Published: March 20th 2012March 11th 2012
Bus ride to Juigalpa
A dusty, dry, hot landscape with many cattle and horses along the way. Some looked like walking skeletons. Not much rain, not much food for the animals, it looked like.
"You made me miss - I've never missed that board before."
Excerpt from the Slaughtered Lamb pub scene from classic 80s movie - The American Werewolf In London.
If anyone is familiar with this movie and how the two boys felt when they entered The Slaughtered Lamb, then welcome to the jungle town of El Rama... Totally off the beaten tourist trail, it would seem that this town sees little in the way of foreigners. The entire town was silenced the instant we stepped foot from the bus and we were scowled at as we searched for a bed. Juigalpa, another town we overnighted in, was similar, but to a somewhat lesser degree. We only spent one night in each of these towns on our journey to the carribean coast, and we didn´t even think about going out after dark... Talk about sketchy! El Rama is the end of the road and to access the coast it is a two hour boat ride down the Rio Escondido to the port town of Bluefields. The boat, of course, was of poor quality and was captained by an idiot (who thought that speeding up was the thing to
do when passing another boat´s wake... Airborn!)... Yes, it may sound like we continue to risk our lives, but we did have life jackets. So we were good to go.
Bluefields is a major port town on the Nicaraguan coast, it has little in the way of charm, but it was certainly a more enjoyable place than the previous two. We found a nice restaurant and ate some tasty seafood and met a few other travellers who were also heading to the Corn Islands.
Early in the morning, after getting our tickets and getting aboard (which involved possibly one of the most inefficient methods imaginable) an overcrowded ferry-like boat took us from the port of Bluefields to La Isla Grande de Maiz (Big Corn Island). However, other than the fact that it floated, there were very few other boat-like features on this vessel. We were crammed in like sardines into a small air conditioned (yes really) room full of seats and off we went... The first part of the journey was gorgeous, as we meandered our way through the maze of water channels along the coast, but once we reached the open sea, the mood of the water
A classic in Juigalpa.
had changed... The swells got bigger and bigger as we gained distance from the mainland. The hopeless boat bobbed up and down like a pathetic cork, and everyone was thrown around and shaken up as the waves towered over the bow and engulfed the deck. After a few minutes the first person belched. Then another. And then another...
"One after one by the star dogged moon, too quick for groan nor sigh, each turned his face with a ghastly pang and cursed me with his eye. Four times fifty living men (and I heard no sigh nor groan) with heavy thump a lifeless lump, they dropped down one by one..."
From 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner', by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 1799. Dave´s account of the event:
After an hour or so at sea, a good percentage of the people inside were vomiting into flimsy plastic bags and the stench was beginning to bug me. There was a lady wretching on the floor, a kid trying to puke into a barrel as it bounced around on the floor beside me and another girl lying on the floor throwing up into an overflowing bag. There was regurgitated breakfasts on
In the main square in Juigalpa
some of the rails and many people's clothes were covered in sick (not necessarily their own)... I slip-slopped in my flip-flops dodging putrid puddles of puke whilst clinging onto the seats for dear life as I scrambled towards the outside deck...resisting the urge to purge... Outside was like a scene from a zombie movie. Bodies lay sprawled across the deck, and the few who were still sitting looked like death. The salty sea was pounding on the sides, soaking everyone in powerful, and unpredictable rhythms. At least this kept the deck clean of spew though, and in my opinion, being outside in the howling wind, furious sea, and intense heat was far more appealing than being in a cool room with pools of puke slopping back and forth, listening to a chorus of barking barfers, whilst breathing in the odourous air... Theresa´s experience of the event:
While Dave scrambled to leave the cool pukey indoors, whilst avoiding anyone from spewing onto his flip flops, I decided to stay near the air conditioner so I did not have to drink a lot of fluids (to avoid using the toilets - some public toilets are just best left unfound). I could
The upturned trailer... And the stray dog being teased by the kid. A typical street scene in this wild, off-the-beaten-track town.
watch the big waves from my seat (silently I was saying ¨weeeee¨each time we rolled over a big one). I could breath cool air from the air conditioner. Movies played on a tv screen to my left. So, since the smell was not as bad as I thought, only regurgitated crab and tortilla smells (sweet, yet pukey), I managed to keep it together. Upon retrospect, how the heck did I do it!? Here was my secret to avoiding the spiralling seduction of the barfarama marathon... Each time someone ralphed (and we are not just talking one ralph. We are talking a good minute of raaaaalllllphing..... raaaaaaaaaaagh, like their stomachs took over a quaaackathon for the longest puke!)...I would plug my ears and sing quietly to myself, avoiding the sound of someone getting sea sick. I tried many songs, Happy Birthday to Me, or the ABC song, or Amazing Grace. The winner was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It was just the right amount of time to wait out someone´s intestinal expulsion. Then it was fine for a while, I would go back to the movie and repeat my protocol... when necessary. The things we do to survive... Next Chapter:
Supplies waiting for pickup
At the dock of El Rama. Waiting for our boat to Bluefields
about six hours of discomfort we arrived at the dock on Big Corn Island. About 60% of the people were still groaning and vomiting as they struggled to cling to what meagre, miserable piece of life they still had left in them. Just for the record, neither of us were sea sick, but we did feel a little drowsy, dizzy and beaten up and had boat legs on land for a bit. We were also pretty dehydrated (not pretty - just pretty dehydrated). So our next plan was to rehydrate and try to eat something solid.
Putting all of that horridness behind us....
On Big Corn Island... Hot, sunny, picturesque and windy...
There's a rather unpleasant boy who works in a small store on the island, he is totally lacking any manners, has dreadful social skills, slams the change on the counter (seriously - he has change) and then he tells you to die... It would seem that this type of behaviour would be counter-productive for repeat business, however, we were both intrigued and quite captivated by his rudeness, and so we continued to return, just so that we could experience more of his nastiness... I am
Boat to Bluefields
Theresa watched these four people become airborn during the aforementioned manouver of the so-called Captain.
sure if he ever runs a hotel in the future, it would be full of Fawlty Towers fans... As a follow up note, we found out that that the word "muerto" (dead) is used on the island to alert the customer that the transaction is complete or something of the sort. But this still did not excuse his rude delivery.
All of that aside... our days just got better and better on this lovely little island.
We found a gem of a place on the north shore. Picture this - a small cabin sandwiched between countless coconut palms on either side, a beach and turquoise water to the front and a bakery behind us. We were greeted with fresh coconuts from the land lady. We had the entire place to ourselves, just to add to the niceness. Everyday, we would walk in the mornings before the sun got too hot, then we would head back home, have a dip in the ocean, play some bananagrams, and laze around, swimming, reading and eating fresh coconuts. We had the Bananagram game donated to us by our lovely friends, Pat and Rob, who were close to finishing their travels! Thanks a million
you two!! (If you are just starting to read our blog, let us get you up to speed. We had donated our original game of Bananagrams to little Yandel in Belize, to help him learn his spelling). Serendipity is wonderful!
The drivers on the island were just as crazy as the drivers on Utila (in Honduras) but there wasn´t as many of them... We did see a guy driving his motorbike (extremely fast) whilst carrying his helmet in his mouth, and we do recall during our wanderings, having a fleeting glimpse of a woman sitting sideways on the back of a speeding moped whilst breast-feeding her baby... Really...!
The weather on the north shore of the island was quite rough and windy during our stay. However, we managed to do some snorkeling from the beach on our last day and despite the rough waters, we saw quite a few fish. Theresa saw a large ray from a distance. As a consolation prize for not being able to view as much marine life as hoped, we ate some instead. The locally caught fresh lobster was delicious and super cheap!
After a lovely stay on this palm fringed island,
we headed back to the mainland. This time we flew - there was no way we were going to take that silly boat again... Not surprisingly, many of the people waiting at the airport were on that same boat with us. We overnighted in Managua (the nation´s capital) then headed to another island...
Hasta la Proxima... Los Viajeros.
There are more photos below