Nicaragua, 19 Dec '03
March 08, 2003 GMT
Nica...vale la pena??

The rain was waiting for me in the mountains, and a string of bad luck started in Esteli...

Las Manos crossing. The confusion continues over the border. It took nearly 2hrs, even though i used a "paper jockey". The most difficult thing to do on your own would be, to find the roving inspector wandering in the lines of lorries.
$10 for the bike and $7 for me.
The rain was waiting for me in the mountains and a string of bad luck started for me in Esteli.
I dumped the bike in the rain on a slippery bit of wood. Dented the LH box. A minor wound. Maddening. It was bound to happen one day, why not on an Andean piste? Not a street corner in Esteli!
Next thing was in Granada. A Nebraskan, who runs the guesthouse, reversed into the bike. Knocking it over; you guessed, LH box again. This time it needed a wooden mallet. So did that guy! Crikkey allmighty, he didnīt even need to reverse, nevermind 6ft.
Things happen in 3's; but there is a week's break, at Laguna de Apoyo, before No. 3!
Proyecto Ecologico, which researches fish in the crater lake, run a language course. A week of verb tenses....boring, but the basis of the language. This at least helped my ears separate the flow of sound into words! (Never mind that i don't understand them)
A german family came for xmas- with their stolen and speculas (the yummy cinnamon cookie). Then there was Nelly, a 70yr old Dutch backpacker. And Andrea, also Dutch. Andrea is a keen 'birder', w/ lots of interesting stories of Bolivia and Venezuela.
Jeffery, one of the administators, took Andrea and me for an afternoon of birding. Spot the bird in the bush! My neck!
So many lovely birds. There is a group called Tanager; Jeffery was hoping to spot a Summer Tanager. Andrea started singing...."we're all looking for the summer tanager." ...a la Cliff Richard, Summer Holiday. GROAN, couldnīt get that stupid song out of my head!
On the way back to the jeep we heard the Mantled Howler Monkey. We were 20m away, underneath a fairly large male. He leaned over his branch and barked down at us! ooohoohoOHOOOHOOO. Just like that. Very impressive. As were his creamy white balls; such a contrast to his dark brown/black body!
At the end of the week i moved out of my room and into the tent. Andrea, who was starting a language week, moved in to my room, with hopes of a bug-free zone. She was up in the main house and had 2 scorpians and an assasin bug. I had nothing--that i was aware of!
The sunday i left the lake, lucky number 3 was waiting for me in Masaya. I drove up a one way: the wrong way. Only 5m. A policeman wrote me up for $10, i offered $2 but ended up paying $5. This happens to Nicas too, the cops go home with wads of cash.
On i went, backtracking north to Leon, on a construction road from hell. Thinking...."this had better be worth it".
....ŋvale la pena?.....

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 03:50 PM GMT
March 10, 2003 GMT
Nica...baile, baile!

..."rum and beer, i would never have thought they'd go together"...

Good move! Good groove.

I did what almost everyone does on arrival in Leon.....went to the movies! Except unlike everyone else i didn't go to 007. Lord of the Rings.
If you come here you must visit the museo de insurrecion; a personal collection of Sandanista memorabilia. Check out the mural beside the cathederal. Eat at Taqueztal Bar Cafe.

On New Years eve Maria, the dentist who runs Hostal Clinica, cooked fish and rice for the 6 of us staying there. After a few cuba libres it was off to the basket ball court in town! That was the happening place; disco and beer. We had tried the gringo bar but it was deadly.

New years day is beach day, for the whole town. I enjoyed the novelty of a ride in the back of a truck, and in a bus for a change. (Two days of that and the novelty wore off and it was back on the bike to the beach!)
The following week in Leon i became the unlikely drinking partner of a Belgian. Erik was on his way to Carnaval in Brazil, but doing a little reconnaissance in Honduras and Nicaragua.

The new disco on the highway was booked for a wedding; we got in and i felt obliged to dance with the uncles! They brought me back to the table and shook Erik's hand and thanked him!

Uncle Sandinista left with us and we ended over to Bar Club. A classic hwy dance joint; open air, concrete dance floor- complete with 'lavabo'. Wash your hands and check your look, right on the dance floor. (You can also see who doesn't wash their hands after using the toilet!).

We drank uncle Sandi under the table....not really; we left him gaping in his chair.
Next night, same table, same chair. Same woman obsessed on dancing with and groping me! If i didn't dance with her young amigo she got angry; if i did she would 2-hand shove him out of the way!! I couldn't win.
Nica's answer to Tina Turner was at Bar Club (shake it Mama, shake it!) with her family and 2 young Mormon friends-- perfect designated drivers! So it was all back to Mama's for more beer....and more beer...

I didn't follow all the conversations but did admire Mama Tina's rattan rockers! A Nicaraguan specialty.

They said that i was like a doll....(pretty?.....pretty vacant!?) As in a lot of Nica homes, there was a little "shop" set up in the front sitting room. Toiletries and toys. A 2ft, blond hair, blue eyed dolly was then held up! Was it the blue eyes or the stunner expression? I don't know, certainly not the porcelain skin!
When the sun came up we said goodbye. The drivers probably thought we'd never leave.

I wrote home telling of my boozing and dancing. Mom, bless her, wrote back....
"Rum and beer, i would never have thought they'd go together!"
They don't mom, thatīs why i get so hungover!! Don't try it -not without a hammock!

All good things come to an end. Hostal Clinica was living up to it's name and becoming a clinic of sick backpackers. Adios. But not before final scrumptuous meal at Taquetzal Bar Cafe.
To Costa one go.

A leisurely day really: drink stop at a mirador over Laguna de Managua and lunch in Rivas, where i met Mauricio, a Chilean, now from Toronto, Ont., on his FZ750 heading to Chile.
Toodling along, 2km from the border, rubbing my eye....
The wind moved me-off the road. Yikes, must've closed the other eye!
Steared back on, but the front tyre 'caught the lip'.
I was into a slide and time stood still. Floating with a frozen brain.
Oh shit, not the LH box again! It can't take it---I can't take...i really don't want to hit the road...

My left foot slapped down with a life of it's own! I certainly don't recall giving the command! But that did it, stood the bike up and on I go with a big Wooohooo!
Wouldn't I love to see that in instant replay.

My luck has definitely changed...thank my lucky stars. Thank my Alt-Berg boots...took a couple of mil. off the tread!!!

Normally such an event would've left me a nervous, adrenilin junkie, mess. But nada. Cucumber...Cool as Luke. Border papers didn't shake a bit!

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 05:52 PM GMT

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