Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mombacho Canopy Tour

I thought I was done with adrenaline rushing excitement and even went so far as to say so only a couple of days ago.  Apparently, I lied. 
We stopped at the Mombacho Volcano today.  We opted out of driving up the 1344m above sea level to hang out in the cloud canopy and walk around the craters.  Not to worry, the volcano has not been active since 1570, or so I am told. 
Instead, we stopped only part way up and engaged ourselves in the zipline/canopy tour.  Wow!. 

Look! It's a bird...
it's a plane...
it's super(wo)man! 

and who is her sidekick flying upside down? 

Hey, JD, your legs look a little too small for your body.  Weird!

 Ahh, Nora.  The girl who did not want to go on her own when we were on the ground but once in the air, she took to flying like a bird with wings.  Doesn't she look stylish, even in the air?

Averyl, you should shave your legs!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


JD's friends are just as odd and eccentric here as they are in Canada.  Santiago, aka Jim, has had a long history  with JD spanning three counties and two decades, as mentioned in previous posts, and he now lives on the outskirts of San Juan del Sur, the backpacker and surfer magnet town of Nicaragua.  Santiago has moved out of his bus, and into his newly constructed house, is still married to Queen Fairy Gwendolyn, yet again a reference to a previous post, and together they have a newborn baby boy named Thomas.  But not to worry about the bus...if you need a place to stay it is set up as a guest house. 
Santiago is a character and a regular at the local watering hole called Big Wave Daves, not unlike someone someone else I know who is a regular at the Apollo 11 Restaurant for breakfast.  Recently, Big Wave Daves renovated the premisis and hired a local artist to paint a mural on the side wall of the building.  The wall is adorned with Marilyn Munroe, Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and many others.  But saddled up to the bar with all these celebrities are the true to life likeness of Santiago and his friend Backhoe Pete.
I had Santiago pose in front of the mural.  Perhaps you can see the likeness of the guy in the hat (on the right) with his real life persona (on the left)

And wee little Thomas...with his elated parents.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Feliz Navidad 2013

For the past week we have been kept up to date on the ice storm that has struck Southern Ontario.  Loss of power, freezing rain, and trying to keep warm are the common themes.  Throw all that into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with the desire to travel and cook a Christmas meal has really created havoc in all the pre-planned schedules.
Thankfully, we chose a good year to travel!

Here in San Juan Del Sur, everyone takes to the streets to celebrate on Christmas Eve.   We watched a mini parade with a marching band, a dance troupe and a firetruck making their way through town.  We caught the end of a play being performed in front of the local church.  And here were people everywhere and firecrackers...which sounds like gunfire They are all home made using gun powder wrapped in newspaper.  The dogs don't even flinch.  Our doggie Ursa would be under the bed and would never be able to crawl out due to extreme fear.

And Christmas morning...the girls found their pinata and took a good long time whacking it to find their presents inside. It was the closest thing we could come to a tree.  This just might become a tradition with us.

And the pinata is now a source of costume attire.  We are off to the beach!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bio Filters

We have done many things in this country over the past 6 years, but this is the first time we have volunteered.  What a truly wonderful and rewarding experience.  

Through an established organization we were able to connect with a man named Pedro.  Pedro was born and raised in Matagalpa, in the mountainous region of Nicaragua.  He and his family have been helping his people for many years with the introduction of clean drinking water to those families most in need.  Pedro recently learned english, and can speak it with such fluency that he has become an interpreter for many volunteers such as ourselves who venture down to assist in the work.
On our first day there, we helped make two biofilters using steel concrete forms and a handmade mix of concrete.  The girls especially were good at coating the forms with crisco!  Each biofilter made takes two days to cure in the forms, and then another ten days to cure in the open air.   With a generous donation from Marvin Betz, the girls grandfather, Pedro had the funding to have some biofilters ready for us to install.

The following day we loaded the truck and went up into the hills.  Pedro had already spoken with the families who were to receive the bio filters and provided them with basic information regarding how the unit will be set up and how it is to be used.   We made the trek in from the road to our first house.  carrying the concrete bio filter, two different grades of gravel, and a full bucket of sand.  

Here is the first house we arrived at. Typically, barbed wire fences are everywhere in Nica.  Everyone had a job to do.

Once the biofilter was placed in the house it was necessary to fill the cavity with water and then take a reading of the flow rate of the water, without the gravel and sand filters.   Then again after the filter medium was added.  Averyl and Elsie were great at this.
The girls then took turns filling the bottom of the filter with course gravel. Levels were checked often to ensure the filter would function properly.  Nora sometimes needed help with the heavy buckets!
Here is Elsie checking the level of the gravel before we could add in the sand.  She would check with a marked stick.  Finally a diffuser was added to the top and a galvanized steel lid.

Installations are being done inside the homes with the idea that they will be used more than if they were outside where they would also be too near livestock.
We learned that concrete is used for the filter instead of a much lighter plastic bucket ( which would work equally as well) because often the plastic bucket would be dismantled and the very useful bucket would end up being used for some different purpose.  This was a sand  filter sent down after hurricane Mitch and is now being used as a water bucket.
And this little cutie, with her brother and dog in the background, are overseeing operations.   I think she will be happy to have a drink of 'sweet water' as the Nica's call this clean water.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


noun:  something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular, or undiscriminating taste.  Origin: German, derivitive of kitschen meaning to throw together. (

Here is the beginning of my compendium of Nica Kitsch....

Vulcanizadora (The Tire Store)

Se Dobian Tubos (The Muffler Shop)                                
Ding Repair Shop

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Zapata Family from El Zapote

Marlon Zapata is the cuidador we have hired to live on our lot - to keep random unwanted people from living on our lot while we are not here.  This is a necessary and traditional job for many locals.  Marlon is young, but happy to have a job, and his family are very close as they too are cuidador's for other nearby properties.  

We have met Marlon's entire family.   We cannot figure out who is related to whom, but they all seem to have the same father and sometime introduce themselves as cousins.  Let me be clear, this is not a language barrier.  

Marlon's sister Laura (or cousin, or neice) graduated from middle school today and we went to support the family.
Here is Laura with her Grandfather Zapata.

Zapata has also been introduced as the father of Marlon.
Are you getting the confusion?

All schools in Nicaragua are painted the traditional blue and white national colours.  You can see the school in the background.

And since we were there, driving El Fumador, we gave everyone a ride home, plus their bicycles in true Nica fashion. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reserva Natura

Things are picking up in our 'neighbourhood'.  There is now a national park which boasts two fresh water lakes, a tree nursery and species protection program for birds, amphibians, and trees. 
The park was originally created an owned by Navinc, the sugar cane company.  They created the lakes to act as reservoirs and water supply for irrigating their sugar cane fields.  Four years ago they handed over the ownership to the country and a national park was established. 
We were there for the day and went on a guided tour of the property, saw the tree nursery, and learned about the native tree species. 
Averyl was asking about going for a swim, but learned that at sometime in its history crocodiles were introduced to the lakes.  We did not see one, but apparently they are approximately three metres long.  So, nope, no swimming.  And since the park is now a national park and crocodiles are on the endangered species list... the crocodiles stay.  Seems odd, to have this beautiful area with two clean fresh water lakes to be off limits, but that is very typical for life in Nica...nothing makes sense, you just accept what is. 


JD came across a bicycle store in Masachapa.  Since we will be here for another 5 weeks we thought is would be a great way to get around from time to time and then we will give the bikes to a family before we leave. 
We have seen numerous people riding bicycles, motorbikes, and quads along the beach.  The girls and I thought we should give it a try too.  We set out the next morning during the early morning heat, to avoid the scorching mid-day heat.
 There is a sweet spot for riding on the beach.  You want to be on the damp sand close to the water's edge, but not in the water.  It is perfect to go riding at low tide as high tide will push you up into the dry sand which is impossible to navigate.
We did not get very far as it was high tide.  I guess a little more planning is necessary.  So we went out to the road to give it a go.  Here is Elsie and Averyl riding around on our lot, having some fun.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

El Fumador

We bought a truck, sight unseen, before we arrived in Nicaragua.  We wanted to make sure we had reliable transportation to be able to get around and access our lot - as that has been an issue in past travels.   JD was so excited when he found this ad in the local Nica kijiji site.   It is his dream vehicle...a 1985 toyota  hilux  diesel truck with four doors, a pick up bed, and racks for carrying lots of stuff, people, cows, etc...

JD went to pick up the truck while the girls and I stayed at the Best Western and swam in the pool.   Upon his arrival, I have to say, I was taken aback and worried that our purchase was perhaps delusional.  To me it looked like an old beater.  One that might not make it out of the parking lot.  We piled in our luggage anyways, and the kids, and were off through the streets of Managua. 
The kids had a blast, don't let Nora's expression fool you.

Closer to our lots we realized we made the right choice.  The roads were bad and the truck was good.  Yes, there is smoke that comes up through the holes in the floor, the back seat rattles, the brakes stick, and the gas guage does not work (we found that out that hard way and met a nice fellow by the name of Mike).  Here is a photo of our driveway.  Hmm, we have some work to do but we are glad it is not the rainy season. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nicaragua 2013/14

It all started out flawlessly.... "What could possibly go wrong?"
Evan and his girlfriend Alix drove us to the airport to catch our 2:16pm flight out of the Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada.  Due to circumstances beyond our control JD had to fly with a different airline, an hour later, while the kids and I continued on with our flight.  After a stopover in Atlanta, Georgia we arrived at the Augusto Sandino Internacional Aeropeurto in Managua, Nicaragua.  Here is where the fun began.  Across the road is the Best Western Hotel where JD and agreed to meet.

My limited Spanish is something that has to be improved upon.... 
As we were collecting up our baggage an eager young lad started loading them onto a push cart.  Relieved, I tried to ask him to walk us, and our luggage, to the hotel across the road.  I paid him $10 with the intent that this would help.  He promptly deposited me and our luggage as soon as we exited the Aeroporto.  Another fellow came up  offering help and I thought I understood that he was a cab driver and would drive us to our hotel (across the road) as the thought of dragging our luggage across a busy thoroughfare was no longer appealing to my sense of safety and well being.  He hailed us a cab, told me his job was finished, and then asked for a tip.  I gave him $5.  The cab driver then loaded our luggage into his cab and we all climbed in.  I giggled the full minute that it took us to pull out of the terminal, onto the main road, and into the Best Western hotel.  I also had to tip him $5.
Wow!  But we made it and the girls went swimming while we waited for JD to arrive.