Looks like we've stumbled onto an island paradise

Trip Start Jul 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2010

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Corn Islands,
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Everyone talks about the Corn Islands as though they’re remarkable…Lonely Planet makes them sound really special…but then Lonely Planet makes most places sound special and when you actually get to some of them, there’s somewhat of a large distinction between reality and the Planet.  But the other side of the country, the Caribbean side, has a whole different history and is peopled with different roots.

So, reeling from my intestinal devastation, I try to postpone our move to Corn Island.  It means taking a taxi to a 2 hr bus ride to another taxi to a plane to a taxi to who knows exactly where on Big Corn until I can put my head down somewhere.  All those transitions may not be much in the US of A  but here anything can happen to shift the plan.  Well, there’s no postponing the trip …can’t change the flight…so I dig in and rally one step at a time.   Pack a few plastic bags for the unepected regurg….thankfully it doesn’t happen but one has to be prepared…I doze every chance I get….and by the end of the day, we’ve made it to Big Corn in one piece. 

And it’s a cool place….but not that cool.  The people have that Jamaican accent….blue eyed, tall, lanky, dark skinned….then there are the Nicaraguan mainlanders who left to get away from something….often the law or gangs or something.  Then there’s a ghetto area, small of course cause this is a small island….it’s got the native Miskito people…they are one of the indigenous people of Nicaragua and the group here has kind of isolated itself into a bit of a ghetto.  Big Corn is out there in the water…you have to fly in….it’s naturally gorgeous but not exactly an island paradise.  We head down the beach where they’re housing the film crews for Italian Survivor;…they just completed Spanish Survivor around here and talk is they’re going to do American Survivor near here in January.  So there are a few helicopters coming and going…still not particularly busy though.  the air is so damp here…we stay right on the water in this moldy little hostel (everything is a bit moldy here….i keep wishing I had a spray bottle of bleach), and plan to head over to Little Corn first thing in the morning…still looking for paradise

A crazy panga ride across…a long motor boat…seats 4 across….water spashing in on the sides every time the boat passes over a swell….starts to pour…out comes the big black plastic sheet.  The side people (me and Corey in our row) are actually supposed to hold onto this plastic in the face of really strong wind….tiring.  I’m getting all wet anyway so I decide to let my plastic-holding job go….the people neatly stashed in between us can hold it if they want to stay dry…they bumped us to the edges anyway.

It’s a thrilling high velocity ride… choppy, wet…about a half hour…and we get to Little Corn….clearly the place to be.  I’m here about 5 minutes and am trying to figure out how to spend 6  months here….seriously.   No cars, everyone’s barefoot…palm trees…mango trees…breadfruit…cheap lobster….very chill people….CLEAN WATER….a few too many visitors but of the interesting variety.  It takes some serious effort to get here and it’s not a fancy place so that affects the type of tourist that’s going to show up here.  Now I can see what everyone has been all excited about…I’m so glad we decided to spend almost a week here…it was a risk… could’ve been stuck in a forsaken place with no exit …but this is paradise and I’m thrilled to relax into it.

Little Corn….take 2

I’m reminded how wonderful travelers can be.  We meet the 'perfect’ family from Switzerland.  Father, an intl devpt worker in Managua, mom a teacher with the add’l  job of raising 4 kids while dad’s job takes them all over the world and 3 ‘perfect’ sons are with them….personable, respectful, beautiful young men…fun to hang around with.  We’re all at Casa Iguana….in this cabana right on the water…ocean breezes flying through the mostly screen walls….outdoor showers…hammocks…AMAZING food….excellent Nicaraguan coffee free all the time….well fed dogs that escort you instead of emaciated, infected ones that growl at you cause they’ve been kicked around so much.   You can sit on the deck and watch storms move right across the water…lightning / thunder / drenching rain….and then, a brief moment later…sunshine...surrounded by coral to snorkel around in…and so much eating to do. 

So far we’ve tested the coco bread, pulled hot from the ovens of the locals and sold by young girls every day around 4.  Lobster cooked up by Bridget,  garlicked, curried…any way you want it….but always cheap……the restaurant is nothing fancy…Bridget is dressed in a snappy outfit but her customers have a range of attire that tops out at T shirts and shorts…no shoes necessary.  The lobster is so fresh and tasty…a whole meal for around 8 dollars.  Fish tacos for lunch…Alto Cinco could learn from these cooks.  So this will be a week of swimming, snorkeling, eating, reading, writing to you (although there’s no internet),  relaxing, and talking to that international community of travelers that I find so entertaining…generally smart, adventurous, flexible people with world stories to share. 

Part of my draw to this lifestyle is the focus on the immediate…on the present.  When you meet people there is no expectation, no history, an unknown future of limitless possibilities…which makes the present the only reality.  The connections are ephemeral…there’s no time to play social games, no dancing around hesitation or judgment….there’s a directness about conversation and a presence of attention that is captivating.  The connections are real and simple and the openness transcends lines of gender, race, age …not always but pretty much.    That’s part of the lure / even addiction of this lifestyle… I mean, I love my stable life at home and all the people that make it rich…and certainly there are people I meet while traveling that drive me crazy…but I think I’ll always be drawn by this type of movement  There are definitely challenges in this style of travel - having to figure every little thing out, always making choices, concerns about safety, being too hot / cold / sticky / tired, etc, should I eat that food?, drink that water?, what’s going on in my stomach? being ITCHY, why are things always crawling on me? ….there are definitely lows – some days I’d just like to be curled up on the couch of familiarity….but then there are those peak moments of awareness…the highs…the expansive experiences…the feeling of having fallen into perfection…the desire to never leave this place / this moment… still with the understood transience of the picture…. and then the mystery of the next wave of perfection…unpredictable….

ok, enough for my philosophical discussion on traveling. ..maybe that’s what sitting on a hammock overlooking the waves breaking on the Caribbean reef brings on.  Appreciate your sticking it out.  I’m going to muster up some nerve to swim towards that reef and see who lives there.  All for now…

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Mary on

Once again you continue to capture the essence of travel, like we are right there with you. Enjoy!

Pam on

Karen, Wow, What a trip. Thanks for sharing. It'll be hard to come back. Give Corey my best.

gabinryan on

I like your entry. The description of that perfect family from Switzerland..made me laugh and think. There is a lot to say for introducing children to culture. I just had a boy, and hope to live abroad some day...or at least travel more with him.

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