Monday, August 7, 2017

Letters From Nicaragua: Part 22 - The One Thing You Are Not Supposed To Do

We had been in Nicaragua for almost two weeks and I was starting to get used to the idea that we were traveling from one exotic spot to another, passing through villages of extremely poor people on the way. I hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about how those people might feel about us, but this time Sam was taking us to a place we weren't supposed to be. We were driving down a dirt road that nobody really knew exactly where it went. We were heading to some fancy resort that Sam figured we could bribe our way into. We rode past the first fishing village I had seen on this trip, featuring a little cove that was somehow protected from the waves and had many of these little wooden boats they call "pangas". Sam said that this was a place where it was a good thing to not slow down too much. This was a local's beach and not for tourists. His idea was to get us into the fancy resort and go surfing while the families ate a meal at the restaurant. That idea fizzled when the guard decided he wanted more than $20 American for every person in the van. That would have been a nice little bite for him and didn't sound good to us. We went on further, passing woods, barbed wired fences and amazingly, a giant castle with an observatory that looked like it belonged in Iraq. I could not even fathom how it was built there, much less how the materials were delivered. I couldn't have been more astounded if I had seen an Egyptian pyramid sitting on the beach. As that passed by, something almost as mysterious came up on our left. An abandoned resort that was still guarded by two guys and a couple of dogs.
Once upon a time, somebody thought it would be a great idea to build fancy vacation cottages right on a good surfing spot. Something went wrong, after a lot of money was spent and now all that is left are the half-finished shells of the buildings and a couple of guards. Sam negotiated a $5 toll and we now had a place to park. I felt pretty certain that the guards were not making sure the property was protected for the owners, but as with most Nicaraguans we had seen, figured out a way to make a little bit of money in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, $5 to make sure the van was still there when we got back seemed reasonable enough.
We were in a really different location, no surfers, no cars, and just our guards, a few dogs, and now a couple of horses coming by to check out the food situation. One of the guards didn't like one of the horses coming and over and I had a few minutes to watch that interesting exchange, which must happen on a daily basis. I don't know much about horses, but the ones I saw there didn't seem to like being bossed around much.

We walked out on the beach and I immediately saw that this was not going to be a spot for me and my paddleboard. The waves came in fast and jacked up very close to the beach. This was shortboard heaven, the kind of waves that Sam drooled over. For me, this was a great time to take photos.

As I watched Sam and Miguel get worked in the surf and occasionally get a few great rides, it occurred to me that here I was, on the beach at twilight, far away anywhere, the only adult male in a group of 3 women and 3 children. This was the kind of thing I had read about when researching Nicaragua: avoid staying too late on the beach and keep an eye on the people around you. Fortunately, I figured we were a good distance from that fishing village and it was a good chance that they might not even notice the big white van and the distinctly not-local look of us. I turned to get a better look at how far we were from the fishing village and once again I was surprised that all of our driving hadn't taken us far. I could actually count the panga boats from where we were, and really wished that I could do that, but it was the group of villagers heading towards us that had my attention. I stood there, thinking of that Indian on the log in the movie Predator, realizing that he could not escape, so he made his last stand. I spread my legs and put the car keys between the knuckles of my left hand and got ready to drag those keys across my chest, leaving those bloody lines that indicate I was ready for my last stand...

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