Somoto Canyon and 21 hour trip to Pearl Lagoon. Jan 7-8, 2013

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Our alarm was set for 6am on Monday morning so that we could get to Henry’s early and do the Canyon tour.  We go outside and try to find a taxi to take us up there.  We ask the first guy and he says 150 cords.  No. We’re looking for 40 cords.  Another taxi also tells us 150 cords. He then tells us that all taxis in the area will charge the same but for 10 cord each he will take us up the street where we can get a cheap taxi.  We agree and 2 minute drive up the street and we’re there.  The guy tells us 120 cords to go now or wait till he fills the taxi and it will be 25 cords each.  We decide to wait.  10 minutes later we are on our way up to Henry’s.

Everyone in Somoto knows Henry because of how tall he is.  He may just be the tallest man in Nicaragua.  We’re met by a tall lanky guy with a big smile.  I think we found him.  Kristi and Henry talk about the tours and Quetzaltrekkers and then we ask if we can have breakfast.  We’re brought scrambled eggs, gallo pinto, fried plantines and fresh cheese.  I can’t even eat all of mine.

Henry then tells Kristi that he has a note for her.  We look at each other confused as he brings out a note that says

Hey Guys,

Hope you make it alright. We’re going back to Somoto – Americano Hostel.  Get on facebook and we’ll see you soon.

Love you Lots,

Jeremy

We are confused.  On the back it says “Kristie” and “Meiju”. This doesn’t help.  We say they have the wrong Kristi.  Henry says it is for Kristi who works at Quetzaltrekkers.  We can’t figure it out and are still lost by it.

Back to business. We tell Henry we want to do the regular 4 hour tour.  He says for $20 he will include lunch for us (it’s normally $25 and I don’t think lunch is included).  He likes the business Quetzaltrekkers brings him so this is his way of giving back.  We like this.

Our tour guide, Alexi, Kristi and I head off.  It starts out with a decent climb then goes into an easy downhill.  We walk alongside what looks like a creek but is actually a river.  Since it is dry season the river runs very low.  We look over the Honduras boarder  then climb some rocks and hike on.

Kristi asks me if I’m getting any hiking footage on the GoPro. I pass it to her and say she’s more graceful than I am. Totally jynxed her. she slipped as soon as we hit knee high water.  We hike for a few minutes in crotch height water until getting to a big rock and climbing it.  We get to jump in! It’s only about 8 feet high and Alexi says to hit the water like a pencil.  I go first and hit the bottom. Probably a good thing I have shoes on.  Kristi follows and Alexi climbs down and swims up to lead us.

We hike and swim for awhile longer before getting to another rock.  This time it’s like 15 feet high.  Kristi goes first but before she does, she freezes, strings together as many 4-letter-words as she can think of before jumping.  My turn, I don’t think I just jump.  I almost over jump and hit the rocks on the other side but I miss by inches.  That got the adreniline going and now it’s time to swim.  I recall wishing I’d taken swimming lessons more seriously as a kid rather than sitting on the edge of the pool crying.

We finally get to a lookout point and the spot where the boat is supposed to take us but the captain isn’t there.  We hang out 10 minutes and decide we can swim the final 1/2 km.  I’m pretty tired by the end of the swim and happy to be back on dry land.  We hike another 2km and finish up at Henry’s house.  What a great morning. We had some beautiful views, found out Kristi’s waterproof camera is no longer waterproof and shot some awesome footage with the GoPro.  The tour only took us 3 hours!

We changed up and sat down for lunch.  Chicken and veggies in a tomato sauce, rice, beans, salad and a tortilla.  Another huge and delicious meal.  After we paid for our tours, breakfast and tip it was $50.  Probably couldn’t have spent it better. Henry arranged a taxi for us for 20 cords each and we were dropped off at an internet cafe.  It was full so we walked over to the hotel 3 doors down and asked if we could use their wifi.

At 1pm we walked to the bus stop to get the Express bus to Managua.  As the bus pulls up we realize we need tickets.  The guy is sold out of seats.  3.5 hours standing.  We end up getting seats with about 90 minutes to go.

We arive right on schedule and fin our bus to El Rama.  It leaves at 9pm but we by tickets to get our seats and go buy dinner.  By7:45pm there is nothing to do so we get our seats on the bus.  The seats in front of us are broken and leaning into us on this beat up chicken bus.  We have a lady and 2 kids sitting in the seats and digging into our knees.  The kids were in front of me and kept shoving the seat back so I drove my knees harder into their backs.  It’s a 6 hour bus ride and I’m not losing this space battle.  The kids finally give up after numerous times of shoving, then looking at me, looking at my legs and shoving again.  Each time I shove back a little harder till they are sitting upright.  I win.

The bus doesn’t leave until 9:30pm which is okay because it means shorter layover for us.  The ride sucks.  I couldn’t get comfy the entire trip and slept maybe 30 minutes on and off.  Everytime we hit a bump in the road, the windows would fall down again.  At one point it was raining and we found out when we hit a bump.  This bus sucks.  To top it off, I had a slightly overweight guy use my chair as his rest spot for most of the 6 hours and kind of smother me on the one side I was free.  I think I was the only one on the bus that didn’t sleep.

Finally at 3:30am we arrived in El Rama at a tiny bus terminal.  We found an office to buy tickets to Bluefields which was a boat leaving at 6am.  Fortunately one of the guys in the office spoke english as we were way too tired to think in Spanish as we both stared blankly when we were first asked questions.  Again with a couple hours to kill, we hang out in what is a fairly busy terminal for the hour but half the people on the bus seemed to be getting on the boat.  I attempted to sleep for an hour or so on the pavement but was only able to close my eyes and rest them without any real sleep.

At 5:30am it was time to start boarding the boat.  Turns out we were taking multiple boats called Pangas that are supposed to be much faster transportation.  We board ours when it’s called and are pulled around the dock with other full pangas.  Some guy starts blessing our boats and then goes on to tell a story about how he was robbed and needs money.  As the other boats leave, ours doesn’t.  Turns out there were too many people on it and two people had to get off.  Thank god it wasn’t Kristi and I. I guess the blessing worked.  Our boat captain seemed to be very angry, putting together a string of spanish swear words as he climbed on board.  This also appeared to make him drive faster.  We managed to pass a boat that was 15 minutes ahead of us to start.  These boats haul ass but it was a bit cold in the morning and there is no protection from the wind. I put my jacket on to sleep earlier and was greatful I didn’t take it off before we got on the boat.  2 hours later, ass numb from sitting on the hard wooden bench and we arrived in Bluefields.  It was a beautiful ride but between the wind and the speed, we didn’t manage to take any pictures.  Apparently there is a slow boat that runs too but it takes 5 hours.  I’m glad we didn’t end up on that.

It was now 8am and we found a boat leaving for Pearl Lagoon at 9am.  It was another Panga but it was only 40minutes and we are so close, I’m actually optimistic about the short trip.  We met a traveler while waiting for the same boat originally from Turkey but lived his past 10 years in the USA.  He was 10 months into his trip from New York to the bottom of Brazil with one rule: No flying.  He was a very interesting person who enjoys going where tourists don’t go, metting and taking pictures of the locals.

At 8:55am we all boarded the panga.  Then we waited. And waited. And waited.  Finally after 45 minutes, someone got off the boat as we had too many people again. There was a slow boat that would get them there leaving shortly that cost less.  The difference was a 40 minute trip vs a 4 hour trip.  This time at the front of the Panga, it was rough to start.  It doesn’t help with the amount I have been sitting the past 2 days but I just want to get to the hotel, shower and change my clothes.  Finally at about 10:45am we arrive at the Pearl Lagoon.  It took 21 hours but we made it.  Safely.

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