Watery Death Cove and Walking the Plank

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Day 30: San Juan del Sur, Nicarauga

It was a sunny, warm day with a light breeze. Just enough of a breeze to keep you from sweating. The dock was bustling with the last load of people and goods dis-boarding and rushing off the dock. We stood in a misshapen line, maybe at the front, or maybe somewhere toward the middle.

Line formations in Central America are never quite clear and even when they appear to be, someone almost always cuts ahead of you when you are just milliseconds too slow in taking your final step to be the next customer served. Anyway, this particular day didn´t seem unusual in the least when we woke up early this morning. Except it was…nearly.

On Isla d´Ometepe, there are tourist ferries (usually double the price) and there are locals´ ferries (half the price, same speed, just more cargo). Not wanting to wait another hour and a half nor pay double the price, we opted to take the perfectly good locals´ ferry which was scheduled to leave about 20 minutes after we arrived at the dock. We boarded without difficulty and sought out a window seat in case Lin´s new found motion sickness flared up (luckily it didn´t). Settled in and ready to leave the island for what adventures await us in the mainland, we impatiently waited for the remaining cargo (rice bags, bicycles, and dirty backpackers) to be loaded. Soon enough, we were on our way. The water was pretty rough this morning and caused the small boat to rock to and fro. Nothing to be terribly alarmed about especially since there was no water seeping in anywhere (at least not that we could see). Since the ride would take a couple of hours before we arrived in Rivas, we adjusted our mp3 players and sat back for the ride.

Ometepe ferry photo coutesy of Hayden (http://www.flickr.com/photos/hllewellyn)

Ometepe ferry photo coutesy of Hayden (http://www.flickr.com/photos/hllewellyn)

Just as we were pulling into port, Saben´s mp3 player randomly fell on the best known doom song of all time, (”O Fortuna” by Carl Orff). Just as it began playing, the boat started rocking back and forth so hard and fast that we were looking down the bench across from us straight into the water! The right side touched the surface of the water and rocked back the other way even harder and farther, so much that water poured into the ship through the open windows and washed across the floor threatening to take people and packs out the other side.

Lin looked across the aisle as the boat rocked back on its right side again and exchanged seriously frightened glances with an older local man whose thin arms were clinging desperately to an equally thin looking support pole between the aisles. More than once we were horizontal with the water below. Lindsey had her arm out the window trying to hang on and keep from crashing down onto the other side of the boat and was ready to throw out her pack and abandon ship at any moment. People were screaming, children were crying but what was worse was the frantic look on the crews faces.

Then the captain spun the ship around hard and we were upright again and heading to the dock. We could see people on the dock pointing in disbelief at our small boat. Saben turned to Lin and said “ you would never believe what I was listening to during that“

We pulled up to the dock, sort of. The dock was to big for our small boat so the dockman pulled out a long old wood plank and created a hand rail by holding an old withered tree limb up next to the plank. Then each of us would walk across it as the ship bobbed and weaved.

Despite the lakes best efforts, we dis-boarded unharmed with little more than rattled nerves, wet ankles, and a good story. We caught a cheap taxi bound for San Juan del Sur. There is a chicken bus for a couple of dollars but it didn´t leave for quite a while and we just wanted to hurry up and get there. So we negotiated for about $7/person for the hour ride (direct, private, and with air condition–quite a luxury!!) and were off within minutes of disboarding the ferry.

In San Juan del Sur, cheap lodging can be somewhat hard to find (unless you book ahead) and many places were going for around $20/person. After 20 minutes or so of walking through the small town, we found Casa Oro, a cool hostel for $7/bed in the dorm with a nice TV area, free unlimited Wifi, a fully stocked kitchen, and lots of other good stuff. We settled into our home for the night and set out to explore the town and stock up on groceries to keep down our food costs while we are here.

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