It’s taken me a few days to figure out my approach on how to explain six nights and seven days on the Rio Coco. So I’m just going to start by keeping it real…to be totally honest and not to make this sound like a dream vacation floating along a nice little river in Nicaragua. This trip was hard. H-A-R-D as in taking a great deal of endurance and effort.
You see…there wasn’t a book to read on how to survive a week on the Rio Coco, nor were there any internet sites to tell you what to take and what not to take or what to expect. So I’m thinking for this post I should just get it all out of my system by telling you how hard those six nights and seven days were and then the following posts you can see all the beauty along the Rio Coco and read all about the indigenous villages we visited looking for patients for the upcoming medical mission.
I’m going to cover a few things like clothes, food, accommodations, weather…the important basics one would want to know about…
Clothing: Besides one pair of slip on Sketchers, I purchased a pair of rubber boots in Jinotega as instructed by our leader of this journey. I assumed they would be needed for getting in and out of the boat…I had no clue the day I purchased those boots how much I would need them. Every village we visited, and there were 14 of them, the walk was straight up a cliff and often muddy and very slippery. It was the very first village with those Sketchers and one fall (my camera covered with mud) to know those boots were needed at all times. While the nights were chilly the days were hot and sitting in a boat all day under the baking sun takes its toll. Thank goodness for my UPF rated shirts (they really do work!) and my Tilley hat. Both are worth every penny! Unfortunately, my hands were burned to a crisp even while covering them constantly with SPF 70. I really did come close on several occasions to just jumping in the river to cool off…but not only were there crocodiles, but off and on we’d see a bloated dead cow or pig floating along in the river. No thank you.
Food: Now keep in mind that only a week or so prior to leaving for this trip, I had just finished up two weeks of mega antibiotics to kill the h pylori in my body that started when I got sick in Morocco or perhaps in Myanmar…who knows. So I was pretty freaked out about eating anything in Nicaragua, even if someone had cooked the hell out of it. Well guess what’s the signature food in the villages along the Rio Coco? Rice, beans and tortillas…not a big fan. So for seven days and six nights I ate protein bars, crackers, cookies and beef jerky. Let me tell you…that got old real fast…not to mention mornings filled with nausea from not having real food in my stomach. On the fifth morning my body couldn’t take it any longer and I got sick minutes before getting into the boat. Of course that’s the morning we were heading towards a major pass which happened to be the section of the Rio Coco with fast rapids, as well as sharp volcanic rock on both sides of the pass. This is where we all had to get out of the boat, walk over these sharp volcanic rock as we watched heroic efforts being made by our boat drivers and other local villagers as they maneuvered our boat through the pass. (More on that in a future post.)
Bedding: I knew a hammock was involved (as we had been told to bring one) and I could handle that…especially the Hennessy hammock we purchased. What I liked about them the most is that you could basically zip yourself up and not have to worry about mosquitoes or any other flying objects entering your sleeping space. (I don’t do bugs very well.) Plus it even had a little overhead hook to attach your flashlight for reading. I really needed that during all those sleepless nights as I read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild. (Excellent by the way and so appropriate for the occasion!) But I’ll get to sleepless nights in a bit. Hammocks are perfect if you have something to hang them from. So for three of the six nights I zipped myself up in my hammock and layed on a cot. The other three nights we hung from rafters and just about froze to death. The temperatures found on the internet were nothing like reality. So I slept with almost every piece of clothing I owned trying to keep warm for those three nights. Interesting enough, I never experienced one mosquito…only cockroaches, bats, and other flying insects that would create major air turbulence as they flew by my head.
Accommodations: The first building where we spent the night was a pig slaughtering house when it needed to be, a school room during the day and of course a rented building at night for guests. On one side of this building was a pig pen and the other a small market. The sleepless night came from constant (and I mean constant) sounds from all the animals. The squealing pigs, the barking dogs, the cock-a-doodle-doo chorus from all the village roosters, the baby calf who couldn’t get to it’s mother, the dog chasing the pigs..I could go on and on. On top of that…it poured rain and guess what kind of roof our building had? Yep, a tin roof. (Which is very cool actually, but not when coupled with the animal chorus.) Between being cold, the rain and all the animal noises, I didn’t sleep at all the first night nor for two nights after that. By the fourth night ambien had become my new best friend. There are more stories such as the rock out night at the Moravian church, but you get the picture. Have you ever heard a squealing pig?
Bathrooms: I was expecting outhouses and after using them on the trek in Myanmar, I didn’t foresee any issues. Well let me tell you…there is no comparison between the outhouses in Myanmar and the outhouses along the Rio Coco. Here the outhouses were smelly, filthy and scary…especially at night. And I bet you’re thinking about right now…why would you use an outhouse when you could just go in the bushes? Well keep in mind we’re in villages and people use outhouses. There’s no squatting in the village. After the fourth night on the river, I had to have a “shower.” A “shower” consisted of a big bucket of cloudy water with a cup. I had refrained from taking one because the water appeared so dirty. But after a while you give up and let me tell you…that was the best “shower” ever. I think that’s when I saw the tadpoles swimming around in the toilet that unfortunately never worked for the three nights we stayed at that location…
There’s so much more…but I think you get the picture…
So are ya ready to head down the Rio Coco and learn more?