Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hotel La Mar Lake Resort, La Virgen, Rivas, Nicaragua


Since there were no other human guests at the hotel, I had to settle for the company of amphibian friends. Not a very talkative bunch.


10:30 p.m.

The rain is pouring down about as heavily as I’ve ever seen it. For hours, the night rumbled like a distant war zone, but now the campaign has come ashore with amazing intensity, rolling from the Caribbean over this narrow peninsula.

Somewhere I lost an hour. Though the guides say these Central American countries are in the same time zone, GMT -6, it's an hour later than Honduras and Guatemala. The desk clerk said that they return to "normal time" in October.

***

I was making a run for the border, at about 5:30, going as fast as I dare, 70 mph, when all of a sudden I had a magnificent view of Lake Nicaragua with its volcano-islands Concepción and Madera sweeping skyward. And with a perfect setting, I passed by this hotel. It looked abandoned, but I drove down the weed-filled brick drive. No cars, but I found a security guard sitting idly. I asked him if the place were closed, but he said it was open for business.

“Where is everyone?” I asked, but he didn’t understand my question, nor did I understand his reply. A young woman at the reception counter, explained that they’re not busy during the week. Most people come for the weekend, or after the 30th, when they’re paid.

For $46 (total), I could have a room without hot water; $56 included hot water. (I guess that would be considered pretty expensive here.) Breakfast was included with both rates. I asked to see a couple rooms, then took the cold water option. Large rooms with brick walls, white tile floors and lots of golden-stained wood doors. A “teeny” TV and only a dozen channels assured I wouldn’t waste my time watching it. (Well, ALMOST assured.)

I believe I am the only guest. Beside the two people I mentioned, a young man tended the bar, and a woman was in the kitchen. I requested a “Victoria” beer (which the fellow poured into a plastic mug) and went outside on the large patio to take in the view. Very cloudy and rain moving up from the southeast, still the volcanoes were spectacular. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it appeared steam was issuing from Concepción (or cloud was streaming across its summit.)

Rather eerie to be in such a deserted place. But I tried to just appreciate the natural setting. In the fading light, what looked like egrets, hundreds of them, lined the shore. Large toads (or frogs?) sat around the patio, or on the pool coping. (At least I wasn’t alone!) Coconut palms, loaded with fruit stood throughout the grounds. A half dozen net fishermen, waist-deep in the lake, repeatedly cast their nets in front of them.

In the shower, I washed the dirt and grit off my panniers and bags. I came outside frequently to see what changes the night brought. Fireflies looked like slow-moving meteors amidst the tall grasses. Lightning, diffused by the thick overcast, flashed to the north, east and south. Thunder followed long after. Counting the seconds, I estimated the distance at over thirty miles.

As I watched the display, there was a blue flash to the south and suddenly all the lights were out (except for the red aero beacons on a nearby tower, and the faint glow from two or three distant towns.) Removing the human element only intensified the experience. How accommodating!

The security guard came around with a weak flashlight. He found me out at the water' edge and offered to escort me back to the room so I could grab a flashlight. The toads (or frogs?) were the most curious phenomena. I came back with my camera to take a few pictures. They were generally quite cooperative, just sitting there.

EARLIER

Up at 7:30. A rudimentary breakfast. Before packing up, I checked some of the fasteners around the bike. I found the mudguard loose. The top bolt (attaching to the rear brake) seems to be the culprit. I torqued them all, but we'll see if they remain so.

Checked out, then asked if I could work on my computer in the lobby for a while longer. Actually, it was about 2-1/2 hours longer. Stopped at “Kahlua Café” again. Ordered the “Kahlua Sandwich", followed by that good cappuccino and brownie. I was happy to go with a “sure bet”.

I'm not real comfortable in Honduras and Nicaragua, especially Managua. The hawkers and panhandlers are very aggressive in this city. At intersections many of them walk the lines of cars, cleaning windshields, selling lottery tickets, gum, cell phone accessories, bungee cords, jewelry, papers, all sorts of stuff. I don’t know how they can conduct transactions in so little time. They don’t bother me, since getting my wallet out is not an option – my hands are tied up. The motorcycle commands too much attention. Drivers honk, people stare, young men howl with excitement when they see it.

Police stopped me at a checkpoint in Masaya. About six of them, all young men, gathered around. One asked for my papers: license, registration, insurance, passport, “everything”.

I had not purchased insurance for Nicaragua (since no one said it was mandatory.) Just handed him my California policy card along with everything else. He checked the expiration date: 11/7/05 and thought he had caught something, when I quickly assured him that meant November 7th, not July 11th.

The guys grilled me with questions about the bike, how fast I go, where I was going – and many I couldn’t understand, then they finally set me free.

(Probably the most common question I'm asked is "how much does the BMW cost?" Not quite what I would have expected.)

Roads were pretty bad for the first 20 or 30 miles south of Managua. Pot holes everywhere, some unavoidable (especially when caught in a line of vehicles, when line-of-sight is restricted.)

But they improved dramatically towards the border.

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