Friday, March 22, 2013

The fun has arrived!

We awoke early, checked out, and jumped in a cab. The driver flew through the city flying around corners, but actually obeying some traffic lights. As the driver screeched to a stop a man ran over to our car yelling at us in spanish.. He jerked our bags from the trunk, and hurried us on the bus, passed a long line of people standing, and waiting to get on. He set my bag next to the driver, and then shouted at me and Pat "Tip!? Tips?". Pat gave him a few Cordobas, I just had larger bills, so he shook his head and left the bus. The bus was standing room only, Pat and I were the only gringos on the bus and the only people on the bus standing. But no one aboard even noticed two scruffy, Surfer type, travelers, everyone was  into their mp3 players and cell phones..

After two hours or so of bouncy Nicaraguan roads we finally had gotten our own seats. It was a very welcomed pleasure to sit and rest our weary, shaky legs. The seats we found were at the front of the bus right behind the driver. There were to little girls sitting next to the driver, assisting him with horn. They were very young and very sweet. Pat and I entertained the girls, with extremely crappy spanish,and teaching them to read some english. 
We hung with our little friends for a few more minutes before arriving at San Jorge, the port where we'd catch our ferry to the Island of Ometepe. 
The driver's partner grabbed our bags and threw them on the Lancha boat, and with a smile wished us luck. We were on our way. 
 Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America, and is known to be the home of sawfish, and sharks. As the boat thrashed up and down i peered across the lake. There it was, the Island of Ometepe.

Ometepe Is made up of two volcanos, Concepcion and Maderas, and joined by an isthmus to form the island. The island is home to monkeys, tropical birds, snakes and many other species of plants, and insects. It is a beautiful, magical place, filled with mystery. The mystery we were soon to discover.
After an hour or so we arrived at the island. There was an energy there that words can not explain. Everyone on the boat pushed toward the exit. Excitement filled my soul, and i forced my way through the crowd and made my way off of the boat. I finally reached the dock, a large banner hung above the road reading "Fuego Y Agua 25k 50k 100k". "This must be the place",  i thought to myself....The fun has arrived..

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Managua and Beyond...

 After a 20 hour flight, we arrived in Managua, Nicaragua around 2:00am. We stood in a long line at customs, just happy to finally be there. I made it to the counter and it was easy, i just gave the agent some money he gave me a receipt and stamped my passport.  We grabbed our bags from baggage claim, and headed to the exit. On the way out of the airport, there was a local man standing there with a card board sign that read "Patrick Sweeny". Hmmm.. This must have been our ride. We followed him to an old beat up taxi, he spoke almost no english and we spoke almost no spanish, so we exchanged names and a few mucho gusto's and we were off. The driver sped away from the airport, hauling ass through red lights and flying around corners without a blink of his eye. I quickly buckled my seatbelt and hoped for the best. After a small tour of Managua, we finally reached our hotel.

When we stopped, i looked around and saw our hotel, Hotel Los Felipe. Felipe was an older hotel with bars and gates that covered the front of the property, at this point i was wondering what kind of neighborhood we were actually in. The cab driver whistled and a very tired looking man approached us from out of the shadows. We told him in our crappy spanish that we had a reservation, he said something that neither of us understood, gave us our key, and showed us to our room.

The room was small with two beds, a fan, and a TV. To see a bed was a sight for sore eyes, so i quickly laid out my sleeping bag liner and crashed. 
I awoke in the morning to the first beams of light shining through our rooms window, warming our room and turning it swampy within minutes.. I looked over at Pat, " Morning Dude" I said with a groggy voice.. " Top of the morning to ya" Pat said as he did just about every morning. With excitement filling my bones, I jumped from my bed and started to load my pack for the days adventure. We had to find money, avocado's, and beer.. Priorities...I know.. So we headed out with the first cab driver we saw as we left our hotel. He drove us to the bank, where after a quick pat down,  had our money changed and were ready to hit the Grocery Store. Our driver dropped us at the store where we proceeded to run around, gather some produce, hot sauce, and of course alcohol. After the trip to town we headed back to the hotel to have lunch and some beers.
The woman at the counter of our hotel told us how dangerous Managua was, and told us to try not to wander away to far, as there was many sketchy areas in the city. 

So we decided to go for a short run through the city.. We left our hotel at a nice pace, dodging cars, and  cat calling locals. Sprinting away from rabid dog trying to bite us ( i just had to run faster than Pat not to get bit) At one point Patrick said " So if anyone yells anything at us or tries to approach us i think we should just say "no gracias" and smile". So for the rest of the run Patrick and I would just run by random angry, and VERY friendly people and just shout " NO GRACIAS". After a few miles of running and sight seeing we realized that we had no idea where we were. So we decided to retrace our steps and find our way back home. 
We wandered the city for what felt like hours getting close to our place, but never finding it. Finally we decided to just take a breather have a Liter of Tona and cool off. So we found a bar, the bar was covered in chain linked fence and the music was louder than hell. "this will do" I thought to myself. We sat at a table shirtless and sweaty. The woman working came over sat down a huge beer and two glasses. This was exactly what we needed to find our way home. We ended up slamming two liters of beer and much more relaxed we left and just strolled down the sidewalk with no worries in sight.

 We walked to the end of the street and saw a bunch of kids in a park playing stickball. Pat decided to ask the kids if he could take a few swings. The kids were more than happy to let him take a few cracks. After he was done he handed me the stick, I took a few swings, and let the kids get back to the game. We strolled on at a casual pace for a few more miles finally accidentally finding our hotel. 
Getting back to the hotel was great, hitting the pool, lounging, and taking another little sunset stroll around Managua. 
We scooped up some gallo pintos, and headed home for dinner. We caught Castaway on Nicaraguan  TV, and got to bed early. Tomorrow was a big day... Tomorrow was the day we found our way to the Island of Ometepe....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Adventure Awaits!

I awoke with an alarm blaring in my ear... I rubbed my eyes, checked the time and realized that I was LATE.... Oh shit I WAS LATE! I jumped off my buddys couch, gathered my things, tied my Luna's and I was off.. Was this really how my adventure was going to begin? Late, hurried and stressed? I guess it wasn't an adventure if everything was perfectly planned. With my nerves frazzled, I rushed out the door... I arrived at the airport checked my bag and ran through security... I have always been the kind of traveler that was on time, early, with lots of time to spare. But this was different, and come to think of it, this whole trip was different from anything I've ever done before. This was going to be a once in a lifetime kind of trip, the sort that challenges you, puts you through the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.

First stop.... Los Angeles, California....

I flew to Los Angeles to meet Patrick Sweeny, I met Patrick at the 2012 Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, and had seen him at other events but we had never really had the opportunity to get to know each other. We were about to spend the next month+ with each other so I decided to fly to LA to hang and get a bit of beach time in. I landed at LAX and ran to baggage claim to grab my bags and get outside as quick as possible. The weather was beautiful, the way the warmth touched my skin is indescribable, the sun lit up my soul with beauty I've never felt before. I sat in the sun and enjoyed the moment for a few minutes before calling Pat. I called Patrick and within a few minutes of standing next to the terminal, a smooth black car pulled up, driven by a bearded hippie, i hadn't seen Pat with his new rugged look. And was wondering for a second or two who this bearded man was. As a matter of fact it WAS Patrick Sweeny himself. I jumped into the car and we were off. "Food? or a run on the Beach?" Were some of the first words out of his mouth.. I was starving, but my hunger for sand, surf, sun, and a real good run out weighed my stomachs needs, so we headed to Hermosa beach. We ran barefoot from his car to the pier then back to the lifeguard stand. It was a great run, I'm so use to running alone that it was a great pleasure to have a conversation, and learn about someone on the run. After our run we made a stop for some Pho, and headed back to his house. We had some lunch and some Stone Ales, the perfect combo after an amazing run. We repacked our bags... watched movies about Badwater... ate gourmet Sweeny pizza...and drank more Stone beer.. We had to be awake at the crack of the morning to catch our flight to Nicaragua. 

I awoke to my alarm blaring again and Pat trying to wake me up.. He made us some PBJ's for the trip, and we were out the door.. 

We had arrived at LAX Two hours before our flight, so we had time to lolly gag and relax before the plane left. We went to the Spirit airlines counter and tried to check in, but the lady behind the counter said " No! You need proof that your leaving Nicaragua before you fly one way there."Pat and I had no clue that this was policy, so we ran with packs and all to the international terminal to use the WI-FI, and tried to book some kind of ticket out of the country. Pat woke his sister up at 4:00am and had her make up some kind of fake email stating that we were leaving by bus. We ran back to the Spirit Airlines counter and he showed the lady his tablet with the email. She examined it for a moment or two and said "wheres the confirmation code?" DAMN IT!  At this point in time we had about 45 minutes to get through security and catch our flight.. So we ran back to the international terminal and tried to get on TICA buses web site to get tickets. But to no avail, TICA's site was under going maintenance. So Pat said screw it and wrote some random numbers and letters in his journal and we hauled ass back to the Spirit counter. He showed the woman behind the counter his journal.. She typed the random letters and numbers into her computer, and then our ticket printed. With a sigh of relief, we swiped our tickets from her hand and we flew as fast as possible through security and to our gate... Our adventure had begun, and this was such an appropriate way to start it.. Ahhh... Life is good!