It was almost seven hours from loading our gear in the rain at the Rio Indio Lodge in southern Nicaragua to lunch at the port in Costs Rica.
The longboat had two large engines on it. Both of them were in constant motion up and down with the depth of the river. And that is part of the reason for the long ride. It can go by in four hours if the river is high and the current is in your favor. Also helps to not have mechanical failure or administrative issues at any of the approximately five checkpoints not including the two border offices, one for Nicaragua and one for Costa Rica. Fortunately for us, our administrative issues were nill, thanks to the preparations of Dr. Alfredo Lopez from the Rio Indio lodge. Dr. Lopez is good, but he can't do anything about the shallow water. And that's what kept us from moving along at a four hour clip. The water in many sections of the river was shallow enough to walk across.
All along the way, the hours passed with plenty to look at. If I'd ever wanted the jungle cruise at Disneyland to last longer - and I've never wished that by the way - it would have been a lot like this. Every direction at any given minute has something to see, and often, I was seeing something for the first time.
Here are some things I saw, in no particular order, I'll just recall them as they come....
Large gangly cows make their way along the shore on a trail I cannot see for the knee high grasses that grow on the bank. As the boat slips along in the otherwise rippleless water like a teaspoon cuts through cream, the backdrop of palm trees and dirt brown huts with thatch roofs move on the long-lens plane of the Z-axis of my line of sight. A small boy stands just in front of them. He is the same color as the huts. He is holding a stick with a piece of string on it and from time to time he twirls the string. He waves and our boat erupts into a parade wave as he breaks into a run along the shore in an attempt to keep up.
Howler monkeys in the tree canopy overhead hear our motors and try to drown us out with their moaning laments that start loud and slowly drop away into individual grunting barks. They succeed for a moment and I think that I can't hear the boat I'm riding in.
Green, everywhere. Everything is green. If I blur my vision, I see green streaks that become lines along the shore. Stripes that are all one color but many shades like an artists study of that one element of the rainbow. It is hardly monotonous.
A cable stretches across the river spanning most of what would be the length of a football field. The cable was put there to keep electricity and communications moving from one home or village to the next. But the probably half inch diameter line is also a bridge. Monkeys can't swim the rapid current but I saw one walking on all fours ... paw over paw .... on the top of the wire. Every third or fourth step was a slip but the agile howler monkey caught himself and continued all the way across. It was better then cirque du soliel. I thought about crossing the broad, by comparison, footbridge at Rios Tropicales only a week before and how even with two hands on the cables running along each side and my feet on solid boards, I was nowhere near what you might call confident.
A black bird flies across the river in front of us, cutting a path across our bow. As it drives up and away from us into the tree that is its destination, it fans a tail so bright and yellow that it almost hurts my eyes. Landing, the tail closes and it returns again to anonimity, a black shadow amidst the branches.
A woman is washing her family's clothes. By hand. She stands on the bottom rung of the wood stairs that are the same color as the mud they hang over. She has buckets and piles of colored cloth that are doubtless the wardrobe of the typical indigenous people that are her people. On one side of the dock is a banana plant. On the other is a rope tied between two trees that will hold the wet clothes against the sunlight that is their only hope of drying in the damp air. It is morning light and there is a haze along the river that is a silver mirror path that leads us on. The haze is smoke from the cooking fires in the homes that are not much more than a thatch roof and upright poles... there is little privacy, the insects move easily in and out of the dwellings, look closely and you'll see the indigenous version of a bug Zapper, they encourage spiders to make their webs along the eaves to trap what insects they can.
More green. Everything is green unless it is dirt. Give even the dirt time and it will become green as well. The ferns and grasses and trees and anything else that grows will, eventually, grow there. Only give it time.
Hundreds of dugout canoes line the bank, two or three in front of every home.
A canoe is in the water ahead. As we approach, we see two occupants. A small child and a woman, probably the child's mother. The woman is paddling with the hand carved oar, first on one side. Then the other. We, the boat of people from the country that travels by car, all wave. The woman smiles and waves back.
I am about to board my flight and will continue writing another time. For now, I need to go back, somewhat reluctantly, I must admit, to the land of cars. I will write more later.
Gate 9 is calling for pre boards.