A note on photos… my phone is broken, so I have no photos of Nicaragua, but I will acquire them when possible. Still, an article needs a featured photo. Gotta draw people in. So for now, please accept this sexy photo of me and a cool dog admiring the balsamic rock of Boquete, Panama.
And now, back to the hitchhiking at hand.
As I was saying in the previous post, I had just left Costa Rica and crossed into Nicaragua on foot. I began walking down the only dusty road, against the queue of trucks heading back towards the border behind me. A few cars passed but nobody slowed. I walked in the midday heat. I soon had walked past all the trucks and was walking alone past rows of sycamores and ceibas. Behind me, a man was walking down the road towards me. I stopped to take a piss. He walked faster.
I continued walking faster but he must have sped up too, and when he nearly reached me, he jogged to catch up. “Hello!” he greeted me. (Note: All conversation here is translated from Spanish unless otherwise stated.) He asked me where I was going, what I was doing, and I explained I was hitchhiking all the way north, and yes I had just crossed the border. “Oh, so you have you your documentation?” he asked. Obviously I did. “Oh, you know there is a bus for just 20 Cordobas (66 cents). Don’t you have 20 Cordobas?”
He was acting very friendly. He was thinking of robbing me. We continued walking, alone on this quiet road. I told him I had very little money, but he knew I had a passport, which is worth $50-$100 on the black market.
He was young, athletic, and carrying a mostly empty backpack. I wondered what was in the backpack. This road from the Costa Rican border is full of splinter trails that lead undocumented migrants into the woods and around the border patrol (leading Nicaraguan migrants into Costa Rica). I had just hitchhiked earlier with a Costa Rican border patrol agent who explained the intricacies to me. He regularly patrols these woods and detains migrants.
So what was this Empty Backpack man doing doing here? Suddenly we rounded a bend and a police patrol car sat waiting at intersection 30 meters ahead – the first intersection we had come to. A hand popped out of the window. They were waving us over. I crossed the road, but Empty Backpack kept walking. Two officers stepped out of the car, a woman and big man. They called over Empty Backpack, and he relented and crossed the street.
The cops began to question us. “Why were you walking together?” “Where are you going?” And to me:) “How do you know him?”
One cop looked at my passport as I explained that I was hitchhiking, but both cops were really focusing on Empty Backpack. They checked his ID and frowned knowingly at him. “So you live in ______. So what are you doing by the border?” It was obvious they knew he was a criminal, and he knew they knew. He gave them bullshit answers and pointed at me: “We were walking together right?” Not wanting to experience Nicaraguan jail firsthand, I told the truth: I had just met him, he followed me and walked with me for a minute.
They searched Empty Backpack’s backpack, they admonished him for being in the area, and they sent him walking down the road. I watched him walk away. looked at the cops expectantly, waiting for them to return my passport. The Big Burly Cop turned to me. “He could have robbed you.” I said, “Oh, did he have a weapon?” He replied, that yes, there was a weapon in the backpack. I could not understand what kind of weapon, but not a gun. Probably a knife.
With this ordeal over, I politely asked the police if I could have my passport back and cross the street to continue hitching north. They looked at me like a complete moron. Of course I knew the bus was less than a dollar. And they had just finished telling me how dangerous this area is. The frontier is fraught with danger. And so, I thumbed it for another 15 minutes, standing directly across the street from the parolecar, but cars sped right by, and then a chicken bus approached and slowed to a halt for me, and I rode it 30 minutes up the road.
I got dropped at an intersection 10km south of Rivas. I began walking towards San Juan del Sur and was immediately picked up by a nice expat couple who had just moved to Nicaragua 2 months prior. They took me about 20 minutes up until 1 mile before San Juan del Sur. They also recommended an awesome hostel, the Surfing Donkey, which had a pool and $11/night rooms. I spent 2 nights there.
On the 3rd day I packed up and started walking towards the dual-volcano island of Ometepe. I hitched a ride with a young Nicaraguan couple and shared the back seat with their 14-year-old daughter. They dropped me back at the intersection 10km south of Rivas. I hitched another ride quickly to make the 10km up to Rivas. There I bought a ticket for the ferry across to Ometepe. A pretty young French Canadian girl handed me a flier for a hostel / permaculture farm in Ometepe called Zopilote.
Upon arriving at Zopilote a couple hours later, I saw a sign: “Yoga Teachers Wanted.”
And that is how I became a yoga teacher in Ometepe, Nicaragua.
Today I hitched a ride along the island coastal road, the soft waves of Lake Cocibolca lapping at the shore to my left, the twin volcanoes of Maderas and Concepción in front and behind me respectively, and a perfect view sitting on a sack of grain in the back of a pickup truck.
I’ll be here for 2 weeks, but the hitching north will continue shortly.
Stay tuned for my next post on climbing the Maderas and Concepción Volcanoes.