Island Paradise? …TBD
Our voyage to Ometepe was decidedly uneventful (other than Mark forgetting to put sunscreen on his arms.) It was a beautiful trip. Once the ferry arrived, we walked 3 blocks with way too much luggage (note to self: we need to invest in some large, high quality, hiking type backpacks) and had lunch at a café I’d read about, owned by an expat couple.
I stepped out on to the street while Mark was finishing his meal, and with the unsolicited help of another expat, arranged for Martin the cab driver to be waiting for us when we were done eating. He took us to Puesta del Sol, a “B&B” I’d researched. On the way, we talked about staying on Ometepe for a month, and he said he might know someone who has a house for rent. He gave me his card to call him later.
The B&B is actually a reputable co-op, run by a community of local women, advertised as a “homestay” environment — rooms plus three meals a day in a group of local style houses. Hmmm. All sorts of things could go wrong there, but still, I wanted to give it a try, and my sweet husband followed me blindly.
The “B&B” was further from town than expected, but practically right on the lake, with bikes and canoes available for anyone staying there. The room was tiny but immaculately clean. However, there were two things I didn’t want to deal with — no internet in the room and….you had to walk outside in the dirt to get to your private bathroom. That’s still quite a deal for $7 a night. (Mark wanted to know what I expected for that price.) The lady running the place was nice, but still, for the first time ever, I let my feet do the walking (that’s my brother in law’s expression) without trying it for even a night.
Luckily — the cab driver had given me his card. Unfortunately — my Nicaraguan phone had run out of minutes. Thank goodness — the lady in charge was willing to let me use her phone. I called my new friend Marvin and he came back quickly to get us. He’d already been in touch with his friend with the house for rent, so we stopped there on the way back to town — very nice, but also no internet.
There are five guest rooms above the café we first stopped at, so for now we are in one of them.
Of course, to get a TRUE island experience, you need to be deprived of running water, electricity ,you know, any of those things that seem essential in the US. Our first day here, it was running water we are doing without. And yes, that came to light after our morning run. The owners thoughtfully put a jug of water outside everyone’s door for flushing. As for personal hygiene after our run, I can only say, once again, thank goodness for antibacterial wash. It helps. But, since we are on an island, surrounded by water, we thought perhaps we would try renting bikes and riding out to the nearest little beach — not really deep enough for swimming, but perhaps enough to remove some of the layers of dust and sweat still clinging to us. Mark will tell you more about that experience.
I find many aspects of Central America (CA) quite appealing. The beer is usually frosty cold and inexpensive. Many of the local dishes are very tasty and affordable. And, when you’re in the mood, delicious international cuisine is also available. The scenery is quite varied, often displaying spectacular colors that jump right out and instantly catch the eye.
Finally, one of my favorite aspects is that the people, in general, are quite “tranquilo”. This is despite my knack for providing them frequent opportunities to challenge that tranquility.
Of course, I contend that my testing of their instincts is not of my own doing. It’s just that the infrastructure here is not exactly geared towards a man approximately six feet three inches tall and two hundred pounds.
On more than one occasion, during our visits to CA, I have gone crashing to the ground with chairs beneath me. The most recent time was one night last week in Granada when the seemingly well-crafted rocking chair, provided by our landlady, started to creak and quickly unraveled into a pile of wood as my butt crashed to the tiled floor.
Despite my brief exclamation of surprise, or some fitting expletive, there was no harm to me but the chair was irreparably destroyed. Breaking the news (pardon the pun) to our landlady predictably fell on Valerie. After all, she does have the much stronger fluency of Spanish. The next day, as I carefully stood in the background, Valerie broke the news and showed our hostess the rubble. Her reaction, I surmise, was the best laugh she had all day!
The size of many doorways and stairwells is also a significant challenge for a man of my physical stature. Okay, my level of coordination may also play a part but, nonetheless, I have incurred way too many bumps on the head over the last eighteen months. In a desperate attempt to limit my exposure Valerie has, on more than one occasion, hung dangling reminders in doorways for my benefit.
Well, it’s time for her to break out the ingenious gift that I got her for Christmas. The doorway leading to the bathroom in our current abode is well under six feet high. Several streamers of PINK DUCK TAPE will hopefully do the trick!
Which takes us to today’s adventure. I can count the number of times that I have ridden a bike, over the last thirty years, on one hand. I may have been out of practice and setting out on unfamiliar roads but I was ready to brave it and confidently share the primarily dirt roads with anything that crossed my path. I fully realized, in advance, that it would include cattle, pigs, chickens, horses as well as some pretty aggressive Nicaraguan motorists.
I will admit that my confidence was a little shaken when we arrived at the bike rental facility and the seat on my bike was set at the lowest level. Fully realizing that my knees would practically be up to my chin with each pedal rotation, the personnel quickly grabbed a wrench and adjusted the seat up accordingly.
We were off on our short three mile ride to the beach for a day of relaxation. No problem, right? Uh, not so fast! During the first mile we moved pretty easily with a few stops, sputters and detours to avoid the aforementioned members of the animal kingdom.
However, as we began our second mile I felt the seat move a little. I initially thought that the technician had not fully tightened the bolt during the adjustment. However, I checked the bolt and it seemed secure so I continued on. After a few more pedals I felt the seat move again. This time it tilted backwards more quickly and with greater force.
The chair incident vividly ran through my mind so I immediately stopped pedaling and got off the bike before I tumbled to the dirt road strewn with horse manure. This time, upon examination, it was clear that the seat tubing was severely bent. After a few minutes we determined that there was no way for us to securely bend it back into place and our bike ride to the beach turned into a walk back to town.
I am pretty convinced that the seat on that bike had never been adjusted as high as it was for me. Now, I am no engineer but I am married to one and I think that the combination of my weight, height and untested tubing lead to this malfunction. Upon reaching the bike facility and showing them the bike, a good laugh was had by all. As opposed to refunding our money they agreed to provide us with a sturdier bike tomorrow when it is available. We’ll have to see how that works out?
Right now, it appears that the water is back on and I can take a much needed shower. Which reminds me that shower heads in CA are rarely well positioned for a man of my size either. Oh well, at least I shouldn’t hit my head on the door!