, I choose to gallop….super fun! Once we were back at the stable I told our guide that my horse really was a fast girl, he agreed telling me I rode muy, muy rapido! He seemed quite pleased with me actually 😀

We were going to move the next day to the other side of the island but while in the bus on the way there I met someone who told me it was possible to fly to the Corn Islands in the Caribbean for as little as $150.00 usd. I gave it about 2minutes thought and then changed my plans. I had previously considered heading there and had thought it would take too much time by bus, I never thought about flying! So I said my good byes to Cecile and Mathieu (they are traveling the world for a year and there is a chance we will meet up in S.E. Asia sometime in early 2010) and got on a ferry to come to Granada.

I am still here in the big G. Staying in a super nice Hostel (Hostel Oasis). Spent the rest of my travel day wandering through this city and spent today doing so as well. Had an extensive tour of the city trying to find the post office. Lonely Planet is so easily outdated, the damn office has been moved sometime in the past year so I spent about 2 hours trying to locate it, but I did eventually find it and get my parcel sent home. Granada is a beautiful and rough place all at once, more people begging then I have seen anywhere, kids, even really little ones, older folks and families even. It’s hard not to feel guilty but I can’t help them all, I wish I could though. I seem to attract a lot of male attention here as welI, sometimes it’s flattering and I wonder if it’s me or is it just because I am another gringa, with lovely white skin? (I don’t have the heart or the language skills to explain that for me this is tanned!) Some of the streets are crazy, sidewalks are so narrow that you walk in the street and cars and horse-drawn buggies are honking at you just to let you know they are coming. There are horse-drawn buggy tours you can take of the city but some people are using them just like a car, bringing fruit and veg to sell at market, a handyman/carpenter, a furniture re upholsterer, etc. On the central road what sidewalks there are are crowded with vendors of all sorts of things, from running shoes to fruit to sunglasses and t-shirts, people with trays full of candies and cigarettes and gum, all sold by the piece. It’s like a market of sorts. So much to see and absorb all at once, almost overwhelming sometimes, but I somehow manage to stay relaxed. I surprise myself a bit with this ability, before I left home i would have thought that this kind of “chaos” would have totally stressed me out but I really do seems to take it all in stride. I do my best not to look like a tourist, I wear a bag slung across one shoulder, not a backpack, I use a wallet, not a money belt and I keep my wits about me at all times, so far, so good. Maybe these aren’t smart things to do, it’s definitely not what is recommended in all the travel literature but it’s worked well for me thus far so I will keep at it.

Just one of many churches….

And this was inside one…

And this is something I saw at the central market that I just couldn’t resist photographing, it brings new meaning to the term “horny toad”…

It’s raining tonight so think I will stay in until I have to grab a bite to eat (soon). I wanted to get to see the cemetery today as well as another church or 2 but didn’t happen due to the post office stuff, so I think I may have to spend an extra day here before I can get to Managua to fly out to the islands. I haven’t booked it, I hope to just show up at the airport an hour or 2 ahead of time and get on a flight (wish me luck) if I can make it all happen tomorrow I will. So there is a small chance that by this time tomorrow I could be dangling my toes in the Caribbean blue!

I booked my flight home a couple days ago, will be arriving back in Vancity on July 8th. Have somewhat mixed feelings about it, will be wonderful to see everyone again but is hard to not be disappointed about coming back to the same place I have lived for the past 37 years. Also, once I start moving I just want to keep going, it seems there is no end to the places I want to see in my life. There are some places I want to go back to and some more places that I wanted to see that I didn’t get too, guess I’ll just have to come back sometime.

Originally published on facebook – May 25, 2009.

I had my first encounter with a Scorpion today. He was all curled up inside my yoga mat and as I unfurled it he flew across the floor and scuttled under my fridge. He is still there. I am hoping that my landlord comes home soon because I am scared to go into my kitchen, and it’s close to dinner time. I’m pretty sure that this is irrational behavior on my part however I am not taking any chances with a creature like that. This thing is at least 3 or 4 inches long and honestly, I am not sure what would happen if it stung me so I am not taking any chances. Have I mentioned that the nearest medical care is 7kms away by taxi? (Aline, I think that you would happily welcome a nice little gecko into your home (or even your bath towels) after seeing one of these freaking things.) I just talked to my neighbor Kristen, she said they are not poisonous, however it would still hurt like a summbitch if you got stung. She advised waiting for a man to come along and take care of it, I will happily acquiesce. Yes they are as creepy and scary looking as you might think. I was thinking that I was getting pretty lucky in the creepy-crawly department…hadn’t seen any snakes, tarantulas or scorpions before today and now this. Please God, Buddha, Krishna, Gaia, Mom or whomever is listening, I beg of you, no more scary creepy things in my house! After this I would welcome a few land crabs, no problem!

Here’s a photo of what he looked like after he got smushed….

Image

I am still in Montezuma, It’s been raining every couple of days here, mostly at night. It’s never really just rain, it’s always preceded by a good show of lightening and then it DUMPS. A couple Fridays ago we had a big one roll in, thunder, lightening etc. I watched and heard the storm approach along the coastline then hover directly overhead (I seriously considered the possibility that my house might get hit as my roof is corrugated metal, but then so are most roofs here) and then it moved on down the road. Was pretty darn cool really. I love watching the storms but practically speaking it is a bit of a hassle as the roads become mud rivers and if you walk around in flip-flops you get speckles of mud all up the back of your legs and butt. Also they can come up super quickly and if you get caught out in it you are instantly soaked through, I am starting to recognize the signs of impending downpour now (it gets windy and the clouds roll in dark) but still I bought an umbrella and carry it at all times. I don’t care so much about me getting wet as it’s still nice and warm but I am often carrying my school books (or library books) and if those get wet, well that would suck. A rain jacket is inappropriate as it’s so humid you stick to the inside of it, not so comfy.

During a storm last week I lost power in my place for almost an hour. I was trying to study so I lit candles and experienced the most amazing array of bugs flocking to the light that I have ever seen, all of them appeared quite suddenly and commenced to attempt mass suicide by tealight, many succeeded and their remains now decorate the re-solidified wax. As well lightning bugs (about 1-1/2 inches long) seemed intent upon landing in my hair every few minutes, So I watched them flit around the room, lighting up every few seconds as they fly, trying to duck when they came near. Lightning bugs are new to me, I’ve never seen them before as we don’t have them at home (I don’t think). Their glow is like an old fluorescent green light bulb, they are really kinda neat but it’s hard to study through that, to say nothing of the crazy looking beetles that kept showing up on my bed as well.

I am getting itchy to start moving again yet I still have 2 weeks left go here before the training is finished. I am enjoying it but at the same time quite miss being footloose and fancy-free, going wherever my impulses took me. I am looking forward to getting back out in the world again. Montezuma is a lovely place (probably the most beautiful and unique place in Costa Rica that I have been to anyways) but I have been here for a total of 5 weeks already with 2 more to go and I am ready to move on and get back to a traveler’s existence. Plus I could use a night or two to let my hair down and have some bevs, just not able to do that while in the yoga program as the amount of studying required does not allow for a day spent hungover. As well, much as I like the ladies I am taking the program with I think a little more masculine company would be quite pleasant around now. I think after I am done here I will be heading up to Nicaragua, though I have been kicking myself for not visiting the San Blas area of Panama when I was down there. I have been told by many people who have traveled all through South and Central America that it is THE place for beautiful beaches (you might think I would be bored of beautiful beaches by now, but no, no I’m not!) so I may look into the possibility of a cheap and quick flight down that way before heading north to Nic.

A few words on local forms of transportation: Atv’s or Quads as some like to call them – these vehicles are a major form of transportation here, you often see whole families riding on them, mom, dad, a few kids, the family dog, and no helmets, everybody hanging off the bike, holding on to I don’t know what. In the dry season especially it gets really dusty on these unpaved roads and people wear handkerchiefs around their heads and faces so it looks as if the whole town is out to rob a bank. Sometimes you see people wearing surgical masks, and even ski goggles. The other day I saw a mom and dad sharing a dirt bike and their kid following on his own mini quad, he couldn’t have been more then 6 years old. At least he had a helmet! Pick-up trucks drive around with little kids in the back, little kids maybe 3 years old bouncing around with shovels and hoes, maybe some groceries as well and a spare tire. Guys drive around on dirt bikes, either sitting on their surfboards (both sides sticking out into the road) or holding them in one arm while they steer with the other. I have even seen women on the backs of motorcycles holding newborns. It’s crazy but it’s normal here.

It’s funny how obsessed we are at home with making sure that everybody is safe and can’t get hurt. We enforce all these laws and standards and consider anyone who would do these kind of things at home as being negligent or dangerous or bad parents or perhaps even self destructive and suicidal. Yet I come to a place like this and realize that most of the world is not as worried or judgmental or as cautious as us and it’s refreshing or at least eye opening to see people live in a way that is somehow freer then we do at home. It makes me wonder if we relaxed the driving laws (and maybe other laws as well) we have at home whether we would see a difference in the way people drive (or conduct themselves)? Perhaps I speed only because I know I am not supposed to, if I was allowed to drive at any speed would I enjoy going so fast? Sometimes we break rules because it’s fun, if there weren’t any rules then maybe we would be more careful of our own volition. Here it’s never a local who speeds dangerously by you on one of these dusty dirt roads, it’s always a tourist (you can tell by the rental cars because most of them are exactly the same brand, getting kicks because there aren’t any cops handing out speeding tickets) a local wouldn’t speed because they know how obnoxious it is to be walking down the road when someone roars by and you end up choking on a mouthful of dust. Of course I don’t have any statistics on motor vehicular related deaths here compared to Canada, so maybe I am way off base. I’ll climb down off my soapbox now, but before I do….

Here are some other examples of how different things are here in terms of health and safety: raw eggs are not refrigerated in the supermarket (I know, crazy right, just asking for salmonella or whatever to happen…it doesn’t). Dogs and cats are allowed in restaurants or supermarkets (that’s stray dogs, yup, with fleas and all. The cats often just live there). You can buy booze at the corner store and hang out in the street or the beach or anywhere and drink it (much more pleasant then the actual bar here btw). I believe I have already mentioned (in a previous note) the response to fires on the sides of roads (none). Bonfires are allowed on the beach, anytime of year. The dogs that aren’t strays don’t have licenses and in fact most people just let them run around free, they come into town on their own, they go to the beach, they go get a snack at a restaurant (is this what they mean by a dog’s life? If so I want to be a dog next time). One lady in my class gets a ride home from the school with another classmate and her dog follows the car all the way home, running happily behind. If you go out for dinner and haven’t finished your bevies by the time you want to leave the restaurant they will happily provide you with a to go cup (I love this).

Anyways enough on this one, my thought are rambling (I’m not even sure I made that much sense) and I should be studying so I’ll put this one to bed for now.

Love to all…pura vida!
xoxo

PS – I have been wondering what the land crabs eat and I just found out. One of these crafty little guys just caught a big wasp right underneath my chair….I wonder if they like scorpions?