A Travellerspoint blog

Traipsing around Bluefields


We awoke to the buzz of the minihotel and the busy street outside. After a delightful breakfast of gallo pinto, cheese, eggs, and coffee, we went to say hello to Karla and Giovanny at their store. The greetings were as warm as ever despite the pleasantly cool temperatures of “winter” in Bluefields.

At lunch time, we returned to their house and parked our bags. We ate a delicious lunch courtesy of Hilma and began the enjoyable task of catching up with our friends and letting their children become comfortable with having us around. We told them how excited we were for the big upcoming event “the Marcha” or the Independence day parade. In this parade, all the important officials of the town and the schools put on their best shows. Huge troupes of “palionas”- baton twirlers, and drummers are the main attraction while brightly costumed students and trophy carriers make intermittent appearances. This would happen on the 14th with final performances on the 15th.

Sara and I made a list of the people that we needed to visit. At the top of the list were Karla’s family and Wendy’s family. Also a priority were our sponsor children, Shary and Jeronima(whose birthday coincides with our anniversary). Next, Jordan and Jose, two of Sara’s favorite ex students. There were in second grade back in the day, but now are in their freshman years. One of Mike’s favorites was Don Augustin, a member of the church choir and top notch guitar performer joined the list. Finally, we needed to stop by Dona Asucena, the mother of a friend we would be visiting in Guatamala.

Some of these friendships are more than 10 years old, and so our friends are willing to share with us the richness as well as the difficulty of living in Bluefields. Nicaraguas culture is rich in poetry, music, friendship, dancing, nature, and food while the difficulties of health problems, crime, drugs, corruption, juvenile delinquency, unsafe drinking water, unemployment, and lack of resources touch everyone’s lives.

Below are some pictures of our visits with friends…………hope you enjoy them.

Meeting up with Don Agustin........we sang many traditional Nicaraguan songs!

Enjoying dinner out with Wendy, Janitza, and husband Marc.

Hanging out with Janitza and cousin Mahatma

They did my hair!

Mike doing homework with Janitza

Visiting with Jeronima's family
Our original God-daughter, Jeronima.
Mike with our grand-god-daughter, Tatiana.
Tatiana practicing her therapy.
Fermin and crew with their livestock.
All the family's babies!!
Meeting Jeronima's new niece
Jeronima's parents and sibs house!

Karla's family at the parade..
Words don't do the parade justice.
Palionas- baton twirlers in costume.
Nicaragua's pride poses with symbols and costume.
Carlos Adolfo- Karla's nephew...is taller than the rest.
Jose's sister's foud us. (Jose is another ex student of Sara's.)
Would you call this a crowd?

Our best friends and hosts!
Johan and Mike with fish from Mark.
Johan plays cars.
Budding artist, Guiseppe.
Dona Fatima and Dylan, newest nephew of Karla--son of Yvannia.
Karla and Dylan.

Oh, we love all our friends and miss them already!!

Posted by tourdeflor 21:35 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged foot Comments (1)

The long trip to the end of the road....

sunny 90 °F

Bluefields, Nicaragua…..miles traveled……300.

Mission –Survive sleep deprivation to arrive in Bluefields to spend time with our friends.
For those of you who don’t know, Sara completed a couple of years of service in Bluefields with the CapCorp. It is also the capital of the South Atlantic Autonomous Region seated on the coast. There is no road that reaches Bluefields from the capital of Managua, which makes this trip interesting.
WOW. Our trip to Bluefields began with a very expensive night taxi ride to the remote bus station “El Mayoreo.” We had made this trip before two years ago, when the highway had been newly repaired in the ever present re-tooled school bus which serves as the main transportation in most of Central America. We were surprised that when we bought our tickets we had seat numbers. While we waited we were treated to watch “Ice Age” in Spanish. It helped pass the time while the toddlers and dogs ran around the bus station screaming and doing gymnastics on the chairs.
Finally we went to board, at first we were pleasantly surprised to see that the seats reclined and appeared semi-comfortable not like the usual school bus seats. We were sadly mistaken. Our seats were over the wheel and left approximately one inch for Sara’s legs after the person reclined back onto her. She first tried to sit Indian style with her legs on the seat then we only began to hope desperately that we could switch to a new seat.
Finally, after we pulled out of the station we scrambled to a different vacant area. The breeze from the window cooled us down. It was not too long however until Sara began to freeze. Then when the bus stopped we roasted, and everyone would lower their windows. Finally, we would move again and would all start to freeze, so everyone would wake up and close their windows again. We didn’t sleep much, and when we did it was interrupted alternately by bouts of sweating, freezing, loud snoring of fellow passengers, or swerving around parts of the road that in the last two years had deteriorated or disappeared completely.

Finally, after seven brutal hours (at 4am) the bus pulled into Rama where we catch the speed boats. The speed boats don’t leave until 6:30am. The bus departure times have not changed in the last four years since the highway trimmed off two hours from the journey. So we sat for two miserable hours on the cramped bus trying to catch a few pathetic winks between mosquito attacks and back cramps.
Finally, it was time to board our speed boat. We joyously put on our life vests and pulled away from the dock. The pleasant breeze on the river provided a nice change as we followed the smooth curves of the river toward the sea. At 8:30 we pulled into the dock totally exhausted. We stumbled a few hundred meters toward downtown and got a small room with a fan at a place called “the Minihotel.” We were so tired that we had a little breakfast and promptly fell back asleep for five hours.
We spent a little time that afternoon reacquainting ourselves with the town. We had one of the local brew.. “Tona” and bumped into an old friend of Sara’s, Yader Garcia. To end our first day, we had a light dinner and went to sleep early to gain energy to greet our friends the next day.

Posted by tourdeflor 09:05 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus Comments (0)

To Nicaragua and Beyond....

overcast 91 °F
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Bocas to Ometepe, Nicaragua…..miles traveled…….420

The boat left Bocas in the morning to mainland. From there we hopped on a minivan that drove us to the Costa Rican Border. We saw a lot of banana plantations on the way, including the famous Chiquita Banana.
The actual border crossing was a ramshackle of a bridge that we crossed ever so precariously on foot.
Once on the other side, we transferred to another minivan that took us to San Jose. There, we spent the night at Hotel Elvis across the street from the bus that would take us to Managua, Nicaragua early the next morning.
From Managua, we headed directly to a taxi that took us to the bus station for routes leaving out to the San Jorge on Lake Nicaragua (best known for being the only lake with fresh water sharks). We arrived to San Jorge and bought our tickets for the ferry that would carry us over to the volcano island of Ometepe.

Needless to say, it was non-stop travel for a few days there and we were pretty tired by the time we found our way to a hostel, one of our best deals to date – $14/night.
Unfortunately, our time was shortened on the island due to problems accessing cash. The ATMs were not friendly and we ended up getting enough cash for our food and return trip via a pharmacy that operated doling out cash on the sly. We had two days to explore. We enjoyed the view of the two volcanoes that make up the island and enjoyed swimming in the lake and taking in some rays on the black sandy beach even though the fresh water sharks were surely lurking!!
It certainly was a tranquil place. Only one road rings the island.
Scooters, motorcycles, and the bus service are the main motorized transport. Bicycles, pedestrians, and horses make up the rest of the traffic. Outside of the two main towns you are very likely to be stopped by crossing herds of cows, stray pigs, goats, or chickens.
Sara saw her first Brahma cow. They are well suited to the heat, luckily the hump that Sara thought was a growth was merely one of the trademarks of the breed along with their large floppy ears. Once you leave the main road you will be walking on a dirt path. We walked about two kilometers from the main road to the black sand beach through pasture and banana trees. We had the beach completely to ourselves. We were caught in a thirty minute torrential downpour when we sheltered under a palm frond covered restaurant nearby to enjoy the rain.
After this brief respite, we returned to Managua to catch the bus and speed boat (panga) to journey to Bluefields on the lively Caribbean coast.

Posted by tourdeflor 21:40 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus Comments (1)

Bastimientos, Panama

sunny 90 °F
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Bastamientos. Miles traveled 2.
We relocated to Isla Bastimiento the following day. The atmosphere there is more relaxed and a little less traveled. We found a great room at Hostel Bastimientos with private bathroom, fan, and patios overlooking the city and the bay. The owner, Dixon, helped put us on the right track for the day. We bought some water and headed out to Wizard beach. Wizard beach often has some of the best waves in the area. After waiting around for a water taxi and drinking a few beers, we headed out in a 15hp motor launch. After about ½ hour we rounded a rocky point, and sighted a beautiful long stretch of beach. In the center was a jumble of volcanic rocks with about a mile of open beach on either side. We couldn’t see any other people on the whole beach. It was nothing like the “popular beaches” at home where you fight for a patch of sand. As we drew nearer to the shore, we saw a few scattered groups of people. Sara and I got off the boat and walked about a half mile down a clear stretch of beach with no rocks in the water and set up camp. We lathered up with SPF 30 to make up for the burning that we got on our first tour and waited for it to soak in. The surf broke consistently but more gently than at red Frog. It felt like we had an island all to ourselves. We bobbed up and down in the waves, waded in and out of the surf, drank a few beers and about a half liter of water. We drank some more salt water when we got hit by an unexpectedly large wave. All in all we had a fabulous day.
We rescued another traveling couple, Harry and Tracy, who had hiked across the island. Actually, they just needed us to spot them water taxi fare for one(Tracy) back around the island. The hike that they did was not an easy one especially carrying surfboards. They left their gear and money at the surf shop halfway back up the trail so they would not have to worry about it at the beach. Harry hiked back around for his gear and planned to meet us in town. A few other hikers who had come across, joined our taxi home as well. It took the little old 15hp a little longer on the return trip and the 100hp boats motored past us. After reuniting in town, Harry and Tracy invited us to a thai dinner up the hill from town.
We sat down to eat with Tracy and Harry and Shane and Carrie were also at the restaurant. We met them earlier that day at our hostel. They had previously traveled for eight months in South East Asia and were finishing two months in Central America. During the meal we kicked around the idea of doing a tour together to see the sea turtles nesting. Sara and I were delegated to research. We agreed to meet the following evening in the square. The delicious thai food filled our stomachs, we swapped travel hints, and drank the “Magic Drink”, a mixture of rum and various juices. It was an excellent cap to a fantastic day.
The next day we ended up sleeping in, big surprise, huh? We had lunch at the local criollo joint on the water, called “Roots” and enjoyed the fantastic breeze and some amazing barbecue chicken. We met up with Shane and Carrie at the square, but Harry and Tracy were nowhere to be found. We hung around for about ½ before going to eat. We figured it wouldn’t take much investigation to find a group of four gringos in the four restaurants they had to choose from!

Posted by tourdeflor 10:57 Archived in Panama Tagged boating Comments (1)

Panama Two - Bocas del Toro

sunny 90 °F
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Boca del Toro…miles traveled…..197.
We departed Panama City from the bus terminal on an overnight bus to Bocas del Toro. Bocas is the “new tourist hot spot” in Panama. It was hot, and there were tourists, but it we had its beaches practically to ourselves. On our first day, at the urging of our host, Ben, at the Las Brisas hostel, we lunched at the Pickled Parrot and hit our first beach on the island of Costanera. We arrived at The Pickled Parrot by water taxi, and we were served up the best hamburger we have had on our trip and washed it down with a few cold Balboas. The owner is an ex-pat underwater nuclear reactor inspector who recharges his batteries on the beach in Panama! After that we headed to the beach. The sand was white and the water was warm and clear. Sara and I called it a very successful first day.
The second day we played to hit one of the beaches on Isla Colon, on the way to the water taxi we were solicited by a young man offering a tour. “Special Price, $15 per person. We go to Dolphin Bay, Snorkle, and Red Frog Beach. Inlcudes all except $3 additional to enter Red Frog Beach because it is a national Park.” After a few moments of conferring and several more references regarding the “Dolphins”, we joined the tour. In our party were , a large group of Brits on Uni vacation and a few stray Germans. At Dolphin Bay, we were greeted very pleasantly and promptly by a group of three dolphins swimming leisurely. We sighted several more groups of dolphins many of which were very near our boat. This portion of the trip climaxed when one of the dolphins put on a show punctuated by several leaps out of the water and splashing reentries! It was fabulous.

We followed this with Sara and I snorkeling for the first time. At the reef where we snorkeled an abundance of fish and sea life were on display. Various types of coral, specific colors and their attendant fish covered the sea floor. There gentle current caused no problems, and the experience left us wanting more snorkeling.
Our next stop was red Frog Beach. To reach the beach we paid the entrance fee and hiked across a small stretch of jungle. A group of little boys met us up the trail to show off the famous “red frogs”(poisonous if eaten).
We were not disappointed by our second beach. White sand stretched about a mile in either direction. The strong and consistent surf pounded the beach providing a relaxing background noise. Our group entered the water to try our hand at body surfing. We caught a couple of waves and swallowed plenty of saltwater. The current strong current and pounding surf left us exhausted by the end of the afternoon. The tour probably rates as our best values of the Panama leg of our trip.

The next day, we took the bus to play at Bocas del Drago, also called Starfish Beach. The Beach here is narrow but extends for several miles.
Our first mile walking yielded exactly zero starfish. The second mile yielded a blue crab and a stingray.
Finally, we were considering giving up. “Should we head back?” Sara asked. “Let’s go a little further.” It was merely twenty yards further, and we hit the mother load of starfish. We saw different sizes and patterns. We picked up a few to inspect their feet. It was very cool.

Posted by tourdeflor 18:21 Archived in Panama Tagged bus Comments (0)

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