volcano on ometepe island

Oh just look at this adorable volcano. He’s wearing a hat.

Guys guys guys! Sorry for yet another long absence, but I have an excuse this time! I’ve been on holiday in Costa Rica and Nicaragua!

And then of course the question was how to write about it in my blog, because how can I not write about going to freakin’ Central America? Except how can one write about an amazing holiday without sounding like a total arse? Also, how to write about a holiday without sounding like some two-bit travel blogger – especially since travel is not the theme of this blog (not that this blog has much more of a theme beyond ‘Expat maniac rants about vegetables’). And now things are getting even worse because this is becoming a meta-post about writing about how to write a blog entry, and we’re about two sentences away from a tired Inception joke.

Well look: I was there with my ma and pa, which ramps the coolness factor down by at least 25%, right?

And really, although it was a brilliant holiday, it’s not as if it was luxurious or relaxing. You can never fully relax because there is always some portion of your soft, pasty flesh which needs a new layer of sunscreen, heavy-duty insect repellent, or both. In Central America, a British person cannot afford ever to be less than fully lubricated with protective gloop. The sunscreen keeps you safe in the fierce midday sun, which collaborates with the 80-90% humidity to ensure that you sweat off all that sunscreen within ten minutes of putting it on. The insect repellent is so strong that it actually melts any plastic with which it comes into contact – and yet mosquitoes from far and wide will still flock to you like pigeons to cake crumbs.

Dusk is supposed to be the worst time for insect bites, which is lucky because dusk in those parts lasts about five minutes. Dayfall and nightfall are incredible; at about 5pm, there is a blazing, breathtaking sunset, and then darkness descends like someone’s dropped a bucket over your head. That meant two weeks of eyeball-shatteringly early starts, groaning over a hot plate of breakfast rice n’ beans at 5.30am so that you can start hiking at 7am before the whole world turns into a furnace. Unless of course the day turns out to be rainy – or worse.

Oh yes, because did I mention that we chose to stay in a region that coincidentally was smack-bang in the flight path of Hurricane Otto?

Everywhere we ate or drank had a TV screen, and they kept showing worrying graphics of big angry swirly things swooshing over a map of the country. There was footage of sad people looking at their wrecked houses and wading through floodwater. There were rolling banners at the bottom of the screen saying worrying-sounding things in Spanish: “HURACÁN MÁS DESTRUCTIVO MUY NO BUENO – NECESITAMOS SACAPUNTAS GRANDE – EL PRESIDENTE: “OH CRAPO” etc.

Our guide kept having solemn discussions with his mate Carlos and saying confusing things like “It looks like the hurricane will hot tomorrow, so we will see how it will be if it is bad. Unless it is not bad, in which case that is great, but maybe it will hit tonight, or in a couple of days. Either way it will be maybe bad, maybe good, but we will see. Unless we don’t.” We were in an eco lodge near Liberia when Otto finally came to town. We were sat at dinner enjoying another hearty plate of beans ‘n’ rice, when the wind began to howl. Within 30 minutes the rain was slapping against the walls and roof like ball bearings shot from a gatling gun. We all retreated to our accommodation: small cabins constructed out of thin wooden walls and corrugated tin roofs. “Make sure to lower your blinds,” one of our co-tourists cheerfully advised, “In case your windows get blown in, to reduce the chance you will get caught in a blast of flying glass shards.”

I was alone in my cabin. The hurricane was over our heads for about nine hours. The roof amplified the noise to Michael Bay levels of dramatic, and every half-minute or so there would be a particularly violent gust which threw rain and debris at the cabin like a giant wet smack from the flannel of Thor himself. Sleep was impossible, partly because of the noise but mostly because of the chorus of anxieties in my head making sure I did not forget that I was about to die horribly. An hour in, the power went out and the world was darker than I have ever known before. Light pollution and streetlamps make sure that there’s a dull glow at night almost anywhere you are in Berlin. This darkness was so black – after a while I could not tell when my eyes were open, and when they were closed. At midnight we entered the eye of the storm, and an eerie calm arose just like they say it does.

In the morning, I stepped out just after dawn to see how the world looked after the thrashing. Immediately, the door closed behind me with the key on the other side, so I cheerfully decided to walk around the camp in my jammies until I found someone who might be able to help. Miraculously, nothing in our area was destroyed; trees had been blown over and branches and leaves were strewn everywhere, and the bins were overflowing with rainwater. In other regions, the destruction was much more thorough, but we had been lucky. There were beautiful birds like this one just chillin’ amidst the mess. A kind man with a broom let me back into my cabin. At 6:30, it was time again for the most important meal of the day: rice ‘n’ beans.

Rose T