The History of Rock in Nicaragua

Almost twenty years ago, when everyone could illegally share music through the popular copyright infringement site “Napster” without fear of serious consequences, the iPod was invented. Around this same time, and with knowledge of these two modern tools that made life better for everyone, R and I were able to acquire over 13,000 songs from artists ranging from the Arctic Monkeys to The Doors, from the Mountain Goats to Rob Zombie. With that historical background, I bring you to the present day. Since R’s birthday last Tuesday, when we left the sweltering cauldron of fire and bad pizza that is Leon, Nicaragua, we’ve been parked at a Mediterranean-like resort/spa on the shores of Laguna de Apoyo - a caldera lake formed when Vulcan Apoyo exploded in on itself and sealed its magma pipe to the outside world forever. The rest, as they say, is history, and once the rain filled the now sealed volcanic pit, the lake - which is advertised as Nicaragua’s cleanest swimming hole - was complete.

The view down to the lake from our camp at Hostal Paradiso on Laguna de Apoyo, in Nicaragua
The view down to the lake from our camp at Hostal Paradiso on Laguna de Apoyo, in Nicaragua

The hostel is prettily built into the hillside, with natural flora covering winding paths that lead from cabanas to shared dormitories to the pool and ping-pong table and finally to the decent lakeside restaurant. We are camping in the parking lot and have a lizards’ eye view of the visitors to the hostel as they come and go.

On Thursday, as we ate lunch, we watched a group of about fifteen 20-somethings hustle their way past our camp and find their way to the bar, where you can get 22-ounces of beer for $ 3 USD. Being curious, and somewhat judgmental of tour groups, R struck up a happy-hour conversation with the group leader - a 30-something Canadian - to get the lowdown.

The gang was still all smiles after several nights of hard partying.
The gang was still all smiles after several nights of hard partying.

The company – Free and Easy – runs tours in four consecutive ten-day segments and participants can sign on for as many of the segments as they want because the tours are fluid - people get picked up and dropped off at the airport as their schedule dictates. As new people join and leave, the party bus keeps rolling on to its next stop. Currently, the Northern Nicaragua portion of the ride is winding down and the Southern Nica tour will begin. A two-part tour of Costa Rica follows. Based on our witness, the kids are having a hell of a time. It’s just like college - wake up, eat, drink, hook-up. A daily activity is scheduled just like in college – go to class – but also just like college, you only have to go if you want too. Though, in this case the daily activity is much cooler - hike, volcano board, swim in the ocean, surf, visit a museum, etc.

R and I fantasized about starting a company that could arrange something similar for families - minus the drunk hook-ups – while we watched J practice balancing on the slackline with a few of the kids and shared in Coconut’s bemusement as one girl entertained the dining room with a pole dance while we were waiting for dinner.

R made a new friend.
R made a new friend.

Later, after R and I tucked Coconut and J in Wesley for the night, we made our way lakeside to sit under the stars and listen to the sound of the constantly crashing waves and watch a lot of 20-somethings take their clothes off and jump in the lake. One particularly well-hung boy named Ray dried himself off and introduced himself to R while I was in the bathroom. Once I came back, the conversation turned to music and Ray told us about the musician he most admired and who most influenced his own drumming career - some cat named Art Blakey who drummed for Miles Davis and John Coltrane and a bunch of other jazz greats I never heard of.

This made me think of John Densmore, the jazz-inspired drummer of the great band The Doors, which propelled Jim Morrison and his mediocre lyrics to fame. Around the same time the iPod was invented, I read the Densmore autobiography which told a great story that compelled me to “share” the collection of Doors albums on Napster, which albums still have a home in our iTunes library and get a regular turn on the playlist. I asked Ray, “Given your appreciation of jazz drummers, does that mean that you also admire the drumming of John Densmore?”

Ray didn’t say anything immediately, so I’m pretty sure that he had no idea who John Densmore was, but it did afford me an opportunity to mimic some of Ray Manzarek’s keyboard, praise Robbie Krieger’s guitar work, and sing a snatch of lyric - “You know the day divides the night/night divides the day/try to run, try to hide, break on through to the other side.”

My star turn was met with hoots and hollers and I think we might have shared a group hug, though, by now, Ray had put his pants back on so it was less intimidating. The point is, though, that most of these kids are too young to know The Doors from the window panes so the following night when their party theme was “anything goes but clothes”, R and I felt it would have been weird to join them, so we just watched from the darkness at the edge of the bar.

We were invited into the no clothes party for a picture, but it was awkward to be the only one dressed.
We were invited into the no clothes party for a picture, but it was awkward to be the only one dressed.

After a few fun days, the Free and Easy folks left, but we stayed. Our new neighbors were fellow overlanders. Kai and Katrina, driving a Westy from South America to California. They have been at it over a year and it was fun to to exchange stories and information with them for a few days. However, since our visas to be in Nicaragua are going to expire in March and we will get kicked out of the country, we move on. Our next plan involves chickens, chocolate and a volcano. Stay tuned.

Wesely on the Ferry to Ometepe
Wesely on the Ferry to Ometepe
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