Nicaragua, I’m kinda digging you… except for your corrupt border officials and police.
We woke up in Esteli Nicaragua and promptly hit snooze. Neither of us were doing well. We haven’t really mentioned it, but in addition to my being queazy in the mornings both of us have had diarrhea since Copan Ruinas. Not “OMG MUST GO NOW” bad, but when we sit, it ain’t coming out like it’s supposed to. Dachary’s had started to clear up, but we suspect that the shit meal we had at Hamburlooca last night did us in.
Neither of us slept well last night even though there was nothing wrong with the hotel room (besides the hot water thing on the spigot not working), and it was relatively quiet, but before the alarm had even gone off both of us had made unhappy trips to the bathroom. The queazy stayed away for most of the morning for me, but there were a few minutes of required inactivity on the bed before proceeding with packing up our stuff.
Not feeling well the five block walk to the bikes seemed much longer than it had returning from them the night before. We brought them back, loaded them up, and set off but for the first time, probably in my life, setting out on the bike didn’t make everything feel better.
Normally it doesn’t matter how stressed I am, how badly I’ve slept, or what the previous day was like; setting out for a ride makes things better. But today, we rode down the Panamerican through beautiful Nicaraguan countryside and I just couldn’t get excited about it. It wasn’t Nicaragua’s fault though. My intestines just weren’t particularly happy, and I was just feeling exhausted. It was worse for Dachary though. As we rode she started getting queazy. The water in her Camelbak started disagreeing with her. It was water we’d filtered, so it was clean, but going through two Dromedaries* and into a Camelbak does tend to leave a somewhat plasticy taste.
(Dachary’s note – something tasted “off” about the water. And it was the same taste I had in the coffee I ordered at breakfast, that turned out to contain something disgusting. So not only was the flavor off, but it put me in mind of the queasy-making coffee and it wasn’t pleasant.)
She requested we pull over at the first gas station we saw with a mini-mart. I thought she needed to pee, but no, she really needed some water that wouldn’t disagree with her. While there she grabbed some PowerAid (since we’re both dehydrated from the diarrhea) but wasn’t able to stomach that either. And then, it was an emergency trip to the bathroom for her.
Honestly I didn’t want to move. The mini-mart had tables and air conditioning, outside it was probably over a hundred degrees, and I was just tired. But, the sooner we made it to Granada the sooner we could flop in a hotel room with easy access to a bathroom, and a nap sounded so good…. So we threw on our coats and headed out…. then turned around when Dachary deduced that the unmarked road the gas station was on was also the road to Granada.
Along the way there was a typically slow chicken bus pulling away from one of its myriad stops which we passed, like everyone else, even though it was a solid yellow. Unfortunately, Dachary was behind me and by the time she made it around we were in sight of some cops, who pulled us over. He explained to me that my woman had crossed the line illegally. “Ahh” I said, and he asked to see her license. To which I attempted to convey that she had it. This did not work. Eventually, I had to get off the bike and go over to Dachary myself to get her license, because the cop just couldn’t grasp that the woman would be carrying her own license. No, I must have it.
He explained that there was a fine of 400 Cordobas and that I’d need to go pay it at the bank. He even started writing out an honest to goodness ticket, double checked the price with his cohort and changed it to 300, still not asking for anything here. We’d have to pay it at the bank, and her license would stay here until we came back.
He asked where we were going “Costa Rica” we said, since we’ve found that it’s much easier to say somewhere a country or two on than to say Argentina. Argentina is simply too far away for people to get their head around. But one or two countries down the road… That’s an easily graspable distance.
Anyway, he pondered for a minute, and then stopped writing and handed me her license. Conveyed that he wasn’t going to bother then went back to Dachary, asked me how much spanish she spoke, and then proceeded to explain to her what she’d done wrong, and how she should only pass on the white lines.
Personally, I don’t think he was trying for a bribe. He was too quick to say pay at the bank, explain where the bank was, and he was filling out what appeared to be a real ticket.
We set off, and not five minutes later had a biker tailing us with actual gear on… well, except for the flip-flops. We pulled over to see what was up, and it turned out to be an adventure rider who’d left Alaska in September and was staying in Granada. He confirmed that it was a nice town to spend some days in, we gave him a card, took a picture, and parted ways. if he drops us an email we may get together for a beer. Assuming we can get free of the bathroom. (Hi, Mike, and safe travels, if we didn’t get to meet up with you!)
So, on we rode, until the road T’d. We pulled up to the T, stopped completely, and waited until there was a nice large break, because on the far side were police. Alas, we weren’t good enough. They pulled us over and asked for my license. I showed him the one in my wallet. No no, he wanted it out. They seem reticent to touch a wallet, which I like, and is one of the reasons I leave it in the clear pocket in the wallet. There’s never much money in the wallet anyway…
I pull it out and he’s all “original?” I’m all “yes”. Of course, it isn’t. It’s a nice color photocopy that I’ve laminated. We both have one, and we make sure than we never hand over the originals except at border crossings when we’re also handing over the much more important passport. Anyway, he hands it off to another guy and asks him if it’s a copy. The other guy confirms it’s a copy and asks me if it’s the original. I stick to my story. “Yes.” he asks again. I confirm again. We repeat this. I look confused. “Is copy?” “no.” “This is copy. It’s a problem.” Not sure if I should pull out the original or not at this point Dachary, whom they’re ignoring, pipes in over the headset “Hand him the international driver’s license.” I know good advice when I hear it. So I do.
This seems to placate him. Why, I can’t say. But, now he starts to explain in somewhat passable English that I have stopped passed the white stop line. I act confused. He draws a map. I say I stopped before it, then had to pull forwards. He says there’s a fine of 800 Cordoba. I say “Ok. I pay at bank.” He says no. I pay here, or my license (which he’s holding) will go to Managua, and I can pick it up in 20 days. “I can’t do that. I don’t have 20 days on my visa.” I claim. I’m pretty sure I do, but that’s not the point. “I pay at bank. I bring you receipt.” “No. You pay here. If you pay at the bank license goes to Managua.” “I don’t have that much.” I’m going to Granada to meet a friend, Nathan Postman. I get money from him. I go Granada. Get money. Pay at bank.” At some point he suggests that we’d have to go to Costa Rica (he’d asked where we were headed) in one day. His English is poor and I intentionally misunderstand him. “No. Four or five days I think. We go Granada next.”
The whole series repeats for a bit (managua, bank, costa rica) until he walks off, hands the fake and international license to another guy, who hands them back, at which point we start our engines and prepare to take off. I figure we’re probably ok to go, but if not, they’ll probably trundle back over when we turn on the engines. They don’t. We go.
Advice to future Runaways. 1) fake licenses are your friend. 2) get multiple copies of your international drivers license. They only cost us like $7 US. The reason, of course, is that no matter what bullshit they pull you can always ride off and not give a shit about the documents you’ve left behind. We only have one International Drivers License each, but in the Americas you really don’t need one and I wouldn’t care if I had to abandon it.
We proceed carefully to Granada, trying to not break any more laws, and find the place recommended by the book. Nope they’re full, so I ask who they recommend that would have space for the bikes. We follow the directions and find that with tax, it’s over $80 US per night. A bit too much, especially since we want to stay in town for three nights because we need a break. While I’m checking on the price Dachary has taken off her coat and is sitting on the curb. She’s really not feeling hot…. well she is feeling hot, but she’s not feeling well. I’m about to take off hunting down one of the places in the book while Dachary waits there, when the receptionist comes out to us and mentions that they have a cheaper room in an annex, but the bathroom is just outside of the room. At $60 a night it’s still more than we want to pay, but I ask her if she can recommend a cheaper place with parking for the bikes. She ponders, runs in and grabs a tourist map, comes back and tells me how to get to Hotel del Sol. Yay.
She goes back in, and a bee decides to land on Dachary’s leg and investigate it. She calls me over to remove it, which I do, and claims that she’s not staying with the bee. She’ll come find the place with me. So we head out, find the place, and the lady from the previous hotel has called ahead, and, I suspect, told them we’re looking for something cheaper, and are concerned about parking the bikes. So the girl at Hotel del Sol offers me $40 per night ($13 less than normal) and lets me park the bikes in the foyer.
The room is sweet. It’s really well done, has huge windows that open up and let in a breeze, AC, decent internet speed, and has an honest to goodness table we can use our laptops on. We didn’t realize what a luxury that was. (Also, a kitchen with a gas stove, a refrigerator, a sink and dishes… we could even cook if we felt like it. Unfortunately, we have to change rooms tomorrow because they didn’t have 3 nights together in the same room… but we’ve been told that the other room is only “slightly smaller.”)
We started photos uploading, posted past posts, started things downloading, then took glorious showers. The water, of course, was not hot. It wasn’t cold, and Dachary manage to get something resembling luke warm, which we’ve decided is exceptional for Central America. We think the last time we had a hot shower was in Mexico.
Showered and starving, we set out for dinner, find something that didn’t work for Dachary but did for me, then head to a book store we saw that had an English sign, and may actually have English books as I’ve finished mine, and Dachary is almost done with her three (she reads about as fast as she types it seems…). The book store shuttered up for the night, we decide to walk to the lake that’s about a kilometer to the east, at which point i suddenly feel feverish and we decide to head to the hotel. On the way back over those four or five blocks I start feeling queazy and needing to explode in the bathroom again.
We make it back, I collapse on the bed, and wait for my intestines to give me the signal to go make an offering to the Porcelan God. It doesn’t take too long. Dachary reads on the bed, and I let things settle then the lights go out. The whole city’s lights go out! We venture outside to confirm this and notice how beautiful the moon and stars are. We venture out onto the streets. The cathedral has lights in its steeple. It’s only about five blocks away so we figure we’ll investigate. Three quarters of the way there I stop to give my tummy a rest from the exercise and the lights come back on. “aww…” We turn around to head back and my intestines inform me that they need to make another offering
We come back. I make the offering, and then start writing this. I’ve made a couple more offerings during the course of writing this. Yes, I’m sure you wanted to know.
Dachary’s intestines felt left out so she’s made a couple too. I’ve decided that this has gone too far and have just started a course of antibiotics. Technically it says to take when there’s blood in the stool or fever, and while the fever isn’t constant, it’s definitely making an appearance.
So yeah. Granada. It’s not bad. It’s no San Cristobal de la Casa, but it’ll do for relaxing for a few days.
Side note: all the Hotels in Nicaragua want US dollars. They’ll take Cordobas, but their go-to currency is Dollars. Also, all the ATMs dispense Dollars and Cordobas. It’s very strange.
“Nathan Postman” may ring a bell for some of you. You see, Nathan the Postman is a bit of a hero to us and we decided after the bribe attempt from the Honduran cops that we should claim that the reason we can’t afford the bribe but were still able to ride was that we we going to meet a friend in the next major city. “What friend?” we said… “hmm… Nathan! What’s his last name.” “Hmmm… I dunno.” “Nathan Postman!” So yes, wherever we are now, we’re broke, but on our way to meet Nathan Postman in the next major city. We’ll be getting money from him. We think he’ll get a kick out of the idea.
* Regarding the two MSR Dromedaries and a Camelbak: First we fill the 5L Dromedary from a tap. This is the “dirty” bag. We then pump from it into the 10L “clean” dromedary because the pump has a nalgene bottle size end and so does the Dromedary. Then we pour from one of the smaller openings on the Dromedary lid into each of the Camelbaks. It’s easy, but it’s an annoying routine to have to go through every day. Some days we just say “fuck it” and buy bottled water, which hasn’t been particularly expensive most of the time. It also has the benefit of being refrigerated. Because while there seems to be almost no hot water in Central America there’s also no water that’s particularly cold.
Remember the guy we met bicycling from Ireland? Well, his name is Julian, and her name is Ellie. He’s raising money for young homeless people in Dublin and you can check out their adventures at http://theslowwayhome.blogspot.com/