I have spent the last 3 months dividing my time between worrying myself sick and being stupidly excited about taking a group of three adults into the wilds of a remote cloud forest in northern Nicaragua. I was sure they would have a great time, I was pretty sure I could do everything I promised, but seriously, shouldn’t I know better than to actually take their money until they had come back with smiles on their faces? Nope, I’m afraid not, there were tickets, hotels and taxis that needed to be paid for and booked in advance and I had to know they were serious about this trip, but deep down I strongly suspected that they would eventually come to their senses and back out.
In the months leading up to our departure I did a great impersonation of someone who was totally in control. Of course I was capable of organising an amazing volunteering experience in a third world country with an itinerary that included surfing down volcanoes and a midnight expedition to watch turtles laying and hatching their eggs on a beach as well as a trip to a stunning volcanic crater lake. Inside I was terrified, what if they didn’t like it? Wanted their money back? Wanted to come home? What if we didn’t get on? All questions that were causing me sleepless nights and worry. Not to mention the rainy season…. Nicaragua, it seemed, was experiencing its heaviest rainy season for five years.
Arriving in Nicaragua is an experience in itself, when you are so tired that you could sleep on your feet the painstakingly slow process through passport control is enough to send you over the edge. However Tom, Sarah and Antony were all surprisingly good natured and seemed to be taking it all in their stride. Not even ‘losing’ the taxi drivers when we arrived seem to phase them, it took me about 20 minutes to find our drivers in an airport area the size of a small playground…….well, it was quite dark. Then, I felt that the journey to the hotel really should have broken them, one taxi hit a massive pothole and blew a large wheezy puncture which needed to be changed in virtual darkness by the roadside. While the other taxi, driven by a distracted driver, constantly on his mobile pone, nearly upended on a curve. But these near misses were simply greeted with a great sense of humour and requests for beer once we arrived at the hotel.
Brilliant, my kind of people.
Two and a half days later and having enjoyed blue skies and temperatures of 30 degrees, an introduction to the positives and negatives of Central American cooking and the delights of Nicaraguan rum, we set off for the north. The real work on the school needed to start soon and I had to see my coffee farmers to discuss the new harvest of coffee, this wasn’t Club Med, we had work to do.
Quite what work we had to do remained to be seen, but I kept that bit quiet, I’d figure something out once we arrived in Miraflor, but first we had to get to Esteli.
Nothing has ever been particularly straightforward in Nicaragua, it’s what I love and detest about the place in almost equal measure, which is fine when I’m dealing with it on my own. The pressure increases somewhat when you have three expectant faces looking to you for the answers, you know when rum is not the answer and the Nicaraguans are being less than reliable then, it can be a little bit disconcerting. Not being met by the truck you had booked to meet you is all part of the adventure, at least that is what I kept telling them, and for their part they could all have given the Nicaraguans a lesson in the art of being ’tranquillo’ thank heavens…
We had transport arranged to take us up to Miraflor on the Sunday, due to heavy rainfall the river has now completely overflowed which has rendered it impassable, this means that all transport must go the long way up to the community. That’s a round trip of 6 hours, more if it’s been raining and the roads are a churned up mess of mud. Fortunately, for this part I had booked a truck, and as we sat or stood in the back of the vehicle, all five of us trying to find space amongst 8 bags and rucksacks full of clothes, numerous sacks of fruit and vegetables and a sense of excited anticipation in the boiling sunshine, (I know I know, what rainy season?) I hoped that it would be as good as I believed it could be.
The views certainly didn’t let me down, following months of rainfall the scenery took on an almost Jurassic Park style magnificence, green lush and utterly beautiful. As the three of them took in the breathtaking surroundings on the ride up they were almost speechless, their reactions were perfect, they raved about everything. I was really delighted but I was afraid to get ahead of myself, they had yet to see where they would be staying and the conditions of the toilet, all of which could have them shouting the trade description riot act to me. I couldn’t breathe easily just yet…