I plodded on and after a few more blocks found a stand selling sodas and bought a Pepsi. I asked the girl where the station was. She pursed her lips in the direction of El Mercadito just across the street and said, "Al dentro." Inside. I crossed the street, and found a shady spot to await the bus. Gradually more people joined me in the shade and about half an hour later the bus arrived. This entailed entering the cramped U-shaped driveway into the market which required several forward and backward maneuvers while avoiding running over the passengers who were crowding the bus so they would be first in line to ensure a seat. What a scene! Despite my lack of shoving, I managed to find a seat and put my pack on the overhead shelf. Not every bus has that feature and I was very happy that I didn't have to cram the pack on my lap for the hour long bus ride.
The bus continued to fill as we sat in the hot parking area for at least another half hour. I passed the time making faces at the numerous adorable kids around me and chatting with the young man sitting next to me until the bus finally roared to life. As crowded as the bus was, 2 people deep along the entire aisle, it was hard to see much of the scenery but I did notice fields of wheat, corn and sugarcane. At one point, the little girl behind me squealed "Vaca!" at the sight of some grazing cattle.
At the end of the line in Las Penitas was my hotel - La Samaki.
I was looking forward to having a private room after weeks of dorming it and the room did not disappoint. It's simple with a rustic charm, comfortable bed and private bath. It felt like a luxury to be able to put my toiletries on the shelf and leave them there! Las Penitas is a dusty little fishing town
with private beach homes and a handful of hotels. A very mellow place where pigs and chickens roam freely.
Gordon and Pita, from Toronto, are very welcoming hosts and made me feel very much at home. I came at the perfect time because they had just found a place that sells tonic water - apparently difficult to find here - and this was the perfect place to enjoy my favorite drink. Life is good! I also enjoyed delicious meals here including my first taste of stingray, the best gallo pinto so far (lots of garlic!) and a yummy curry.
La Samaki is located around the bend from the beach overlooking a shallow inlet. When the tide is out, the boats are high and dry...and then floating again at high tide. This inlet is also where the office for the nature preserve for Isla Venado is located.
The main reason I came here was to take a boat tour of this preserve and see some bird life. I arranged to take the trip Tuesday morning at 6:30. Unfortunately, I didn't meet anyone else interested in going and the trip is per boat not per person so it was a little pricey. It was an interesting trip but I think I've been permanently spoiled by the trips in San Blas Mexico. Nothing so far has compared to the variety and abundance of birds in their estuaries and I think I'm going to fore-go any other mangrove trips because I'm always a bit disappointed.
That said, the guides were very friendly and somewhat informative (if you speak Spanish...) and it was fun to be in that mangrove environment that I love so much. The most abundant bird was the snowy egret
and I also saw little blue heron, great egret, a white ibis, tri-colored heron, and parakeets. The beach side of the island is a nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtle and we visited a nursery where the eggs are incubated and hatched.
While we were there, the rangers approached a young boy riding his horse along the beach and sent him on his way. You can walk the beach, but horses are not allowed as they present a danger to the turtles.
Despite being a nature preserve, the mangrove is open to cutting by the locals and we passed a couple of boats filled with wood. There was a lot of damage to the mangrove from a storm last May, but I wondered if the clear cut areas were storm damage or lumber harvest.
I managed to get in some beach time on the steep and empty beach. Apparently it fills up on Christmas, but while I was here it was very quiet.
While on the beach, a young boy named Efrel approached me selling shell necklaces. He was so cute that I couldn't resist. I was on the beach again a couple of days later and this time he had coconuts for sale. Of course I had to buy one.
We chatted a while and he made some sand drawings that I thought worthy of photographing for posterity.
One evening, Pita and I strolled over to the beach with a cold beer to watch the sunset. I don't know if it's always this pretty or we just lucked upon a good night.
Today I'm heading back to the city (Leon) and will spend Christmas there. I'm looking forward to getting to know that city better and it seems like a good place to lay low over the busy Christmas holiday.
On Sunday morning I checked out of Lazy Bones in Leon and headed for El Mercadito where I would catch the bus to the beach town of Las Penitas. Being cheap, and not thinking it was all that far, I head out on foot. I've gotten pretty good at packing light but in the mid day the of Leon even a day pack is too much to carry so I was pretty much melting into a pile of sweat and wondering where the hell the station was. I decided to find a place to sit down and have a cold drink so I could consult my map. I walked into a funky place with a few tables set up and a sign outside advertising refrescos and lunch. Before I could get my pack off, a large effeminate man with lacy apron and nasty disposition came out and asked me what I wanted. "Un refresco." "No hay", he says. "Hay batidos?" (fruit shake) "No!" and he turned around and stomped out. Alrighty then. Re-clipped my waistband and moved on. I didn't take it personally and his attitude only surprised me because I so rarely encounter that while traveling. In fact, I can only recall one other time I felt so unwelcome so that's not a bad record. I decided that I probably ought not to ask him if I was going in the right direction for the bus station as I might not have made it out alive!