Crisis (averted) at every turn

Ben had a long week in bamboo world and wanted a week end escape. It’s Saturday morning and we have no car, have made no plans for anyone to stay in the house. But as a sign that we are settling into something of a routine, we “get into gear” – by 10am there is a rental car waiting at the door, by 10:15 Pedro our dog walker is here to take care of the house and cat and by 10:20 backpacks sre in the trunk, dogs in backseat and off we go.

This is a weekend of near misses. Problem one is our car. It initially seems fine, but after we climb a particularly treacherous dirt road with a STEEP incline, and maneuver ourselves around the many mud holes, the car starts to hiss. Hissing might not be so bad, except that any loss of speed risks sliding backwards on said road so Ben perseveres, in first gear. We now know that climbing a long hill in first gear results in burning through the gear box. As we make it to the top of the hill, Ben starts to notice that the gears aren’t working quite right, nor in fact the breaks. Charming. The hissing stops when the car stalls. Now the battery is dead. At least, we are on flat land, so we figure we’ll just have to ditch the car and hitch a ride.

Lucky we did yoga on the beach and find ourselves in a serene state, merely observing our predicament “without judgment”.

I’m glad I packed our now standard survival gear: hiking sandals, water bottles, mosquito repellant and a flashlight. One last “just in case” attempt, and the car starts – we make our way very slowly to San Juan del Sur with a very sick sounding car engine. The smell of burning rubber is not so pleasant.

Ben pre-emptively moans about what he expects will be a bureaucratic nightmare to return the car. By the time we get to SJDS, it’s 6pm and the Alamo rent a car is closed. We manage to get the last room from the 50% off luxurious Pelican Eyes hotel. Our strategy: let’s postpone the inevitable hassle of car return till the morning and enjoy the luxury and delicious food tonight.

Morning comes and the car exchange is a breeze. Man comes with replacement car and takes sick car away while we enjoy a leisurely pool side breakfast.

While we do have wheels, we consider that the recent rains no doubt impacted the roads to Ostional and yet we want to go check on the progress of the shower installation on our property. We have thought before about how we might access Ostional during the rainy season and we had mused that we ought to be able to get there by sea. So today is as good a day as any to test this hypothesis.

We find two fishermen who are willing to take us and the dogs on their small panga boat – I would not call this a motorboat, but more like an old fashioned row boat which happens to have a motor at the back. Bouncing out over the waves we are ready for our one and a half hour ride. Mango, Dwayne and I are initially unsettled by the bumpy ride, but we soon all mellow out.

Ben asks the fishermen what they have on board to fish and they pull out a wooden paddle, wrapped in nylon wire and a hook that gets tossed overboard. It takes less than 30mn before Ben catches a huge mackarel, a beautiful silver fish with bright yellow dots. This will be dinner tomorrow night, apparently.

We arrive at Ostional beach and the panga is positioned very carefully for it to catch the big waves to come ashore. We ask the fishermen to wait for us and they are happy to drop anchor for an hour, while we hike to our property.

Happy to see that the shower is installed on the property and we promptly try it out. It works! Quick “picnic” on our beach while we plot our next installment of “jobs” for the cuidador. This “one step at a time” approach to building our house in Ostional is working well – Next on the list will be stones from the beach to make a floor for the al fresco shower.

It’s time to get back to the boat as we want to make sure we have enough time to get back to civilization before dark. But it isn’t going to be so simple. As we start our journey back, we hear the engine sputter. The boat stalls. It seems the engine is flooded. Somehow getting stuck in a small little boat in the middle of the ocean, with darkness approaching does not seem very appealing. Of course the fisherman are not phased at all. They have no problem sleeping on their boat through the night if necessary. The engine starts again. We sigh in relief. But the boat stalls again after a few minutes. By now Ben is trying to tell me that it won’t be a big deal if we need to swim ashore, after all the coastline is not that far. My plan is to stay in the boat.

Luckily, the motor starts again off the coast of Mira Flor, which is one of four turtle nesting grounds in the world. We see a beautiful sight of three brown, 2-foot long turtles, swimming just under the surface of the water. One of them lifts his head out of the water to say hello. Large pelicans accompany us part of the way, as does a huge tuna jumping out of the water not far from our boat.

We make it (finally) back to the harbor in San Juan just as the sun sets. The mackerel has been cleaned and sliced into fillets. Before we go back to Granada, we decide to try El Pozo, a new restaurant that has been highly recommended. It’s our lucky day: Sunday is “sushi night”. Large sashimi of tuna brings this logistically challenging week end to a close.

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