We finally drive south from las penitas and stop in Leon for supplies. We actually start our day with some much needed bus maintenance and a tire rotation, but are underway soon enough. The market in leon is great and we dine on some pork and yucca dish cooked in a tire rim. Yummy. I love a market for the 2in1 win of great eats and good photo ops. Sadly, our cameras appear to be crapping out on us. We brought 2 on the trip, a DSLR with 2 lenses, one of which stopped working months ago, now it takes portraits or nothing. Our point and shoot, which has done the heavy lifting so far now won’t recognize either of our batteries 8 out of 10 times. The unfortunate effect of salt air we assume (given what it’s doing to everything else inside the bus); but if we cant figure something out soon the blog will get a lot less interesting fast.
We realize we don’t have much money left and we settle for however much gallo pinto (rice and beans) we can get for our last 10 cords (about 42cents). The lady piles our plate full and i’m pretty sure she’s giving a handout to what she must think are the poorest gringos on the planet. The gallo pinto is amazing and we certainly aren’t hungry when its gone.
Food in our bellies we check off the other needed items, gas and cash. Not a problem for us as the ATM stop has actually become a pleasure. We hate taking out money of course, but the tiny room built around each ATM machine is the best air conditioned space in latin america. It’s like a walk in freezer at some of these things- pure indulgence. At least they were smart enough not to make the closet any bigger or we’d probably pull out our chairs and eat dinner in there. At each cajero jen, karma and i all squeeze inside for a brief reminder of what it feels like to have your pores stop sweating. Sadly, it cant last long and stepping back out onto the street might be worse than the seconds of glory moments earlier..but we will surely forget that lesson next time we have a chance at moments of cool, cool ATM bliss (all for the cost of only a maximum withdrawal of $300US plus applicable fees).
Back on the road, we get pulled over once in route. Far better than expected with the increased numbers of policia out for semana santa. Pretty sure these guys were legit, but you can never tell at first glance and we always hesitate to hand over my license for fear of getting stuck (really should have made a fake before we left). The next 45minutes are nothing short of pure comedy as jen and i try to convince them that we don’t understand the word copia means copy and have no clue why this back and white replica of my drivers license wouldn’t suffice for legal identification. They repeat it 100 times, try writing it down and cant figure out (rightfully so) how we can possibly be so stupid. They grow more and more irritated and start pulling their IDs out of wallets to show us what they need. We in turn, explain that we don’t have a nicaraguan license as we are only visiting. Clearly.
As they grow more frustrated the act becomes more comical and i cant look at jen for fear that i will start laughing mid spanglish... Eventually it becomes clear that we aren’t going anywhere without producing the actual license and we finally have the “epiphany” of what they want and produce documentation. We are on our way in seconds. We actually feel bad wasting their time, but we would rather waste 45 minutes of all our day than continue the bribe cycle... its just unfortunate that good policia suffer the eventual consequences of corrupt policia just as much as we do.
We continue on to Diriamba and stop for the night. We always prefer a beach town, but it’s simply too hot and too far of a haul to get all the way to popoyo. Jen finds us a little place to stay named Tortuga Verde eco lodge. Oddly, everywhere she finds seems to have animal names now... We pull in not expecting much as its on the side of the highway, but it turns out to be one of our better paid nights. The room was good, but the grounds were spectacular. The compound we slept on is like a rain forest botanical garden thanks to the green thumb of the owner. The second we pull in, the deafening sound of cicadas in the trees around us has us pausing to make sure its not a siren going off. We take a much needed shower and chill for an evening with our first high speed internet in far too long.
In the morning we venture out among the tropical wonderland surrounding our room and could have walked around the garden forever looking at the variety of gorgeous tropicals and stopping at each break to follow the vines trailing up to the immense trees of the canopy above. Simply breathtaking both in terms of color, variety and sheer size, but the traditional breakfast being made for us is getting cold so we head inside to eat. Delicious. This place is well worth a stop if you have a chance. Our only possible complaint is the monkey. Don’t get me wrong- we love monkeys, we just don’t like them chained to a tree. I almost felt like it was my duty to take the collar off the poor guys neck and set him free. Were it not for images of him taking out his years of captive frustration on my face before figuring out that i was trying to help...i may have done just that. My monkey is still a bit rougher than my spanish...
We would have been tempted to stay another night but know that popoyo is only a few hours away, and tonight Bailey meets us there. We are so excited!
As we head out of town we stop for gas and food. Oddly the best restaurant in town is italian. Doesn’t seem quite right, but the owner of Pizza Colloseo came to Nica 30 years ago and brought his massive italian pizza ovens with him to ensure the quality came as well. Doesn’t sound like a place you pass up and we were glad we stopped. Terrific pizza to go made for happy driver and passenger alike for the rest of the drive. Good thing as the road turned from poor to worse soon enough. Only half way to our destination we turn off the highway onto a dirt road. Over an hour of rough driving with the cows and pigs is only broken up by unmarked forks, wrong turns and river crossings.
Better than battling for position on the highway i guess. Today the roads are even fuller and the drivers even more in a hurry. Seems like 1in10 cars have either a fridge or mattress tied to the roof and many seem to have already started the weekend’s heavy drinking.