Well,we wanted an adventure!
Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
34Trip End Ongoing
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Headed sth from the bay islands, and onto a pick-up (translation: overloaded ute) for the 5hr journey from Tocoa to Palacios. We settled into the tray of the ute optimistically assuming we were the only passenjers, and it was going to be a comfy trip... Suddenly pulling up to the actual pick-up, we were unceremoniously offloaded, and joined the other 5 passenjers and "conducter" in the top-back corner of the tray.. Sitting on wooden planks perched above the luggage, doing our best to avoid the leaps of the conductor/monkey (from behind me on the back, over so he was perched on the cab, in one slick manouever, all while lurching along at 60kph..). Anamazing trip tho -we left paved roads fairly early, and traveled along banana roads where all that you cansee are banana trees! Awesome symbol of the exploitation of globalisation.. then into some pretty cool jungle, before arriving on the beach of the carribean! So cruising along the beach(sometimes in the sea) for a wee while, and we came to a river.. Hmm. No trouble, driver toots, and round a bend in the river comes a raft, towed by a dugout canoe with a 15hp outboard on the back. We cross in style..
Finally after 5 hrs (and a somewhat pained sentarse (-the spanish reflexive verb meaning literally "to sit oneself down," that has, due to some unfortunate naming coincidences, come to mean, in certain fashonable quarters of Nicaragua, one's derriere)) we arrive. We think. There's nothing there but a canoe. We dutifully get on, and off we go. Apparently we stopped in Palacios, where a fierce Honduran army man waved his weapon indiscriminantly while searching some bags for something, and waived us on.. So we headed along the beautiful waterways unaware of where we were, where we were going, why, how long would it take, were we hostages, etc, and strangely not too fussed about the answers.. Eventually we discovered we were heading to Belin, and we were staying with one of our fellow passengers. Nice how these things sort themselves out for you.
After a night in Belin, we were off to Las Marias, in the center of the Rio Platana Biosphere (if you haven't heard of it, don't worry, neither had anyone there). So we departedon a supposed 6 hr jungle walk. Of course we were the first people to walk that track this year, and the first ever in the rainy season (as our guide told us 2 hrs into it). A 9hr swamp crawl resulted, where fear of leaches, malaria, snakes and spiders was put on the backburner as we plodded forward. In good news, we didn't miss and wildlife - it all departs the region for the rainy season. However Paul got bitten by a spider, and i got attacked by a snake! (OK,i saw a snake. - believe me now?)
Las Marias turned out to be a delightful wee village, where subsistance farmers each have there 5 acres next to the river, and live a fairly peaceful existance. Once we arrived, we discovered that there wasn't a canoe leaving in the forseeable future, we couldn't afford one anyway, and we only had enough money to stay two nights in our accomodation. Thoughts of 5 months working as a farm hand in Honduras to finance an escape weren't as exciting as one might expect! Somehow we managed to find a family going to Belin in the morning and some hard bargaining ("We actually don't have anymore!") managed to get us in the boat. A peaceful 5 hr river trip terminated with them dropping us near the caost, and saying something along the lines of "Belin´s an hour or two that way." So two bedraggled, very smelly lads found themselves lost on a deserted carribean beach. Romantic.
Due to our fiscal position (if we didn't reach a bank by the weekend, we would be on the street) we ended up on a chicken plane (there weren't actually any chickens, but its been decided that 9 ppl in a 6-seater cessna qualifies as a chicken plane). And touched down in Puerto Lempira, with ideas of being in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua by that evening. Having sorted that the next available pick-up wouldn't leave until mañana, spending(literally) 2 and 3/4 hours in the bank queue and finding a chess set, we whiled away the evening in a dodgy bar. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this delightful town, DON´T. Especially in the rainy season. It is euphamistic to call it an overflowing sewer.
The torrential downpour overnight resulted in a 5hr wait before we left to see if we could even get through to Leimus (on the border). A 5 hr pick-up trip followed, and a river-border-crossing. The fellow passengers on this trip were lovely- holding upboats while we exchanged money at the wrong place, telling us what town we needed to go to, and putting us on the right truck, waking us at 5.30am in the mañana for the 8am bus, etc.. And we were there. Puerto Cabezas, only 3 days after the original plan had us leaving. So off to the airport to get to Managua asap (Northeast Nicaragua is on the no-go list of places to visit..) Naturally the airport was shut, and the next flight was in.. mañana..
So an eventful evening in the second-worse town in the world, eating meat for the first time in a while, and watching a film we'd both seen passed surprisingly peacefully (we had managed to make some enemies- strange how two charming lads can do that).
In the mañana we had perhaps ourfirst piece of luck for days - the airline would accept a Credit Card, and we could escape that god-forsaken place. Until at the departure lounge security check, the immigration officer decided we might need a stamp. This would involve a visit to the immigration office which opened around our flight´s deperture time. A last-ditch effort of explaining that Nicaragua is actually part of Guatemala confused him sufficiently to let us slip by and make a mad dash for the plane..
In summary: 4 days worth of chaos, spread over 8.
(And being children of this instant-gratification age: We want our chaos,and we want it now!)