Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Letters From Nicaragua: Part 7 - The Volcano In The Lake

While driving down the road, Sam suddenly jerked the wheel of his van to the left and pulled into a small dirt street between a couple of houses. I saw a small sign indicating something, but none of that prepared me for what we saw there. At the end of the dirt road was nothing. It was merely a pull-off, a place where one might turn around, that is, until you looked up and saw what was in front of you. Sam explained that we were looking at Lake Cociboica aka Lake Nicaragua, the second largest lake in Latin America.
The lake was so large that you couldn't see the other side. What you could see was a large island with two volcanos jutting up into the sky. The wind was howling and the brown water was full of whitecaps. It looked like windsurfing Nirvana, if you didn't mind the brown water. Sam explained that the lake was supposed to have the world's only freshwater sharks, plus some other fish that only usually live in salt water. I had seen saltwater fish in Blue Springs in Florida, so I could see the possibility. I did some reading on this later and it turns out that scientists now think that once upon a time the lake did meet the ocean and that's how the saltwater fish found their way into the lake. They were saying that the bull sharks that are in the lake are actually the same species as the ones in the ocean....well, that didn't make me feel any better about going swimming in that lake. I looked up from the lake and the muddy shoreline and saw a few houses, and farm animals.
There were a couple of horses just milling about and suddenly one started running towards us, as if we might have something good to eat, then made an abrupt 90 degree turn when he saw his owner coming out of the house.
As much as we felt for the poverty of the people we saw in Nicaragua, what really hit you hard is something you don't see much in the USA, animals that look like they are starving. Almost everywhere we went you could count the ribs on any animal you saw. Frequently, horses were tied on a short tether on the side of the road. We thought that this was so they could graze on the grass. At first I thought, "Hey, somebody could steal that horse", then I realized that if they took the horse, they'd have to feed it. There were dogs and cats everywhere that looked so pitiful you had to look away.
Then you'd look up and see this giant farm of windmills, those science fiction-looking propellers going off in the distance as far as you could see. You'd start to wonder, who could come here and build that? Nobody that lives here could even have the skill to do it, much less the money to do it. I heard that electricity was expensive here, and that you were even charged extra in your stay if you used too much.
Once again, it was overwhelming to see all of this in one little throwaway stop, that looked like a pullover for some rednecks with a johnboat. The view was epic and most of the people of the world will never see it.
Sam reminded us that this lake is responsible for a lot. The constant wind keeps the turbines turning, and cools the area down quite a bit. It also keeps the wind almost always offshore for the surf. In fact, most of the trip, we were fairly comfortable, unlike a normal summer day in Florida.
So far, we knew that Nicaragua was supposed to have really good waves for surfers, volcanos, and a kind of rugged frontier that would be good for our adventure, and I thought I understood that people didn't have a lot, but at least they had their land and a beautiful place to live in.
The part that I didn't comprehend at this point was that we were still on paved roads. These people around this lake were the people that were doing well. I didn't even know about the mud roads and the people that lived on them...but I would very very soon....

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