Soon Reach

April 12th, 2007

You can get from Managua to Little Corn Island in a night and a day’s time by bus and boat, theoretically. Most people choose to take the hour and a half flight. We figured we would go the local route, enjoy the journey. It took us three days and two nights.

Our trip began in Granada with an easy hour to a bus stop in Managua. From there we took a cab through neighborhood after undistinguishable neighborhood of Managua sprawl to the bus station for Rama. We were delighted to see a modern bus waiting, surely equipped with a/c and reclining seats, both necesities for eight hours of night travel. We waited happily and watched as the English speaking Carribean people gathered.

The scene was entertaining until everyone started loading on to the bus. We joined in only to be told that we were on bus #2. I had seen it sitting there outside the station, full of all those field trip memories, and chosen to ignore it. They can’t expect people to sit for 8 hours on one of the knee-mashing old Blue Bird school buses that carried American children to and from school until they were old enough to be decommisioned and given to Nicaragua. We asked, and, that was percisely what they expected.

We were able to at least take comfort in the fact that the bus had been carefully repainted, adorned with blinking disco lights and streamers running through the inside and had a large disclaimer pasted on the front: “Yo manejo, Jesus Me Guia” (I drive, Jesus Guides Me). It’s always nice to know that God supports your trip, but we would rest easier knowing that the driver feel personally responsible for the safety of his cargo.

There was one real plus: the knee-mashers had been replaced with reclining seats, but then, ours were broken. We drove up and over the mountains where occasionally the driver lent the wheel to Jesus who tested our faith by taking corners way to tight and scaring the $%&/ out of us and eventually landed safely in Rama

The boat ride from Rama to Blufields is incredible. Three hours of smooth riding down a narrow river with virgin tropical forests on either side. We arrived in Bluefields ready to hop the ferry to Big Corn. Several people we talked to in Granada before we left told us bus schedules and had various suggestions of how to make our trip more comfortable. No one mentioned that there are only three ferrys a week from Bluefields to Big Corn.

The next day we got our things together early and headed down to the peir where we waited for the 8am ferry to finally leave at 1pm. At that point we still had a chance of getting to Big Corn in time for the last panga (skiff) over to the little island, but what we read is a 5 hour ferry actually took 9 hours. People on the boat kept saying “soon reach, soon reach”. We spent the night on Big Corn and took the first boat over in the morning. Paradise was waiting and well worth every minute of the journey.

Brendan and Angie

Homestay in Granada

March 12th, 2007

Julito picked us up after our second day of Spanish school to take us to our new host family. As soon as we got in our cab he spun around and started talking a-mile-a-minute. He excitedly mumbles a colloquial spanish and if he wasn’t inclined to repeat himself three or four times, I’m not sure we could communicate. It took a few tries to get that he works for the host family. Memo, papá, owns a stall in the market where he works every day of the week. Lucila, mamá, is a lawyer, but we haven`t seen her go to work besides to sell her homemade sweets out of the front door. Maria Auxiliadora, who is named after her elementary school where she attends the second grade, walks around the house all day clutching her 5-week-old puppy.

The house chain of command is clear. When Memo is hungry or thirsty he says so and Lucila serves him. When Lucila needs something done, she calls for Julito. Maria Auxiliadora gets what she wants from whoever’s closest.

Whenever Lucila has something to tell us she prefers that Julito relay the message:
“Julito tell them they can eat these mangos after lunch”
“Yeah, yeah, okay, okay, okay.” Julito then waits and, as if he has just thought of the perfect translation, begins- “Lucila says you can eat these mangos after lunch. Mahn-Go, Maahhhn-Goo, mangos. The mangos are sweet and delicious. Nicaraguan mangos, you can eat them after lunch. Sweet mangos. Mahn-Go. Maaahhhhn-Gooo Duul-Sayy. Mangos.”

At one point I thought Julito had started to call me Mango, but then it sounded like Marlo. Maybe Marlo’s a local term for “buddy”, I thought. Then Julito said Marlo Brandon and it clicked that Marlo is an attempt at Marlon Brando. Close enough.

The family is very sweet. Lucila is a great cook and, to our delight, serves fried plantanes with every meal. Sometimes in the afternoon we pull chairs out to the back patio to watch the personal zoo. They have a green parakeet, two talking green parrots (who can say mango), a big red macaw, a tucan and two whitefaced monkeys. Very entertaining if a little noisey.

Tomorrow we will rise with Memo at 5am to see how the market starts its day…..


March 6th, 2007

After a tipsy ferry ride across the enormous Lago de Nicaragua and an hour bouncing along a dirt road in the back of a pick-up, we found ourselves at Hacienda Merida; camp for grown-ups! The beautiful refurbished hostel was once a vacation home and working coffee plantation of the Somoza family who ruled as dictators for three generations before being driven out by the Sandanista revolution in 1979. Now it sleeps about fifty, serves delicious buffet style meals and is comfortable enough to feel like home after a few days.

The grand Isla de Ometepe is home to two volcanos, Concepción and Maderas. Concepción is an active, steep, arid, perfect cone while Maderas gets steadily more lush the higher you go with monkeys and birds in the trees and a lagoon that fills the crater on top.

We relaxed and took in the sceneray for a couple of days and then made the ambitious decision to climb Maderas- five hours up, four down. We took to the mountain with a Norwegian couple, Paal and Ilene who hiked in sandals, an Aussy, El and a rediculous couple from Brooklyn and Connecticut. Tiffany is a self-proclaimed Yoga instructor who smokes like a chimney and sounds eerily like the Nanny and her boyfriend, Kai wears a knit cap in the 90 degree weather, even while hiking. Much to our disappointment, they turned around a couple hours into it. The hike was insane. We were up to our knees in mud, swinging from vines like a bunch of monkeys.

As we reached the top the scenery grew more and more beautiful. Moss coverd every surface and a dense cool cloud blew through as we climbed in and above the canopy. Reaching the crater lagoon was quite a feat and well worth every step. Afterwards we enjoyed Toñas (local beer) with Paal, Ilene and Rick from Canada who was pretty much a camp counselor by the time we left.

We left plenty to be explored on Ometepe and can’t wait to return. We will miss Paal, Ilene and Rick who were our travel companions for a week and can’t wait to see them again.

San Juan Del Sur

March 1st, 2007

So far Nicaragua has been good to us. The food is tasty and cheap. It´s about $2.50 each for dinner and a beer. Lodging seems to run about $10 for a room. This is our trip up until now….

After a shockingly warm night in Managua we headed straight for the beach. We stayed a couple nights in San Juan del Sur, a sleepy little fishing village turned surfer getaway and then a couple nights in a little hostel right next to the main surfing beach, Maderas. We took a day of surfing lessons and can both see why people fall in love with the sport. This seems to be a great place for beginners and the more advanced.

The surfers come to Maderas in truckloads everday from San Juan del Sur. Neither of us have ever been to a place that needs another guest house more, but, having said that, we are not jumping to open one up here. We can´t figure out why there isn´t more business on this string of beaches, all beautiful and all fairly private. For now we´re going to sleep on it and go check out Ometepe, an island made up of two volcanos in Lago de Nicaragua.

Heading south at long last!!!

February 21st, 2007

Nica, here we come.

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