November 6, 2005, + / - 10:47 PM:
Sometimes I really hate computers. For some reason (the server that manages my ISP account), I haven't been able to send email through johnatjmchandler.com email address, and I can't post my recent blogging. It has something to do with me having three different account types through the same company, and the server actually gets confused, if you can freakin' believe that. These are the frustrating things that vex me so. You'd think that with all the preparation I put into this trip that something beyond my control wouldn't piss me off so much, but it does. So, when y'all finally read this, I will have successfully troubleshat the issue, and will most likely be in Honduras, on a little island called Utila (sp?), right next to Roatan. Cheapest place in the world to get scuba certified, so Heather and I are going to bite the bullet. It's great to see Heather literally bloom in the water. She's gone from holding her nose with her fingers and her pinkie up whenever she puts her head underwater to actually skin diving to depths up to fifteen feet or so. That's a little more than a full atmosphere of pressure FYI. Belize was interesting... Poor, but interesting. We snorkelled a total of three days while we were in the wee little country. On the second day we paid a lot of money to motor out to a geological oddity called The Blue Hole, a one of a kind coral atoll sinkhole with bunches of fishies, but the third of (3) Yamaha 200 HP two stroke outboards failed halfway there, and the skipper made the highly conservative, and in my retrospective opinion, the incorrect decision to not proceed under power of the two remaining motors, and we instead dove at a place that totally sucked for snorkelling. I mean, we did get followed by a school of around a dozen barracuda ranging in size from two to four feet long that entirely freaked my shit out (I'd turn around and they'd be like,..., right behind my butt), but it wasn't the Hole. We saw some cool stuff the first day (I had a sting ray literally swimming into my butt (I had shorts on; very unnerving; they were quite large), and we dove around nurse sharks; completely beyond cool.
I am currently sitting in a small room, naked with a fan on, my notebook on my lap, and I'm sweating. I've been bitten so much by these little bastards they call "bugs" in this neck of the woods, that just thinking of scratching a certain open sore on my left outside ankle sends resonating palpitations of itch signals throughout my body. It's like all the bites are wired in parallel, so that they fire when the one next to it fires. I either have bites on my scalp, or I've been sunburnt, or the new, cheap Mexican shampoo I've been using has given me a rash, or all three. But I can't complain. The other day, I had a guy in Belize City try and convince me that he should wash the car. I was waiting for Heather as she was mailing some post cards.(To all of you who asked me to send you a post card, the website will have to suffice; perhaps later once Heather's gone). I told him no thank you, Heather came out, we drove about four blocks away, parked, and went and ate at a local restaurant. After As we approached the car, I noticed the shiny blue color, and realized that someone had... washed my car! And who do you think appeared around the corner, saying that he had used three buckets of water? The dude. So, as Heather is my witness (and God), I politely told him how much I did not like him touching my car, blah, blah, blah, and said, "but I'm a nice guy," so here's five dollars belizean (one american dollar = two belizean dollars), and I just saw the guys shoulders drop, and he started complaining! Like I said, can't complain. Went to the wildlife sanctuary where they say it's the likeliest place to see a jaguar (not true); saw some cool birds, bats, scary spiders, a black scorpion, and a lot of those "Bug" things they talk about, but no stinking cats. I think it's tougher to find a good cup of coffee though.
Today we saw the great mayan site "Tikal," once the setting for the rebel hideout location in the original Star Wars movie. It is very large, much larger than Palenque, though you can't climb the pyramids (people have died in the past in big, bloody falls), It was very cool, though both of us agreed that Mayan stuff is cool, but we'd rather be in the water looking at all the fishies. Yesterday, our last day in Belize, we went snorkelling and fishing with a local guide in a town called Hopkins. And I got totally skunked. I just plain suck at fishing. Heather caught the largest fish of the day but lost it once it surfaced. A good seven pound snapper. And what they call a snapper is way different than the snapper that I've caught up in the northwest. The other guy that came with the guide caught like eight fish in a matter of forty minutes. Okay, I'm done for now. I'll try and get everything operating correctly within a week.
November 9, 2005, 3:15 PM:
We made it to La Ceiba, Honduras, and will be ferrying out to Utila tomorrow morning. I think I got the computer thing corrected. We went to the Copan Mayan Ruins yesterday. Absolutely amazing. The best mayan site out of the four we've visited. Copan is unique because of all of the stone sculptures and heiroglyphs that are incredibly preserved considering their age.
November 14, 2005, 7:45 AM:
The ferry is done broke that makes the trip out to Utila, Honduras, so after a day and a half of sitting in a hotel watching cable and the rain, we successfully made it here and are on our final day of SCUBA open water certification. We went on our first open water dives yesterday. It was incredible. We saw a large spotted eagle ray along with all the other caribbean coral oddities (sponges, corals, brittle stars, fishies, etc...). My right ear is giving me some problems. There's fluid in it that won't go away that is making equalizing the pressure difficult when I descend. I haven't told the instructor of my habit of playing my bass through a 1600 Watt amplifier with (8) 10" speakers and putting my right ear next to the speaker enclosure because it's still not loud enough. I think he's suspicious though. the sign when you're underwater for being ok / yes I understand / yes, everything is good / bueno is the "A-OK" sign, but I keep subconsciously slipping in the "Rawk-on / number of the beast / too much metal for one hand / the devil is a hard-rawkin' mo-fo" sign. He's Israeli, our instructor. When I first met him, I asked him if he was French. apparently a mistake in international relations.
Next, on the no-agenda agenda, is Nicaragua's Pacific coast to surf and eat the cheapest good food in the world (if you like rice & beans & bananas). I'll be sure and keep you appraised of all the inner workings of my little world. To end, lets just say that the other day, Heather and I were on a remote caribbean beach, with no one for miles around, just... enjoying the sun, and attempting to crack coconuts (we got one open, the sumnabtch). For reasons unclear to me, I found myself lying in the water playing "submarine", just like I used to when I was a kid. We can all just agree that I was trying to get a nice, even tan and leave it at that, alright? Anyway, before I knew what had happened, a small greenishly translucent shrimp had attached itself, and apparently was trying to relieve me of some precious flesh in an area I was NOT COMFORTABLE WITH. Jesus was a righteous dood I've never moved so fast in all my life, flashes of permanent scarring images, and then the answering of the awkward questions, and then the whisperings at dinner parties, and the paranoia of whether THEY knew and whether THEY were talking about IT. But I'm okay. A friend of mine dispensed to me some nut butter salve he whips up time and again that helps take the sting away.
For the record, we did get extorted for something like fifteen or ten or three dollars by a traffic police jackass in Honduras. It was funny, because the guy randomly stopped the car, and asked us if we have a traffic hazard triangle and flares in case we get in an accident. I don't, so the ticket was x dollars (like I said, fifteen, etc...). But then he writes $300 on a piece of paper, shows it to me, and motions with his hand out like he's preparing the hand for payment or some such shit. I looked at him, then Heather, then him. Told Heather that he was asking for $300 american, looked back at him - and laughed. I even said no a few times. The jackass. I still like Honduras though.
So, just to tie things up in a neat n' tidy package, and to feel that I've done somewhat of a "complete" job at sharing the trials & tribulations of travelling through Central America in a car that none of the locals have ever seen, here's a brief synopsis of Nicaragua:
No really, it does. I don't understand what the attraction is with a country that is so poor that people actually wait by your table to eat the scraps that I, for one, won't have on my plate, even after I've said NO five times and told them to GO AWAY three times, they still stand there, talking about us in spanish how we won't give them all the riches that they think we have. Note to self: never go to India; two people on the trip have compared my experiences with their trips abroad to India. DOH!
So, Nicaragua bites the big one. Grenada, the capital is a beautiful, colonial city, but the relentless begging just ruined it for me. So, we headed South, and in due course of time, made it to Costa Rica, and proceeded to get suckered out of 20 bucks by the slick talking ticos that prey on tourists, supposedly having connections and saving you money, but they end up just basically being pushy assholes. After the border sharkbait hoo hah hah, we stopped at a place on the way to the beach and proceeded to have the best stock pot style beef casado (a casado is a typical plate of food, usually consisting of some type of cabbage-y style salad, rice & beans, fried plantains (patacones) if you're lucky, and the meat. Good stuff maynard. We made it to Tamarindo and spent a few days there doing the touristy things that tourists do. We were actually there for Thanksgiving. Lobster for thanksgiving is a good thing. Heather caught her first wave, with a little helpful push from me, which was super cool.
We next headed South toward a beach called Playa Guiones, where thirteen years ago, I caught my first wave. And sure enough, Heather caught her first, official, unassisted, verifiable wave. Actually about twenty. Some slick willy jerk-off also stole Heather's lucky hat, and Ruby's frisbee food bowl. She still grumbles about that bowl. We also paid the money to watch 3 1/2 feet wide x 5 feet long leatherback turtles dig and lay eggs; an utter trip and a half. It was probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I mean, the leatherback turtles are monstrous creatures. Really, definitely, most totally worth the twenty or thirty bucks apiece it was to do the tour. Beyond words. I'll leave it at that. Don't just see the movie, read the book.
Well, seeing as though I'm a man, and my car says All Wheel Drive on it, I thought it manly to forget what I learned up North, which was this golden gem: when faced with a choice whether to take the "coastal road," which looks more direct, or take the longer, but most likely in better condition (i.e., no deep, questionable river crossings. Yes, river crossings), take the longer, safer route...
Seven rivers later, and one initial plunge wave actually inside the car and on me, we made it to Mal Pais (translation: bad place / country). I don't even think I surfed. I mean, it was nice and everything, I guess that maybe what Harrison Ford said in one of the many not-very-good-but-okay movies to watch when there's a tropical storm overhead, or where there's no way to go anywhere because you fried the clutch of the car you emotionally got involved with before you left on the trip, not realizing that they do not exist in Central America, therefore parts are also... non-existent. Where was I... Right, Harrison Ford said in the plane wreck movie with Ann Heche: "people come here expecting to find paradise - If you didn't bring it with you, you're not going to find it here." Realistically, I'm just focusing on pointbreaks, and Mal Pais is not that. Just a plain old beach break, which is nice, but not what I'm looking for. So, drive on...
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