Nicaragua: El Bluff

Sometimes traveling is almost painful.

The frustrating thing about boats in Nicaragua is that they follow no schedule.  So when our local friend, Yelena, said the boat was scheduled to arrive by 10pm and we could board, she was incorrect.  The boat actually was going to arrive closer to 2-3am and leave closer to 4:30am.  We found this out from another “helper” named “Tiger” who came to grab bags when we pulled into the dock in El Bluff.  He told us there was nowhere to wait for the boat except the one hostel on the island.  And, he refused to let us find it ourselves.  Yelena did not have money to stay in a hostel with her children, so we invited her to stay with us.  We couldn’t imagine her sitting with two babies outside for 8 hours.  We showered, shared some bread and rested.

At 1:30am, we woke the crew up.  Joshua carried his two backpacks and her large suitcase on top of his head, a new skill he picked up watching Nicaraguans transport just about everything.  I carried my bags and Alicia.  Yelena took Alfredo.  We met a French girl who was also headed to the dock.  As a group we waited and chatted, excited to be on our way.  Thinking back, we were SO happy.  Little did we know, we were about to embark on the WORST 7 hour boat ride ever.

The boat we waited for was the Island Express.  The ride, we heard, was 5 hours.  More and more passengers showed up for the journey, even some we met at other stops along the way.  Finally, the gate opened and a captain showed up with his log book.  They take your passport number down—just in case they have to report your death later.  We all signed up and paid.  They led us down to the dock.  We stood waiting to board the boat as they checked our bags for drugs.  Alicia slept in one of our arms through it all.

The boat wasn’t as big as we expected.  It was also FULL of cargo.  We couldn’t tell where the seats were, but we were ready to make it to our destination.  Boarding was chaotic.  Everyone jumped on and raced to find a place to be…but there wasn’t anywhere to go.  Most people made themselves comfortable on a bag of melons, a cooler or a stack of re-bar.  I found a place between the bathroom and boiler room on the floor…an absolute rookie move.  I put the baby in a life jacket next to me.  She kept sleeping.  I tried to protect her from people wobbling by.  The boat took off.

We noticed the Island Express pulling in behind us.  It was too late, but we had boarded the wrong ship!  Joshua got hot and uncomfortable sitting next to me and decided to stand holding a metal bar across the ceiling towards an edge of the boat.  This also proved to be a rookie mistake.  He was close enough to feel the heat of the boiler room, smack in front of the bathroom where previous passengers must have had countless missed attempts at the toilet, and just downwind from the pigs traveling on the bow of the boat. He tried to keep his eyes on the horizon which is an anti-seasickness trick and hung on for dear life.  Instantly, the water was rough.  The boat tossed and turned.  At one point, they cut the motors—I thought we were going down.  I chewed my ginger gum with intensity.

A few hours into the ride, everyone was sick.  I watched mothers holding kids to puke off the side and then barfing themselves.  The poor French girl was SO sick she kept her head over the side of the boat for 7 hours.  The waves crashed over her continuously.  I’m not sure she noticed.  Everyone and everything on the boat was wet.  Alicia woke up and started trembling.  She dry-heaved as I tried to hold her away from my legs.  She managed to puke all over me repeatedly.   She didn’t have the strength to cry.  Joshua, meanwhile, had his shirt open, hat on backwards and he was strategically placed on a bucket so he could chat and then puke without moving.  The Island Express zoomed past us adding insult to injury.

We could see Big Corn Island, but it never seemed to get any closer.  Were we going backwards?  Joshua was pale, sweaty and considering jumping.  I was covered in puke and unable to get up for fear of causing an eruption from Alicia.  We had no choice but to wait in pain.

Approaching Big Corn was the happiest moment I can recall in the recent past.

Joshua talked about needing to rest before taking ANOTHER boat to Little Corn.  I just wanted to get there and start my vacation.  To make matters worse, the Island Express was blocking our entry to the dock.  So we just hovered in the Bay with nowhere to go.  A small panga (boat) drove by headed to Little Corn.  We hailed them down.  We literally threw them our bags and jumped off the boat.  We landed in the little boat with several other travelers, thankful to be anywhere but the boat we were just on.  We never stepped foot on Big Corn Island.  It began to pour rain, like torrential downpour.  We had to hold a plastic sheet over our heads.  I wasn’t strong enough to battle the wind and lost—getting drenched.

Our 30 minute boat ride was rough.  We climbed the dock in Little Corn.  I thought we had made it!

We arrived a day earlier than we expected.  Our room was not ready.  When we realized we had no place to stay, my tiredness and hunger began to poison the rest of my body.  We raced to hostel after hostel: full, full, full.  We trekked across the island with all of our gear, competing against the 40 other new arrivals for the last rooms available.  Eff the Amazing Race.  We finally found a high priced room with a great view and a few ants; and I didn’t even care.  We ate lunch.  We came back to find our bags COVERED in ants, like thousands and thousands.  We tried to shake things out.  Joshua broke his Kindle doing this.  We got bit—mine swelled like bee stings.  Joshua and I were both in a bad, bad place.  I was hoping for a vacation that I realized was not happening.  He was still not human from the travel.  We decided to erase the bad memories by going to sleep at 6pm.

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