Sunday, 22 February 2009

Nica time...

... is much like Africa time, Asia time, or in fact anywhere where time is just a mere concept of when something might happen, or indeed might not happen, depending on the weather, phase of the moon, inclination of the bus driver, etc. But that's why we do it right?

So I arrived in Esteli - an alleged coffee cowboy town in the north of Nicaraguaaa - staarving hungry (owing to a missing, now found, 500 lempira, sort of thing that could happen to anyone, don't really want to talk about it) only to find that apparently 9pm is not the sort of time that food is available. Strange. Anyways took a day wondering around the town generally seeing things (as those with open eyes do) and learning about the civil war at the Sandinista/FSLN gallery of heroes and martyrs - "Que se rinda tu madre! Patria libre o morir!" as Esteli saw a lot of the fighting. Interesting stuff.

And then it was I accidentally managed to hitch a ride along the side of the road (apparently less bumpy than the actual road), the bus dropped me off at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and who was I to say no to an air conditioned vehicle (with non-murderous looking people inside), my spanish managed to learn that they were married and heading to the beach for V-day (vomit fest). Alas got halfway then jumped onto a bus on the understanding that I would have to change to get to my final destination of Leon. So it wasn't entirely my fault that when the bus pulled into the station I wondered around asking for a bus to Leon, finding it surprising that several buses had Leon written as the destination but that none of them seemed to be heading that way... a few stupid conversations later (my Spanish failed) I was able to determine that I was in fact in Leon. Idiota. TAXI!!

Leon itself was interesting enough, with an enormous cathedral, lots of literary clout (some dude called Ruben Dario who is the best poet in Latin America, apparently, I wouldn't know, it's all Spanish to me) and artistic bonhomie. Some good food too. Alas next stop on the rollercoaster was Granada, another one of those colonial towns which is very gentrified in the centre yet distinctly ungentrified everywhere else, which was infinitely more interesting. From here I spent a day chilling at Laguna de Apoyo which is a lake in the crater of a volcano good for kayaking, floating and sadly sunburning ones nose. The next day was spent swinging through the trees like superman with the monkeys and trotting around the astonishingly cloudy cloud forest of Volcan Mombacho, which was bueno (plus the clouds parted long enough to take a piccie or two).

With a bit more time than I had initially budgeted for I squeezed in a trip down to San Juan del Sur for some surf action amongst the raging, err, surf. A really cool lesson with Alfredo later and I was actually able to surf! Standing up and all!!! AMAAAAZING! This does not mean to say that I didn't wipeout lots and lots and get covered in bruises and more sunburnt noses, but I don't care, I finally AM a surf dude-ish.

Lots of Canadian ice cream later (I don't know why so much) and I was making my way across to Isla de Ometepe, which is I quote: "the sort of place you find in fairytales or fantasy novels; an island formed by twin volcanoes rising out of a lake", sheez it's a hard life... Well, beautiful sunsets aside, it isn't all easy as we took a walk up Volcan Maderas to la cascada, I can confirm that it is hot here, and volcanoes tend to be largely steeply upward in one direction and steeply downward in the other. Lots of improbably sized butterflies and monkeys sighted en route through 'ecological' fruit plantations. Delicious lunch in a nearby comodore and bus ride with the cutest kid who was just dropped off on her own halfway, barely able to walk as the bus driver shouted to the house "chicatina! chicatina!". Apparently a vida pollo costs only 160 cordoba at market... I may be bringing one home (and some flor de cana of course).

Alas it is the mention of home which brings this trip to an end. Cue food poisoning and a long journey (great combination) towards a tired face in work on Wednesday, y'know we're not going to adapt to climate change without me... although I do think a satellite office in C.America could help things along nicely.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

¿Como esta, chica?

Yeehee, don't tell anyone but I've escaped from the rat race for a couple of weeks for un poco viaje a centrale america... First stop on the journey a night in Miami, coinciding with the Superbowl, if only I cared. Anyways, after the slowest most third world bus trip in the world (yes (we can) in the US of A) hopped onto the plane to the palacial surrounds of San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Knowing what little I know about solo girls and fast latin american cities, I decided that this wasn't the place to spend much time so I hot footed it to the rainforests of La Ceiba where I secluded myself in a jungle camp under the cover of darkness. Daylight broke to reveal a raging river below, which could only mean one thing, white water rafting! Naturally I got soaking wet, and this was before we were even in the damn raft, me and my malco- feet!

A few garifuna-cohol shots later and I was a full jungle being, well I had no choice because luck would have it, the rainy season continues and no boats running to the islands for another day. A couple of jungle hikes later (I did not fall on my muddy ass, much) and the boat was on - TO THE ISLAND! Cheez, that boat was a bumpy ride... Sadly the caribbean sea never quite lived up to the ideal of blue skies and flat water, but who cares about rain when you're underwater - there it's all wet. The diving was absolutely AMAZING, the best coral I've ever seen and some pretty cool creatures (giant crabs, turtles, cute fishies, a whale in a wet suit - too big and ugly for a shark to eat apparently, thanks).

So apres dive it was flor de caña o'clock - yummy, I will be trying to smuggle some of this home, time flies when you're having rum... a couple of random impromtu trips to various places followed, a local kareoke bar where I was so graciously serenaded, Pedro's birthday party (I don't think anyone actually knew who Pedro was...), the sea, the hammocks. Alas, one cannot have rumfun forever and it was time to leave the island behind and see some sights.

First on the agenda, Copan Ruinas, an ancient city which was the capital of the Mayan empire at some time or another until they got too big for their boots and ate all the food there was, used all the resources there were and ran out of people to kill (¿lesson for the future perhaps?). Took a morning wandering around the ruins sneaking in on other peoples tour guides to cadge some waffle information. Being only so much 'this is what used to be here' one can take in a day I took a chicken bus (so called because locals will take anything on with them) through the gorgeous highlands (with some less than gorgeous latin music soundtrack as accompaniment) to a town called Gracias a Dios (Thanks to God).

A nice chilled out day or so there wondering around the pretty typical town and wondering whether the locals would feel affronted if I, a colonial descendant, were to purchase the fort on the top of the hill (as it had amazing views) built by the conquistadors (I just love that word, hides all manner of spanish sins). Popped into some hot springs to relax after the hectic hike there (ok, so we inadvertantly hitched a ride, but we did intend to walk).

This is all from Honduras, other than a leeeeeegnthy bus journey down to Nicaraguaaaaa. More on that later...

P.S. although some pretty bad news. It turns out I was sooo prepared I remembered everything, except my most useful companion, my frisbee :-(