In the land of plastic bags and volcanoes

It was a long drive to Managua, and past it to the beach at Pochomil. But we made it.
It was a long drive to Managua, and past it to the beach at Pochomil. But we made it.

We crossed the border into Nicaragua on the afternoon of Saturday, January 30, after spending the day driving through Honduras. We chose the border crossing in the mountains near Somoto, Nicaragua, because it was supposedly less chaotic than the border crossing along the coast and we hoped the higher elevation would provide some temperature relief after we just spent a few days baking at the beach in El Salvador.

After a hassle free crossing, we pulled into the comfortable climate of the city of Condega to find a concert stage being set up in the town plaza. We took a room as far from there as we could but it didn’t help much because the band, which turned out to be a Catholic rock band (children of the Eighties, remember Stryper?), played loudly and they sang even louder - variations along the lines of God is King and you better get in line to pay homage.

Except for the peoples who live along the coastal waterways on the Caribbean side of the country and who, we have read, don’t give a shit about much, Nicaragua is one of the most Catholic countries formerly under Spanish rule, so we were a little worried about the concert and our ability to sleep knowing that even in comparatively pagan Mexico, these things can go on to ungodly hours. But the Holy Trinity must go to bed early on Saturday night in preparation for their big day on Sunday because the band shut things down around 11 p.m.

R’s friend Dava and her family also arrived in Nicaragua on Saturday, in the beach town of Pochomil, and because we were excited to see them, we didn’t have time to linger in the mountains. On Sunday, we drove south through the capital city of Managua to the beach, bringing our grand total of driving over three days through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, to a lot of kilometers, but I can’t say exactly how many because the cable to our speedometer/odometer got disconnected while we were bouncing through El Salvador and it wasn’t something obvious that I could easily fix.

In the indigenous language, Nicaragua means “land of the plastic bag that gets blown onto a barbed wire fence and shredded to pieces which spread across the fields.” At one point I mentioned to Coconut that all the colorful pieces of plastic stuck in the stiff grasses and puffed out by the wind looked like flowers and she said it sounded like the title of a bad movie.

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IMG_2938 - Copy

Dava didn’t expect us until Wednesday when we had rented an AirBnB place together, and when we arrived in Pochomil on Sunday we learned our hotel didn’t have internet, and the one place in town that was supposed to have internet also didn’t have internet. Dava was staying with friends who have a house in Pochomil, but we had no way to connect with her and we didn’t know where the house was. That put R into a bit of a panic and she and I walked up and down the beach in the hopes that R would recognize the house from a picture she had seen. Believe it or not, that didn’t work.

This is the view from the back porch of Jamie and Ali's place. R and I walked up and down the beach hoping to find it based on R's recollection of a picture she saw months ago.
This is the view from the back porch of Jamie and Ali's place. R and I walked up and down the beach hoping to find it based on R's recollection of a picture she saw months ago.

We woke up on Monday morning and went to Masachapa, which is the big town around there, but still only has probably 1,000 people, so that R could buy a card to put in her phone so she could have data capabilities. Once that was sorted out, we were able to contact Dava and made plans to see her on Tuesday at her friends house and that turned out to be really nice because her friends, Jamie and Ali, have a great place right on the beach. And it has Wifi so Coconut and J were thrilled. We ended up spending most of the week there rather than at our own Air BnB place - which also had a pretty view but wasn't as nice overall as the friends' place.

Masachapa doesn't have a lot of people, but it does have some really big papayas. This one cost 60 Cordoba - which is about $2.
Masachapa doesn't have a lot of people, but it does have some really big papayas. This one cost 60 Cordoba - which is about $2.
The yard of our Air BnB place in Pochomil was nice, and had a great view of the ocean.
The yard of our Air BnB place in Pochomil was nice, and had a great view of the ocean.

We spent the rest of the week tearing it up. Jamie purchased the house with surfer friends ten years ago and is still an avid surfer, so he took J, and R, and Dava surfing.  We spent a lot of time in the surf because the water is so warm and J and I made up a game where we play football against the ocean. It goes like this – we throw the ball into a crashing wave and try to catch it as the wave brings it back to us. If we do, seven points for us. If not, the ocean gets seven points. First team to one hundred wins. The other things we did are: we dove in the pool for Cordoba (Nicaraguan money); Coconut held her breath underwater for one minute and 14 seconds; we drank a lot of rum and beer and wine spritzers; the youngest boys, Baron and Tristan, played in Wesley and peed on the back seat and flipped the switch so the headlights turned on which we didn’t catch until hours later so the car battery drained.

Surfer J
Surfer J
Surfer R
Surfer R
R looking for some gnarly waves in the warm Nicaraguan waters off of Pochomil
R looking for some gnarly waves in the warm Nicaraguan waters off of Pochomil
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IMG_2895

By the time Sunday rolled around again, Dava and her crew were off to the airport to fly back to the States, and the Vanamos crew were back in Wesley and headed to Leon, which we thought was in the mountains and cooler. That turned out to be only partly true. It's in the mountains, of a sort - it's surrounded by volcanoes - but it's hot as boiling water. But that didn't stop us from celebrating R's birthday on Tuesday by going sledding down Cerro Negro - an active volcano which last erupted in 1995.

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IMG_2956
Vanamos gets ready for its run down the volcano. That plume of smoke you see behind us is another daring soul making his run. The photo does not do justice to the vertical drop of the mountain.
Vanamos gets ready for its run down the volcano. That plume of smoke you see behind us is another daring soul making his run. The photo does not do justice to the vertical drop of the mountain.