Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005 Travel update from Nicaragua

And so this is Christmas...
Hi everyone, I am in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. It is a peaceful (well more on this later!) and tranquil little village of a couple of thousand inhabitants on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is located between Costa Rica and Honduras more or less in the center of central America. It has a Carribean coast and a Pacific coast. Also it is famous for a large lake(the largest lake in Central America). In the center of the lake is an island which is the largest fresh water island in the world.
It is called Isla Ometepe, which I am told means "between two volcanoes". As you can guess there are two volcanos on the Island one of which is apparently active and smoking! Tomorrow I will go to Rivas by bus and then take a ferry boat to the island and will stay there for at least a week but more likely 2 or 3. I am digging Nicaragua.
Bueno Pues, here in Nicaragua Christmas (the day "Christians" celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazarus who was born in Bethlehem some time in June...)is a big holiday.
Almost all the people here are Catholic. They celebrate Christmas on 24/12 while in USA it is celebrated on 25/12. I cant say how the holiday is celebrated else where in Nicaragua, but here in San Juan del Sur, they have some rather interesting traditions.
For two weeks before the blessed event, they have a 4:00am mass in the Catholic iglesia. To summon la gente to the mass, every night the children of the village march around at 3:00am and play drums in the streets. ¡Aye Chingaso! It reminds me of being in a Muslim country where the mullah goes into the minaret of the Mosque and summons the people to prayers in the middle of the night.
What a lot of racket!! It is really loud and there are kids blowing whistles and banging sticks on cooking pots and shouting and ...well you get the picture! All this at 3 in the morning! But strangely enough you get used to it and I even went out one morning and checked it out and marched around with them for a little while. Why not? If you cant beat them, join them, huh?
So finally it is Christmas or what we Americans call Christmas Eve. Well.. they celebrate here much the same way we celebrate 4th of July! Lots of family picnics on the beaches and They sell firecrackers and rockets and roman candels and sparklers and all sorts of pyro-technics which I dont know the names of, and everyone shoots them all off in the streets and on the beaches as soon as it gets dark until the grand finale at Midnight.
¡Aye, que loco divertido! It is really fun and entertaining. We do a similar thing in USA on July 4th but here the people all shoot off the rockets and at home it is done by the guvva-mint. So it goes.
Nicaragua is a very peaceful and friendly country. The people are kind to travelers and everyone is friendly and helpful. They drink a lot and there is very little marijuana around. They drink Rum mostly and the local beers are called Toña and Victoria. They are light colored Pilsner style beers that are best drunk muy helado (very cold) and they are quite cheap at about 15 cordobas per liter in the stores.
A cordoba is the local unit of money (plata) and you get about 16 or 17 cords to the U.S. dollar. Nicaragua is a poor country. They tell me the poorest in Central America. This country costs about 75% what it costs in Panama and about half what it costs in Costa Rica. If you are a lazy bum like me and just chilling out walking and swimming on the beach and staying in a shared hostel room and cooking your own meals it is easy to get along on 10 to 14 U.S. dollars per day.
Most of the travellers here (by far the most popular group)are Canadian. There are a lot of Swedish people too and many others, Dutch, Germans, Italians, Swiss, French, Aussies, Brits,and some Americans too. Where I am are a lot of surfers, because the place is cheap and there are a lot of good big waves. In spanish we say gran olas (in USA Granola is a breakfast food).
Being around so many Europeans, of course the talk always comes around to politics and the US led wars in Central Asia in Iraq and Afganistan. I am continually struck by how much the European people I meet here just disdain our President G.Bubba-dubba-yuh-Bush. It is very hard to justify the stuff going on in the name of peace and freedom over there in Central asia so I mostly just stay out of it and try to listen without talking too much. I learn more this way and except for me to say that all wars are bad, I have nothing much to add.
I am enjoying the foods here. I drink a lot of star fruit juice, which here is called melacoton(in other spanish countries that is a peach but not here), and the bananas and mandarins (tangerines) are excellent, cheap and sweet. Some of the queso frescas (fresh cheese, almost always of cows milk)are also very nice and not too salty and they melt well on grilled cheese sandwiches. Also I am happy to report that this is another peanut butter eating country!! They have the cutest little sandias (watermellons) that are very sweet and about the size of a honey-dew. Of course the staple here is gallo pinto (spotted rooster) which is white rice with a few black beans mixed in. It is eaten for desayuno almuerzo y cena (brakfast, lunch, and dinner).
The folks at the hostel offered me a free meal and a discount on my room if I would cook the Christmas dinner for the 30 Guests.
So I cooked my first "Banquet" in almost 3 years. El dueño ( the owner) put together a menu of salad, fish chicken veggies and rice. I really blew a few minds!! not your typical backpacker meal. I made curry coconut rice and sauteed calabazas (a zuchini like squash) with sweet peppers and oregano and barbqued fresh mackeral and marinated chicken and made a nice salad of cabbage lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and beautiful ripe tomatoes. My dinner was interupted by standing ovations between the salad and the main course and again at the end. It felt pretty good but a little embarassing.
Well thats all I have to say today. Happpy Chritmas, Merry Chanukah, and Prospero año nuevo to you all. Next update from Isla Ometepe.
"I travel a lot, I hate having my life interupted by routine"--Susan Sontag
Rambling Robert

Friday, December 16, 2005

travel update from San Jose Costa Rica

Hi Everyone,
I am in Costa Rica. In the Capital city of San Jose. I have been in CR for 4 nights now. I spent my first 3 nights in Puerto Viejo, a small beach town on the Carribean Sea. I liked the town okay, but of course the main attraction is the sea and the waves which attract surfers from all over the world, but mainly the USA and Canada. The problem was that it rained everyday for the three days I was there and though I got to take a few long stoned walks on the coast, I was never really inspired to jump in and get wet. While in Puerto Viejo I took a bus over to Cahuita.
Cahuita, is a great little beach town about 20 km from Puerto Viejo and with about 25% the population. I stayed here in Cahuita about 5 years ago in 2001 while traveling with an old cowboy named Shannon. Cahuita has not changed very much. It still has no paved roads. It is still a garafuna Rasta town, where most of the locals speak Carribean english rather than spanish. I actually understand them better in Spanish than in englilsh. The Carribean/Rasta english is hard for me to understand. I got a strong deja vu from returning there.I had about a 4 hour window of no rain while I hung out in Cahuita but then in rolled the clouds and I got back on the bus for Puerto Viejo...but not before visititing Miss Edith.
Miss Edith is a highlight of any visit to Cahuita. It was true in 2001 and it is even more true today. This old Garafuna woman has been running this little seaside restaurant for 30 years. It is the best Carribean food around. It is much improved from the way I remembered it. They have a floor now. It used to be hard earth. and electric lights. Moving up Big Time!!! The food is still just a cut above. I had a fillet of red snapper (pargo rojo)with coconut curry and mani (peanuts) That was sheer perfection on a plate!! Just as good as it gets. Perfectly cooked side veggies, and crispy salad with just a little coconut milk and lime. You put de lime in de coconut and mix it all up.
I stayed at a famous backpacker hang out in Puerto Viejo called Rockin' J's. had a dorm room with a Swiss guy a Canadien and a Hungarian named Janush. You dont meet too many Huns on the road. Janush was cool we had a good time together. He was very pleased to know I had been to Hungary. I was the first American he has met who has been there. He went to University in Pelt, and I stayed a day there myself about a year and a half ago on my way to Croatia. We talked about Budapest and Hungarian food. Got loaded on the local rasta natty brown, and walked around Cahuita.
Before I got to Puerto Viejo I was in Boca del Torros a group of islands off the Panama coast in the Carribean. I stayed there for 15 days. It was wonderful. I went to a little island called Bastimentos which has no paved roads or cars at all. But two fabulous beaches one called Wizard and the other called Red Frog. I got to see a lot of the tiny red frogs for which this beach is named. They are really tiny about a centimeter long and a very bright red color, with either black or tan colored spots.
So now I am in San Jose. I took a hot shower right before I sat down to write this update. It is the first hot shower I have had since Medellin Colombia, about 7 weeks I think. Whoa It was nice. Costa Rica is a little different than it was 5 years ago. It is much more "gringo-ized". I am not so sure that this is an improvement...The coffee is still excellent though and the Ticos still smile all the time.
Tomorrow I will head for Rivas, a small village in southern Nicaragua near San Juan del Sur,I will stay there for a night or two and then go to San Juan for the beaches and then back to Rivas and a ferry to an island in the middle of Lake nicaragua to see Pink Dolphins and fresh water Bull Sharks. The only fresh water sharks in the world are there. I hope I dont actually meet up with one because they are man eaters. I have sure eaten a lot of fish in my time...I hope this is not where my Karma finally catches up with me!

"You don't have a Soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." - C.S. Lewis
Peace out,