Canada and the USA,      Mexico,      Belize,      Guatemala,      El Salvador,      Honduras,      Nicaragua,      Costa Rica,      Panama,      USA, again,       Thailand,       Lao,       Vietnam,       Cambodia,       Thailand, again,      

Journal Index

New as of March 23, 2005.

New as of March 28, 2005 (Le󮬠Nicaragua)

New as of April 12, 2005 (San Jaun del Sur, Nicaragua)

New as of April 16, 2005 (San Jaun del Sur, Nicaragua)

Onward and South

March 17, 2005


Just now when taking my shower I realized that the only time I posted my journal the entire time I was in Honduras was on the last day. Sorry about that. Not that in the end Honduras ended up being that exciting. I am a bit bummed about not getting to do any scuba while on Roatᮠbut there will be more chances. It seams that Honduras was nice, not anything much more exciting, but nice. Maybe it was because I only went five places (two of them tourist centres), or just that I am getting Central America jaded, but it was only nice.

Tegucigalpa, the capital, ended up mostly being just dirty. I didn’t like it like I did with D.F., Guate, or San Salvador. Of course I wasn’t expecting to like those towns. What would have made the stay there was had I been able to go see a play. When I was back in Gracias I saw an ad in the paper for “Nada Sexo, Por Favor, Somos InglesaE More commonly known as “No Sex, Please, We’re BritishEa rather funny British farce that I happened to have worked on about twelve years ago with Prairie Repertory Theatre (PRT, not to be confused with TRP.) I would like to see a play while I am travelling. This one having already done it and being a farce with lots of physical comedy would have been wonderful. Unfortunately I didn’t rip out the ad when I saw it. Either the show had closed by the time I got there, or I couldn’t find information about it. Just got to keep trying. The closest I have gotten so far was the dance show back in Mexico, of course for that show I didn’t know what I was buying a ticket for, I just liked the poster.

Speaking of trying again, here I am in Nicaragua. New currency (the c󲤯ba,) new exchange rate (something around 15 to the US dollar which so far as been much easer to work with than HondurasE18,) new attitude towards smoking (in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador only foreigners smoked but here I have seen several locals do it hope this isn’t a trend,) and new prices for everything. Of the eight sections in my Central American guide book I only have two more to go.

This morning I got going early (early for me that is, about 7:30am) and headed off to the bus station. As I was feeling a bit lazy and had Lempiras to burn before I got a bad exchange rate at the boarder I took a Taxi. Boy, am I glad I did. I knew the bus station was off the map but it is practically in the next town over plus one. When I got there I learned the bus wasn’t going to leave until 11:45am and I couldn’t even buy a ticket until 11:10am. I hulled my bag down to the main street and crossed to the median and sat and practiced my tin whistle until it was time. (The one problem with having a musical instrument as a fill time hobby is that if you aren’t any good it is hard to find good practice places when you need them. Traffic medians and round abouts have served me well.)

At 11:10 I went back and got my ticket and grabbed a bag of water and a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. Just as I was sitting down the lady asked if I was going to the border because the bus was just filling up was it. As I grabbed my stuff and they bagged my lunch and I rushed to the bus.

Sure enough it was and I got the last seat just as we took off at 11:25am. There goes getting accurate information from the ticket counter, next time as the lunch lady.

The ride went well and I was in the front seat so I had a good view of the dry land. (Sometime I want to come back during the wet season.) Also sitting up front I got a good view as the engine died.

I guess that is one of the stories you have to have if you travel in the third world, “Here I was on an over crowded bus in the middle of nowhere when the engine blows up.E It wasn’t really that bad. At first they kept refilling the radiator and making sure the water bottles were full. This isn’t anything new in my experience. Then they seamed to be getting a bit more worried about it and opened the engine to look at it. (This was a flat front bus so it meant the engine was a big lump next to the driver so when the opened it up we all got a good look.)

Here you could see the engine was getting really hot and making one of those ‘unhappyEsmells that engines make when something is wrong. There are normal engine smells, I-should-have-it-checked smells, and as one person described a bad engine smell, “the smell of money burning.E This was somewhere in between the last to. Also it became apparent that it wasn’t necessarily running on all cylinders either. Finally we pulled over and we all got out.

Fortunately this is the day and age of the cell phone. The driver called the bus company and soon another converted school bus was on the way to pick us up.

While waiting on the side of the road, I met the couple of other foreigners who were from Austria. We conversed some in Spanish and some in English for the rest of the way to the boarder. There was also a guy who joined our group who was from Colombia but had been living in New York for the last ten years. He was especially worried as he was travelling without a passport and needed everything to go smoothly. Interesting guy, but I don’t think I would loan him money. When we got to the boarder we all got off to walk across and pick up another bus. We lost track of the Columbian; we went one way, he another. We wondered if his way involved any traipsing through the bushes or anything. As his reason for not having a passport involved trouble with the US government we figured the less we knew the better.

A couple more busses after the border and here to Estelʠ As we arrived just at sunset and it was a bit of a long trek into the center I haven’t see the town. Just enough to get dinner and find an ATM. Although I did have a nice little experience on the way back from dinner. I stopped at a fruit stand to pick up something for desert and get water to brush my teeth with. I first asked the girl if they had water. After verifying that I meant drinking water, she grabbed a bag and filled it from there water cooler five gallon bottle. When I tired to pay her for it she just used the no finger waving gesture. (In the US it would mean something along the lines of “shame on you, you know better you naughty childeEbut down here it is more along the lines of “no, I see you, maybe next time, that is not necessary.E Taxi drivers use it when they being hailed but they are already engaged.) I bought a couple pieces of fruit from her at, as far as I can tell, not inflated prices. How nice to have one of the first interactions with a Nica to be a gift of water.

Money, String, people

March 19, 2005-03-23


An interesting day. I am getting a little road weary and am beginning to look forward to getting to Panama to let the next leg of this trip begin. (Don’t ask what that next leg is, I don’t know, but it will be different.)

I started the day checking my e-mail to see if the Spanish school has written back. They had, there is room, I could start anytime, and they want payment in US dollars cash. All is well except for that last one. For two reasons. One, I don’t have that many US dollars with me, although I hear I can get them from some ATMS. Secondly and possibly most importantly, I am in Nicaragua. If you want to be paid in US dollars move to the bloody US! If you want to live here use Nicaraguan money the c󲤯ba. I bet my teacher would be paid in c󲤯bas. I bet my host family would be paid in c󲤯bas. Why don’t they want me to pay in c󲤯bas? I figure the prices are in US dollars because then they can jack up the price by using a bad exchange rate (my school in Antigua did.) Or they are giving in to week minded tourists who can’t be bothered to deal with the local currency. (Of course that is only true if you are from the US. All the Australians and Brits I meet have to deal in three currencies down here; home, local, and the US dollar.) Neither of theses is a good enough reasons for me. Here because of the insistency on the website and in the e-mail I got about either doing an electronic funds transfer to a US Well’s Fargo account or US cash in person, I think there may be a different reason. It is possible that the owner is American and they don’t want to lose money on the return exchange rate or there is a limit of converting C󲤯bas. I’ll be curious if they really do hold to only asking US cash. I can understand wanting a harder currency, but save that for the people coming from the States where a funds transfer makes perfect sense, for local at the door transactions, take the local money. (I hope I didn’t do this rant too much before, it just bothers me.) When I told this to an Australian pair I helped translate for, they smiled and said they liked me. They have just come from Costa Rica and had gotten fed up with all the tourists that were only using US dollars and always demanded US change refusing to deal with the local currency.

I had a light lunch at the Gringo hang out as I have been feeling a little isolated since I have had a private hotel room for the last few days. After that a stop at the internet to look some stuff up and to enjoy the Air Conditioning and then wandering back to Parque Central deciding what to do next. I pulled out my cat’s cradle string and before long was teaching one of the shoe shine boys how to play, This got another shoe shine boy or two involved and a couple of kids who were better dressed and groomed as well. It was a good workout for my Spanish. The new words I tried today didn’t really stick but they will with repetition. Every once in a while I would have to stop and get a new word like up or out or what the Spanish equlivent for thumb is. There is one mistake people make playing cat’s cradle all the time and I can’t explain it in English either. I never did get the words for horizontal or triangle, but then again I don’t know how good the shoe shine’s boys geometry is even if I knew how to say it. As is I gave away the one string I had to give away and when I go out tomorrow I will take more with me just in case.

While at the gringo hangout I also ran into one of the Austrians I met in Estelʠ They are taking a bit of a break and while she is working on a farm he is going to explore the country and then meet back up again. Sounds like a good pair that is willing to do things apart as well.

After the string games in the park I picked up a little street food and grabbed as seat for the free showing of the new movie version of The Passion. I have been especially been wanting to get the stations of the cross down so I figured between working on my Spanish and filling in the gaps in my Christian stories what could I loose. The film was being sponsored by a Miami, Florida group and had an hour of preaching and Christian pop music sung to pre-recorded tracks. The singers weren’t pain full and the preaching low key. (It probably helps I can’t understand half of what they are saying.)

Boy that is a bloody movie. And I didn’t even get to the end. They paused the film just as they started the drag the cross and proceeded to have more preaching. As it sounded like they were also going to give away free Pepsi I became more interested in the idea of Ice Cream and getting to bed then finishing the film. Also as it was in Spanish subtitles and I couldn’t see that last twenty percent of the long lines I was getting a bit of Spanish fatigue. (What language was it filmed in anyway?) Must have been an interesting movie to work on. The sound designer sure had fun.

The people who ran the full moon hike I did back in Xela also have a branch here. I stopped in and they have a hike coming up this full moon on Friday and I might take it. This time you get to climb the volcano that is active rather than just look down on it from a neighbouring one. They also talked about another hike up a cinder cone volcano but I don’t know if my shoes can take another slide down, fun as it is.

Palm Sunday, Something Monday

March 21, 2005


Well I think I have finally pulled off being in a good place for a major holiday. (Actually New Years Eve and Day in Antigua wasn’t bad.) Le󮠭ay not be the heart of the Semana Santa festivities but so far it has been good with out being overwhelming. (OK it’s a bit hot, but doable.)

If nothing else on this trip I am learning a lot about the Catholic liturgical calendar. If you were wondering Lent is purple.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, I headed down to the main plaza in time to see the return of the processional. The Parque Central was filled with kids playing with their palms and other people industrially turning theirs into crosses. I was on the church steps when the processional returned complete with band and Jesus effigy. I think when I get back to Minnesota I may go down to the Cathedral in Saint Paul and do a comparison. I suspect our Minnesota processional won’t have the same energy. As the effigy came into the church there are kids all over the place. Waving of palm fronds as if they were flags at a baseball game, and lots of general milling about. Quite a show. As the service got underway I headed out, my Spanish can’t hold up to third world public address systems in acoustically live spaces.

Today as I was wandering around town they were making the carpets of sawdust along some of the streets that were to get trampled tonight. The idea of creating art only to destroy it reminded me a bit of the sand paintings from Asia. When I get back I have so much reading to do and what I have seen. I keep getting religions mixed up. I was thinking about how Lent worked and realized I kept pulling in bits from Passover. Oups. Knowing me I probably have a little of Ramadan stuck in there as well.

Today’s symbolism was totally new to me. As the festivities warmed up around the Iglesia San Francisco lots of people dressed in white appeared as part of the street. Among the things for sale included black candles and brooms. I don’t know what it means but after the Procesi󮠤e San Benito left the Iglesia everybody began to sweep. Every time I would stick my head in they would be sweeping. All day back at my hostel they had been doing a thoral spring cleaning. Lots of sweeping and mopping and even washing the plastic flowers. Also there were people coming into the church on their knees and/or blind folded. I have heard about pilgrims coming on their knees, this was just the first time I actually saw it.

The couple from Australia I ran into the other day surfaced again and we wondered about together a bit. We were surprised by the fact that the various religious gack stales had invaded their way into the church sanctionary. I am weak on my Christian theology but I thought Jesus had something to say about that. One of the pictures I saw but did not get was a woman on her kneeses approaching the alter while in the background two guys carry in a big Coca-Cola cooler with the rosary and cross sales table behind it all. (The other photo I didn’t get was one of the religious paraphernalia sales where they had rosaries and crosses intermixed with the Ch頡nd marijuana leaf pendants. As far as I could tell inside the church it was only crosses and saints on the pendants.)

A bit of fun was while I was waiting for the sawdust paintings to get trampled one of the kids I taught cat’s cradle to found me and we played for a bit.

During the festivities today food stands were along all the streets and especially as the day progressed there was always someone selling water. Here they have the water bags (about 300 ml) for sale at one Cordoba each and there are people always wandering around with a bucket in hand or on their head calling “El Auga, Agua, Agua.E Even if you have a bit of change you have no excuse of getting dehydrated. There is water for sale everywhere. OK I would prefer lots of public water fountains, butE (Oh I dream of how Portland Oregon had public continuously running public water fountains on main street corners.)

As I said, this should be a good place to spend the week. I am still getting a bit of itchy feet about moving on, but we shall see how it goes. The real problem is that Easter has me feeling a bit trapped and the place I really want to be is back in Minneapolis at MiniCon. Oh well, can’t be everywhere doing everything.

Not quite what I planned to do tonight.

March 24, 2005


Being in one place for a week is probably being good for me. I get a little break from the day to day travel worries and get to see one place well. Also it in some ways is forcing me to do things I keep thinking are a good idea.

When I got back to the hostel today I figured I would get out the old keyboard and do a little writing in my journal ect. Well as I pulled out the keyboard I remember that the batteries in my camera were running low so I might as well pull out the charger and charge them up. (I am planning on going on the full moon hike tomorrow night and it would be silly to get up there and discover that my spare set of batteries were flat.)

The battery charger lives in my “bell bagEthat lives towards the bottom of my pack as it doesn’t come out the often as it should. As I started digging down in the dark depths of my bag, I felt something scurry against my hand. As I pulled back and tipped that bag so I could get a little light into it I saw an inch and a half brown/grey thing scrabbling around. It leapt from the bag, and ran into a corner. I am glad to say ran rather than scurried as it meant it was moving like a mouse, rather than a cockroach. As I was washing my hands I determined that a mouse was a much better thing as mammals tend not to lay eggs that will hatch latter. (Later I also saw it run from the first corner it ran to into another which implies a mouse as cockroaches, once in a crack, stay there as a mouse will keep moving until it feels safe. More or less.)

I went to dig into my bag to see what the damage was and either the mouse ran back into the bag or there was a second. Well I had been thinking that it would be good to upturn my bag and get all the crublies out of the bottom anywayE So I dumped the entire contents, including mouse number two out on my room floor. I never actually saw the mouse go, but it’s after dark and the light isn’t the best here.

I carefully pulled my stuff out and dusted it off checking for damage. As it was the only loss was what probably what brought the mice in the first place, my food bag with a couple packets of instant oatmeal that make up my “I’m feeling sickEfood. Oh well. It was bound to happen. Unfortunatently it meant the oat meal was all over the inside of the bag along with the sugar they have to sweeten it. I don’t think it had been open long as it was still dry and with this humidity I expect it would have been getting sticky. Lucky break.

It wasn’t a bad thing to dump everything out, dust it all off and then put it back together, just not what I was planning to do tonight. (The mice had also gotten into the snacks I bought this morning for my hike tomorrow. I salvaged what I could and cleaned up that mess as well.) Too bad they cleaned my room today now that I have dumped at the stuff everywhere. I have swept it as best as I can, but I probably won’t do the mopping they did today.

Now I just whish they had a cat. (They do have a monkey and a little dog about the size of a cat, but a dog’s personality.) Maybe I can borrow the neighbour’s cat for a day or two.

Outside of the mouse excitement all is slow and easy. The weather is beastly hot, 90’s with high humidity so you don’t move fast if you can help it. Yesterday I had decided I had seen enough of various processionals for a bit and figured I would take the night off from processional chasing.

One the way to dinner (with out my camera) I ran into one processional coming out of the Cathedral. The interesting part with this group was the people dressed up like what I would say the KKK. There was one set in the white robes and pointy hats walking with the bloody Christ effigy, and a second pair in purple at the front of the group. I have seen pictures of these outfits before, but it is a bit creepy to see them in person. (I know the symbolism here predates the KKK by far, but even without the modern cultural background, it is a scary looking costume.)

On my way back from dinner I crossed the square again to see the pointy hat people returning to the Cathedral while another processional from another church just made it out of the way on their pass by the square. I wonder what the traffic rules if two processions meet at an intersection. Yield to the right? The group with the biggest church goes first?

Tonight was close to a procession free night as I only saw one pass by while I was on the Internet. And I was worried I wouldn’t see anything. I am curious to see what Good Friday and Easter will be like. Somehow I don’t expect to see a bunny and lots of candy or coloured eggs. Although on one of Tuesday’s processions they did have a live chicken on the “float.E

Full Moon Tired

March 26, 2005


Well, I’m tired. In a good way that is. Last night I climbed an active volcano and then walked down again this morning.

Quetzaltrekkers who I did the full moon Santa Maria hike back in Xela Guatemala have a branch in Le󮠡nd I got back this morning from the full moon hike up Telica.

Telica is another active volcano and with the night hike once you get up to the rim of the crater you can look down and see glowing lava below. Unlike the lava on the Santa Maria hike, on this one you climb the active volcano. Admittedly it wasn’t the most exciting grater of glowing lava. (A recent rock slide had covered much of the lava and it is only just now started to peek through to the surface again.) But a good hike.

The night hikes are fun not only because you get to go walking in the woods and up mountains in the dark, but in this case also nice because it is a lot cooler. Le󮠨as been have hot humid just like Minnesota in August so hiking when the sun isn’t out is a good thing. As is you were still soaked with sweet and had drunk a litre and a half of water by the time you reached the top. They also run a two day hike up the same volcano and they say the climb takes an hour longer because they have so many more breaks.

What was also cool was last night we had slight overcast skies and lighting in the clouds. So as we were walking up and through the old crater the sky would light up and flash and flicker.

Of course the downside of the overnight hikes is when you get back you are drop dead exhausted. After dragging myself the longest six blocks from the QuetzaltrekkersEoffice to the hostel I had a quick shower and dropped into bed for a five hour nap. I don’t think I rolled over once while I was out. On the chicken bus ride back from the village we hiked out from, (Quetzaltrekkers uses local public transit when possible) I was fantasizing of walking straight into a swimming pool with all my clothes on. I figured all I wanted to do was immerse myself in water and get clean, preferably with out having to stand on my tired feet while doing it.

I did sucefully drag myself out of bed to get supper before it was too late.

One other reason for being tired is that the day we left was Good Friday (yellow and white) so I had been wandering around town seeing the observances of it. One of the processions had not only sawdust carpets on the streets, but the people living along the route had decorated their houses and in same places went to having shrines or tablows of children depicting Jesus and friends (or enemies.) It was a cross between HOTB’s May Day parade, Halloween on Sergeant Street in Saint Paul, and a Catholic Mass.

One last night.

March 28, 2005


This should be my last day in Le󮮠 I think I will try to head off to Granada tomorrow morning. I had half planned on leaving today but I figured busses might still be busy with holidaiers returning home. Easter Sunday ended up being a bit more low key than I expected. Of course I didn’t get up for the 6:00am processions so maybe I just missed the excitement. Either way, the evening procession I went and saw was much the same except Jesus was looking a lot healthier (do dripping blood) and dressed in white looking down right happy. Of course I hear resurrection is good for your health.

I am going to be looking forward to moving on. Le󮠨as been good but I realised one of the reasons I have been feeling a bit low. The only people I have been talking with, besides other travellers, have been children, drunks/crazy people, or people who in the end want something (normally money) from me. It may be just that this was Semana Santa when all the interesting people leave town and the ones that remain are for the tourists. Either way it is a bit tiring and not very interesting.

There are some good things that have happened to. I was thinking that I wanted to read Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not TakenEagain and I ran across a copy while sitting at the QuetzaltrekkersEheadquarters before the hike.

I also had an interesting experience when I was cleaning out my pack. Way at the bottom of the back pocket is where I put my keys. I don’t have many, just my spare PO box key, bike lock, and I think a key to my Aunt and Uncle’s house back in Minneapolis. But the funny thing was that the ring and to some extent the keys, are rusting. My keys that were never far from me and being used constantly at work and home had been untouched for eight months and were now rusting. I guess it is probably the same feeling my dad had when flying to England after years of having a huge key ring with office keys, house keys, radiator keys, and car keys, was able to walk through a metal detector for the first time and not set it off for he didn’t have a key to anything anywhere. (Of course now-a-days I have been stopped going through airport security for the metal in my hair ties.)

Unfortunatly this computer doesn’t have the English spell checker installed....

Touring Trees

April 2, 2005

Granada, Nicaragua

Well I made it to Granada. I have't beenup to much but that's OK. Part of my excuse for being a bit lazy is that on the way down from climbing the VolcᮠTelica I twisted my left knee a bit so I have been taking it easy here. Not to mention the hostel I am at has a very good matress and Granada is a georgous city. I half am considering stopping and working on my Spanish a bit more. In some ways this may have been a better choice for Semana Santa as there are a better choice of Spanish schools and I might have actually gotten something done on that frount, but you never know until you get there.

Yesterday was the ultmate in lazy as I spent the entire day in a hammok reading "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time." I liked it; the day and the book. I enjoyed the math bits in it.

The last week or so I have been running interesting maths. I really should be too suprised as it was Easter weekend when I normaly go to the MiniCon Science Fiction convention to hang out with science geeks. (Somehow the performing arts has a lot of math phobs.) I can't say I have been truly without any geeking because when I was hiking up the national park outside of Gracias in Honduras Ian and I did chat about wiring color codes.

Today I figured I would see how well my knee was doing and hike a volcano. Mt. Mombacho is technicaly active although the walk didn't get to the active crater, only around the rim of one of the defunct ones. It was not a challanging hike. (Mom and Dad if you get down here this is one you both can do.) It was nice to get up into the cloud forest and a bit of a drawf forest. There is also a nice little side trail that leads off to a little steam vent and a nice view of Granada from above. (Also around the steam vents there arn't any big plants or trees as the ground is too warm for them.)

You take a short chicken bus ride from town and then walk up a paved road for a bit before you reach the park entrance. Here you get a ride to the top on a sort of tour bus right up to the rim. The walk is a loop trail around the old crater with a side jaunt off to the steam vents. Nice and easy. I was worried about my knee and picked up a walking stick along the road on the way up and it helped alot. I will have to remember that.

On the way back I stopped and took the "Canopy Tour" that is also and the same hill. It really isn't a canopy tour as much as a zip line coursee over a coffe finca, but it was what I expected and I enjoyed it. My friend Ian who I kept running into had done it and gave it a good review. (Ian's websight, which he copied the idea from me, is at The guides only spoke Spanish so it was some nice practice. At one point they asked if I was nervious, and I couldn't figure out what they were trying to ask. I guess part of the problem was I wasn't nervious at all. Between rock climbing, and working as an electrican in theatre, heights and slidding along doesn't scare me. Not to mention I alrealy knew the course could hold Ian's weight so what was there for skiny old me to worry about?

Now I am back at the hostel safe and sound and trying to decide if I will try for La Isla de Ometepe in the Lago Nicaragua tomarow or wait another day. I don't really have a reason to stay, but it is so nice and comfortable. (I probably will, unless I wake up with the unquenchable desire to pack and run for a bus.)

This is your misquito, this is your misquito on drugs.

April 7, 2005

Finca Magdalena, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Well I made it out of Granada. It's a nice town. I enjoyed being there but I am glad to be out of citys for a while.

The guide book warned that one should get to the dock to buy your boat ticket early as the boat may sell out and leave early. I'm not sure how it would be possilbe to for this boat to sell out early as the line to buy the ticket was the slowest line I have ever been in. It made the lines at amusement parks apear fast. I ended up having a special anticipation for when it was my turn to buy the ticket just so I could see what was so slow. Did the ticket clerk have to run to another building to get it stamped for each ticket? Did the change have to be counted by three different people? Was their some incatation that had to be spoken over each ticket so the boat wouldn't sink?

As it turned out it was just that they copied your full name, passport number, and age onto one form and then on to your ticket and the brezze kept blowing all the paper and carbon paper around so she had to keep putting the stappler or what not on top of things. The other problem is while you watched her hand copy half the information from your pasport on the forms, you stood in a swarm of what I decided to call "annoying bugs". They look like misquitos but they just land on you and all your stuff and sit there. Hundres of them. You would look at the back of the person infount of you and they would be covered. You assumed the same was true of your back. Half the time they didn't move when your brushed them away so putting on your pack probably killed hundreds. Sorta Bugs on Dope.

The boat ride it'self wasn't that bad. I had a second class ticket so I was down in stearage with all the kids so I don't know if I would want to take the full 14 hour trip to San Carlos. Unfortunatly you arive after dark at about 7:00 pm, but fortunatly all the hotel owners know this and even the cheep backpacker places send a pickup out to the dock to pick up customers for free.

In the end it turned out to be a good day. Before I left I had a nice chat with a chropractor who had come south and was looking for a place to setup shop and that evening I ended up meeting up with some people from the boat to have dinner. All good.

Awww... Island Life.

April 8, 2005

Finca Magdalena, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

It seams like I will never get this caught up at this rate. Last night I ended up chatting with some of the travelers here (all in Spanish) and again this morning we got into world politics, sustainable living, and intentional commuintys before sliding sideways into religion. (Admiditly this morning was mostly in English.) It's a neat group of people. In someways I think it's going to be a big contrast with what I am going to get in Costa Rica. Here we are talking in Spanish although almost everybody's English is probably better and I expect that in CR I will run into a lot more people who have no Spanish. (I think a lot of this pictular group's use of Spanish internaly is due to one guy (¡an American!) who keeps using Spanish. He has been living in. Anyway I can't really compalin about meeting interesting people as that has been the best part of this trip. Back to catch up....

After spending a day in Altagracia I headed in to the bigger town of Moyogalpa there I rented a bike for the day and took a nice, easy on the knee, tour of the southern half of the larger part of the island. I had some nice time on the beach and saw the Laguna Charco Verde. I didn't see any monkeys though. I did run into a couple that I had met the night before and went out to dinner with. He had been down here as part of a class on devoloping farming and sustainable ageraculture. His class finished up in Costa Rica and now his girlfriend has come down and they are making their way back to San Diego. Unfortunaly they only have two mouths in which to do it.

Folowing are two short poems they wrote on my keyboard thing while we were chatting with a guy from Bainbrige Island back in Washington who is here setting up a wirless internet network.

(The first paragraph is his, the second is her response.)

"Seductive movements attract male onlookers occasionally prompting whistles. Unfurling her hair to conceal her figure from the predatory gaze of machismo, she curses being treated like a sexual object."

"Lounging, legs spread wide, pulled up shirt exposing belly, he has a freedom in his body that I may never know in this patriarchal world."

Hand people a keyboard and they will write.

Ometepe is the sister island of Bainbridge island back in Washington state and unlike, as far as I could tell, any of the other "Sister City" relationships I have been aware of, this one means something. Atleast enought conection exists for them to send a volunter down here to work on setting up an IP network on the island and buy a lot of it’s coffee production. It is an interesting idea and we chatted abit on how we thought the IP network would be used by the people and who it might change things. Technology leap frog. Indroducing wireless internet about the same time you achive mostly stable electricity and well before you have common phone service of any kind.

On a more small world note, I was actualy on Bainbridge Island earely on this trip back when I was visitting my family friends Kirsten, Bruce and Mattie back in September. Six degrees of seperation, more like three.

As I am in southern Nicarauga I have seen a lot of people who are just taking a side trip up from Costa Rica and a much more the short time tourests rather than more full on travelers. When checking in to my hotel the first night on the island I heard one couple say something I have not said on this trip and am hope to keep it this way. When asked, in Spanish, what kind of room they were looking for the responce was "Please speak English" spoken in English. Now I admit I will take English when it is offered, and when I go on the wrong bus and spent a couple hours chatting with the waiter on the Playa de Santa Domingo I wished he spoke English. But I have yet to ask someone to speak English to me, in English. I have on occasion apoligized that my Spanish is very bad and said it would be better if we used English, but I have yet to ask in English. I guess I now have to start asking the non-English speakers I meet how to apoligeticaly ask for English in their native language so I can keep this up.

A new topic of conversation has slipped into the traveler's conversations. Your Semana Santa stories. Where were you? Were you expecting it? Was it a good place? Execpt maybe for the guy who was at a big beach party, I have done preatly well. I didn't have to worry about houseing and the town was doing something interesting and unique. Sucess!

I should run. The finca (farm) has a nice garden I want to wonder through and there are some anciant petraglyphs, and the partical solar eclips to observe.

Big Rocks, Little Rocks, and a dark sky.

April 10, 2005

Finca Magdalena, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Life on the finca has been good. I "planned" to stay here for only two nights and tonight will be the forth. I have been sleeping in my hammok which although I have yet to see the dormatory has been sounding good because it means I have a misquito net and I can be preaty sure the rats don't hang out on my bed during the day.

Yesterday I headed part way up the volcano to a mirador (sceanic overlook) to get out and see the hill. I would like to climb all the way to the top but I think my knee apricates that fact that I'm not going to push it. It was a nice view and I finally got to see the howler monkies we have been hearing at night.

This morning I took a nice morning walk to see the petraglyphs that are around the farm. This is really the first time I have had a chance to really look at pre-columbian art that is not Mayan. The changes in how they use space and that white space exits in the petraglyphs is different. I wish I had the patiants to try to sketch one of the larger glyphs. Maybe I will go back this evening with some string and try one of the larger ones. Shall see... (It mostly determins if I get in to some good discusions back arount the table. Yesterday we had a group from a commune of sorts come in. They are living in Costa Rica and are doing their three mounth visa renewal. It nice to have a new perspective on things.)

Oh the solar eclips didn't turn out all that fun as we ended up with overcast skies. Oh well at least I hadn't rusheed to get somewhere special.

On to the Beach

April 13, 2005

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

I had another day or so at Finca Magdalena. One of those places where you plan on spending two days and end up spending four. The trip back to the mainland was uneventful, at least uneventful by Central American standards. One thing that came out of it was I met my favorite Nicagruan. When I arrived at Rivas, a major cross road town part of the old gold rush trail, the taxi drivers surrounded me worse than normal trying to get me to take a taxi here rather than a bus. They would say that the buses didn’t go there (lie) that the last one had already left (lie) that I was in the wrong place (lie). In the middle of this (which was worse as I still hadn’t really decided if I was going to come here to San Juan del Sur or head out to Costa Rica) came a young girl of about 12 who sell food one the busses. She asked me if I was going to San Juan del Sur and led me off to the bus and then disappeared before I even had a chance to thank her. Wow! A person involved in transit who tells the truth and doesn’t even ask for a tip! (Actually I trust the cobradors on the buses and they tend to be helpful and though sometimes you get the gringo rate. Unlike taxis drivers.) She became my new favorite Nica.

San Juan del Sur is mostly a beach town. I figure it is a good chance to rest my knee and I felt like a bit of lazy beach time. Beach time while it is cheep here in Nicaragua rather than letter in Costa Rica where it is more expensive. (For the record my knee is getting better and doesn’t really bother me anymore but I figure you should rest a joint twice as long as it feels like you should.)

Playing in the waves.

April 14, 2005

Playa Madras, Nicaragua

OK, big beach day. Woke up, had breakfast, took a boat trip to a better beach, hung my hammock, played in the surf, walked to a neighboring beach, played in the surf, returned to the hammock and started dinner. What more can you ask for?

One interesting memory has come back to me during all this big surf play time. Back on Jacana (my parent’s first boat that I lived on for a year) we spent a day on the beach at The Baths in the Virgin islands. They were great white sand beach sounded by fantastic boulders that break the beach up to little private beaches. They day had a huge swell coming in. (At least huge for a ten year old.) My brother, Dad and our “house guestEHue were hanging out enjoying the swells before they broke. They rode the swells and tried a little body surfing. I had only learned to swim a few months before but I wanted to go out and play with them. The problem was that it took more time for me to swim out to them beyond the waves breaking than the time between the swell. Which meant every time I tried I would get just to about the place the wave broke and was dragged down and thrown up on the beach. I tried several times before I gave up and contented myself playing in the sand on the beach.

The waves here are great and I finally got to play off in the swell with the big boys. On a couple big waves I was still taken control of and washed up on the beach, but I finally got to play in some really big waves. (And since twenty years ago I was a lot smaller, I suspect I get even bigger waves.)

A lot of this has been possible as much because I spent the last couple days hanging out with some other guys so it means I really can get out into the waves and not be likely to kill myself.

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