Sunday, 15 February 2009

Steve falls into a creek

This Time Last Year

As usual it was a long drive to get out of Escondido and find our put-in on the Rio Tres Amigos. We never seem to be able to find the same spot and this time we had to slide the canoes down a very steep bank.

This is a very sweet river that runs languid and green. It was very quiet on this day and we had a very pleasant five hour paddle with a stop for lunch on a beach somewhere.

We had to pull through a couple of rapids which were blocked by strainers and Tina and John dumped twice. In the second one Carolyn and I did a mid-stream T-rescue which was unusual as we normally just pull over to a beach to empty the stricken canoe.

At the take-out we had a very long muddy walk back to the bus. When everyone was ready I walked with everyone into the nearby village whilst the bus was loaded.

Then it was another long bumpy ride to Laguna del Lagarto just outside the village of Boca Tapada. We didn't arrive until 7pm and so basically had dinner and went to bed.

This Time in 2007

Today we are to move to the Bartola Lodge at the junction of the Rio San Juan and the Rio Bartola and the entrance to the Indo-Maiz Biological Reserve.

We have a late lunch as our boatman is not arranged until 10am. In fact Lee and I decide to paddle down which is easy as it's downstream. We mostly hug the river left and look at the small-holdings along the way. Each seems to have a pig underneath a house on stilts, a clutch of chickens and the odd cow. We also pass a couple of sweetcorn and plantain plantations before arrived at the Rio Bartola. We pay a visit to the Ranger Station and Army base first just to say hello before crossing back over the Bartola to the lodge.

The staff here were amazingly indifferent. We hadn't been able to contact them before and they seemed uninterested in the fact that we wanted to stay over tonight. I tried to explain that Carlos was arriving later with Florence and that we'd all be staying.

To pass the time we lazed on the hammocks and idly watched the river go by as the colourful birds fluttered about.

Eventually Carlos arrived with Florence and a French couple in tow. Our hosts managed to rustle up some drinks but said it would be two hours until lunch was ready. Carlos discovered that they were going to charge us a hefty price to stay so we decided that one night would be enough and that we'd return to El Castillo and the Victoria on Friday.

Soon we were joined by a young couple from the USA who it transpired were paddling the whole length of the Rio San Juan all the way down to the Caribbean Ocean and a small town called San Juan del Norte. We discovered very quickly that they were seriously un-prepared and were carrying very little food. They thought they could go shopping down river! They also had very little money and almost no idea of what to expect. They couldn't afford the lunch here so we treated them. It was, after all, six dollars! Buying lunch for rich kids sucks, but buying lunch for dorks does show some kindness. The French couple disappeared back upstream before lunch.

The lunch itself was very good though the red-bean soup gave me extra power all afternoon!

After lunch we lazed again on the hammocks and the young couple finally go on their way about 3.30pm.

At 4.30pm Carlos rounded us up for a walk in the forest. The idea is that it is cooler now and the birds are a bit more lively as dusk approaches at about 6.30pm. We took our head-torches.

We didn't need wellies as the forest floor was quite dry and we enjoyed a stroll through the forest until it began to get dark. We managed to see a Rufous Motmot (a bird), a Brilliant Frog and a tiny Leaf Litter Frog.

Unfortunately we popped out the forest too early so we decided to go back in and take another trail loop. Soon we came to a point where the trail crossed a small creek on a dilapidated bridge. Carlos went first and balanced along the right-hand log. I went next and tried to balance across using both logs. Unfortunately the left log broke and I toppled into the creek. Luckily I kept my camera out of the water, though I of course was soaked from by boots to my left shoulder. Fortunately the creek contained no hidden dangers like branches to impale me or snakes to bite me! Of course everyone thought it was hilarious.

Lee and Florence managed to cross as we threw down a bunch of twigs. I pulled myself out of the quagmire and squelched on my way.

The trail was a bit more arduous than the first trail and had quite a few steep and slippery ascents and descents. As it darkened under the canopy the noise level grew and we hurried on our way. We had crossed a number of small streams but eventually we came down to a larger stream - about 6 foot wide. We couldn't see where the trail continued on the other side and even though Carlos leapt across he couldn't find the way.

So we decided to re-trace our steps as we knew at least that this would lead us back to camp. The light was fading fast now and the crepuscular noise level was rising to a crescendo. Eventually we had to put our head-lamps on so that we could at least have a chance of seeing any snakes on the trail.

I took the lead and Carlos took the tail as we toiled back the way we had come. Up and down the slippery trail. Under logs and over logs. Everything looks the same and it seemed longer now that it did on the way out. Eventually we got back to the bridge of my downfall so at least we knew we didn't have that far to go. By this time my batteries were going and it was completely dark. And then finally we stumbled out of the forest and amazingly it was still only 6.30pm. Time seemed to get all compressed in there.

We found out later that a Ranger had gone into the forest to try and find us and that when we turned back we where in fact only 300m from the exit!

Anyway we went and sat down and had a beer to celebrate our safe return before cleaning up and changing for dinner.

Dinner was very pleasant and everyone enjoyed the re-telling and embellishing of my fall. Before going to bed I tried to take some photographs of the night sky. Unbelievable amount of stars in these Nicaraguan nights.