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Back From Beyond

When last reporting from Granada, I was getting ready to return to the midst of nowhere in Lake Nicaragua.  I’ve definitely had my share of remote places for the moment.

We took a van to Managua airport.  The actual airport is quite a bit nicer than expected, but we were flying out of the small end of it which is for local destinations.  We were flying to San Carlos.  Quick lunch in the Subway in Manaqua International Airport where I learned that Atun is Tuna.  I was so hunrgy I didn’t much care.

We then hopped on our little 12 seat plane.  My first flights were aboard propeller planes, although slightly bigger, so I can’t really say they scare me, but I don’t find them at all comfortable or overly assuring.  I prefer jets when given the choice.   Actually, I have to say that anytime they weigh not only my bags but me, I’m not comforted.  They weighed us all, and all our bags.  My bag was 10 pounds over the limit (but 10 under for the US).  But luckily the group weight was what counted for our flight, so no extra charge.

A wee bit later we had flown over Lake Nicaragua and landed in the tiny burg of San Carlos.  We watched our bags get unloaded and were told we couldn{t collect them until we were inside the hut.   I cannot call this small building next to a single dirt runway a terminal.  It was simply a hut.  Once inside we watched another group pile into the plane returning to Managua.  It was about this moment that one of our group realized her bag was not there.  Yes, it had never been unloaded…

It was at one funny and tragic.  Our guide spent half an hour bartering with the people at the desk.  In the end, there was no way to get the bag back same day.  They were putting it on a plane for the next day. I really felt for her, luggage lose, even for a day is no fun at all.

We took taxis to the docks at San Carlos and then boarded a boat to our “Eco Lodge” on one of the islands of Solentiname.  The location was, I have to say, beautiful.  A gorgeous little piece of island shaded by a variety of trees and plants.  The couple who run it, Daniel and Olivia, were incredibly friendly.  The islands are sparsely populated, maybe 1,000 people we were told.

The place is remote enough that the power is solar, so limited.  The cabins only had a light.  I had to recharge my phone at the main building.  Not that I got a signal there, just that I needed it for an alarm.  They do have a phone there for emergencies, but not for general use.  Apparently it’s a bear to call out.

The first night, I shooed a gecko out of my cabin, another guy had spiders, and another group had bats.  This should give you an idea just how out there it was.  During the day, you quickly forgot, but at night, the warm temps and the critters made me want civilization badly.  I really think only Ometepe or only Solentiname would have made the trip better for me.  I’m hard pressed to pick one over the other, but I have reached my limit of backwater for the moment.

On our first day, our fellow traveler’s bag arrived (at a cost of $100 – which with luck her insurance will pay for) and a boat had to go back to San Carlos with her to get it.  A few of us went back for lack of anything else to do.  Sure, I could have laid in a hammock, but I had a better time in the hour long boat ride and 20 minutes meandering through a small market where they rarely see tourists.   I got some cookies and thought the guy said they were 30 cordobas, when they were actually 13 (yes, my spanish is that bad).  To his credit, he refused to accept my error.  There are 20 cordobas to the dollar right now, so we aren’t talking a lot.  I just have to give a shout out to the honest locals of San Carlos, Nicaragua!

Back to the eco lodge and a lazy afternoon.  We spent two days eating (great meals) and the only exercise I got was walking to “town” the second afternoon.  Even by Ideal, Georgia standards, this was not a town.  Chickens and ducks and a room in a couple of houses with groceries or clothes.  If quaint is what you’re after, Solentiname is your place.  While there, a Brit who is travelling on a world ticket for a year briefly joined up with us to eat and share stories.  She’s travelling alone and on the last two months of her year abroad.  About my age and quit her job and sold everything to do it.  Much jealousy.  Although I’m not sure you’d ever find me wandering off to plaves like that wee island on my own.  I need a bit more city to stay sane it appears.

I likewise think that I see I’ll never do peace corps.  The cold showers have completely worn thin.  Granada was at least luke warm.  Solentiname was back to cold and bitter.  I guess I could get used to it, but I’m not really sure I want to.  That’s apparently a creature comfort that I’m hard pressed to give up.

I think I’ve complained enough, lest I sound like I’m completely having no fun here.  I cherish every moment that I’m getting to see a little more of this wide world.

Today was back to Costa Rica day.  We had breakfast at 6:30am and boarded a boat to San Carlos.  We went through immigration there to exit Nicaragua and boarded a collectivo boat heading south on the San Frio River to Los Chiles, Costa Rica.  Passports stamped and sat on the boat.  As it’s a collectivo, it only leaves when it’s full.  As we were first in line, we sat on for over an hour.

Just about time to shove off, it began to pour rain.  A theme for the day.  The roof of the boat had about a 100 leaks and one was, of course, over my bag.  Drip, drip, drip…  My bag is water resistant, not water proof, but it appears it was never enough to seep through luckily.  It was a drizzle that alternately poured all the way to Los Chiles where it stopped just enough for us to load our bags on the van for the next leg luckily.  As soon as the tarps went up over our bags on the roof, the sky opened again.  We crowded in the building to get our passports stampd for re-entry into Costa Rica for a bit before boarding the van.

The van was a two hour ride and we were all determined to make no stops.  Every time a stop was offered, we said no thanks.  The only stop we really made was sitting on the side of the road looking at monkeys playing in the trees outside our windows.  Still, no one budged, we were determined to make good time to La Foruna.

La Fortuna is a totally touristy town.  I hope to explore it a bit if just for some tacky souvenirs, maybe tomorrow.  Maybe the next morning, we’ll see what works out.  Today we still didn’t have time for a lot.  We got in and unloaded.

I happened to turn on the news (trying to catch up)  just in time to see that there had been a 6.1 earthquake here in Costa Rica.  It was felt here in La Fortuna even though it’s 5 hours away from San Jose.  The epicenter was apparently a bit north of San Jose, where there were two deaths and a bit of damage.  Hard to tell how much as the news thats doing much coverage is all in spanish.  At any rate, we felt nothing on the road on the way here and are all well.  As far as I know, this changes nothing about our travel plans or leaving here on time next Sunday.  If you’ve seen the news and wondered, though, all is well on my end.

In the evening today, we took a bus tour out to see lava flows from a viewing spot for the local volcano – forgive me I’ve forgot it’s name.  It was somewhat disappointing, the rain returned and we only saw a few brief flares that were bright enough to shine through the thick clouds.  The town is close enough we might still see something tomorrow night, though, so fingers crossed.

From there we went to Baldi hot springs, a natural hot spring that’s been totally turned into a resort.  Tons of hot pools and two huge slides.  I had immense fun plummeting down those hot water slides because I had to use both hands to hold my glasses on, it was like being shot out of a gun at max velocity!  Some of us are totally considering a return trip tomorrow.

My only definite plan tomorrow is a canopy tour at 10am.  Otherwise, maybe some sightseeing around town and a little chill time.  The next day part of the group is going whitewater rafting.  Three of us not interested are staying in town until noon and will be picked up and taken to re-unite with the rest for our trek back into San Jose.  So, yes, the trip is in its final days now!  WAAHHH!!!!  So, yes, I’ve complained a little, but you see now that I’ll still be sorry to leave.

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