Monday, March 14 - finally, a day filled with activity, some expected, some novel, some terrifying. Our Adventures in Good Company group spent a second day on Ometepe hanging out with a cute local guide and exploring the slopes of Maderas, the lower, dormant volcano.
Our morning goal was a waterfall on Maderas, Cascada San Ramón. As with everywhere we went, there was a rather lengthy drive to get to the starting point. This morning the drive wasn't long because of distance, but because of road conditions. Within short order we were off pavement and on one of the roughest roads I've seen, and that's saying a lot given where I live. I have to give Alejandro kudos for doing a great job of driving our little bus - he took it places that had me wishing we'd had my Ford 4x4 truck. At one point he stopped to remove a small boulder from the road so we could keep going.
The hiking trail wasn't much better, but I don't mind so much when I'm on foot. Okay - great hike, red and black Postman butterflies, pretty flowers, lovely company. Enough of that, I'm skipping ahead to the good stuff.
This is Danilo, another of our cute Nicaraguan guides. We gave Nohelia a hard time about finding so many good looking young men for us to hang out with.
This is Danilo telling us about the termite nest on this tree. The nest is the dark blob right behind his butt. Or below his backpack, depending on what you'd like to focus on.
Why did she poke a hole in the nest? Because on a trip to Belize she'd had more than one chance to eat termites. Some tasted minty and some like oranges. She wanted to know if any of us would like to try them. Rowan, of course, pipes right up with, "My mom will," said in a slightly ho-hum tone of voice. I was like, "I will?" said in a very skeptical voice.
Here's Sharry eating termites. For the second time because no one took a photo the first time.
I know, I know, it sounds totally disgusting, but really, it wasn't. I probably pulled a dozen or so termites out on a little twig and sucked them off all at once. They're so tiny that you don't really notice them much as you squish them against the roof of your mouth and swallow them. And, yes, they tasted minty. I did not avail myself of the opportunity to try them in other places to see if they tasted different in different nests. And I told Stacy that I am never traveling to Australia with her because witchetty grubs are not in my future. Seriously, though, trying termites was one of my highlights of the trip. One question on the review survey AGC sent after the trip asked about my favorite meal. Guess what I said.
Okay, Cascada San Ramon was pretty cool, too. I'm sure it would have been really impressive if we hadn't been there at the end of the dry season. Given that I come from a land of waterfalls, I'm not easy to impress, but I did appreciate wading in the cold water and standing under the falls on a 95 degree day.
Our next stop allowed for good cooling off, too. El Ojo de Auga (eye of water) is a natural cool spring on Concepción volcano. The stone-walled pool reminded me a lot of Chena Hot Springs in Fairbanks except, you know, not hot. What a novelty to search out a refreshing, cool place to swim. It was lovely, and I wouldn't have minded hanging out longer. Rowan eventually worked up the courage to jump off the rope swing, and then went right back up to do it again, saying, "You have to do new things twice: once to overcome fear and once to enjoy it." Such a wise child.
I titled this post Termites and the Devil Horse. It's time to get on to the Devil Horse. The activity we were supposed to do yesterday afternoon was a trail ride, but we ended up having to postpone it a day. I haven't ridden much, but I have a few times, once on a very large horse. Generally I like horses and am reasonably comfortable around them. Not this day.
We met up with the horse wranglers in a little town I didn't catch the name of. They were clustered together on a brick-paved street. With no introduction at all, not surprising given that they spoke no English, the wranglers started mounting us up on the horses. After the first woman or two was up, Nohelia finally stopped them and insisted we be given a quick lesson on handling the horses. Someone asked the horses' names; it was clear they were made up on the spot, especially since they changed more than once. I was just not comfortable with the whole situation.
It was my turn. I managed to mount without assistance (at least the horses were small), but mine immediately started prancing backwards. I envisioned my brains splattered all over the bricks. The wrangler got her under control. She started prancing backwards again. He got her under control again. I started stroking Blanca's (or Blancacita's) neck trying to settle her down. She did, but I did not. My left thigh was literally shaking because I was so nervous. Anne, our AGC guide, and I had been talking earlier about the wilderness first responder training she was required to have. I was quite certain that no amount of training was going to save me if my brains were splattered on the bricks.
Once we were moving, our route was far too much through town for my comfort. I kept expecting a car or motorcycle going by to honk its horn and send me flying. Eventually we made it to the beach and wandered along it and a few dirt roads for an hour or so. Every time I was doing okay the wrangler in front would try to start cantering (or trotting or whatever gait he was doing that was faster than I wanted) or the one behind would smack Blanca on the butt to get her moving faster. I'd immediately slow her down to al walk and all would be well until another horse decided she needed to be right next to Blanca. We'd slowly get pushed to one side or another. I finally snapped at one woman, "If you don't move your horse, I'm going to get shoved into that barbed wire fence." The final part was along the highway (more scary traffic) and then down another dirt road to the park where our smarter friends, the ones who chose not to ride, were waiting for us. I have never been so glad to get off of something in my life. I had my little point-and-shoot camera with me the whole time, but the only shot I had the temerity to get was this one over my shoulder.
I so wanted to commemorate this day, that I bought a patch to sew on my backpack with this iconic image of Nicaragua:
I couldn't fine on covered in termites.