Arrived in Nica
Trip Start May 12, 2009
24Trip End Sep 29, 2009
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Where I stayed
Hostel w mosquito guts and blood on the walls
A lot can change in 24 hours. Last time I wrote I was in La Fortuna, saddened by the clot of American tourists with no respect for the existing culture. I had high speed internet, and was indulging in listening to a little American music from home. (Slumdog Millionaire theme and Lykke li, if you must know.) Actually, I guess Slumdog is Bollywood and lykke li is Swedish, so maybe it is world music.
Now I am in San Carlos, Nicaragua. I got what I wanted. When I crossed, a border guard checked the dossier, boarded our vessel and called out "Who is the American?" He quickly answered his own question when he sat down next to me, the only one traveling with a backpack, who was blonde with freckles. He asked why I wanted to come to Nicaragua. I gave my best tourist answer, "To see Granada." "Why?" "To see the beautiful churches." "Why?" "I am a student of art and architecture in los Estados." He asked a few more questions, then said "Bienvenidos a Nicaragua" and abruptly jumped up and slipped off the boat. I was uneasy about having been singled out, but enjoyed the rest of the boat ride up the river Rio Frio.
There were white cranes, black egrets, water birds with black heads and white bodies, and white bodies and black heads and every other variation. I saw a tapir swimming along the shore. There was a large snake swimming in the river as well. The area along the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua at Los Chilies is full of animals, clearly an area most tourists donīt go.
I arrived in San Carlos, Nicaragua as the skies opened. I passed through immigration, and was pleased to receive 90 days on my entry stamp. This means I have 90 days combined total in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the countries of the C-4 agreement.
It was still pouring as I walked out onto the street, expecting to find a bank. I opened the two dollar umbrella I just purchased in Tilaron, Costa Rica. There was no bank, no money changers, no touts. At first I was just surprised, then slightly dismayed. I found myself actually missing the touts and wishing for a cambionista (money changer).
Right as I passed the port I was hit with the smell of sewage. The streets were flooded everywhere. I was sloshing through several inches of brown water everywhere I went in my Chacos. I surveyed my feet to check for ANY open blisters or cuts. Thankfully, I had none. Looking around, I saw brown water bubbling out of a manhole cover in the street. I tried to image many reasons why the sight of overflowing water and the smell of sewage might not be related. As I walked through, I thought of several rather convincing reasons why these two things had nothing to do with each other.
Sometimes, delusion is great coping mechanism.
After a bit of exploring, I found a "hotel" that would accept US dollars and threw my bag down for the night. It had no running water that day, but then neither did any that I looked at. I looked at several hotels, but several were rather dodgy looking. The one I settled on had a door that would lock only from the inside. I couldnīt lock my bag in from the outside. Therefore, it seemed like I would have a nice night in, journaling and reading my guidebook.
This was a rather abrupt way to begin my travels in Nicaragua, a country I have looked forward to visiting so much. However, the next morning, everything was calmer and made more sense. It usually is that way about most things- they seem more agreeable the next morning.
The bank was open the next the day, and the ticket office at the port sold me my ticket to Ometepe. The ten hour ferry ride cost $2.55 US. Women were frying up chicken, which smelled heavenly even to a vegetarian. The streets were beginning to dry up, and men were working on the problem manhole with plumbing equipment (which made it hard to sustain the incredible explanations I told myself the previous day).
Also, the night before, it seemed nobody spoke English here, even a little, like they did in Costa Rica. The next day, I realized that I only had that impression because I began every conversation in Spanish!
Many Nicaraguans have been to the US to work, or have children there presently working and sending home remesas. At the bank I visited, a large advertisement on their wall was devoted to explaining that Banex was the most secure way to send your family remesas (depicted by a family of models smiling in a sports car) and that smiling employees even make it fun (depicted by a beautiful woman shaking someoneīs hand).
I had not seen another tourist in San Carlos until I proceeded to the dock to board the ferry. Suddenly, they all came out of the woodwork. I found an American couple from Texas and a French man. On the ferry ride, we swapped a few stories, and warnings and suggestions about the road ahead. It seems the American couple ran low on cash and had been eating oatmeal and mantequilla de mani (peanut butter) for several days while biding their time waiting for the Ometepe ferry, which only runs several days a week. Ometepe has an ATM, while the river port town of San Carlos does not.
At around 10 PM on the ferry, I wanted to lay down on the long padded benches and rest. For hours, I had had the whole bench to myself. So why, right after I laid down and stretched out, did a local woman come up and choose to lay on "my" bench just when I wanted to? There were other open benches. At first I was irritated, especially since I was sleepy. She was not shy about playing footsie to negotiate slightly more room to stretch out. I took a deep breath, and tried to image the whole thing as a hilarious joke.
This worked, until the woman behind me put her feet up on the bench next to my face and I was given the privilege of examing her dirty toenails.
I resigned myself to sitting up studying my Spanish dictionary for the rest of the ride.
The ferry docked at Ometepe at 1AM. We were met at the dock by touts, and for probably the first time in my life I was pleased by this. As a group, the 3 other tourists and I bargained on a taxi. Twenty minutes down a road that *had* to be tearing up the suspension on that van, we pulled up to the hostel.
When I was shown the dorm, I was happy to lay down on a bed all to myself, with no one to play footsie with and no dirty toenails.