Sunday, February 22, 2009

Constant surprises

Well I'm sitting on the back open air area of this amazing casa in Nicaragua, on the beach with an infiniti pool with nothing around other than the people that invited us over who happen to be big time Surf industry execs. Crazy how these things happen. Back to that later. So since the last blog a lot has happened. After leaving the worst concrete hotel room in the border town, finally in Nicaragua, we start driving towards a beach named Pochomil. Again on the search for waves & on the search of how to get there. Nicaragua has a lot of ox-cars or "pickups" and like all these countries is starkly different than the one before. First impression is how friendly people are, again. We don't have a gps or cell phones or internet to help us get around so we're constantly asking someone for directions, surely a few hundred times now. Constant interaction with someone new who reacts to the site of us in a variety of entertaining ways - kids yelling and waiving, people smiling, etc. So we are driving and get stuck in this city, leon, trying to pass through towards our beach destination. I stop and ask a woman for directions, working on the Spanish still, and she is responding in a way that let's us know it's not easy. This guy on a bicycle starts talking and tells us to follow him, he'll ride in front of us and show us out of town. Mind you it's 100 degrees out, midday and he peddles for a good 2 km's with a number of turns. He eventually stops & waives us up to tell us the rest of the directions, out of breath and sweating, so of course we give him a little money which he's amped on. Just typical niceness we come across almost everywhere. Next down the road we get waived over to the side of the road by the Nica police, which we haven't had any encounter with yet. Sure enough they come up with a "ticket" and a bribery situation. We get off pretty cheap and move on. Shortly down the road we see a couple hitch hiking, young couple that I saw ride by in the back of a local pickup truck while we were dealing with the police. He had a surfboard and they had their back packs. I drove past them, still a little rattled from the po po incident and probably drove about 5 Km's until I said to fish " I think we should give them a ride." I guess I felt like they were in the middle of nowhere and I guess I could use the good karma. So we pull over, shuffle some things around in the car and turn back to get them. They're over the moon to have us scoop them up. Turns out to be a young couple from Chile & they're headed to Pochomil too. So now there are four, they are really nice and pretty young about 21ish. We head to camp pochomil for a couple nights the camp site on the beach was probably the nicest set up we've had on the trip yet. The waves that were supposed to be good, never really turned up & we explored around the coast after breaking down camp and decided to head south towards popoyo, a couple hour journey off the coast and then back in and the chileans join us again. We land in Popoyo, a really small cool beach town, dirt road and a few places to stay that are all really cheap. We land at the popoyo surf camp, good vibes and prices....cost 2 dollars a night for a hammock or you can spring for a room with a bed for 5 dollars. The surf here is really fun and the people I met are really nice. Really fun times surfing 3 times a day and made new friends from the netherlands, a couple from france, a couple from england, a couple from germany (the german guy puts on and enters fingerboard skateboarding comps), and a girl from western australia. I was surfing with the aussie girl a bunch and hanging out too and while we were surfing these guys turned up in a boat and made some talk with her and invited her and friends over for dinner. Well she asked me if I wanted to go so I said sure and fish joined too. We headed for an adventure to meet these guys at another beach, driving on dirt bumpy roads, through rivers and we land on a beach but the guys aren{t there. There are these little groms from nicaragua though, all amped on surfing. They{re about 10 years old and all have 5 foot surfboards. I tell them whoever gets the best tube, because it was beach break barrels, gets a hat. One of the kids had a full on standup barrel and exit, it was better than my barrels. I have some great photos with those kids, we hung around for a while trying to figure out how to track down the other guys. I can{t upload pics until I get my laptop online. So we ask around this community on the cliffside about these guys, they tell us they are staying in another gated community so we start driving towards that. We get to the first security guard and let Naomi do the talking, shes blonde from australia and speaks pretty ok spanish so figured the guards might let us through. We get through gate #1 through some negotiating. we hit another gate and they{re reluctant to let us through but we talk our way in, now we are driving around these amazing houses but dont know where these guys are. A security guy sees us cruising and comes to talk to us and knows the guys and drives us to their house. The house is amazing, infinit pools, huge massive thatched roof, etc. And the guy just happens to be Bob Hurley and 2 other guys, one is Steve who started a bunch of magazines - water, waves,etc and their friend Mark. These guys all live in Newport on the beach in the 60s street. Funny that I live 1 mile away from them in costa mesa but took being in nicaragua to meet them. They have a cook, the full on rich lifestyle going on and they welcome us in for dinner, pool, etc. Of course at some point it comes up that Im friends with Dj who works for Bob, hes stoked on the connection. Hes interested in my travels, makes me show him pics which he loves and we talk surf. The funny thing was that the night before, my wetsuit jacket was stolen from our hostel. The water in nicaragua with the strong offshores has been chilly. I was telling bob about my jacket being stolen, only in the context of telling him how stoked I was to be on this trip and was saying that even though my jacket was stolen and i was bummed for a little bit, I couldnt stay mad because I was here in nicaragua surfing these great waves and having this great adventure. Sure enough he walks away and comes back with a jacket of his, that he gives me. Tells me its a prototype for a new one theyre coming out with. So I get robbed the night before and get given a new on the next day. Its cool how things like that work out because I have been giving people things along the way - hats, tshirts, stickers, rides, etc and I was bummed my thing got stolen and then I met someone who could hook me up for a change. Another generous gift was that Naomi has this terrible surfboard she bought in puerto viejo costa rica and she got ripped off on a repair job of the fin plugs...the guy didnt fix them and one of them was loose and couldnt actually be fastened in. Horrible board, terrible condition and when we showed it to bob, he kind of laughed and before they left he gave her his brand new Al Merrick surfboard....this thing has no pressure dings, no nothing and is perfect. She is over the moon about it obviously. Another similar siutation to mine, I get robbed and I get hooked up, she gets taken advantage of and in return gets an insanely nice gift. If I hadn{t been robbed, I wouldnt have gotten the jacket and if she didnt have such a crappy board he wouldnt have given the other to her. Funny how things work out sometimes. The night has more stories that are in my journal but We stayed the night at his place and surfed the next morning before they left. Back to popoyo to hang out with all the travelers, its fun talking to everyone about their travels. You learn a lot, especially being from the states and realizing what a big impact our presidential elections has on everyone and how close everyone follows it. The surf in popoyo was really fun, nicaragua boasts offshore winds everyday all year. Popoyo is a fun right with a better left, breaking over a rock shelf. The water was oddly a little cold though, we needed a little rubber to stay in for hours. This morning fish ran out of money so we decided it was time to move on, we might be heading to costa rica today. After popoyo it really made me realize I want to be traveling alone and not have someone else to worry about what they want to do. If he wasnt here I probably would have stayed for another week or 2. But Im also looking forward to costa rica and hopefully getting some waves, especially our potential first stop at Roca Bruja. Im also looking forward to ending my travels with Fish and doing my own thing. Nicaragua is a really cool, cheap place and I plan on returning. Nos Vemos, Pasa buen dia!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

drive thru

Look at this, Im back at the blog and its only been a couple of days. But in this trip a lot of crazy things happens in a couple of days. El Salvador was great, the surf set up there is dreamlike....its basically like trestles or rincon, like 20 of them, but minus the crowds. The swells aren{t really hitting right now though, its not the time of year but still we caught really fun surf. Stayed at these cabañas on the beach with good waves out the back. so we explored around el salvador, which is a really small country, for a few days. Back to the road after the swell forecast is small and we cant wait everywhere forever for waves, even though I want to. Driving in central america is pretty crazy, constantly avoiding cows, lots of cows, horses, dogs, more dogs, goats, pigs and people. I nearly hit a pig today, it was realllly close. So driving through el salvador you see a lot of women, similar to guatemala, balancing things on their heads as they walk. Whats crazy is a lot of them are carrying huge bundles of wood and its like 100 degrees out. Im in my car with AC crying about being hot. anyways we drive through el salvador without much problems and then its another border crossing, this time without Ricardo who was handling it at the others. We get mobbed again and these guys are really pushy, they make it hard to say no because when the official is telling us what they need they just start saying come over here for copies, etc etc etc. So this guy is running around with me, we havent agreed a payment, Im low on actual cash in my pocket and dont have any honduras money. El Salvador actually adopted the US dollar as their money so that was strange but easy, no conversions all the time. Anyway we run all over and then the guy tells estaban that he wants 20 dollars and that we agreed to it. They argue, fish isnt the nicest guy in the world, the guy is telling him he knows his people are nice and blah blah and one thing leads to another and the guy leaves with nothing and we are not done getting through the border. So now we are on our own, the girl who is filling out my car info is talking on her cell phone the entire time and she stamps my passport and papers as all done which we find out later is not true. So now we just have to drive about 2 hours in honduras to get to nicaragua and again we are fighting against the sun and dont want to be out at night. We get stopped by police about 5 mins later, at a check point and they say I need triangles and an extinguisher in my car or its a ticket. I have triangles from the emergency road side kit Stephen gave me but no extinguisher. I had just bought this quick fix flat tire thing and told them it was an extinguisher, I didnt really know what they wanted so I just picked it up and said "esta¿" (this) and they tried to read it but it was in english so they let me pass. Then they said they wanted to take everything out of the truck and when we said sure no problem they said, nevermind but how about you just give us money for some drinks. 3 dollars later we are gone. Next police checkpoint pull us over, fish is driving, and they say he was speeding then they say we didnt do everything at the border and someone called them. Well come to find out the girl that wrote on my papers left out a number on my VIN, left a number out on my passport number and so he said fish needed to pay a fine. We are both a little short on actual cash. A lot of arguiing and we get out of there 30 dollars later and its getting dark, we both want out of Honduras. Next police checkpoint, same thing...we didnt do our papers properly so they say and they want money. Its getting really old. We pass them with no money and get to the border, finally some people that are decent and nice and the guy tells us we missed a step at the other border but since the girl stamped my papers it was her fault, because they checked us when we started driving and they saw the stamp and said move I had paid all the enormous fees which were way way higher for honduras than any other country. basically 50 bucks to get in with my car, plus 33 more in bribes. These guys get us all straight, making phone calls and sort out the papers, we are so happy they werent also going to be corrupt because we were both done with that business and so ready to leave Honduras, most expensive country yet and only for 2 hours. They get us straight and we are off to the nicaragua border. I got to import my car in nicaragua while fish is getting our passports stamped by aduana and I dont have all the right papers, honduras kept them. Soooo now we have to start explaining ourselves, who we are, what are we doing, whats in the truck, etc etc etc. FINALLY we get approved to enter, we have almost no money and its dark. We ask if its safe to drive to the town we wanted to go, about an hour away and the guy at the border said " maybe if you drive real fast". I didnt want to do it, fish did and I made us stop this tiny town on the other side of the border. Hotels are full except one, which has to be the worst place ever...well about equal to the cheap place fish brought us to in Manzanillo that rented rooms by the hour and I threw up all night on KFC. Anyway, its only 10 dollars which we have and we chose to stay in this dump with pigs running around and sketchy people. This night I need some beer to be able to sleep here. Anyway no we left that spot, stopped at an internet cafe to look at surf reports and maps. Hope all is well with everyone and make sure you appreciate having a nice bathroom with a flushable toilet, hot water showers, roads without potholes, cows, chickens, goats, pigs, dogs, etc to dodge and all the other luxuries we live with on a day to day basis.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

and then there were two....

well once again it's been a while since I've written in this blog and soooo many things have happened since the last entry. I have passed thru an entire country since the last post. Crossing the border from mexico into guatemala was a crazy experience. When we drive near the border, we get mobbed by people and I mean mobbed. All people that want to "help" us cross the border since the process is confusing and you have to go to different places for immigration and for importation of my car. But in general people mob me everywhere and stare at me everywhere. I don't know if it is because of my good looks, bald head, white skin or big black truck with cali plates but I guess it's probably a combination of all. So when these "helpers" see my rig pulling up, they all fight for our attention by surrounding the car and yelling things. This is when it's great to have ricardo because he takes over but because it's my car, I have to do everything with him with my title, passport, license, etc. Anyway we run around here and there with all this madness and in the end the lady that approves the imporatation of my car wants like 180 US dollars to approve it. This, of course, isn't documented anywhere and we are fighting back and forth and offered 20 dollars to which we were denied. Finally Ricardo being fed up with all the back and forth tells the guy he's going to tell everyone in the building what they are doing to us if he doesn't get us in sooooo we slip a 20 dollar bill in my passport, hand it back to the lady and viola we are approved to enter with my vehicle for 90 days. That sort of rattles our start to guatemala, leary of sketchy people after that. We get in much later than we wanted and end up trying to find a beach with no luck so we head for a pay phone to call estefans cousin who lives in guatemala city, which is like 2 hours from the beach. We end up going to his house which was an adventure driving into that city, which is nestled between 3 volcano peaks. The next morning we leave at 4 am to head to surf and can see lava exploding from one of the volcanoes which was amazing, I had never seen anything like it. The beach was empty of anything remotely related to surfers or surfing except the fact that the waves were firing. Possible the best waves of the trip have been in guatemala. beach break barrels, just us & the dolphins surfing....really really fun. After that we head back up to antigua which is outside of gautemala city, it's an old coblestone city also nestled between volcano peaks with markets and mayan decendent people that reminded me of peru. Felt like another planet with lady's carrying things balanced on their head, markets like you'd never see in the states and madness in general. Driving is crazy in these countries too, speed limits are merely a suggestion as well as all driving rules really. Estefan was telling me his cousin or her friend took a driving test and there was a question of how many people can you put in the back of a truck and she answered zero which was wrong, the correct answer is 10...and I saw much more than 10 crammed in a lot of truck beds. We had a crazy adventure there trying to get to the volcano, always an issue trying to go places with my truck which everyone loves...and that is not a good thing. I was ready to kill everyone in my car because they're all yelling different things in spanish and english because we're in sketchy neighborhoods heading to the volcano which we couldn't visit because in the end it was too dangerous to leave the car. The next day Ricardo & I go to surf, estefan goes to the embassy to take care of his visa for nicaragua. Another day of firing surf, just 2 of us. We get back, pick up estefan and head for the border. We mistakenly cancel my temp car import in guatemala since I don't think I'll be driving back thru within the next 90 days and we are in know mans land trying to get into el salvador....and they don't let Ricardo in. Apparently venezuela started requiring salvadorians to get visas to come there so they returned the favor. so we have to go back to guatemala and we drive 100 yards back and they won't let me and my car back in since we canceled the permit 30 mins ago. They want ricardo to go in alone to guatemala city which is 3 hours away in my car, the embassy is closed for the day so it'd be a day or 2 before he could return. We beg and plead and finally they let us back in, we drive all the way back and get back to estefans familys house. They're really nice to me, give me their bed, feed me, and talk to me in english even though I ask to be talked to in spanish. Ricardo calls home and Kalani, his son, is sick and they don't know whats wrong. He starts feeling really bad being away having fun. The next day we go get his visa, which was a hassle for him...I went for a run in guatemala city while he's doing that and when he's done he decided he was going to fly home. So we find him a flight for the following morning. That evening estefans cousin, Tomas, took us all skateboarding in guatemala city which was really fun. I have my long board, he rides long boards and has these gloves that make it really fun to do slides and we go shred the town. Fun experience for me, I can remember saying how cool is it that I'm bombing hills in guatemala city? So the following morning he goes to the airport, estefan and I head for the beach for one last surf in good surf again and then we head for el salvador. And then there were two. I wish it was ricardo and I, rather than estefan and I but I don't blame him for leaving...fatherhood. Things change constantly and you just have to roll with it. We leave guatemala and I cancel my permit for my vehicle again and this time they tell me I can't return before may 9th so I'm for sure not driving back before then. El salvador is so close but so different, the people, the beaches, everything. We get stuck at the border for a really long time doing the paperwork and we already have conflicting views of where we want to go so some how or another we broke all of our rules and got caught driving at dark, camping in a country we said we wouldn't camp in. We stopped at some ladys casa to eat dinner and she let us camp there....among the chickens, roosters, dogs, goats and other animals. It was night a good night for sleep for me, being a sketchy place andbeing 90 degrees at night. We survived though but it was a reminder that I wished Ricardo was still with us to keep estefan and his cheap ideas in line, he doesn't want to spend any money and Ricardo is more concerned with safety than anything. So I now have to take on that role and just make him go where I want, which is what I did yesterday. We landed at El Zonte and arrived to great trestles like waves with zero people out. Salvador has right pointers everywhere, rock reefs like trestles or rincon that just form great great waves. There isn't much swell, if there was a south this place would be a dream. So we're staying another night in an airconditioned room there and not sure when we'll head out. I'm not looking forward to more border crossing and we have to cross into honduras to get to nicaragua. Well this has gotten way to long, I'll stop now...there is always more to type but I'm sure nobody wants to read more. mas tarde, salud.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

buenas ondas

Well I guess it has been a little while since I have updated the bloggio. Im just not good at it. We are relaxing in the 95 degree heat at barra de la cruz waiting for waves. This trip has been like the Fuel Tv show Drive thru, a lot of driving and searching and definitely some headaches and some mood swings depending on how hungry everyone is combined with how lost we are. So it has been sort of nice to just chill in barra de la cruz with no waves, though I would rather have waves. But it has been nice to swing in the hammock and really slow down. We are constantly meeting people which is always interesting. Our new guy we have meet and been hanging out with is a guy named Ron, he is from Canada. He basically looks like einstein, crazy unbrushed gray hair and he acts like larry david with really dry sarcasm all the time and you never know when to believe what he is saying. He is constantly messing with us about waves and forecasts and anything. He makes these sculptors out of copper so he sits around talking about days that the waves were good while he is welding this cyclest that he is current making. He spends half the year selling this art in the states and the other half relaxing in mexico, not a bad life. Ron is staying at the same cabañas we are and we have been the only ones there for the past few days until today. Pepe is the manager of the place but ron acts like the manager, he shows everyone their room and even takes their money because pepe is always out doing some work. What{s been funny is that since there has been no surf, I have been exercising a lot...well most of the trip I have been. So everyone else feels lazy watching me and they end up wanting to exercise too. So I have been assigning activities to everyone, including ron. Ron and Ricardo jumped rope for 20 mins yesterday which was really funny. What happens is I wake up and run to the break and if it is flat I extend my run and then come back to the place and do some other stuff. When I get back they all are just waking up and see that I have been exercising and know the waves are flat so they figure they should do something too. So when I am done ricardo is first, he puts on my shoes and does a run or sprints. We all do pushups and situps, even fish is joining a little which exercise is not his thing but nobody wants to feel lazy. Ron says we are the first people to ever exercise there, other than surf. Since we wanted some exercise Pepe took us with him and his cousin on a little hike where they got us coconuts from the tree. Pepe had the machete and he cut those things like butter, perfect crisp cuts and had a perfect drinking hole within seconds. It was pretty cool to watch his skills. We all had to chug our own entire coconut. It was actually really good, me and my new aussie buddy were way slower at chugging this thing but we managed. He said he had to think like it was beer to get it all down and I was just hopefull that it might help with my kidney stones. I guess I forgot to mention that I have been having kidney stone issues still so they thought maybe coconut would help. Anyways in return for the coconuts and just because we wanted to help out, we all dragged these huge 15 foot palapa branches back to the cabañas for pepe to put up more shade. So we took a few trips, it was pretty hard work actually but it was nice to do something nice for pepe because he has been really nice to us. Crazy ron also had a remedy from the local curandero from his kidney stone incident last year so we have been making this natural tea remedy and I Have been chugging it like nobodys business. Ron swears by this natural remedy so I am giving it a go. Hopefully it will dissolve my stone like he said it did to him. Sorry this is so long, I guess this is why I need to type more often. We spent a few days in Puerto escondido which is a chill little surf town with a heaving wave similar to newport....not really my favorite kind of surf. We met some people there too, hung out with this german girl Aña 2 days and celebrated her birthday with her and her friends. She is a doctor in the bronx trying to open a practice in puerto soon, it was nice to at least interact with a girl since all we have seen is guys 99% of the time. Today some more people showed up in barra de la cruz at our cabañas, I took everyone to the beach with people standing on the outside of the truck holding onto the rack and carrying their boards. We surfed small barra rights but it was fun to get out. There is a nice couple from victoria australia that I have been hanging with all day, they remind me of my aussie friends. There is a couple from holland hanging out and a dready US girl just showed up from the jungles of belize. Her travels have sounded fun. I helped this older grongo guy that lives here, he is probably 60, set up his new ipod shuffle today. He didnt even know how to use a computer muchless have music but I got him set up and got some jefferson airplane and the likes of from rons mac (which he didn{t know how to use either). So all in all a lot of nice people, the people of mexico have been really nice. The lady who makes food on the beach wants to hook me up with una femina de barra which ricardo says is going to be interesting because they will probably really have someone that wants to marry me and move to the states. I have been talking with her to practice spanish because she doesn{t speak english and once she found out I was single, she started asking me if I liked gordas o flaucas or que te gusta (fat girls, skinny ones or what do you like) Ricardo being the clown that he is has been having a field day with all this. He makes everyone laugh, its fun. We have been getting along really good, as to be expected, he is just like a life long friend we just gel really good and have fun. Though he is obsessed with my iphone so I always have to go looking for it, he calls it his iphone. In the next day or 2 we will be driving south out of mexico and into guatemala. The aussie couple just came back from there with some great photos of cool places, though we don{t have much time so not sure how much I will actually see this time. Well we have a kitchen at our disposal and went into a nearby town to the local market for vegatables and such so I am off to cook, it is so nice to have an actual kitchen rather than cooking on the stove on the back of my truck. I did get a few, very few, pics uploaded from a wireless connection back in puerto escondido...check it out and hopefully I will have more pics up later. luego