Gausale, Nicaragua : 18th July 2003

Time moves fast and once again it was just the three of us continuing with our journey into Nicaragua. There were the usual butterflies and excitement that an entry into a new country brings and we all wondered what it was going to be like.

Our first nights’ accommodation didn’t turn out exactly as planned and we ended up having to do a bit of nocturnal riding which might sound very adventurous and adrenalin-filled but not such a comforting feeling when it is your first day in a new country and you just don’t know what to expect and what is round the corner. And yes, you guessed right… Miss M will tell all the gossip about this night later so patience folks. I just hope THE BOOK will be worth all this suspense!!

Our 2nd night we spent in the town of Rivas and Miss M also did here her first newspaper interview for Nicaragua. She told us later that she wasn’t really in the mood for this (her host arranged for the interview without her knowledge) as she was writing her diaries with the last available light for the day and then the journalists arrived and she had to be friendly and professional and answer all their questions. It was also this host in Rivas, a woman in her sixties who “arranged” for our next stay the following day but once again, things went a bit arse-ways (sorry but I can’t think of a better word!). We travelled the exhausting distance of 47km to Nandaime in the heat only to be told on arrival at this Plant in town that the boss gave no permission for us to be there so they wouldn’t let us in and the boss wasn’t contactable at this stage. Miss M was NOT impressed and not even her apparent desperation and almost tears could persuade the lads to open the gate. It was almost dark at this point and we were very worried where we were going to put our heads that night. But every dark cloud has that infamous silver lining and just when it looked as if we were doomed for the night, a man came to our rescue. In no time our friendly help called Edgard arranged for a place for us to stay and a room for Miss M on his farm. Miss M’s adventures however had not yet come to an end that day as she got locked out of her room (after her host had left for his place on another farm) and from what we’ve heard, it was a fitful night.

Whilst in Nandaime, Miss M also got the opportunity to test the waters of the Nicaraguan Lake. Lago de Nicaragua, also knows by its indigenous name, Cocibolca, or the ‘sweet sea’, is Latin America’s third-largest lake. It is 177km long by an average 58km wide, covers 8624 sq km and reaches a depth of 70m. Forty-five rivers flow into it, including the Rio Tipitapa, flowing from Lago de Managua, and it has an outlet to the Caribbean via the Rio San Juan. This lake is also said to contain the world’s only freshwater sharks. Miss M had been told that they are quite big – about 3m long – but these sharks are rarely seen, and their number have greatly decreased, as they are trapped along with other fish.

Our next stop was El Crucero and this is a place that Miss M certainly will not forget. I was sworn to silence but all I can say is that Miss M thought she had lost us for good when there was no sight of Mise and I one early morning when she woke up from the house of Juan Carlos Rivas. What followed was a nerve-racking number of hours (for Miss M of course) but again it is just one of those stories that will have to be told in detail at a later stage. Miss M did say however that I can use this space to give a big thank you to Danielo Rappiccoli Lacoya and Enrique Zamora who helped her a great deal. And I just want to mention that even though I (Tu Fein) had been accused of causing all the trouble, it will become transparent at a later stage that this was not entirely the case!

We were all relieved that we didn’t have to go into the busy capital Managua and we managed to travel along an old road towards Leon. Everyday was still very hot and Miss M was looking in vain for all the rain she believed would be bestowed on us regularly during the rainy season. I am sure her Irish friends will be dismayed to hear that we were actually wishing for rain to cool us down! Between El Crucero and Leon Miss M had to find accommodation for the night and after a long ride we finally found a farm where the workers allowed her to pitch her tent. This family seemed to be quite poor and nothing wet or dry was offered. Miss M hadn’t eaten all day so she asked for hot water and had some South African Rooibos Tea. She also found a few crackers in her saddle-bags and these were shared with the three kids and the scrawny dog who sat at her feet with hungry eyes.

Miss M didn’t mind so much the hunger pangs and uncomfortable sleeping that night as she knew the next couple of nights would be slept in comfort as she was invited to stay in a hotel in Leon. Carlos Herdocia is the very hospitable owner of Los Balcones (www.hotelbalcones.com) and we were quite envious when we saw this lovely hotel in the heart of Leon where Miss M would be staying. Miss M was really looked after so well and all the staff were extremely pleasant and friendly. We stayed on a farm of Mr Herdocia about 4km out of town and really had nothing to complain about as we only ate and roamed the fields with not a worry in our minds. But then disaster struck…..

Miss M came out with a farrier one Saturday to put new shoes on me and, not to bore you with the details, all I can say is that the man hurt me, I jumped and then kicked and Miss M was in the way…. She got a nasty kick on her hip and although the x-rays showed that nothing was fractured, she could hardly walk for about five days. A physiotherapist was arranged to give her exercises and massages every day and even though the leg wasn’t perfect after all the treatment, it was much better and Miss M decided that it was time to go again. The next stretch to Chinadega was about 43km and Miss M had quite a bit of pain in her leg when we arrived. Fortunately for us, Carlos had spoken to his parents-in-law and they had everything organised for us. We stayed in the backyard of this big house where we got a thorough rinse-down from Miss M and then she went out with some lads to cut something green for us.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that during our stay in Leon (and before the kick!), Miss M went with a bus to Potosi (a journey of only about 120km) that took all day, to enquire about a boat that might be able to take us to La Union in El Salvador, going through the Golfo de Fonseca. Well, she managed surprisingly easily to get this all sorted and she was told that they will be waiting for our arrival. So, from Leon we took the road that leads us to Potosi. It was too far though to do in one day and we knew we would need a stop-over for one night. Luck was on our side because, whilst on the road, we were approached by a man called David Torres (he is Cuban but lived also in Miami for a long time) who kindly invited us to his farm. The distance was perfect too (from the meeting place to his farm it was about another 29 km) and we arrived later that afternoon, extremely happy that we would have a safe place for the night.

Our planned trip from Potosi however didn’t work out as was expected… and we are forever grateful to Miss M who stepped in and told the lads who tried to get us into that boat that it was not going to work and that we were going back. It easily could have been a crazy situation but Miss M made the right decision even though this meant that we had to backtrack again. Our journey then took us from Chinadega on a terrible (for cars anyway) potholed road to the border with Gausale. A very unfortunate (and scary!) incident unfolded just before we reached Gausale but even I know that this is a story for Miss to tell at a later stage. Although it was a very unpleasant experience for Miss M, she really saw it as an isolated happening and she has told loads of people since of the wonderful hospitality, warmth and friendliness we received from so many Nicaraguan people.

And we will especially remember the sweet and lovely children of Nicaragua who were always so quick with a wave, smile or quick chat. We regret that we didn’t have the time to visit more places in this lovely country but who knows where the road will take us in the future…..

So on this philosophical note it is adios friends until our next bit of news!

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