Archive for June, 2006

Granada, Nicaragua

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

The 12 hour bus ride to Managua was actually pretty relaxing. At $30, King Quality is the most expensive bus but well worth it. There’s plenty of space and the seats recline way back. They even feed you. Our only real complaint is the too cold aircon. They gave us blankets and pillows though! Also, the DVD player was on the fritz and we got to see the first half of several movies.

Arriving at midnight in Managua is stressful. It was impossible to get away from people trying to “help” you find a hotel/cab/whatever or pitching a sob story to ask for money. This is very different than El Salvador where people are very friendly and will talk to you without any other motive.

The hotel across the street from the bus station was $35 (very expensive by central american standards) so we decided to take a cab to the neighborhood with all the budget hotels. We forgot that it was midnight and when we got there the area was pretty deserted. On the way our cab driver stopped to ask directions from a man standing in the middle of an intersection with a billy club. The guy started to get in our cab and I protested, but he said “Don’t worry, I’m security. Look at my club!” The hotel we picked from the guidebook was full, of course. A man came out of the nearby bar to “help” and led us to another place across the street. It was horrid and they wanted $30. We laughed and walked out. Finally, we found a half way decent place down the street for $12. Not a great place, but at this point we didn’t care and were half tempted to take a cab back to first hotel.

In the morning, everything was fine. We walked around and had breakfast without getting mobbed. Then walked to the bus station to get on to Granada.

Granada is Beautiful. We had lunch and fresh juice on the main plaza. Vigoron (Yucca topped with fired pork skin, and pickled cabbage salad) and pithaya juice (like a dragon fruit, but pinkish purple inside). I’m pretty much immune to begging for money and can say no without a twinge in my conscience. However, when we were nearly finished one of the kids approached to try and sell us gum. I said no, of course, but then he asked if he could have a glass of water (we had a 1.5 liter bottle on the table). We poured him a glass and he chugged it down without breathing. A few other kids gathered around and wanted some too. I felt bad and this pretty much endeared me to those kids. How can you say no to someone who can’t afford or find drinking water? Now we have to carry extra water at all times.

Sorry we don’t have any photos of Nicaragua to put up yet, but here are some Scarlet Macaws from Honduras to add some color.

a pair of scarlet macaws. Copan, Honduras

Exiting the bar

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Celtic Dancer exiting the bar at Bahia del sol, El Salvador

We finally got to see someone leave the estero. Celtic Dancer, Barefoot and Tortuga all left yesterday without incident.

Cochinitas: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Breakfast

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Hand Painted sign, Carne de Cedro, Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico

During our trip to Playa del Carmen for the wedding, we decided to visit Chichen-Itza, which is one of the major Mayan ruins we had not yet seen. We arrived in the evening to Piste, a small town about a kilometer from the ruins, and got a hotel for the evening; we wanted to get to the ruins first thing in the morning to avoid the teeming masses.

It was Saturday night in Piste and the town was decidedly NOT happening. The quasi-square area cleared out pretty much at dark and most of the restaurants were either empty or weird “Authentic Mayan Buffet” tourist places and empty. We had an inconsequential dinner at a random place after I chokingly refused the delicious-looking tamales being sold by the nice old couple in front of the main grocery. (I have a problem with corn and could not afford any digestive drama if I planned to be walking all over the ruins the next day.) Tamales are one of my absolute favorite foods and it makes me cry every time I have to pass up anything wrapped in a banana leaf that might be a tamale. Joshua refused the tamales out of solidarity.

The next morning we emerged bright and early (it was Sunday) hoping the weird bakery might be open and we could get some sort of pastry. We were not optimistic as it was early and I have found few Mexican bakeries that have anything I want to eat.

Then, we noticed a glowing golden light yonder across from the main grocery towards where the market is located. A food stand! (Hot damn!!) A food stand at seven in the morning and it was already surrounded by crowd of men bent over plates of food. The stand had a large vat of what turned out to be pork ‘cochinitas’ (pibil possibly?–we originally mistook it for carnitas, but were corrected by a gaggle of ravenous old ladies). People were ordering it in tacos, in tortas, or in dripping plastic bags to go (all the women were getting theirs to go); the cochinita guy would pick out a mixture of all the parts: ear, skin, fat, normal meat, and then scoop in some of the juice. We ordered tortas and specified that we wanted ‘pura carne’ or just meat. The guy was super friendly and laughed at our crazy tourist persnicketyness and put together two totally awesome tortas of pura carne with chopped pickled onions on top. I think this is the best torta I’ve had on the trip. Definitely the best pork I’ve ever had. It was tender and there weren’t any gelatinous gooey bits (I just hate that, although I know many consider this the best part); the pork has been stewed in a sort of red sauce, possibly with annatto, which seems to be a popular spice in the region. The roll was fresh and chewy (so many are flimsy and crumbly).

We stumbled off to Chichen-Itza for the day, utterly blissed out in a cochinita torta stupor. We were the first to arrive at the ruins and had the place to ourselves for all of fifteen minutes when two or three other people arrived. It is a fascinating ruin with many relief carvings in excellent shape but you are not allowed to climb up anything anymore, which is understandable but still a bummer. At the base of some of the major structures, the information plaque will detail tantalizing artifacts that mean this highly significant thing and how there is original paint still visible on that famous relief, etc., and you just have to imagine it. Plus the museum was closed for renovation. Sigh. The vast majority of the tourist population of all of the Yucatan arrived in a convoy of air-conditioned coaches around 10 to 11:00am-ish and the ruins turned into an obstacle course of German or Italian tour groups. We had to wade through the latte-wielding, Senor Frog’s t-shirt-sporting masses to get out. We enjoyed a hot but quiet walk back to town where we hopped a bus to Valladolid.

Big Nosed Gods. Chichenitza, Yucatan, Mexico

(Big-nosed gods.)

Stone carving details. Chichenitza, Yucatan, Mexico

Stone carving details. Chichenitza, Yucatan, Mexico

(Detail of some relief carvings.)

Starved, we deposited our backpacks at a totally reasonable and decent (albeit toiletseat-less) hotel called Lili’s. Lucky for us, there was another cochinita food stand right across the street from the hotel! We had our second cochinita torta of the day. It was delicious but not as delicious as the one we had for breakfast in Piste. We spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly about in the heat taking in the sights of colonial Valladolid. Darkness found us in the zocalo where there were zillions of food stands with various snacky things and lo! There was another cochinita stand was set up at the edge of the square. I was still reeling a little from two major meals of cochinita and so I took only a delicate bite or two of Joshua’s third happy pork meal in one day.

Hand Painted sign. Carne de Res. Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

(Not pork obviously, but a cute advertisement of a sweet little cow.)

And yes, as the title of this post might suggest, it was more cochinitas for us come morning and breakfast time. Joshua was just about to die of bliss, never having gotten away before with eating pork for every single meal two days running.

Me, I was ready for a salad.

Return to the estuary. Also, a mini-tragedy.

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Sunset on the Estero de Jaltepeque (aka Bahia del Sol) El Salvador

It’s probably evident already by the sudden influx of blog posts with numerous photos that we have arrived back to the estuary after a four-week trip to the Yucatan for Sage and Elise’s wedding. We left the boat on its own anchor and had a local guy looking after it but we didn’t exactly know what to expect when we returned; insane mildew takeover, one or more hulls gored by one of the rogue tree trunks that roam about the estuary, a bat infestation in the mainsail, a gaping hole lacking any boat whatsoever where we thought we had left it, etc. However, we returned to no more than a couple of cups of water in the bilge curtsey of a small but sprightly leak in our babystay. And a bat infestation in the mainsail. Well, one small bat. One small bat who, in violation of all rational physics, produced about three metric tons of batshit.

Babystay leak promptly sealed, we went about our business for two or three days noticing all this batshit but not actually able to wrap our minds around the reality because there was Just. So. Much. Of. It. There was a minor storm the day after we returned that kicked up some major wind and waves and let loose a torrent of wee pellets from our sail cover, which are startlingly similar in appearance to mouse, or godforbid rat, poops. “Huh,” we said.

We decided, after our previous boat-abandonment success (no mold, missing boat, etc.), to button up Time Machine once more and head off to Nicaragua to be land-based tourists for a couple more weeks. With the advent of electrical storm season, we were concerned that not only does the boat sport one giant aluminum middle finger sticking right up into the clouds, in the event of a strike, the charge would surely ignite the tons of guano and send our boat sky high in a fiery ball. Something had to be done; the inevitable eviction would be an event, to be sure, as I was certain we had at least a caveful of the things nestled amongst the folds of the sail.

Utterly preoccupied with bats and how an attack might be launched, we barely noticed the pair of ‘golondrinas’ (a type of swallow?) that had clearly used our absence to set up house in the one bat-free fold of our main. The sneaky little bastards would wait until we weren’t looking, then ferry in a feather or two to line the pad, lay an egg or four, etc. All the time I was thinking, “Hmm, those birds must really like us or something…”

Golondrina (Swallow)

‘Operation Eliminate Temporary Ecosystem, um, Eagle’ commenced yesterday afternoon during a not-terribly-windy spell. We released the catch on the bottom of the mainsail and prepared to remove the sail entirely for safekeeping in more bat-proof quarters. And this is the first thing we saw:

Golondrina (swallow) nest with eggs in our sail

Whoa. Not a bat lair but a nest of great cuteness populated by four wee little eggies. So thaaaats what they’ve been up to; the parent birds were by this point flying all around the boat, basically freaking out I suppose. Not that the behavior of a freaking-out golondrina is any different than its non-freaking-out state, since they are particularly hyperactive little guys normally. We decided to remove the nest intact without touching it if possible so we used the bailer from the dinghy and just scooped up the nest. It fit rather perfectly and the container was similar in shape to the fold of the sail. We put the bailer in the cockpit cubby, which can be seen from the original nest position in hopes that the birds could wrap their little minds around the concept of Relocated Nest.

We commenced the careful extraction of the sail while diverting the rivers of batshit over the side of the cockpit. Finally we saw the bat. There was only one and he was very small. And cute.

cute bat and bat poop in our sail

Gah! The discovery! Rudely awakened, he tried to retreat back into the tighter folds of the sail. (Note cache of batshit.)

bat discovered

As we continued to remove the sail from the track, he abandoned his nook and made a bold attempt to scale the mast in hopes that there might be a quiet dark spot up higher. (There’s not.)

cute bat and bat poop in our sail

Alas! No place to hide up above; mast-scaling attempt aborted. The bat made again for the sail while, as a last-ditch effort, trying to scare us away with some scary bat antics. After this failed to remove us from the scene and/or produce a quiet dark spot to nest in, he jumped down into the cockpit and climbed up the curtain, dangerously close to the cabin entrance. Not interested in any new crew members at this time, Joshua shooed him around until he escaped into the cubby at the side of the cockpit (where the nest had been temporarily relocated). Satisfied that there was nowhere to go from here unless he burrowed through the speakers, we let him stay. Hopefully he’ll just fly away once it gets dark and find a less-rambunctious place to sleep. No other bats were discovered as the remainder of the mainsail was removed. We cleaned it up and folded it away.

Meanwhile, the golondrinas were still flying all around and chittering at us or each other. Joshua had grave concerns about the birds’ powers of reason and was not optimistic that they would able to relocate to a nesting spot not four feet from the original one. I figured that they might happen to look down if they went to the former location and recognize their nest and eggs; plus, we had been careful to not touch the nest and get our smelly people germs all over it. (Not that the boat contains any of these smelly people germs, or the mainsail, for that matter.) Joshua thought maybe we could affix the bailer to the maststep (which was approximately where the nest used to be located) and that would solve the problem. He wedged the bailer into the maststep and when he went to get a rope to secure it, it somehow popped out and nest and eggs went splattering all over the top of our deck.

It was very sad and traumatic and I practically started crying. The eggs were perhaps halfway matured so that you could see red developing-bird bits inside while the cracked eggshells bled white amniotic goo. The parent birds continued their erratic flight patterns about the boat and we felt very, very guilty; I don’t know if they grasped what exactly had happened. Joshua felt particularly terrible and gathered up what remained of the nest back into the bailer and put it back into the cockpit cubby, where it’s still sitting because we don’t know what to do with it. We gave the broken egg babies a sea burial.

Curiously, the parent golondrinas did not flee the boat after the terrible destruction of their nest and potential offspring; in fact, it appears they are preparing to build a new one. We’re fairly certain that they can’t build it anywhere that will be in the way or require removal anytime soon, and so we look forward to seeing a new little nest with four new eggies when we get back from Nicaragua.

The WhoDyt ReSip

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

This precious gem was found lying around on a table in Punta Gorda (Belize); we desperately wanted it for our very own but feared it belonged to someone. Someone with a colorful sense of spelling and a raging appetite for whodyt. Such a person might just be dangerous.

(You can click the photo to see a larger image.)

A basic translation and discussion follows:
The WhoDyt ReSip
A strong statement is made immediately with the piece’s title boldly written across the top in black lettering over a scarlet border: The WhoDyt ReSip. Arguments can be made as to why the author chose to highlight certain letters (namely, the D in WhoDyt and the S in ReSip) with capitalization, and further arguments may be made as to whether the S is even capitalized at all. Or what the bloody hell is a Whodyt anyway.

Counat Interpretative spelling of the word ‘coconut’ (or currant)? My guess is coconut because I have a feeling the author might have chosen to spell ‘currant’ with a K.
3 green 1 ripe plante[n?] Plantain? Note different color chosen for the second ingredient, a clear indication that the second ingredient is distinct and separate from the first. Also, that the author has recently obtained a new box of colored markers. (And, have you ever actually tried to eat an unripe plantain? This resip calls for three.)
3 Leaft of Kulant[?]o Some indecision occurred when drawing the initial L in Leaft. The author may have begun the word with a very small circle or squiggly glyph before reconsidering and covering the error with a thick snakey tail on the L. A possible translation: 3 leaves of cilantro (or currant). Again, a color change.
½ of a onion No spelling anomalies nor random capitalizations; clearly, an unimportant ingredient. Note color change.
counat milk It is unclear whether the initial C is capitalized, actually. It is presumed that this item refers to the first ingredient although the color is distinct. Repetition of already-used colors is evident; other markers have already been lost or eaten by younger siblings.
[??] of basans This ingredient leaves a considerable amount open to interpretation. A blank of basans. Bassoons? Currants? Hopefully this is not a key ingredient requiring precise preparation. If I had to make this dish, I might substitute the word “salt” for the lot.
2 or 3 fish Simple. Definitive.

[Instructions for preparation:]
Bolb the green planten first for a pout 5 mints or 15 mints (probably depending upon whether you used 2 or 3 fish)
The putthe ripe one in

Actually, I think this is all fairly self-explanatory. Bolb the green planten.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell