We need to get the hell off this island.

Remember that time you were robbed, injured while drunk, injured while sober, ripped-off, spent the night as a bed-bug buffet, experienced the most epic of diarrhoea and did things to the toilet you didn’t realise a human could do, crashed your scooter, or had a combination of the previous while at the same time coming down with malaria?

Just keep telling yourself “It’s all part of the adventure.”

“It’s all Part of The Adventure” a euphemism backpackers use when things go to shit.

After having an amazing time working on a farm on the island paradise of Ometepe, Nicaragua I was really excited to be going back there , only this time with my boyfriend, Dean. I was so excited for us to explore this magical place together.

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Look at this place, what could possibly go wrong?

As things turned out, going to McDonalds in our pajamas, ordering two Big Macs, then eating them while ignoring each other on our respective laptops at someone’s Grandmother’s house would have been a more fun and romantic time.

From the start, the heat was stifling. For the most part, Nicaragua is hot. You don’t go there to sit by the fire with a cup of cocoa, but the days and nights we were on Ometepe were unbearable.  The humidity sucked the life out of us and left us both unable to sleep. Without even a whisper of a breeze, the only way to fall asleep was to get drunk first, but inevitably we’d wake up a few hours later, drenched in sweat and spend the rest of the night tossing and turning in a fitful, half-sleep.

Despite the suffocating heat and a lack of sleep, we were determined to have a good time.  On our second day, we thought it would be fun to hire some bikes and explore the island.

Never in my life have I endured arse-pain like the vinyl hell that was my bike seat. As I rode I had to constantly re-position myself to share the agony to different parts of my cheeks. Finally, 4km of suffering later, we got to our destination, Ojo de Agua, a beautiful spring-water swimming hole. Admittedly, we did have a pretty good day there, until we had to turn around and endure the brutal bum-bruising return trip.

After another humid night, we woke up exhausted, but still wanted to try and make the most of our time.  Neither of us wanted to look at a bicycle again, so we rented a scooter instead and headed off for another “fun” day of exploring. We’d read some pretty good stuff online about a waterfall called San Ramon-

“Once you reach the waterfall it feels like heaven, pictures do not do justice for this place, the waterfall is so high in person and so beautiful to look at”

And, it was only a three kilometre hike. Easy! We decided to head there first.

I remain convinced there is no way that hike was 3km. It felt like 10km at least, maybe 100.

One website told us,

“At the end the path becomes a little steep, but in general the hike is not very tough.”

Shit. I’d hate to see what whoever wrote that’s idea of a “kind of tough hike” is. Everest?

It was not fun. It was shit and hot and then it got shitter and hotter. Typically unprepared, with just a small bottle water between us, the climb became horrendous as sweat rained out of every pour and we had nothing to replace it with.

Finally, close to dropping dead we made it to the waterfall.

It was alright.

I think maybe the people that wrote about how good it was haven’t seen a lot of waterfalls.

Exhausted and now massively dehydrated I stood under the waterfall with my mouth open drinking it in by the gallon, random, water-borne illnesses be damned.

After our waterfall “adventure” we decided to ride back out to Agua de Oja and chill out in the water for a bit, before spending the afternoon exploring more of the island by scooter. Back at Agua De Ojo, we dumped all our stuff on a chair, stripped down to our swimmers and got in the cool water. Floating around, I kept glancing back, keeping half an eye on our stuff.

“I`m so exhausted” I told Dean.

“Me too” he said, “Maybe we bail tomorrow, I can’t take too many more nights not sleeping”.

I agreed, “Tomorrow, lets just get up and go.”

We climbed out of the water and made our way back over to our stuff and picking up my clothes I realised,

“Fuck! The bag has gone!”

We both looked around as though it was suddenly going to appear, but it was long gone. Dean’s camera (notice the lack of photos?), money and the bloody scooter key were all in that bag. The also randomly stole Dean’s shitty old thongs, leaving him to go home barefoot.

“Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark.”

I remain eternally grateful to the staff at Agua De Ojo who went out of their way to help us, moving the scooter somewhere safe in case whoever had the key came back to try and take it and even going as far as to drive us to the scooter-hire man so we could explain what happened.

In my shitty, broken Spanish I tried to tell scooter-hire man how our bag had been stolen with the bike key in it. I assumed we’d have to pay a few bucks to get a new key cut but scooter-hire man told us,

“There is no spare key so this whole bit here needs replacing. It’s going to be $100.”

“Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark”

“Then we are going to need to pick it upso you’ll have to pay….” I could see where he was going with this, adding more on top of the $100.

$100 was already over the top and who doesn’t have a spare key?

I did the only thing I could think of and “burst into tears”.

“Oh God, it`s just, we had so much in that bag” I gasped for air between sobs, “camera, phone, money”. I fake-sobbed harder.

Somebody get me an Oscar.

“Tranquila, tranquila”  said scooter-hire man. We still had to pay $100, but anything else he was going to tack on to that was forgotten.

Relieved that the scooter was dealt with and trying not to feel too upset about the camera being stolen, we returned to our accommodation where Dean immediately fell down some stairs.

“We need to get the hell off this island.”

The next morning we headed off to catch the first ferry we could.  A taxi offered to take us to the port for $3 each. Three. Dollars. I can spend $60 down the pub without blinking at home, but no, I wanted to be a “real” backpacker and I insisted we take the bus instead.

The concept of a “bus stop” in Ometepe is apparently open to interpretation.  The bus just stopped where ever anyone liked. Someone would wave down the bus and get on, then maddeningly, someone got off a thirty meters down the road. With all the stopping and starting it took one hour and fifty minutes. We arrived at the port to see our ferry sailing away into the distance. Luckily, there was another soon after, the first thing to go right for us since we had arrived.

Back on the mainland, we took a cab to San Juan Del Sur,  where we checked into a hotel, cranked up the air-con and cracked open a well earned beer.

What’s your travel disaster story? Ever returned to somewhere you loved, only to have everything go wrong?

 

 

 

Food Rescue in The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes

As places go, Managua probably isn’t at the top of your “somewhere I’d like to live for a while” list. There is Paris of course, and Rome. Maybe you imagine yourself living it up in Manhattan or getting away from it all in the Caribbean, but Managua? I’m sure living in Managua “some-day” hasn’t wandered into your day-dreams lately but it’s exactly where I have been living these last few months.

Not quite sure you know where Managua is? Neither had I until a few months ago, turns out, it’s the capital of Nicaragua. Don’t know where that is either? Go and find yourself an atlas of go on Google Maps.

Nicaragua is a beautiful land of lakes and volcanoes. Since the beginning of my trip, I had always planned to live here awhile, improve my Spanish and do some volunteer work. I day-dreamed about living somewhere like this

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Beautiful Ometepe

Instead, I ended up living here.

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Managua might not be the most glam of cities. It’s constanly hot and humid, it’s not pretty and the traffic is a nightmare. I found myself staying in this chaotic city because I decided to volunteer with an amazing food rescue NGO. And you know what, I love it here. I live with a gorgeous Nicaraguan family and the work I am doing has become a passion bordering on obsession.

I work with Eat United a grass-roots food rescue group based on a simple concept. We rescue good food that would otherwise be wasted and share it communities in need. It’s a logical, local solution to a global problem, and its working. We run on an absolute shoe-string, our “office” is the kitchen table of one of the volunteers. Despite this, over 25,000kg of fruit and veggies have been saved since 2013 and we regularly share food with 200 a week.

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Eat United team in front of our haul of resuced food!

Eat United team in front of our haul of resuced food!

We throw out around a third of all food produced in the world, while at the same time, hundreds of millions of people go hungry. Obviously as far as shit things happening in the world go, good food getting chucked out while people starve is right up the top.  Even in a developing country like Nicaragua, where one in five people go without enough to eat, tonnes of good food is thrown out every day. Our food system is broken and Eat United is working to do something about it.

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Some of the food we rescue goes to a soup-kitchen that gives lunch to 50 -70 kids a day!

Some of the awesome people I work with with some rescued tomatoes, saved from the bin, headed for bellies!

Some of the awesome people I work with with some rescued tomatoes, saved from the bin, headed for bellies!

All this beautiful food was going to be thrown away.

All this beautiful food was going to be thrown away.

Everyone deserves access to healthy food in sufficient quantities and no one should be hungry when we produce more than enough food for all of us. In 2016 we want to expand our work, double the amount of people we share food with and create a paid role for a local Nicaraguan person.

To help us get there we have created Snap Your Snack, a campaign that’s all about celebrating snacks with a selfie! Snap Your Snack isn’t about giving massive donations, but it is about coming together, celebrating food, and using the global reach of social media to support a local solution in Nicaragua.

Getting involved is fun and easy.

  1. Snap it. Take a selfie celebrating your snack.
  2. Make a small donation to Eat United Nicaragua through our crowd-funding page, either as individuals or a group.
  3. Post your selfies and screenshot of your donation on social media with the hashtag #SnapYourSnack.
  4. Tag friends to do the same.
Here's mine!

Here’s mine!

My fellow bloggers, I need your help in sharing the shit out of this campaign to get the word out.

Have a look at this awesome (short) video that shows the impact Eat United is making in a way words can’t 

and share it where you can

Get on Twitter and search the hashtag #snapyoursnack and follow twitter.com/Eat_United and re-tweet links to our campaign.

Anything you can do to help us grow this campaign would be amazing.A little bit of help from lots of people adds up to a big help for people that need it.

Some Stuff I Learned Working on a Farm in Paradise.

This view was my introduction to Ometepe, the volcano island paradise rising out of a lake in Nicaragua. This place was my home for a couple of weeks while I volunteered on a small organic farm.  I’ve written about this kind of work before, and it’s a pretty sweet way to travel.

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The location might have been mesmerising, but some of the work was bloody tough.

Shovelling rocks is hard!

It was pretty rustic.

Sharing a meal after a busy morning.

Our kitchen, note the duckie hanging out on the right.

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Hey, a bed’s a bed right?

But after a hard mornings work, we could head up for a beer in this pool.

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When you travel, every new place teaches you something. Here are a few things I have learned from working on a farm in the tropics.

1. Roosters do not shut the f*** up. Roosters love to crow at 4.30am. Roosters love to have a crow-off where one starts and they all join in, and just keep on going. How does so much noise come out of such a small beak?

2. When a dog kills a chicken, the results aren’t pretty.

3. Cooking together, with ingredients you’ve gathered from your own garden and sitting down and sharing a meal, is a pretty sweet way to live.

4. There are a lot of insects that like to bite you.

5. There are plenty of plants that like to sting you.

6. Lifting heavy shit in the tropical heat is a bit shit.

7. Beers by the pool taste extra delish after a morning lifting heavy shit in the heat.

8. If you aren’t careful about covering food, chickens will come and eat it, then take a poo on the table just for good measure.

9. When you are standing under a tree looking up at the monkeys, there is a fair chance they will piss on you, (didn’t happen to me but saw it happen).

10. If you are travelling for a while and have a bit of time, you should volunteer on a farm some time. It’s actually is quite wonderful.

Just to finish off, here are a few more photos of the farm and the beautiful surrounding area.

men

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