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Nicaragua

Escape from Ometepe -- Part 2

The boat was small and cramped, but we were happy to be on.

Or should we be?

The waves were huge and boat was going quite slowly. It turns out that our boat was some type of "pump boat". Being on boat rides in the Philippines, I thought that this was completely normal.

Chad, Patrick, and Derek were completely freaked out.

Here's Derek's account:

"There was a tiny dark hole in the middle of the boat deck where a hefty guy, who took up the entire opening, was sitting with just his head slightly sticking out, watching a number of gauges. To the left of this guy there was what looked like a long exhaust pipe sticking out and a piece of wood wedged into it. There was another skinnier guy up on the deck, who probably weighed not much more than my backpack, who kept plunging the piece of wood into the exhaust pipe causing water to come out through the exhaust pipe and onto the deck. My best guess is that the engine down below was being flooded with water so it had to be constantly purged in order for it not to stall.
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There was one scary moment when the exhaust pipe appeared to disconnect from the engine and the two guys started frantically trying to reconnect it. The engine started to struggle and sound like it was starting to cough which made the two guys work even faster. Luckily they did eventually manage to fit the pipe in again and the amount of water that started pouring out as they resumed pumping suggested we probably only had a minute or two left before we'd have to be towed to shore by the giant sinking ferry behind us."

I was knocked out by Gravol. I had no idea this was all happening.

When we got to shore, there was no room for our boat to dock. Instead, the boat parked next to another boat but this did not mean we had a direct walkway onto the dock.

Meanwhile, a local man jumped out of our boat and frantically started swimming away from the boat. Well, what the heck was THAT supposed to mean? Did we all have something to be worried about and need to jump out of the boat too?? Since nobody else seemed to be worried, we stayed on the boat. Until this day, we haven't figured out why the guy jumped out and started swimming like crazy. Maybe he wanted to swim.. who knows.

To get off our boat, we had to climb to the top of our boat with our backpacks and jump onto the top of ANOTHER boat so that we could walk off.

Here's Derek's account:

"Since Kristine gets sea sick during regular boat rides and we just made it through 3 meter swells I thought I'd better carry both mine and her backpack. My backpack weighs around 40kg and hers around 30kg, so in total on both shoulders, I had around 70kg as I started jumping from boat to boat trying to reach the shore. I felt reasonably safe as I always had something to hold on to with my arms as I was making my way down right up until the last boat. The way from the last boat down to the ground was a narrow plank with no safety barriers on either side that would be difficult for a tight rope walker to make it down. I stopped in front of the plank and considered my options ignoring the growing yelling from the Nicaraguans to hurry up. Who were they to tell me to hurry up when they NEVER do anything even remotely quickly or on time. I figured if I tried to make it down the plank with one backpack 10kg heavier than the other and my knees still feeling funny from the boat ride I would end up in the water for sure. I turned around and, despite the yelling the protesting of everyone who I assume was HOPING I'd fall in so they would have a funny gringo story to tell. I gave Kristine her backpack back. We made it down the plank and onto the ground but it was not quite time to celebrate yet."

After a quick cab negotiation, we squeezed 4 people into the back of a tiny cab. Derek sat in the front and took this picture:
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Alexandra was sick during most of her stay in Nicaragua. This was the HAPPIEST we have seen her the entire trip! We took the cab to the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border, crossed over to Costa Rica by foot, and never looked back.

Posted by krisses 06:51 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

Escape from Ometepe -- Part 1

Since the ferry ride off of Isla Ometepe to the mainland was cancelled due to high winds, everyone was trying to leave for the 6am ferry the next day -- AT THE SAME TIME.

4:30am
Wake up and get ready to leave.

5:00am
Leave hotel and join the other groggy travelers slowly emerging in the dark towards the ferry dock. As Chad put it "...it looked like Night of the Living Dead"

5:03am
Join the gigantic line that had been waiting since 4am.
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5:15am
Watch the gigantic line slowly get wider, not longer, as travelers join with "friends" who have "saved" them a spot in line. Of course it was more like "Hey! You look familiar! I don't care about everyone else behind you so I'm going to be a douche and line up waaay in front and talk to you as if I really know you"

5:30am
Continue to watch the line get wider, not longer. Nobody knows where we're supposed to line up. People ask the military personal but they shake their heads and continue their job as a decorative fixture for the port area. The locals are just as confused as the rest of us. That's never very reassuring.

6:00am
Continue to watch the line get wider, not longer. Of course we were all supposed to be boarding some time of ferry "scheduled" for 6am, but our buddy Chad said that if you multiply all schedules by a factor of 2.25 you will get the ACTUAL time.

6:45am
Chad and Derek leave line for food. The military guys continue to scratch their asses and successfully evade all questions with total indifference.

6:47am
Line finally starts moving so Chad and Derek run back to the line -- without food.

6:48am
People start running to another area. Travelers and locals alike, everyone is confused and in a complete frenzy. The military continue to stare blankly at the commotion. Now there are 2 large areas where people hope to get onto a ferry. At this point, no ferry is to be seen.

7:00-7:15am
No one can tell where the boat is going to dock so people start jumping from one line to another.

7:15am
Yay!! The ferry is docking! We run from our current line to the other line and board the large ferry. We are all happy and feeling a sense of relief. People are being ushered onto the ferry like cattle, then further squished into an enclosed area. There are arms, legs, heads, children, and boxes sticking out of the windows. Through the windows you can see everyone piled on top of each other. Because of that, we decide NOT to go into the enclosed area on the ferry. We happily park our bags and ourselves on the outer dock of the ferry and secure a spot.

7:30am
What? They ACTUALLY WANT TO LOAD VEHICLES ONTO THE FERRY? And now they're kicking us off to make room? Reluctantly, we gather our heavy backpacks and run over to the OTHER dock we were lining up at and see that there are 2 small boats being boarded by people.

7:45am
After jumping from one line to another, having Chad write all our names on a clipboard that shows how many people are on the boat, and watching Derek play tug-of-war with his backpack with a local, we FINALLY boarded the small boat. It was cramped. However, it was much better than the large ferry. From our boat, we could see that the large ferry was leaning forward with all the weight of its passengers. By the time we left, the large ferry was still docked and loading more vehicles.

I couldn't tell if people from the large ferry were waving goodbye to us or signalling for help.

Posted by krisses 06:08 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Climbing Volcano Maderas - Another Side Story

The Scream

As we began our slow and brutal climb out of the "pond", one of our fellow trekkers complained of a stomach ache. He was in a lot of pain. It turned out that he really needed to take a dump.

As he complained about the pain, his friend advised that he should just go in the woods, but he refused. He continued the climb while clutching his stomach and moaning in pain.

We began our climb down the volcano and his pain became worse. He REALLY needed "to go". His pace quickened as he followed the guide and his friend further into the cloud forest, leaving the rest of the group behind.

Finally, he couldn't take it any longer and had to go. He ran ahead of the group while his friend yelled at him saying "Just shout when you are finished!"

All of a sudden we heard a scream. We didn't know it was the scream of a man who was taking the biggest shit of his life.

With wide eyes and a worried expression the guide asked the friend, "Esta bien??"

The friend shrugged, shook his head and yelled into the woods "ARE YOU DONE?"

The screamer yelled "NO!!!AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"

The friend yelled "YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO YELL WHILE YOU'RE GOING! ONLY YELL WHEN YOU ARE DONE!"

The screamer continued to scream.

By the time he was finished, the rest of the group finally caught up to the guide and the friend. We all that he was having diarrhea because he had problems with that earlier in his trip. When the guide tried to give him anti-diarrhea pills the screamer replied, "No thanks. It was the largest, most solid chunk... it's not diarrhea"

We thanked him for sharing that extremely valuable piece of information.

We also found out that he took a dump somewhere in the muddy path that we were to walk on. THIS valuable piece of information was told to us much later.

We will never know what was really on our shoes on our climb down from Volcano Maderas....

Posted by krisses 08:03 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (4)

Climbing Volcano Maderas - A Side Story

Where's the Beef?

After 4 hours of hiking up the muddy and slippery Volcano Maderas, we reached the top. We were bruised, aching, starving, and parched with thirst.

But wait! The highlight of the climb was still to be conquered by climbing down a steep and muddy "trail" to a lake formed by a crater in the volcano.

Since we were totally unimpressed with the unmemorable "top" of the volcano, we were looking forward to some type of pay-off and made our way down to this "lake".

After 20 minutes of sliding, falling, and slipping our way through a narrow mud path we came upon the "lake" that was to be our visual prize after climbing for so long. The so-called "lake" was actually a cloud covered, muddy pond. Wow. Seriously?

But wait!! You can go swimming in this lake! Sure you can! Just as long as you don't put your feet down so that you don't get sucked into its muddy bottom. Riiiight.

But wait! All of us were starving and had brought large ham and cheese sandwiches on our trip! Our hunger could be satisfied!! Ravenously, we opened up our foil-wrapped sandwiches and took huge bites into our ham and cheese sandwiches and felt nothing but more disappointment.

Our "ham and cheese" sandwiches were replaced with cabbage and mustard. At that moment, I couldn't think of anything more disappointing than a CABBAGE AND MUSTARD SANDWICH after a horrible 5-hour hike. I didn't even know cabbage and mustard sandwiches exist! They do! BUT THEY SHOULDN'T!!

The moral of the story is to check your sandwich before you leave for a 3 hour trek. That 3 hours may turn into 5 hours and at the end of it you may be eating a sad, cabbage and mustard sandwich while wishing you had ham and cheese.

Posted by krisses 08:03 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (3)

Climbing Volcano Maderas in Nicaragua


View World Trip 2012 - Actual on dariusz's travel map.

After spending New Years day in San Juan del Sur we could not wait to get out and see the rest of Nicaragua. We have heard so much about this country and how it's the great undiscovered travel destination of Central America, yet San Juan del Sur as a travel destination in itself was a disappointment. We had a good time because of the hosts and the other travelers not because of the place.

The next destination was an island described in travel books as a “fantasy” island. It is a small island on the gigantic Lago de Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua) with two volcanoes side by side. The island was basically formed by the lava flows from the two volcanoes creating a land bridge between them thousands of years ago. The way to get there is by taking a Ferry from a place called San Jorge.

We got our host Chelly at Yajure to drive us to the Ferry. That in itself is always quite the adventure as he loves to yell “Puta” at all the crazy motorcyclists and remind everyone else on the road how they can’t really drive. He justifies it as providing “free education” to the locals. Occasionally he even speeds up to try to run over a terrified pedestrian or two.

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The island itself is very beautiful and the locals on it appear to be a bit friendlier then the people in San Juan del Sur. The hostel we stayed at was once again excellent with beautiful grounds covered with gorgeous wildflowers and a very relaxed atmosphere. This was exactly what we needed after the hustle and bustle of San Juan del Sur.

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Unfortunately the tide and waves were really high and had completely drowned the beach so this was not going to a beach stay. We asked the Hostel and they set us up with a tour guide to climb the smaller Volcano on the island the next day. A simple 3 hour hike up and 3 hour hike down, with a beautiful little lake in the crater at the top to reward our effort, or so we were told. The warning bells should have started ringing though because it seemed no one at the hostel had ever actually done this hike.

The trek up the Volcano started out innocently enough, however, the fact that the trail appeared to go through private property and farms should have been a warning. We took some nice pictures prior to entering the forest and proceeded with the actual hike.

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It quickly became obvious that the word “trail” is used extremely loosely in Nicaragua. This was more a path beaten out by the tourists walking up and down than any sort of actual trail. There was mud half way up to our knees spread out across rocks while climbing some ridiculous inclines. The guide stayed back with some slower hikers to help them so we were on our own. The trail just kept getting worse and it would literally completely disappear at times, so we had to figure out ourselves which tree trunk to jump and which ant hill to go around to find it again. This was no pleasant 3 hour hike, it was more of a 4 and a half hour torturous sludge through some really difficult terrain. There were also no views at all while climbing just dense jungle and cloud forest.

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The worst part however came at the end. We got to a tiny clearing maybe 10 feet by 10 feet and the guide announced “You’re here!”. No view at ALL! It’s all just trees around us and the tiny clearing. We all couldn’t believe it. There is still a chance though! There is the climb into the crater and the beautiful lake right? Yes, says the guide, but it’s another 15 minute hike down and then back up. Screw it, at this point, might as well go down and try to salvage a bit of this experience. The way down to the lake is even worse than the climb since you literally have to jump down from ledges into the mud below and pray and hope you don’t slide down and break your leg. And how exactly would anyone get you out of there if you did break your leg? I'm guessing they would just roll you down the side of the Volcano since you were a goner anyway. Finally, the lake itself? The payoff at the end of the 5 hour torture? The picture below says it all.

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The lake is more of a muddy puddle. I got something out of the experience for sure but once more it had nothing to do with the location itself. It was more of a personal achievement feeling that I actually made it up and down that path alive. I might as well have climbed a mountain in Quebec or Virginia.

Posted by dariusz 07:09 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged volcano nicaragua hike maderas Comments (0)

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