A Long Journey, 2nd Class On The Boat, Fort

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
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Trip End Dec 20, 2010


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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, November 24, 2007

A woman driving a pick up greeted us at the bus station in Algracia, taking our backpacks, telling us to get in and driving us to the dock for US$1 where we got 2nd class tickets for the 10 hour boat trip across Lake Nicaragua to San Carlos, launching pad to El Castillo down the Rio San Juan. The 1st classer's were only a couple of dollars more and included air con but we decided to go fresh air. We still havenīt decided if the choice was good or bad. 1st class was small with air con and blaring TV but also had hammock hanging / smoking space on a fresh air deck. 2nd class was filled with bodies, hot and had blaring TVs and a kitchen. We did have the best fried chicken, rice and banana chip (typical Nica food) meal of our trip. There were true pirates on the boat with scars, bandannas, the lot. I loved these guys and some slept on banana leaves. There was lots of produce and grain sacks being moved between islands.

On the dock we had met a dutch couple, a cute, wandering pixie boy named Joshua from British Columbia, an Italian man named Madrina, a guy from Texas America and a surfer named Taz from Melbourne. There was also an Australian woman. This path is a little off the beaten track because it is time consuming and involves a border crossing by motorboat into Costa Rica on the Rio frio meaning whichever foreigners are doing the journey are bottle necked together for the border cross. This crew was an eclectic bunch of caricatures. Taz became a good travelling companion and was excellent company for the trip.

We chatted with Taz, played numerous songs to the kids on board using the ipod and gave some Australian coins and a tea towel to the lady who reserved our seats while we smoked. We put our bags in the grain sacks, scoped out the last remaining floor space next to the rubbish bin in an aisle for sleeping (there is no seats just panels of padded benches) then tried to sleep for a bit. There were people in every spare space and under seats. We made two stops. One was to the Archipelago De Soletiname, an island full of artists, poets and writers where some more people got on and some got off, produce for trade and sale was moved around and another stop to got knows where. All the pirates had disappeared in the morning though. Spooky pirate island maybe.

We finally arrived at San Carlos after about 3 hours sleep and had to put our names down for the first motorboat out of there to El Castillo at 8am. We all grabbed a coffee and then squeezed into a motorboat and took off down the beautiful Rio San Juan which is lined with jungle. The Rio San Juan flows 199km from Lago de Nicaragua to the Caribbean. For much of itīs length the river forms the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Nicaraguan side has more interrupted forest than Costa Rica who has converted alot of itīs  riverbank to pastures. I listened to a gorgeous music soundtrack of tribal chants and drumming on the ipod which fit the moment well. All  these experiences seem to have a soundtrack attached to them. On the final leg of the trip an older local man became a little bewitched with my blue eyes and perhaps had not seen any before as he was tranced out. I sprayed some Dolce and Gabana perfume on his hand and told him it was magik potion that would attract ladies. I gave him the rest of the bottle to take with him. I am sure he was proud as punch of his new potion.

Three hours later, about one third of the way down the river we arrived in the sweet village of El Castillo and checked in with Taz to Universal, a US$5 a nite house on stilts on the river, bargain deal. The owner had  a small store and sold pineapples and vegetables out front. They had a Christmas tree with lots of random plastic farm animals around the base of it and three sweet daughters who adored my pet monkey. We had the best view in town and ate dinner at El Cofito restaurant while children swam and jumped in and out of a dugout canoe below us. Laughter from children is a great soundtrack for dinner. We ate a whole Snook fish which is saltwater but breeds in the freshwater and river shrimp as big as your hand, all washed down with Flor-De-Cana of course.  We met a great local guy named Miguel who was our waiter and who does kayaking tours of the river and a walk in the Indio Maiz reserve far down stream, we signed up for tomorrow with Taz. Miguel even organized our laundry to be done in the river by a local woman. Nice one. Taz joined us for a tour of the fort on the hill where we stayed till after dark with another bottle of rum, true pirate style that is. We got locked in and had to beg our way out of the castle. The fortress was built by the Spanish in 1675 at a strategic bend in the river to try to halt the passage of English, French and other pirates heading for Grenada. They also threw some rocks in the river to make rapids there. We would kayak down it tomorrow. Bitter battles were fought at El Castillo. Next we went ahoy me mateying to follow some doof music we could hear coming from a house below. We walked through a field of what felt like quicksand and made it to a house with a discotheque inside. We danced and i tried to start a conga line to get some locals dancing. Miguel was there shaking his thing on the dance floor. Tomorrow we kayak.
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