Dat Grim Reapa ain't gonna get me yet!

Trip Start May 07, 2003
Trip End Sep 05, 2005

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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I finished up the building project in San Salvador a while ago now. We succeeded in clearing out and levelling all four of the big classrooms, two of them were even being tiled when I left. It was a back-breaking undertaking and it's amazing how much us human beans can still do with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, something we've forgotten in the West wi all oor huge machines. It was no small achievement and although it wasn't finished by any means, our work will be there for all those kids to make use of in many a year to come. The last few days we actually spent clearing and burning the heaps of trash strewn everywhere around the school. Two of the kids caught the possibly fatal Dengue fever while we were there which is caused by mossies being infected by all that trash lying about. The kids didn't seem to give a flying toss though and as soon as we had it all spic and span there was crisp packets and drinks bags lying all over the place again. I suppose you can't blame em considering the fact that pickups frequently drive across the football pitch to tip all their shit, down the ravine, at the edge of the playground, infront of all the kids - unbeleivable. Parts of the city are actually covered in waste, it's a terrible thing, but I guess it's the least of their problems considering 10,000 of LA's worst gang members have been recently been deported from the US, and they're all from El Salvador!

Spent a weekend on the legendary surf beaches near La Libertad

I was determined to give it a bash after seeing these guys in action the last time I was there, it gave me a tingle up the spine watching some of the waves these guys were riding. I had to learn how to surf!! So I took a board out, decided it would be easier on a body board - big mistake! After paddling for over an hour trying to get over the huge breakers, I finally made it out into the zone. The waves were so enormous, each time one came, I bottled it and frantically paddled over the top. You can see the whole beach from the top of these things, it's a long way down! Honestly, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and this stupidly large wave came thundering towards me, a ridiculous volume of water with endless power slammed right down ontop of me, swirling me round and round like a leaf in a tornado, plunging me to the depths. I was fast running out of air, which way I was swimming - I had no idea. I started swallowing water trying to get a breath, swimming and swimming, NEED AIR!! Aaah, white froth, daylight, gasp! Whoosh, another wave hit me! Shit man, I swam straight for shore after that and ralphed up half the Pacific. Think I might just need a few lessons before I venture out into surf like that again!

What did I tell you? Well I ended up in Guatemala AGAIN! My passport is covered in those green Guate stamps! Back for a great birthday night out in Antigua, one last trip to San Pedro de Atitlan and another hike up Volcan Pacaya to roast some bananos de chocolate in the natural crater oven - Mmmm, trully food of the gods. Then a mammoth journey taking in 4 countries in less than 24hrs, to the technicolour city of Granada in Nicaragua.

Spent a few days in this totally gorgeous colonial city, which I really fell in love with (and actually returned to 3 times!), before heading up to Leon.

Leon was a hotbed of revolutionary action during the civil war here. The whole city infact took up arms to fight their dictatorship oppressors, the nasty Somoza family, again sponsored by the US. It had a great energy there, with amazing war murals

and art everywhere, great music (even on the buses!) and poetry. No burger chains, no over touristisation and all the people have real style, unlike some of the rest of their Central American counterparts. I guess they've learnt to express themselves without the oppressive influence of an unwanted and hated government. Don't get me wrong the war here was a devastating and brutal obliteration but at least the rebels won the revolution here and the bad feeling from the US sponsored rebel defeats by those dictatorships in the wars in Guatemala and El Salvador bear no evidence here.

An interesting fact was told to me by an excited Nico, about Augusto Sandino, the iconic hero leader who was assasinated by the Somozas when they took over here in 1934. He was in many ways the inspiration that awakened the consciousness of the people to fight for their freedom decades later, indeed they even named their rebel movement after him - los Sandinistas. Apparently when he found anyone from the United States inside his country, he'd cut off their ears and send them home, telling them and their countrymen to leave them in peace and never return! He must've been turning in his grave as history unfolded.

The Corn Islands are situated 60 miles off the remote Carribean coast of Nicaragua.

It's a two day bus/riverboat journey thru hellish jungle and mountain terrain, then a 9 hour ferry over ruff seas - OR, just over an hours flight - I'm ashamed to say I took the flight! Nearly to my detriment however, as when we landed on Big Corn, we're taxing up to the shack next to the runway, called the "airport" and there's loud CRACK, the wee plane skews down to one side, metal and tarmac grind violently along to a stop. The tyre had blown out and wrapped itself round the landing gear which had snapped! Eeak! - Thank the good lord it didn't happen when we were landing!!! We jumped on a wee speed boat to Little Corn which is about another hour, basically across the middle of the offshore Atlantic Carribean. All the locals muttered a prayer in Creole and made the sign of the cross as we set off across the mountainous Atlantic swells. Was worth the risky crossing when we got there however, our lodging, "Sunrise Paradise", was a hut on the beach, surrounded by coconut palms, with beautiful views out to sea and the waves crashing off the reef just off-shore. Dirt paths wi no roads, no runnin water, 4 hours of lecky a day, LOBSTER EVERY NIGHT for only $6. Doin nowt much else other than readin' ma book on our own deserted beach wi the sea lappin at ma feet. The most energetic thing we did every day was crack open a few choice coconuts. We had coconuts comin oot oor ears by the end of the week, eating oot o them, drinking the milk, cooking wi them, we even made a quality wee bong oot o one of them! So damn nice, I was in heaven.

The Corn Islands have some of the most unspoilt and unexplored diving and snorkelling in the Carrib. And some of the best reef was situated just infront of ma hammock. This of course required the standard saftey stop to get out of cos I'd been slothing out in it for so long, but off we went to explore. Swimming out the 4 or 500m to the reef, visibility was not good and the surf was way too big when we went over the top. Inevitably, I lost everyone. I did find some really nice coral though and some clear water. So here I am lookin at all the nice wee fishes, some haunting Eagle rays, even a shoal of a dozen menacing Baracuda comin at me wi all those razor teeth baring - which I could just about handle. Then this HUGE shadow darts out from a head of coral. It must've been around 9 foot long, with the unmistakable enormous head, a full grown Bull Shark is one hell of a scary sight.

This thing could've swallowed me whole NO BOTHER AT ALL. It's head was absolutely MASSIVE. Holy shit, I don't think I've ever been so scared in all my life, the vision keeps playing over and over in my head like a horror movie. I don't think I thought it was real at the time as I just sat and watched, frozen, amazed that something so big was in the water right next to me. It sat and looked at me, in the same way, frozen, then darted behind another coral head and shot off into the shadows. "Thank feck" I thought and started breathing again. Then it comes sneaking back round from whence it came - straight for me!!!

I've got my back to the coral wall, only a couple of feet of rough water wi razor sharp coral underneath, waves crashing over. I made my choice and went straight over the top. A wave caught me and I managed to dodge the rocks, the coral and a DIY skin graft. I motored at full tilt for shore, looking back nervously all the time, all I saw was the swirl of bubbles from my thrashing fins, no shark. I got back to shore safe and sound. We spoke to the dive shop on the island (wi the motto "come dive with our happy sharks"!!) who said they see them all the time and they don't bother divers or snorkellers. So we decided to go out looking for it again, with my Canadian mate Dave, who is a dive instructor. They are after all pretty amazing things to see, but I did question my sanity when I was out in the sea again! The local fisherman however had a different story, they dive for lobsters every day and there have been several attacks on the island, including a snorkeller who disappered 3 weeks previously!!! These websites confimed my fears:
This shark will eat almost anything
This Shark kills more people than any other Shark in the world!

Now I find myself in Costa Rica, the capital San Jose. It's a pretty cool city and makes a change from the super dodgy capitals of the rest of the countries in CA I've been to. Quality nightlife and all the bars have dancing girls which of course, is always nice! Before here was in the Monteverde cloudforest nature reserve for a couple of days. Did the zipline tour SkyTrek thru the forest canopy which was awesome. Whizzing thru the tops of the trees at speeds of up to 65km/h, so fast that the clouds painfully stung as we hurtled thru the misty canopy at high velocity. Some of the cables are nearly 800m long and up to 130m above the ground. Then to Volcane Arenal, the most active volcano in CA. We sat and had dinner next to this rumbling mountain, with molten red lava rocks tumbling all the way down the volcano-side next to us as I sipped my beer - mother nature's very own fireworks show - unreal.

I've booked myself in for a bungee jump tomorrow, then I'm returning to the Carribean, Puerto Viejo, and straight to Panama cos Costa Rica is too bloody expensive and there's soooo many tourists everywhere. Should be a journey on the beach all the way though - life is becoming a real toil for me these days!
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