Sunday, February 24, 2013

Nicaragua 2013 (Part 5)

(Continued from Parts 123 and 4)

Rob didn't say much after he finished, it was like he couldn't-- like he was in shock and needed more time to process the whole experience before he could tell me whether it had been good, bad, or neither.

We waited around in the finish area so that we could see the other Buffalo runners come in.  Rob told me that Cousin Don had switched to the 25K race, on account of a hip injury he was dealing with (you know you're an ultra runner when you consider 25km up and down an active volcano to be "taking it easy"), so he was safely back on the Concepción side-- probably enjoying a few Toñas while he waited for the rest of us to return.  Jen and Judy were both doing the 50K, and Brian was doing the 100K (the halfway point for him was the 50K finish line).

A little more than an hour and a half after Rob finished, Jen burst onto the scene like a euphoric lavender cloud of pure bliss.  I have probably never seen anyone so happy.  I wished I would have had time to snap a picture of her as she crossed the finish line (the joy on her face is something I hope I never forget), but alas, she was going too fast.  She was the third female finisher, and she had loved every minute of this race.  She is my new hero.


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Brian reached the 50K mark just a few minutes after Jen.  Calm and collected as always, unfazed by the thought that he was only halfway through and would be heading back out for another 9 hours of shadeless heat on the run back to Moyogalpa, then ascending and descending a very steep volcano (Concepción) in the dark.  I wish I could have just an ounce of his composure.

There were supposed to be hourly (or hour and a half-ly) shuttles to take runners from the finish line in Mérida back over to Moyogalpa, and Rob had bought me a wrist band that would give me permission to ride back with them.  The shuttles, however, seemed to be operating on a schedule that was much fewer and farther in between.  We didn't end up able to get on one until around 4:30pm, which was 5.5 hours after Rob had finished the race.  The last 2 hours or so of waiting for the shuttle involved sitting on the side of the dirt road (no shade) and being assured that a shuttle would arrive soon.  Will managed to hang in there like a trooper, even though he was hot, dirty, exhausted, and hungry (he steadfastly refused to eat the peanut butter sandwich I'd made him, which was the only food I could offer him at the time).  On the plus side, while we were waiting, we got to see Judy finish her race.  She had a smile on her face even after 50km on grueling terrain, and true to her word, she had taken John up the volcano with her in spirit.

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We finally got back to Moyogalpa around 6:30pm (after a diesel-reeking, nearly vomitous car trip for me), then the runners showered and we headed out to find something to eat.  Everybody was beyond hunger by this point (keep in mind, it was now almost 8 hours since Rob had finished his race and he still had not eaten an actual meal), and we made the unfortunate decision to try to go to Hospedaje Central and have Indio Viejo Vegetariano.

The place was packed with dirty, boozing, chain smoking tourists, and I spent 15 minutes just trying to get the bartender/waiter to acknowledge me after I'd elbowed my way up to the counter.  I asked if they had any Indio Viejo Vegetariano that night (they don't always have it), and he said he didn't know and then walked away, spending another 10 minutes serving drinks to already drunk tourists. I was hyperventilating at the thought that it was now after 8pm and my red-eyed, exhausted 3 year old had yet to eat dinner.  But Rob really seemed to want Indio Viejo Vegetariano, and since he had just run (well, it was now going on 9 hours ago that he had "just" run) 50km, I needed to find a way to make this happen.

When at last the bartender/waiter came back to me (where I continued to hold my ground at the counter), he looked at me blankly, as though he had never seen me before.  I asked again about the Indio Viejo Vegetariano, and he said that they had it.  He wrote down "1 - Indio v.v." on a piece of paper.  I quickly told him that I wanted 2 orders of it (1 for me and 1 for Rob), and before I could also order some pasta for Will, he walked away again-- folding the piece of paper and putting it on a shelf underneath the counter, where it seemed unlikely that it would ever make its way back to the cooks or result in the production of food for my family.

This was the moment that I totally fucking lost my shit.

I should probably apologize to the other Buffalo runners for the Tourette-like stream of profanities I let loose in their presence, but after spending an entire day waiting on people who can't plan worth shit and being unable to feed my son either lunch or dinner because of it, I was fucking beyond reason.  I drug everybody out of Central and onto the street, where we happened upon "Los Ranchitos Restaurante y Hotel" and finally got some dinner.  

The next day (Sunday 17 February), we stayed around in Moyogalpa, ate Clif bars for breakfast, and went to watch the Calzado Kids Run, which for some reason started an half hour earlier than it had been scheduled.

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Afterwards, we walked around town a little bit with the other Buffalo, and then headed for brunch/early lunch back at Los Ranchitos.  We caught up with Brian, who had finished the 100K in an amazing 19 hours, and everybody swapped stories of their adventures during the race.


While we waited around for the awards ceremony and banquet later in the afternoon, Rob and I found a little playground for Will at the Parque Central.

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 Then we headed to the awards ceremony, where we cheered for Jen when she got her prize for her 3rd place finish:  a caballo mask.

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For dinner that night, everybody wanted to try for Indio Viejo Vegetariano at Hospedaje Central again, and I grimaced.  At least Will had had a decent nap in the afternoon and had eaten a respectable lunch of rice and beans at Los Ranchitos earlier in the day, so I hoped he would have the stamina to endure it.

IMG 1543Honestly, Hospedaje Central would probably be a lot more appealing to me if I were in my early 20's and not traveling with a small child.  

We arrived early enough this time to actually get a table and have a waiter pay attention to us, but it still took almost 2 hours to get our food, and they used clear rum in the drinks (even though they charged the dark rum prices). More than that, by the time my Indio Viejo arrived, it wasn't even that good, and I found a hair in it.  May it be a cold day in hell before I ever go back to Hospedaje Central.


Monday (18 February)

Will and I both woke up on Monday with the Vortex, and we took several turns racing each other to the bathroom.  I was worried Will was getting dehydrated, so I opened a pack of powdered Pedia Lyte and mixed it up in his sippy cup.  He drank it but promptly threw it up.  I began to worry how we were going to take an hour and a half ferry ride and another hour and a half to two hour taxi ride once we arrived on the mainland.

I put Will in a Pull Up, and we checked out of the hotel.  We walked down to the dock with the other Buffalo. When we got there, we were told that the 9am ferry wasn't going because the water was too rough (being the windy season, it was quite windy).  We settled in to wait for the next boat.  Will colored and made forts by stacking up everybody's luggage.  The others found a casino that would let them use the restroom, but when I tried to do it, the lady at the counter shook her finger at me and said I would have to pay 5 cordobas.  Luckily, the vortex seemed to have passed for both Will and me, and I eventually found another hotel that let us use their bathroom for free (no toilet paper or running water though).

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 Cousin Don!


We waited and waited.  Most of the Nicaraguans who had been waiting for the boat left.  Tourists (mainly Fuego and Agua runners) began leaving too. By 1pm, things were looking doubtful.  By 2pm, things were looking dire.  At 4pm (after almost 8 hours of waiting by the dock), we found out from a man in a blue camouflage military uniform that there would be no boats going out today.  The next boat would go out at 5 in the morning.

This was bad news.  Our flight left Managua at 8:30am, and if we did not get off the island today, we would miss it.  Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do.  We were stranded on the island.  We made our way back to Hotelito Aly (where we had been staying in Moyogalpa) and reserved a hot, uncomfortable room (with no private bath) for another night.  

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It turned out that Delta (which I had been really impressed with up until this point) was able to change our flight from Tuesday to Wednesday for a price that almost approximated buying entirely new tickets.  That sure as hell took the wind out of our sails.  I didn't sleep all night for the fear that the ferries wouldn't be going on Tuesday either and we'd miss our Wednesday flight as well.  And that I would end up getting fired for missing so much work.

We got up around 4 the next morning, hearing a steady progression of Fuego y Agua runners rolling their luggage down the cobblestone streets of pre-dawn Moyogalpa.  As soon as we threw together our things, we joined them and headed to the dock.  There were hundreds of people trying to get on boats, and in all the chaos, we lost the other Buffalo.  They got on the Karen Maria (recall: the ferry I once threw up on), and we got on the Che Guevara.  

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Farewell to Ometepe in the dark


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We found out later that they sent out 3 boats at 5am, and those were the only boats that left all day.  The water got too rough afterwards.  It was a good thing we made it out when we did.

We arrived on the mainland by 7 or 7:30 and tried to consolidate taxis but ended up paying the Gringo Price anyway.  

I had wanted to go souvenir shopping in Masaya or sightseeing in Managua, but we were all too depressed about the exorbitant fees we'd had to pay to change our plane tickets and didn't want to spend any more money.  Plus, I was seasick/carsick from our early morning voyage, and Will was completely beside himself from a week of very little sleep and junk food in the place of regular meals.

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We let him watch Spanish language cartoons in the hotel room and then we lounged by the pool for a while in the afternoon.  That cheered him up.

The next morning came early, and at last we were leaving Nicaragua.  As always, I sobbed when the plane took off.

The one good thing about flying home was that the only available seats for us were in business class (I asked Rob if that's why changing our plane tickets was so expensive, but he said it wasn't).  Business class is like a whole different world.  Every five minutes they were coming by, giving us another thing.  They brought me so much water, juice, and coffee that I had to pee 3 times on a 3.5 hour flight.  But at least I was hydrated.  And William enjoyed the extra leg room.

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We were back at home by 6pm that night.  And at 6:11, I was out the door for a run in the 30 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures.  It had been unexpectedly difficult to be surrounded by the hardest of hard core ultra marathon runners for a week, yet not really do any running myself (Other than the 15km out and back to El Porvenir).

St. Louis welcomed us home by dumping 6 inches of snow and ice on the ground the next day.  The governor declared a state of emergency.

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While I was at work, I closed my office door, put my head down on my desk, and cried for a while.

I thought about Eduardo, pictured him putting his fingers on different strings of the guitar and figuring out how to play chords.  

Sometimes I get the feeling that my life is continuing on Ometepe, except without me.  And I realize, with some irony, that when I had thought we were stranded on the island because the boats weren't going, we weren't really stranded at all.  St. Louis is where we're stranded.  I wish I could like it here, but we're 2-1/2 years into this thing, and I don't' think I'm ever going to feel like I can call this place home.

I hope Joël was serious about that organic cacao/coffee farm he was talking about starting, because it's looking better and better by the minute.

Thanks for reading. 


Anonymous said...

this chapter almost did me in!!however since I knew YOU WERE BACK STATESIDE, and not suffering any UNNECESSARY ailments, it helped somewhat!! put your pen to the paper and GET that BOOK going......... even IF IT means putting YOUR day job on HOLD for now! maybe when WILL is in BIG SCHOOL, a day job will be OK!!! I encourage you to WRITE , no I insist, you write......... your day job is stifling your creative abilities!!!! luv you~~ mama

Maria Maras said...

Hey Melissa,

I sent you an email about Jolyne's wedding, but I'm not sure if I used the right address. Please let me know if you're coming to Chicago - I'm happy to help however I can.

Stay warm,
Maria (