Wednesday, May 28, 2008

dreaming honduras

Most of what I know of Honduras has been witnessed from a bus seat. I press my forehead to the glass and watch the landscape slip by me. It is an enjoyable place to see by bus. I have passed through the same route four times and still there are things to be discovered. Roadside pet selling near the Nicaraguan border, rice paddies, cows doing their thing, clouds doing their thing (which I must remark is often quite impressive here). Additionally Honduras has the best bus station comedor stops; Costa Rica could even learn something from these guys.
Really it is a suprising country. More so than Nicaragua I never imagined spending much time here. I don't think I had any intentions of spending any time here at all. But then Kyle introduced me to the Hondu ways back in October and, well, I just haven't been able to stay away. Maybe it is the dry pine forests that surround the high hills around tegus, or the rumpled coastline that I first caught sight of from a boat bound for the shores of guatemala. There is something terribly romantic about the scenery here, the sunsets linger, the light lengthens until it seems impossibly soft and sexy. It all screams to be photographed, especially the clouds. I haven't seen clouds like this since I was in big sky country.
As for the people I can't say I have gotten to know the Honduranios like the Ticos or Nicas. They do have funny quirks, pointing to places with their lips, preferring flour tortillas to those of maiz. But I like it. I like the way you roll in and out of this place, they have my favorite fronterras, and generally it feels the most laid back of all the central american countries, I think the islas de bahia help with this.
Utila has been my mainstay during my time in Hondu. My job keeps me there for three whole nights (which is a LOT for me). But you never hear me complaining. Utila is a mess of histories, pirates from Scotland, ex-slaves from other carribean island, mixed in with a couple of the native people. It results in that lilting island accent, and communication that happens in english, spanish, and creole, usually a mixture of at least two at a time. Plus there is the stuff happening under the water too.
Oh man, this last couple dives I got in were super tranquilo. I mean there is no other way to describe it. I´ve gotten to the point where I can float with perfect buoyancy and just let the currents cradle me. It is as close to heaven as I am getting in this lifetime. Then there are all the crabs, algaes, corals, this whole thriving world that keeps going on whether we pay it any attention or not. And man is it beautiful. One of my newest discoveries it column coral with all of its little waving fingers that look like wind blowing across hills of dry grass. I might start worshiping in the church of coral and crustaceans. Maybe I already am. And maybe I need to start writing copy for the Honduras tourism board. I will have to look in to that.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

thunderous nicaragua

The rainy season is threatening me. I am into rain as long as my bag isn't strapped to the top of a chicken bus. Basically rain gives me the excuse to be a bum, take naps, listen to the thunder and not be over ambitious about things like climbing volcanoes.
Somehow the rain doesn't always bail me out of dragging my sorry ass up creatively graded Nicaraguan trails which is how I found myself on the slopes of Maderas for a third time. I mean two volcano hikes in a week is just too much. Especially when one of them is advertised as an EXTREME hike. This is where my division one college athlete brainwashing gets to work and I am convinced that there is no such thing as too much athletic activity. Oh but there is, and one's calves are always happy to remind you of it, especially while running behind Norwegian athletic goddesses up Nicaraguan hills.
The benefit to all of this, besides feeling fully justified in eating a banana split, is that you are outside for things like sunsets on Ometepe, where the sky goes a purple blue, the platano trees turn an unreal green, and all of this is contrasted by a gold brown of dry season grass. Then throw some docile looking Brahma cows in for good measure, ConcepciĆ³n with the faintest scarf of clouds and you get a sense of what Ometepe is like at her best. Did I mention I was on a run so I didn't have my camera? That is just how it happens sometimes. I did have to stop at one point to take it all in and yell, "Jesus this is BEAUTIFUL!" And at moments like that you realize how insufficient words like beautiful are. Because the world is more than just beautiful, it is breathtaking and sublime.
Maybe that is what this post is about is the sublimeness of Central America. I don't think I understood that word until I saw Turner's paintings. He conveys that ridiculous beauty of nature that is so humbling for humans. I had the same feeling standing at Bear Paw on the edge of the Great Western Divide, we are tiny, just a small part of this huge pulsing seething mass of energy. I think the feeling of the sublime is what we are missing when we spend all our time locked up in cement cities sterilized by regulations and laws. But in a place like Nicaragua you never have the luxury of sterility, life is always in your face. And that humbling beauty that borders on terrifying asserts itself in the ribs of half starved horses, in the chaotic jumble of Granada's market, and in sunsets on Ometepe.

Friday, May 16, 2008

¡chao ticolandia!

It is strange to feel like my time in Central America is winding down. I am on my last run through Costa Rica right now, and it is making me a bit sentimental, well as sentimental as a person can get over things like gallo pinto, maje, tuanis, rapid fire tico spanish, and lizano. Eva would contend one can get pretty sentimental over all of that, and surprisingly I would have to agree. My relationship with Costa Rica has grown and changed over my time here, stretching from a brief 3 weeks to a tumultuous 7 and a half month on again off again relationship.
Costa Rica always reminds me of a over popular teenage boy with too long limbs, a bit of acne, and a streak of attitude. In short it is a country that is growing, fertilized by US interests. I won't lie, when I showed up here, fresh off the plane I was disappointed, there wasn't enough shocking difference for me. I like it when you get off the plane, everything smells strange, and you feel knocked on your ass by difference. And though San Jose does have its share of classic central american semi-constructed concrete and re-bar, it isn't much different than say, Hawaii. And then there were the Ticos themselves, who mystified me with their elusive culture. Which now seems strange because tico-ness seems so obvious in a funny way, but at the beginning I just didn't get it. Even now I am not sure I can explain what makes a tico different from a nica, but there is a difference.
For all my hard ass tendencies, I feel like I have fallen in love with all of these countries. Fallen in love with the quirks, the strange things that make them unique and lovable, even the parts that drive me half crazy.
As for Costa Rica, what will I miss? I think mostly the sun drenched joy of Ticos which even persists through a trying rainy season. I have never met a people who seem so enamored and proud of their country. Today I went on a hike on Cerro Chato, the extinct volcano next to Arenal. We had two guides totally geeked out with the swarovsky binos, telling us about birds, making bird calls, and generally just loving the jungle. And it isn´t just the guides that are like this, everyone wants to share what an amazing place Costa Rica is with you. Taxistas, old ladies, even the cows are stoked to be from here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

home is the meat in an airport sandwich

Wow, airplanes and airports were a bit of a shock to my system after months on the overland route, and then that was all smooshed in with my arrival in the E.E.U.U. after a seven month departure. I'll be honest with you, I ended up crying in a bathroom stall in the Denver airport as a result of it all. I always find air travel ruthless compared to even the white knuckle inducing speed of a chicken bus. I think it is feeling divorced from the travel experience itself as I often felt a similar feeling when I would spend the night on an ADO bus. Air conditioning makes travel too comfortable, or something. I guess I relate knee pit sweat to movement.
All of this led to my eventual tear fest in the bathroom, the only thing that roused me from my damp state was women in the bathroom speaking Spanish, at least that felt familiar. Venturing forth from the stall I dragged myself to a bar and ordered up a Fat Tire and was reminded of at least one thing I LOVE about the USA: microbrews. No one will ever convince me that the states do not have good beer. Only someone supremely ignorant of the west coast microbrew revolution would contend something like this, and for them I am supremely sorry. After 7 and a half months of same same but different light beer (with the heaven sent exception of Belikin stout) the complexity and hoppiness of Fat Tire brought tears back to my eyes. I will admit I was a bit of a mess.
Somehow I pulled it together and made it through my flight to SFO where I was greeted by two enthusiastically waving parents which didn't make me cry, but was far far far better than drinking the beer. And a mere 18 hours after leaving San Jose I found myself eating sushi in San Rafael, California. WILD.
My week home was punctuated by the arrival of my brother with one pound of Salumi cured meats in his possession which in a strange way kind of sums up the entirety of the trip. Has my life really turned into cured meat? Would that be so bad? What I mean is that the whole time at home I felt struck by how crazily blessed my life is. I had friends appearing from all sorts of places, delicious food, my family around, and I couldn't help but feel very very lucky. Of course because it is the nature of my family to be loud and cranky we did have our moments of non-brady-ness, actually I am not sure we ever have brady moments, more moments of comedic kitsch (cue us drinking nebbiolo and eating pizza). And so for the most part it was a non vacation vacation which is just what I wanted.
Now I find myself back in Denver, at the same bar, drinking my last fat tire. I am saying another 2 month farewell to delicious beer as well as a host of amazing people. Thanks to those of you that hung out with me during this last week. And love to those of you that I might not have gotten to say hello to.
Keep smiling, this world is a crazy beautiful place. Just keep trusting in it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

the current state of things

I still have volcanic mud embedded in my pinky toes. I am recovering from a visit to the orchid gardens on a caffeine high. And I haven't posted about anything since the islas de bahia. Shit.
I'm not even sure if at this point I can catch up on all the activity. I am thinking that photos might be the solution, but of course I have my camera with me but not the cord, and I am pretty sure that the Monteverde internet might implode under the pressure of photo uploading.

What is a girl to do???
My only solution, which is my always solution is go with randomness...
From the paraiso of utila we shot down south to the stunning metropolis of Tegus. I feel bad because I have never had the time to give Tegus a chance, Kyle tells me it is a kind of cool place to hang out but I have lost my tolerance for central american cities so I think the relationship will continue to be limited to watching tv at the hotel and eating at Los Toros. Our roll on from Tegus to Granada was upgraded from the terror of four buses and a coaster to an air conditioned van including a stop at a texaco that sold reese's peanutbutter cups ( a candy which i had previously believed was endemic to the eeuu). Upon arrival to Granada the day was only improved by the news that we were staying at a nicer hotel.
This was my fifth visit to Granada. I feel like I have developed a love hate relationship with the place. I hate Granada during the day time unless the Garden Cafe is open. I love Granada as soon as the sun sets. I hate the smell of Granada, in the heat it is only worse, and I really hate hate hate that bullshit traditional dance with the giant lady and her tiny tiny pirate husband that is accompanied by the loudest drumming ever. But I can't keep that sourness in my heart for a place that has two wood fire pizza places, one of which serves pizza with potatoes and rosemary. I actually ended up eating pizza two nights in a row, the first time post-volcano/bat/porcupine, and the second time in a wind storm.
Maybe the best thing other than the pizza that happened while I was there was buying new conditioner. I ran out of conditioner in Belize and my hair had been suffering through the last three countries. I finally cracked in Granada and have been using obscene amounts since then. And I shaved my legs... it was a big day for me. Nothing like random hair care and hair removal to make you feel like a girl.
After spending most of monday in and out of the garden cafe, and eating my farewell to Granada breakfast there we headed off to Ometepe. Ooooooo weee. Nestor picked us up after a particularly rough boat ride in his ever being repaired 31 year old van. Less than a hour later we arrived at the shores of Cocibolca to our fly covered hotel.
For some reason all of southern Nicaragua is covered in swarms of the most useless flies ever. They die way too easily to be of any use, and any time I asked about them I received the same answer, "it is fly season." The good thing is the damn flies don't hang out in the cloud forest, and my full day on Ometepe was spent climbing the cloud forest covered Volcan Madera. It was pretty sweet, the center of the volcano has been filled up by water and turned into a lagoon. The cloud forest was particularly cloudy that day so we only caught sight of parts of the far shore, but the overall vibe was very LOTR, plus I saw some pink ferns (which made up for my disappointing sea horse encounter).
Post-volcano recovery included two mugs of black tea and a steamroller nap which left me feeling more tender than I had started. The next day was off to Costa Rica with a 5 am wake up. OOOOOfffftah... ferry, taxi, and then the dreaded evil penas blancas. I HATE Penas Blancas. It is hot, dusty, inconvenient, and no I will not give you a regalo so that I won't have to stand in line for an immigration form where everywhere else in the world just hands them out freely. And why does Tica bus have their own immigration forms? Yarrrgh. The only bright spot in the whole situation is the fact that the Costa Rican office is air conditioned otherwise the whole exercise is evil.
The nice thing is that 1 hour and 20 minutes from the border is Liberia. Liberia is either heaven or Babylon. I can't figure out which, but it has soft serve, mineral water, aguacate and freshly baked bread. And I always make Don Taco stop there for lunch. From there it is a crazy jaunt to the cool air of Monteverde, where I find myself now.