Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ometepe Day 2

We began the day around 7am, had breakfast and left for a bike ride.

The main goal of the day was to see petroglyphs. We rode to the first location (I should really know the names of these places, but Becky takes care of the details) which was several kilometers away. It took us about an hour and a half to to get the place. I found out that I am out of shape. Sadly, in the last few months I had not been going to the gym every single day (or even once a week) and I suffering for it. I still managed to keep up, but more tired that my companion. I will certainly get back to the gym when back home.

At the place we only saw a handful of petroglyphs, and I was not impressed. It took about half to do the entire path.

Afterward, we decided to go to the Ojo de Agua. This is an artificial pool, made from a nearby natural stream. We spent a few hours there, including lunch. I enjoyed the swim and had a good relaxing time.

When we decided to head back to the hotel, our bodies were sore from biking so we were going to walk most of the way back (except for the downhills parts). Soon after we started, Becky's bike got a flat so we were forced to walk all the way back. Until we saw a bus! The bus was able to take us back all the way to our hotel.

I was asked again if I was her guide, gerrrr.

We finished the day uneventfully with dinner, a conversation about American politics with the new arrivals, then we settled out bill and packed. We have to be up for a bus ride at 4:00am.

Of course I decided to stay up a little later than Becky and get myself a beer, kick back on our private balcony hammock and write about the day.

Overall, I wish we could have done more. We did not clim either of the volcanos (to my relief after realizing how bad in shape I am) because we did not want to spend an entire day doing one thing. The waterfall we really wanted to see was closed because of a mudslide. We did some of the things we wanted to do, but like any trip: there is always more to do.

Still, although I tend to write about the negative. I am certainly happy with the trip, and gathered great pleasure from the island. I am glad that I had a chance to finally visit.

Tomorrow we leave for Camoapa and my relatives.

Pictures from today will be hopefully up tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ometepe Day 1

Today was the first full day that we spent in Ometepe.

Things have not gone exactly as I wanted. We landed by ferry in Moyogalpa last night. We woke up in the morning to catch a bus to the other side of the island and where there are more things to do. We did not realize that it would take us us 3.5 hours to get to the other side. The main road on the Island is bad condition and very narrow. The bus we were on never went faster than 30mph, and also made a one hour stop at an intermediate city. When asked the driver why he needed stop for an hour, he informed us that the government forces him to. This is to ensure spread out bus schedules.

We arrived at Hacienda Merida a little after noon. There was a problem with getting a room with a locking door. By the time we finished lunch, it was past 2pm. We managed to kayak for an hour. We could have been out on the lake for longer, but we were given heavy wooden paddles that quickly made us tired.

We rented bikes and rode for a couple of hours heading east. We took pictures of a bunch of butterflies and checked out some of the local scenery.
What happened to the waterfall? The petroglyphs? The path to the waterfall was closed because of a mud slide. Getting to petroglyphs was going to take too long since it unexpectedly took us too long to get to this side of the island.

After biking, we had dinner at local comedor, or dining place. Although Becky was tired and went to sleep, I went downstairs and hung out with some of the people. Including a couple of Dutchmen who we managed to coerce into signing Dutch songs for us.

Electricity was out for most of the day, before nightfall it came back, along with WiFi.

Overall, I am not too fond of this place. Room, food, and equipment fees are much too high (using Nicaraguan standards). There is a lack of a homey, welcoming feeling. I feel that this place is much too commercialized. We will be staying here because of convenience and availability of equipment.

One thing I will note. There are more and more tourist in Nicaragua than I saw three years ago. A lot more! Although annoying to see clueless white people everywhere, this is good for the country and I am happy.

I will leave my pictures uploading tonight, and update this post with some selected pictures tomorrow. If there is electricity.
UPDATE: All pictures here.
A couple of my favorites. IMG_0168IMG_0199

I made It ...

Currently, I am sitting in Ometepe the island in the middle of the big lake in Nicaragua.

I arrived in Managua only 20 minutes late. With somebody from Paxeos waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. They waited for me as I purchased a phone and used an ATM where I was able to withdraw cash in the local currency.

The driver took me to where Becky lives. When I got there, I was informed that Becky left a couple of days earlier and had not come back. This upset me, but the other volunteers in the house were very kind and allowed me to stay and wait for her. After about twenty minutes she showed up.

At this point I unloaded a laptop I my formal clothes that I did not want to carry around in Ometepe. We left for the dock where the ferry leaves, only to find out that we needed to buy tickets hours ago. Becky had failed me by not purchasing tickets earlier.

Luckily we were able to take a bus to a another city further south on the lake edge and take another ferry that took us down there. We finally made it to the island around 7pm. We found the first hotel, got a room. Had dinner, stayed up scheming out plans for the next few days.

Now, it's time to sleep.

I have been very bad about taking pictures, but I was too tired. I will be more detailed on my adventures and include more pictures starting tomorrow. We should be seeing a waterfall and some petroglyphs tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Arriving in Nicaragua ...

The layover in Mexico City was sadly uneventful. I am still upset that I was not able to leave the airport because of time constrictions.

I boarded my second flight to Managua. Were are on a small jet, and I am no longer in first class. Sad.

Here is a list of things that I need to do when I land.

1. Find bags
2. Get through customs (hopefully without paying some stupid tax)
3. Get cash from ATM
4. Purchase cell phone
5. Find shuttle company that will take me to Granada
6. Call relatives and let them know that I made it alive

No Mexico City Adventure...

Sadly because my plane was delayed I only have about three hours between my flights. This is far too little time for me to leave the airport.

Even before leaving the airport became a logistical impossibility, I was hesitant to leave because I did not want to deal with customs and security. I now know this was moot. Although I have a connecting flight I still had to go through customs and redo airport security. This was extremely annoying.

I am now sitting on the floor of the Mexico City Airport, trying to recharge my battery as much as possible. There is no Wi-Fi, so I guess this will be posted when I get internet somewhere in Nicaragua.

The sun just came up. I can start to see light through some holes on the wall. See picture below.

Update .. a restaurant upstairs where I had breakfast had Wi-Fi. So this got posted.

Flying 1st Class....

After dinner and playing around the internet, I finally went to the boarding gate to wait for the flight to start boarding.

The bad news: The flight was delayed by more than an hour, meaning that my Mexico City adventure is probably not going to happen.

The good news: Because tickets were oversold, I was upgraded to first class!

This is the first time that I have flown first class. Only 15 minutes into the experience and I never wan to fly coach. I was allowed to board ahead of all everyone else. I got to see everyone board after me. People kept staring at me as they walked past me to find their seat in the back of the plane. I am not sure if they were jealous, thought that I was a rich prick, thought that I was too young to be flying first class, or knew that that I was upgraded for free and are upset that this not happen to them.

The main reason that I was upgraded is that I am flying with my frequent flyer number, and I am flying alone.

There are some really cute looking girls walking past me, almost makes me want to downgrade just to talk to them. The first class is almost empty and I don't have anyone to talk to. This makes me sad. I enjoy talking to people during long flights. I will write more as about my flight experience as the flight get on its way.

-----Two hours into the flight ------

I had a second dinner. I could not abstain, it looked good. I was impressed with the fact that they gave us real cloth napkins and and metal utensils. I even took a picture of my meal before I ate it (below). The fact that I am impressed with these things clearly shows just how accustomed I've become to the bare minimum in coach.
The free booze is also nice.

I also had a chance to meet an very interesting family. The father was born in Zimbabwe, and lived in Cuba for a few years where he met his wife (who is Cuban). They both now live in Australia. They are on their way Cuba to visit family. He is a civil engineer, and spend some time telling me about concrete. I would have actually been more interested in the topic if it weren't for the fact that it's 3am for me.

I should try to get some sleep before I land.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The LAX Waiting Game...

I left my apartment a little after 6pm. By 8pm, I was at LAX with my boarding pass, past security, and sitting at a restaurant having dinner.

My plane does not board until 11pm, so yeah ... I have three hours of waiting time.

As I am writing this, I am about half way into the waiting time. I sat next to this woman who happened to be a lawyer. She was really interesting and we had a great conversation about law, significant others, the military, career choices, and traveling. Sadly, she had a flight to catch and had to go. She was kinda of cute too.

One thing that I am glad about about myself is that I am able to strike a conversation with just about anyone. This is a good skill to have, and has proven to be useful.

Right now the biggest thing that is occupying my mind, is the question of whether or not to leave the airport in Mexico city with only a five hour layover. I have subway maps. Pages from a guide book, telling me how to get from the airport to Zocalo. It's cutting it really close. Half of the people that I talk to think it's a good idea and the other half think it'd bad. I am not sure at this point. I guess this is going to be moot if the plane comes in late. We'll see. Updates to come.

Unfinished Business Before I leave the Country ...

I wanted to complain about certain companies before I leave the country. This is a good way for me to leave all of the bad karma behind.


The messed up my reservations, TWICE. However, they did try to make up for it by offering me a $25 dollar voucher each time. I tried to use these vouchers for my NYC trip in August. The first one was applied without any problems. The second one ... oh man.

The main thing I hate about calling them is that their calling center is outsourced to India. I have no problems with this, except for the fact that their accents are so hard to understand over the phone. Six calls, and four emails later I got a supervisor who was willing to "make an exception" for me and manually apply the second voucher. Apparently, I cannot use two vouchers on the same reservations. This was something that nobody told me, and this term was not in the email with the voucher information. She made me feel like I did something wrong, and was helping me out of the kindness of her heart. One advice when dealing with them, there are better supervisors if you call during the day and not 2am.

I am NEVER using them again.

Second: Anthem/Blue Cross

My health insurance bill is due on the first of every month. They force me to pay a $4 bill printing fee, when I don't want a printed bill. No option to pay online. I can pay using their automated phone system. Except is doesn't work. I keep getting an infinite loop when the systems asks me for my ID#. Since I am leaving the country, it will be very hard for me to call back when they are open and I can speak to a human. I hope, I have time to call from Nicaragua. Otherwise, my insurance will lapse, and God forbid I need it when I am injured abroad. Bastards.

Third: Procter and Gamble, makers of Febrezee Noticables

This is an air freshener that you plug in. If you let the oil run out and leave it plugged in, it can damage your floors. Picture here.

Last: Nicaraguan business in general.

For some reason latin american countries do not believe that business should be open on Sunday. I've been trying to get reservations to a nice restaurant on a Sunday night, only to be told my many of them are closed that day. Gerrrr. I eventually managed to reserve an early dinner at one place for an EARLY 4:30pm dinner.

Ok ... all done. I feel better. Now I can enjoy my trip. Not a bad post in the time it took this bus to get to LAX.

On my Way to LAX....

Right now I am sitting on a bus, on my way to LAX.

One thing I am going to miss while I am in Nicaragua is having internet access for my laptop everywhere by using my phone as modem.

I will try write about my trip to Nicaragua everyday, and upload the entries whenever I get a chance to connect to the Internet.