Friday, February 27, 2009

Nicaragua Day 6

i only have a couple min on the computer to explain our situation so i will make it brief. Leon started rioting last night and this morning there was alot of civil unrest. There was alot of shooting and even some bombs (we think). We are fleeing the city right now and will hopefully get to managua where we can get a flight out of the country. JK. I am NOT being serious. There are no guns and no bombs, but we are leaving leon to head to the coast. We found a place that we can rent a tent on the beach for $1.50 a night. I do not know if we will have internet there so this may be our last post for a while. Keep us in your prayers and remember that i was joking about the guns and unrest. The country is relatively stable and loves tourists. WE ARE FINE! do not start freaking out and try to get ahold of the us embassy to make sure we are ok. if we do not post more blogs it is because we are in a remote area and do not have internet, NOT because we are being held hostage. Unless you see us on the news dont worry. We love you all and cant wait to share our experiences with you.

Ok, so here is the real story. The Ragee' party lasted till 3am last night and we got very limited sleep. When we woke up we decided to try and make it to La Penitas which is right on the coast. We packed our bags and checked out before 11am. We had to run to the bank to get money because La Penitas doesnt have banks or really anything other than a few restaurants and some hostels.
Trying to get out of the heat of Leon
We found a cool church to take shelter under
We caught a cab to the small bus station on the outskirts of Leon and boarded the bus to the coast. As is customary in Nicaragua we waited until the bus was completely full before we left, so we were about 40min late in leaving. The ride was very dry and very dusty and with the windows down in the bus, it was like a dust storm. The road that we drove on was being completely reconstructed so there was alot of construction and delays making our trip even longer. We met a guy named Thomas who is from France and is staying in La Penitas for a couple months to surf. He told us about some good places to stay and where to surf.
Looking outside of the chicken bus going to La Penitas
Me, Erika and Anna enjoying the ride
After the 45min bus ride we got off the bus to try and find a place to stay. The roads were all dirt and most of the building were abandoned, leaving a small percent of the town occupied. Looking through the houses and buildings we could see the beach and tell that there were pretty good waves, but for now we needed to find a place to stay. After walking around the whole town, we discovered that there were no more rooms.We couldnt really figure out what to do so we stopped to eat something.
There was a very annoying bird at the restaurant, it made me want chicken!
After we ate we decided to head to the beach. When we got to the beach we could see that the waves were amazing. They were about head high and so hollow that you could almost put a small car in the barrel. I was stoked, but we still needed a place to stay. We met a guy named Carlos who was fixing some surfboards. After talking with him for a bit, he told us that we could stay in his bar if we wanted to, but there was no water and no bathrooms. It turned out that he had a small hut that was raised off the sand about 10ft that he was turning into a bar (The Coco Bar). We quickly accepted and thanked him for extending his floor to us. We went up to check out our new home and it was amazing. There were no walls and the floor was made of 1inch thick sticks. The whole thing was made of wood with a thatched roof. He found us some rope so we could hang our hammocks and we started settling in. He had speakers wired around the room and he had some good island music playing which made the atmosphere even more inviting. Since we were only about 100ft from the ocean we decided to take a dip and test out the waters. The temperature was perfect and it felt so good to be back in the Pacific again. There is something about the pacific that makes the water light and fluffy, it is delicious. We body surfed the inside beach break for about an hour then got out to watch the sun go down. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun looked like a big scoop of orange sherbet... I just wanted to put it in a bowl and eat it. After the sun went down Carlos let us use his kitchen to cook some pasta that we had from Leon and we ran into Thomas (the french guy) again. As it turned out he was also staying with carlos. We all sat around and talked for a while then headed back up stairs to get some rest and see what tomorrow had in store for us.
Laying in my hammock in the Coco Bar waiting for the sun to retire.
Dylan and Erika enjoying the evening breeze
The Coco Bar where we stayed
Swinging in my hammock

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nicaragua Day 5

This morning we woke up and started packing our bags for Leon. After grabbing breakfast, more rice beans and fruit, we said good bye to stacy and went to find the bus to Managua. Stacy is heading home tomorrow so she decided to stay in Granada for the day and go to Managua on her own to catch her plane back to the states.
Preparing to leave The Bearded Monkey
After a pretty uneventful bus ride to managua, we made a quick transition to another bus headed for Leon.
Looking out of the back of the bus to Leon
The back of the bus seems to put you in a tired mood!
After making our way out of Managua we got on some long straight roads toward our next destination. Our bus driver, and all the other people on the road, do not have a problem passing other vehicles, even if there are other cars or busses coming at us. They just pull into oncoming traffic and hope that everyone gets out of their way, which luckily for us they did. We even passed two police officers in their trucks with no fear of citation. The land was dry and the animals seemed weak. We passed tons of brick factories, which werent really factories, just people on the side of the road making bricks by hand. After about 2hrs of driving we finally arrived in Leon where we walked around the whole city a couple times before we found our hostel. It is so hot here that even sitting in the shade (or sitting inside in the air conditioning) you can get a sunburn. We are staying in a place called The Big Foot hostel and it seems to be a pretty nice place, but I think we all agree that the bearded monkey was more relaxing.
The Big Foot Hostel
(if you look closely you can see Obama on the TV in the corner)
Tonight they are having a Ragee´ band come and play for the hostel. It is apparently a pretty big deal because there is a group from San Juan Del Sur who drove all the way up here just for the band. We found out that most of the group is actually from santa barbara CA so we have a little in common. Two of the guys are living in San Juan Del Sur and making houses out of tires and plastic bottles for the locals and showing the locals how to do it themselves. After getting settled into our new home, we went out to find some food. After walking around the city one more time, we ended up two doors away from our hostel where we ate rice and beans for 35cordobas. We found a pretty big super market and got some food that we can cook in the hostel to hopefully save on food expenses. Now we are just laying around the hostel waiting for the Ragee´ party to start, and apparently we arent going to get much sleep tonight but I guess thats all part of the experience, right? We are hoping to get to the coast tomorrow and maybe even surf a little if the conditions are condusive, but for now its all about rest and rejuvination.

Nicaragua Day 4

Today was a good day. We woke up early and met our new friend Joe, who is from the southern part of england. She is terribly nice and has the most beautiful dread locks i have ever seen. We all decided to go to Laguna de Apoyo, which is an inactive volcano that has been filled with water, we could not figure out how the water got there but I am assuming that it was from the flood. We started out on another chicken bus going to Masaya, which has a huge market, which we later got a small taste of. On the ride to Masaya, we saw a large parking lot full of semi-trucks, and all of the drivers had their hammocks hung underneath their truck and were just lounging the day away. After arriving to Masaya, at a huge dirt parking lot/bus station/trash dump, we quickly jumped on the next bus to the Laguna. About half way to the laguna we saw some men digging a ditch for a water line. There were men from the 10 or 11 years old all the way up to 50 or 60 years. it was interesting to see the diversity in workers, where in america those ages would not even be allowed to work, but I guess when there is a job to be done and there are no schools to occupy the younger generation, they just work. We finally arrived at the top of the crater and started heading down to the water. With the windows open you could hear birds and monkeys (the book said that if you approach the mokeys to quickly that they will fling their poo at you, so we stayed away from them), and through the trees you could see the Laguna. Once we reached the bottom, we asked around for a public entrance and eventually found a little area right on the water that had tables and hammocks. We tested the water, and then the girls got in first (Dylan and I just wanted to make sure that it was safe before we got in), then dylan and i joined them. The water was perfect, not too cold and not too hot. the bottom was very rocky and it slightly smelled like sulfur (from the volcano). Looking around there was about 4 or 5 miles to the other side of the crater (it was huge) and surrounding the water were huge mountains that formed the top of the volcano. It was a beautiful sight, the water was refreshing and the air temperature was actually slightly cooler than in Granada.
Me, Erika and Joe posing for the camera (baywatch style)
Me, Anna, Erika, Joe, Stacy and Dylan just after play time in the water
After playing to our hearts content, we all got out of the water and went to find a restaurant to get something to eat. We found a small place right on the water, sat down and ordered our food. There were hammocks all around the resaurant (which was all outside), and knowing that people who prepare food in nicaragua take their time, we decided to lay in the hammocks till it was meal time. After we ate we layed in the hammocks for a few more hours and then decided to start making our way back to Masaya.
Erika happy in the sun
Joe enjoying the rays as well
Me laying in the most comfortable hammock ever
Erika and I waiting for our food

Can you tell how tired I was?
We were lucky to find a home near by who´s occupants were taxi drivers, so we quickly flagged them down and got a ride back to the market in Masaya. Joe wanted to look around the market for some last minute gifts before she went home. The first part of the market was mostly food so we just kept walking deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of vendors set up on small tables under the protection of a roof made of tin, cardboard, wood, palm leaves and any other material they could make use of. We finally found the area with all of the tourist souveniers, t-shirts, necklaces, bracelets, pots, bowls, hammocks, bags, hats, paintings and all of the other typical things that you would find in any other market in central america. After looking around for a few minutes we all got split up and just started looking around in hopes that we would eventually meet up again. As we hoped, we all found our way back to one another, but it took at least two hours of wandering around the hot, stuffy market where every person in there was out to make a buck off the big white american tourists. We finally all had what we wanted, Dylan, stacy, erika, joe and I all bought hammocks (dylan got his for cheapest, and I think I payed the most for mine) and stacy got some things as well. When we were ready to leave we knew that we were in the market (that was obvious) but we had no clue where in the market we were. So we just headed for the closest exit and started trying to find the bus station to get back to Granada. Luckily, we found it quite quickly and were on our bus in no time. After another 30min ride on the chicken bus we ended up in Granada where our day had begun. We all went back to the hostel and took much needed showers. I have also been having problems with my armpits stinking so I decided to shave my pits in hopes that it would help the smell (for everyone elses sake), and it seems to have helped. After our bodies were clean, we decided that food was in order. For the sake of not running all over Granada on empty stomachs we decided to go back to the pizza place that we had eaten at two nights before. After dinner we went back to the hostel where Joe let me braid her a decaration for her dread locks. I was quite honored and I think she liked it too (now she will always have us with her). Joe and erika talked about horses and joe said that if we were ever in england we could come and stay with her and ride horses. This made erika smile like a kid on christmas morning (it was beautiful). We discussed our plans for the next day and decided that instead of running around to 3 or 4 more destinations and spending too much money, we would just head up to Leon and spend the rest of our time there. Fortunatelly Anna is also heading up there tomorrow so we can all just go together. After saying goodnight and goodbye to joe (she is leaving at 5am for the airport) we are just heading to bed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nicaragua day 3

1:20pm- Well, i woke up this morning at around 6am and had pretty bad stomach pains, i thought it was just bad gas so i ripped a few good ones and went back to bed. around 7am i woke up again and this time i knew it was more than gas. I waddled to the bathroom and had a pretty good bowel movement, it was still pretty firm. it made me feel better and thought that was the end of it. at about 8am, the feeling came back and this time i knew i had ¨the rhea¨ (diarhea). I spent a few minutes in the bathroom pooping and praying. this was not what i had in mind when we planned the trip. luckily though there was still some firmness to my ¨matter¨, it was not total liquid and i still had my appetite. So i layed down for a few minutes and then we all went across the street for breakfast. We payed 45 cordobas ($2.25) and got a full plate of rice, beans, eggs, home made cheese, bread and a huge plate of fresh fruit (watermellon, cantelope, papaya, and the sweetest pineapple ive ever had). we also had fresh mango juice and coffee.
Our breakfast
In the midst of all this food (and for so little money) i slowly forgot about my stomach. After we ate we came back to the hostel to be lazy and try to plan our next destination. my stomach is still a little upset but it seems like it is getting better. James 1:2-3 ¨Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.¨ Sometimes this verse is hard for me to swallow, i just want to be angry that things are not as perfect as i planned, but i know that God is working and He will never put anything in our way that we cannot handle as long as we give our problems to Him. We are thinking about heading to San Juan Del Sur tomorrow and hang out at the beach for a little while (God willing we can surf too). We dont really have any plans but that is what we are thinking. As for today, we will resist the urge to exert our tired bodies and stay close to town.

9:50pm- False alarm, i actually just had Diahrea, probably from all of the pizza the night before. i feel fine now and have been walking around all day. So hopefully all is well in the land of my bowels. We really did not do much today, just relaxed and walked around a bit. We started walking around trying to find a post office so erika could mail some post cards back to the states. After passing the post office twice, we realized that it was closed, so we stopped at a little shop owned by an american woman who sells free trade merchandise. We hung around her shop for a little while and played with her dog, whos leg was broken and had a pretty bad limp, but he seemed to get around ok. We walked around trying to find something to eat and dylan stopped at a small vendor to get some food. once he started eating he realized that there were fried pig skins in it. This did not seem to deter him until he realized that there was still pig hair attached to the skin. That was the end of that meal and the beginning of the search for another. We aimlessly walked around the market and finally ended up back at the hostel. After laying around for a few hours, Dylan, Anna, Erika and I decided to go and find some food. We ended up at a small place called Roticerio. We all ate pretty good for only $2.10 and left with happy stomachs. While we were eating we tried to learn some German from Anna but with english and parts of spanish running through our heads, it was pretty tough. We are back at the Bearded Monkey right now and everyone is starting to settle down. We are talking about going to a place called le leguna tomorrow where there is a beach and water, it should be a pretty cheap day. We also met a girl named Joe (we think she is english) who might go with us as well. keep us in your prayers and we will do the same.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nicaragua day 2

9:30am- We went to bed last night around 9pm and did not wake up for 11hrs. it was great sleep and woke up very rested. when you walk out of our dorm room, you come to a large open room with hammocks, tables, a bar and computers. there is a large hole cut out in the roof so it is almost like we are outside. in the middle of the room there is a large patch of dirt which grows all kinds of trees. avocado tree, lime tree, palm tree banana tree and many others. it almost reminds me of a little jungle in the middle of our hostel. i got up and layed around in the hammock for about an hour until everyone else decided it was time to arise. there were people circulating through the showers at a pretty constant rate, some were reading in the lounge and others ordering breakfast. i could tell that these were the makings for a very lazy morning. we ordered breakfast, eggs, fried plantains, beans and rice and toast, which seems to be about all were going to eat down here, which is actually all we eat back in america too so its not that different. the hostel has complimentary coffee and i can honestly say that it is by far some of the best coffee that i have ever had (yes, its even better than Petes). After we ate, erika and i ran across the street to a little shop to buy some soap to wash our clothes with. we got a big roung block of clear soap and werent really sure what to do with it. The hostel has an area where the workers wash the sheets and pillow cases so we asked if we could use their washing board. There was an older lady named Thelma who, after seeing me fumbling the soap and trying to wash my clothes like an idiot, decided to show me how it was done. she spoke no english, and i speak no spanish so the tutorial was all in hand gestures and motions. she showed me how to we the clothes and apply the soap and then how to wash the essential areas (arm pits and crotch). i graciously thanked her and proceded to wash the rest of my clothes. Erika washed her clothes too and since she was there with me the whole time and helped me understand what Thelma was saying, she was already quite the natural. We have been sitting around all morning trying to figure out what we are going to do today and it is between, walking around the city, renting bikes and riding outside the city, or catching a bus to Vulcan Mombacho and hiking around the tops of the volcanoes. but for now we are still discussing. Sorry, we are still not able to put any pictures up so please be patient.
Erika doing her wash!
And me doing mine with Thelma standing beside me doing hers10:00pm- So we decided to catch the chicken bus to Vulcan Mombacho which turned out to be more of an adventure than we had anticipated. Me, erika, dylan, anna and stacy all started walking toward the bus station from our hostel. We ran into almost every street vendor in Granada on our way. After about 30min of walking we finally got to the bus station, which turned out to be a small patch of dirt just big enough for two busses to park on. We made sure that it was the bus going to Rivas, and that they would drop us off at Mombacho then boarded the bus. We paid our 6 cordobas for the quick 6 mile trip to the bottom of the volcano. They dropped us off basically in the middle of nowhere, there was a small gas station and 4 or 5 guys driving small carts with three wheels. They said that they could take us to mombacho, so the five of us piled into a two seater cart and started heading up. After about 2min the guy pulled into a parking lot and we all got out. As it turned out, he was only taking us to the entrance to the National park.
Riding 4 people in a two person seat. We had 4 guys haggling us, trying to get us to go with them instead of the others to the top. They said that they could get us all to the top quickly, that sounded like a pretty good deal. ¨cuanto cuesta¨we asked and the answer was SHOCKING!! ¨$14¨they said. WHAT!! was our unanimous response. We could not afford $14 per person just for them to take us to the top of some rinky dink volcano. We said that we would walk, they said that we would not make it, we said that we would try anyway, then they dropped the price to $13 per person, this was still way out of our price range. So we started walking the road to the top. When we started it was hot but the road was fairly flat.
Starting our walk
Erika and I infront of a coffee field. FYI the beans taste terrible right off the plant.
About 20min into our little journey the small inclines quickly transitioned into steep hills. We could hear monkeys in the trees and birds singing to one another. About 30min into the walk stacy decided that she wanted to go back and catch the jeep going to the top (little did she know that the last trip had already left). So dylan and stacy turned around and Erika, Anna and I kept walking, erika carrying dylans bag. Anna was walking barefoot because her shoes gave her terrible blisters and about half way to the top she decided to stop and wait for a truck coming down and catch a ride with them, then go back to Granada by herself. So being the only two hoofers left, Erika and I continued on the steep and narrow path. It progressively got steeper and narrower, almost to the point that I did not think that any vehicle (4wd or not) could make it up.
Heading up the path getting progressively steeper
Erika and I taking a much needed rest.
We passed several coffee farms and at one point we saw a man riding a horse with two huge bags of coffee beans on either side of the horses back. He reminded me of the Columbia coffee man. We quickly transitioned from dry forest to rain forest and the foliage became much greener and the fauna was so thick that you could only see about 5ft into it. The bird sounds got more exotic and the howler monkeys started screaming at us, almost as if they were warning us of what was to come if we continued our journey on foot. Not heeding to their warning we continued on. The last quarter of the trip was almost straight up the side of the volcano, and i literally mean straight. there were no switchbacks like we would have in america, just straight up. Finally, to top off the whole experience, while I was peeing on the side of the road, erika said that she felt a rain drop, then another. I decided to cover up my backpack since my camera was inside of it(this was a good move). About two minutes later the rain came from the heavens like a waterfall of sweet, sugary liquid to our bitter, sweaty bodies. It started light and then got a little heavier, then with no warning it started raining in a matter that cannot be explained. It was so heavy that you could barely see the road in front of you, but so light that it carried a whisper from heaven telling us that we were close. Sure enough about 10 minutes later we reached the top, and after 2hrs of hard walking we were ready to rest our legs.
Erika enjoying the greenery just before it started raining hard
The wind was blowing hard and the fog was so thick that it almost looked like cotton candy. We went into the small welcome center where we were greeted by two rangers who told us that if we wanted a ride to the bottom we had to take the jeep that was arriving in 10 min. We decided that their price was still to steep for us and decided to walk back down. We stayed inside for about 30min to rest and watched the fog billow into the room through an open door which seemed to fill the room with a hazy mist that had a sense of wonder and excitement about it.
Erika and I at the top of Vulcan Mombacho
As we started down the volcano the last truck of rangers also started heading down, leaving us behind to fend for ourselves. We started walking down and the trail was slippery and wet, so we put on our mountain goat feet and stepped lightly and carefully. After about 30min of walking the trail dried up and it was all down hill from there (literally). There is a sense when you are climbing up a hill that tells you that going down will be much better, this sense is wrong and if you ever get it, ignore it. Going down was much more difficult than going up. My quads were screaming with pain and after a little while they could not scream, only quiver. Each step was painful but it was one step closer to the bottom. The conversation was light and stops were frequent, but after about 1.5hrs we finally reached the bottom of the volcano that momentarily stole my love for hiking, but for ever gave me a love for terrential downpoors. At the bottom we saw dylan walking toward us with the nicaraguan man who gave us our first ride in his three wheeled cart. When we reached him, he imediatelly said one word ¨Water¨, so water we gave him. We had some questions: Where was stacy? where was anna? what had he been doing for the last 4hrs? Well, anna had already come down and caught the bus back to Granada, and dylan put stacy on another bus to Granada as well. Then with the determination of a monkey in a room with a typewriter trying to re-write Shakespear, he started hauling up the trail to the summit. Coincidentally he reached the top shortly after we did and looked around, seeing no one and not thinking to look in the house, he came back down. So when we got back to the bottom he was already there. He was wearing a white tanktop which I had not seen before, and i asked him where he got it. He said that when he got to the bottom, wet and cold the guy who gave us a ride, litterally gave him the shirt off his back. It was a gesture that crossed the language barrier like no other gesture could. We came to find out that the last bus had passed by about 20 min earlier and our only option was to either walk, or get a ride with the cart driver back to town. We decided to take the cart, and 20min later we were safe in our hostel again.
Our ride back to the hostel
After long cold showers, we all washed our dirty, smelly clothes and decided to get something to eat. Anna had heard about a pizza place that was pretty cheap so we set out to find it. We walked to the parque centrale and started looking from there. We turned left onto a street that looked like it might have some food on it and went a little to far. Ending up in the ghettos of Granada was not our plan for the evening, but nonetheless it happened. We quickly turned around and started walking back from where we came. We passed two girls around 17 or 18 walking on the sidewalk, and following them from a distance were about 10 boys whos age was much younger than the girls. But with no fear of rejection, and having the confidence of their friends, the boys rushed right past us with their eyes on the two girls. With out considering the outcome of that situation, we were focused on the outcome of our own. We finally found the pizza place and ate like kings, for $2.50 each. After dinner we came back to the hostel and are now preparing for bed. I am seeing how God works in our lives and the things and people he puts in our way. Sometimes they seem like huge mountains to climb, maybe its just a guy who wants to help, and sometimes it could simply be pizza with friends after a long day of hiking. God is good and we have his favor (as ricky would say), we are tiny, but in the hands of the creator we can do anything.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nicaragua day 1

9:30am - OK, so we are here in Granada, safe and sound. We arrived in managua via a very empty flight (which was quite condusive to sleeping) around 1am. After we got through customs and imigration, we headed across the street to the best western to see if they had any rooms available. they did, but coincidentally the room cost $90. So we then proceded to talk to a taxi cab driver and see how much he would charge to drive us to Granada, after a long conversation of his broken english and our translator book, we finally realized that he wanted us to pay $40 for him to take us to Granada. this was way to much so we just went back to the airport and slept on the hard marble floor untill we could catch a bus out of managua.
Before we started sleeping
Our view of the airport from our bench
At about 7am we crossed the street to the bus station, which did not look like a bus station, and caught the chicken bus for 10 cordobas (50 cents) to the Huembe market. Needless to say, in the grand central american way, we were packed into a normal sized school bus with at least 100 other people, standing, sitting and laying all over the bus.

After most of the crowd got off the bus
From Huembe we got a taxi to UCA (university of central america). the driver said that he could get us there faster than anyone else in the city, we were doubtful but after he ignored all signs of traffic regulation (including stop signs and stop lights), we arrived at UCA. From uca we got a small 15 passenger van for 20 cordobas($1) and rod the hour to Granada. When we arrived in Granada we found a bench to sit on and then decided to find a hostel. We found a place called ¨ the bearded monkey¨ which is $6 a night, a little more than we planned on spending, but in reality its not that bad.
Sitting around the Bearded Monkey
It is very interesting to see how the people interact with each other and with us. you rarely see a bicycle only one person riding it, there is almost always two or more people, sometimes a whole family riding at once. Looking out the window of the bus, a very common sight is to see a random horse grazing by the side of the road (in the city too) or people trying to sell you food through the window when you stop at lights (that is if you actually stop). It is only 11:05 right now and we feel like the day should be wrapping up (but its not). We still have Granada to explore, we are going to try and find a market where we can get some food to eat. Keep us in your prayers and know that God is taking care of us every step of the way. Also there are no pictures because the hostel does not allow us to download anything onto the computers, so for now hopefully we can paint the pictures with our words. 7:30pm - Well, just before we left the hostel to find a market we met a girl who was traveling solo named Anna who is from Germany. She has been in central america since the beginning of october and will be here a total of 6 months. She was not doing anything so she came with us on our market journey. We stopped at a small bakery to grab something quick to eat and in talking with anna found out that it was her birthday and she was by herself. So dylan bought her a cappuccino(her favorite hot drink) and we all wished her a Feliz Cupleanos. We walked about 30 min through granada down to the lake where we watched some tourists taking pictures and had to fight of an old man with an ice cream cart trying to get us to buy his product. on the way down to the lake we saw a medium sized dog (a mutt of some kind) walking across the street limping, as he got closer we could see that his left front foot was completely crushed, it looked like a pancake and was red with dried blood. he was barking all the way but it was less of a bark and more of a pitiful cry for help. it did not even sound like a dog, it was almost human sounding. Walking past situations like that make traveling like this difficult, but there are so many ferell animals and there is no action being taken to spey or neuter them. Another sad situation is the horses. There are many horse drawn carriages that whisk the unaware and wealthy travelers from one side of granada to another. the horses that are used are more ematiated than the victims of the houlocost. Some are limping and some have terrible looking hooves but nonetheless it is a heart wrenching sight.
Stacy, me, Erika and our new German friend Anna at the lake
Erika and Dylan trying to be tigers... or something like that!
After leaving the lake we went to the parque de centrale where collonies of locals trying to sell their goods to the unsuspecting travelers. We met a couple from Argentina who were traveling from argentina to mexico and just making braclets and necklaces to help pay their way. they were very delightful people and the girl grew up in patagonia which is said to be paradise so that connection was a pleasure to make. We went back to the hostel for a couple hrs and rested our earth worn feet. We went back out around 5:30 to find a place to eat and managed to find a local place that had great beans rice and plantains.
Our first real meal in Nicaragua
Chowing down...
After dinner we realized the sun was setting and the warm glows would make a great picture. I remembered anna telling us of a church bell tower that you can climb and see all of granada. So that was our focus, well it was my focus but dylan erika and stacy just walked at their normal pace and as it turned out we were a little late for the sunset. Erika and I still decided to go and try to catch a glimpse of the fading sun. We got to the church just as they were preparing to close the doors but the man was gracious and let us go up anyway. We stood on top of the church watching the sun go down and the sound of sunday mass was faint beneath our feet. I pulled out the ring and asked Erika to be my wife. The special moment was when she looked right past the ring and at me and said YES. As she took the ring out of the box and started putting it onto her right hand I had to quickly correct her action and make sure it made it onto the right finger. And no, i did not get down on one knee or make a big scene, that stuff is too cliche. it was simple and quick, straight to the point, but the important thing to note is that she said yes, and not... Um... well, i guess so! We got back to the hostel and grabbed showers (much needed i must say) and hung out with all of the other travelers in our midst which is refreshing, so many walks of life, so many nationalites and so many friends.
Erika in front of the church
Erika ontop of the bell tower
View of Granada
Just after I proposed
Erika's face when she realized what she said YES to!
Just kidding, this was her real reaction!
And my reaction

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"The Great Manatee Adventure"1/11/09

Cody:About 4 days ago my friend Davin, who I went to school with in California and is now working in Alaska, called me and told me that he was going to be in Florida for a couple days with a friend. We imediatelly worked out a way to see each other and he told me that they were going to go snorkeling with the manatees in Crystal River which was only 1.5 hrs from orlando. Erika and I only had minimal classes that day and decided that we were going to drive and see the manatees with them. We had to be at the dive shop at 7am and since we were a little over 1.5hrs away, we had another early morning to look forward to. The alarms started buzzing at 4am and we were on the road by 4:30am. The roads are very enjoyable at 4:30 in the morning, there seems to be a sense of adventure that can't be experienced in any other capacity. After we arrived at the dive shop, Davin and Ashley were already there getting checked in, so we followed their lead and signed in, payed our money and then waited around until the entire group showed up. We talked to the owner of the dive shop for a while who was a retired commercial diver. We found out that he helped move a German submarine (U-505) to Chicago where it is now on display and you can actually walk through it in a tour. This was the same submarine that I personally walked through when I was a child and we visited my moms brother, Paul who lives in Chicago. He also worked with Carl Brashear, an african american navy diver who lost his left leg in an atomic bomb incident in the 1950's, and who was the inspiration for the movie "Men of Honor".

After talking with the old "salty dog" we had to watch a movie on Manatee conservation and interaction that must have been made near the beggining of time cause it was very old and very cheesy, but it was very informative and gave us the information we needed to interact with the manatees in a safe manner. We were told how to approach the animals, when to leave them alone, and that we were only allowed to touch them with one hand because touching them with two hands is considered "riding" them. After the video, we followed the divemaster to the docks and loaded the large pontoon boat and headed out to search for some manatee's. While we were idling around the river in what seemed to be a wild goose chase, the divemaster was telling us all about the "west indian manatee" and how to spot one from the boat. We finally spotted one and started moving toward it, and it quickly moved away from us. So the divemaster got in the water to try and find some himself. After a couple of minutes, he yelled back to the boat and said that he found some manatee's and told us to get into the water and swim over to him. Davin was the first in the water and I was second in the water because we both had big bulky cameras that had to come with us. After I had gotten into the water, I was waiting for erika and checking my camera to make sure everything was working properly. Suddenly I felt my fin hit something hard, which startled me a bit. I looked down and directly under me was a 6 or 7 ft manatee gliding through the water with not a care in the world. After everyone got in the water we swam over to the divemaster where he was playing with a mother and her calf. The mother was just sleeping at the bottom of the river, but the juvenile was very playful and would come right up to us and let us rub his belly and back. He would roll over and over with very playful gestures, and every so often he would swim back to his mother for a reasuring nudge and then return to us for some more belly scratching. The water was only 6 or 7 ft deep and the bottom of the river was very silty, which meant that as soon as people started standing up and kicking the bottom, the visibility got very poor very quickly. We only had a couple of minutes to get good, clear pictures and then the visibility was so bad that shooting our cameras was only catching fuzzy images.

We discovered that there were 7 or 8 manatees in the area that we were in, so the 10 of us all split up and would go observe in different areas until we got sick of that spot and moved to another. The manatee's were not quite as playful as we had hoped but it was still a great experience to be able to play with these wild creatures who had no fear towards humans and let us play with them in their environment. After about 2 hrs we all got back into the boat and drove back to the dock. We started driving back to orlando and grabbed something to eat on the way, and after another 1.5 hr trip were back home where we all sat by the pool for a couple hrs and then Davin and Ashley had to drive to Key Largo for the rest of their trip.

Erika: The manatees reminded me of eeyore from winne the pooh. Their faces looked like they had many years behind them--even the baby. They were friendly, and their body gave them no other choice but to be docile. Our guide reminded us that they lack one vertebrae that would allow them to turn their neck to see who or what was behind them...So they slowly and move there whole body pivoting just one of there small fins(compared to there massive bodies) in a circle to turn around. After the 2hrs in the water we were getting pretty we left with the wisdom of a manatee :D Don't move to fast, everytime is the right time for a nap, and between napping and eating seagrass PLAY.

The boat ride out to the manatee's
Erika thought she saw a shark... but it wasnt!
Erika seemed quite suprised by the temperature of the water (72deg)
Erika floating in the water with rays of sunshine piercing the water
Our first manatee, she was quite large
Mother and Calf sunning themselves.
I just had to touch it...
Mother sleeping while her calf played with us.
Still sleeping, they seem to be quite lazy creatures.
Erika and I
Us again...
and again...